Te Iwi, Te Whenua: The People and Their Land
The lands of the Te Roroa people are in Northland. Hundreds of years ago, they occupied lands stretching from the Kaipara Harbour north to the Hokianga Harbour, including the magnificent kauri forest at Waipoua.
There were many pa throughout Te Roroa's land; the area was rich in natural resources. Many places were mahinga kai, where food was gathered and prepared in traditional ways:
- the fertile river valleys were intensively cultivated with kumara, taro, and other crops;
- the forests provided rats, birds, and plants for food, clothing, medicine, and other needs;
- there was plenty of fresh water;
- the sea and rivers were full of eels, herrings, whitebait, and other fish; and
- along the coast, shellfish grew in abundance.
There were many wahi tapu on this land, places of deep spiritual, cultural, and historical significance to Te Roroa because of their association with the tribe's ancestors. Some of the most important wahi tapu were Manuwhetai and Whangaiariki, Maunganui Bluff, Kawerua, Waipoua, Kaharau, Te Taraire, and Lakes Taharoa and Kaiiwi.
Wahi tapu provide the spiritual and cultural base of the Maori people. Wahi tapu may be urupa (burial grounds), special places associated with birth or death or chiefly persons, or traditional canoe building and landing places. Temporary tapu may be placed on hunting or fishing grounds or cultivations to conserve and protect their resources. Wahi tapu may also include places associated with particular tupuna and events connected with them. Wahi tapu provide 'cultural and tribal markers'.
The significance and the tapu of these sites remain over time. So, when Te Roroa's chiefs were considering sales of their land in the 1870s, they knew that it was important for the whole iwi that these areas were kept out of the sales, for the wellbeing of the tribe and for future generations.
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