The kūaka or godwit arrives from the north each spring and leaves in the autumn. Its important symbolism for the Muriwhenua tribes originates in an incident when the people, under Tūmatahina, escaped from the besieged pā of Murimotu. It is said they flew away like godwits. The chant ‘Ruia, ruia, tahia, tahia’ recalls that legendary escape. Here are the words:
Ruia, ruia, tahia, tahia,
Kia hemo te kākoakoa,
Kia herea mai i te kawau korokī.
Kia tātaki mai i roto i te pūkorokoro, whaikoro,
Te kūaka, he kūaka mārangaranga,
Tahi manu i tau ki te tāhuna, tau atu, tau atu, tau atu!
Scatter, scatter, sweep on, sweep on,
Let us not be plundered by our foe,
The rope has been stretched out and fastened, let us rejoice.
Moving along the rope,
The godwits have risen and flown,
One has landed, to the beach, the others follow!
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Department of Conservation
Photograph by Rod Morris
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