Tūrangawaewae as foundation
Tūrangawaewae is one of the most well-known and powerful Māori concepts. Literally tūranga (standing place), waewae (feet), it is often translated as ‘a place to stand’. Tūrangawaewae are places where we feel especially empowered and connected. They are our foundation, our place in the world, our home.
Tāwhiao, the second Māori king, referred to tūrangawaewae in a saying:
Ko Arekahānara tōku haona kaha
Ko Kemureti tōku oko horoi
Ko Ngāruawāhia tōku tūrangawaewae.
Alexandra [Pirongia township] will ever be a symbol of my strength of character
Cambridge a symbol of my wash bowl of sorrow
And Ngāruawāhia my footstool. 1
As well as meaning a place to stand, tūrangawaewae can also be translated as footstool.
Marae as tūrangawaewae
King Tāwhiao’s granddaughter, Te Puea Hērangi, fulfilled this saying when she established Tūrangawaewae marae at Ngāruawāhia. A person’s marae (tribal forum for social life) is often seen as their tūrangawaewae. For each person, the marae is the place where their ancestors are present, where they spend their formative years and learn important lessons. They gain the right to stand upon their marae and proclaim their views about the world and life.
Pepeha – tribal sayings
Tūrangawaewae can include other places as well. Many tribes identify themselves in terms of their mountains, waterways and important ancestors. When Ngāti Porou identify themselves, they say:
Ko Hikurangi te maunga
Ko Waiapu te awa
Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi.
Hikurangi is the mountain
Waiapu is the river
Ngāti Porou is the tribe.
Here, the sense of tūrangawaewae is broadened into a region and located within a wider world.
Outer world and inner world
In the concept of tūrangawaewae, the external world is a reflection of an inner sense of security and foundation. The mountains, rivers and waterways to which one can claim a relationship also express this internal sense of foundation.