E hoki ki ō maunga
Kia purea koe e ngā hau a Tāwhiri-matea.
Return to your mountains
That you may be cleansed by the winds of Tāwhiri-matea.
In 2013 the Tūhoe population was 34,890 making it one of the larger tribes. Only about 5,000 Tūhoe reside in the tribal homelands. Most live in the larger cities, and the towns on the fringes of Te Urewera – Murupara, Rotorua, Whakatāne, Gisborne and Wairoa. This poses a challenge in upholding Tūhoetanga – Tūhoe identity. Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton have long-established Tūhoe groups where members can support each other and maintain the cultural practices and links to the homeland. Tūhoe people return regularly to the tribal homeland for tangihanga, birthdays, weddings, unveiling of memorial stones, church functions, marae gatherings, or simply ‘going to the bush’. The Māori language is strong; according to 2013 statistics, 37% of the tribe are fluent speakers of Māori, the largest proportion of any tribe.
Te Hui Ahurei a Tūhoe
Thirty years ago Tūhoe elders, seeing their young people leaving home to find work in the urban areas, became increasingly worried about the possible loss of their unique language and culture. They decided to organise a gathering to bring home members of the tribe living in the cities, to celebrate matemateāone (blood ties) – a term peculiar to Tūhoe for an overwhelming feeling of emotional, physical and spiritual attachment to your kin through whakapapa and shared feelings for the land.
Following the first gatherings in the early 1970s, the tribe has held a sports and cultural festival at one of the tribal communities every two years to celebrate Tūhoe culture and language. The people participate in kapa haka (traditional performance art), debates, sports, fashion shows, or catch up with friends and relations. Some 25,000 Tūhoe from all around New Zealand and overseas attend these three-day events.
The significance of Te Urewera
Te Urewera holds a special place in the hearts of Tūhoe. Semi-permanent encampments are still established on islands of Māori land within the area, where members carry on the activities of food-gathering practised by their ancestors for hundreds of years. Tūhoe people are involved in restoration programmes for endangered native birds – the kiwi in the southern Te Urewera around Waikaremoana, and the kōkako in the north-eastern Te Urewera around Waimana. Tourism initiatives by members of the tribe have been active for many years, providing much-needed income. With the majority of its people under the age of 25, Tūhoe looks to the future with confidence, reassured that the elders have left a rich legacy.
Ngāi Tūhoe settled its historic treaty claims with the Crown on 4 June 2013. The total financial value of the settlement was about $170 million. New legislation provided the former Urewera National Park with its own legal entity, and included protection of biodiversity, natural and historic heritage, public input into management, and public access. Te Urewera would be managed jointly by the Department of Conservation and Tūhoe. Mana motuhake (self-determination) redress included a Service Management Plan governing the management and delivery of services by Tūhoe and the Ministries of Social Development, Education, and Business, Innovation and Employment, with District Health Boards included in the future.