Uawa Nui to Tahiti Nui: Tracing ancestral ties to Tupaia

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti are taking a 55-strong crew to Tahiti to maintain a cultural connection with the lineage of Tupaia, the Tahitian high priest and great ocean wayfinder who navigated the Endeavour from Tahiti to Aotearoa, where he was hosted by the native Hauiti people of Uawa. 

Speaking on behalf of the group, Victor Walker of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti says, “He was the chief-in-command when they arrived among us at Uawa, for his expertise and competence at bonding with us.”

The travelling party will visit the islands of Moorea and Raiātea, including sacred sites such as Taputapuātea.

Victor Walker says, “He was a noble chief.  He was born at Taputapuātea, in Raiatea, he then went to Papa'ete, then on to Mahina where Cooks ship was in the bay at Mahina.”

It was Tupaia who navigated the Endeavour to Aotearoa and facilitated a peaceful interaction with the tangata whenua of Uawa, the Aitanga-a-Hauiti tribe.

“The language and some of the customs of the people of Tahiti are the same as ours of Hauti of Uawa so we welcomed him, that's perhaps the reason it was a somewhat peaceful time when they stayed among us of Uawa of Hauiti," says Walker.

More than 20 youth are taking part in the cultural exchange, which includes a performance at 'Heiva', the Matatini of Tahiti.

Te Kotuku Tangohau-Brown says, “[I aspire] to learn the legacy of Tupaia and make those cultural connections.  I want to see the boys, haha na- I like surfing and one of the main activities there is surfing so I'm looking forward to going over there.”

It's a cultural exchange that connects people through lineage over centuries of time.