Kua kā kē ngā ahi

The fires are already alight and alive Rekindling relationships, practices, and knowledge of kai amongst tamariki and rangatahi of Ngāti Ruaka, Whanganui River

  • Rawiri Tinirau Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi
  • Cruz Pauro Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Awa, Ngāpuhi
  • Connor Pauro Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Awa, Ngāpuhi
  • Pera Maraku Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Waikato-Tainui
  • Raiha Mihaka Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngā Wairiki-Ngāti Apa, Ngāpuhi
Keywords: tuna (freshwater eels), kākahi (freshwater mussels), Te Morehu Whenua, Rānana, Whanganui, Ngāti Ruaka


Wānanga (traditional learning forums) focused on teaching tamariki (children) and rangatahi (youth) to hopu tuna (catch freshwater eels) has led to the consolidation of hapū (cluster of extended families, descended from an eponymous ancestor) projects and facilitation of other wānanga, that seek to share knowledge intergenerationally on tikanga (culturally and contextually appropriate practices) associated with whakapapa (genealogical connections), kai (food) gathering, and environmental restoration.

Te Morehu Whenua – the name bestowed upon this group of tamariki and rangatahi by their pahake (elders) and Ngāti Ruaka hapū – reminds participants of their connection to their remnant ancestral lands and environs, and their inherent responsibilities to these special places and spaces. This is particularly important, given the majority of participants live away from their ancestral lands, and knowledge imparted through wānanga is not generally accessible.

This paper draws on the learnings from wānanga on tuna (freshwater eels) and kākahi (freshwater mussels), from the perspective of four rangatahi. These rangatahi affiliate to Rānana Marae, Whanganui River, and have whakapapa connections to Ngāti Ruaka and other hapū from the Rānana area. Of significance is that the wānanga allow tamariki and rangatahi to re-establish their connections with each other, traditional kai and the environment, and help to foster an appreciation for what it means to actively rekindle one’s ahi kā (ancestral fires of occupation) and to learn and practice tikanga of the hapū.


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