Celebrating the inaugural Te Toki o Awa course - Outward Bound

Celebrating the inaugural Te Toki o Awa course

News from Anakiwa

Paddling in waka ama through Tōtaranui, sharing a sunrise karakia on the shores of Anakiwa, listening to traditional stories, and exploring sacred sites once stood by their tūpuna (ancestors), was experienced by 12 students on Te Toki o Awa, a five-day course co-designed by Te Ātiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui Trust and Outward Bound.

Under the guidance of Te Ātiawa and Outward Bound Kaiako (Instructors), the 12 students, aged over 18, delved into tikanga, te reo Māori, and the significance of their heritage, seeking to build and strengthen their connection to the whenua (land), moana (sea) and their people through wāhi tapu (sacred place), pōwhiri (welcome ceremony), pūrākau (ancient stories), noho marae (marae stay), kōrero tuku iho (history/tradition) and Te Tikanga a Tohi (Tohi Rite).

The Tohi Rite ritual experienced by tauira (students and teachers) involved a tohunga (expert) dipping Karamū branches in the sacred Waitohi Awa (stream), brushing them on the shoulder. This Rite is an ancient tikanga carried out on warriors preparing for battle to instill in them the energy and power from the river's waters so that they may execute the battle before them and return home safely. 

The Tohi Rite was last known to have been performed on soldiers who departed as part of the 28th Māori Battalion in World War II - highlighting its significance in Te Ātiawa cultural practices in Waitohi Picton. This Tohi Rite is embodied in the name of the awa ‘Te Weranga o Waitohi’ – the power and energy of the baptismal waters.

Te Ātiawa o Te Waka-a-Māui Trust CEO Justin Carter says it’s vital the sacred tradition of the Tohi Rite is preserved for future generations, ensuring its role in strengthening Te Ātiawa’s identity and resilience.

“The course was intentionally designed to have a lasting impact that extends well beyond today. We aim to deepen our participants' connections with their culture and each other, fostering strong and supportive relationships.

“Te Toki o Awa is named for the collective strength of Te Ātiawa not being unravelled under extreme circumstances. The course seeks to inspire our whānau to have resilience and inner strength and to hold fast to their goals. We are thrilled to witness this journey's culmination and celebrate these twelve individuals' accomplishments over their journey. Some will leave Waikawa Marae having had a transformative experience.”

Participants increased their familiarity and confidence in tikanga practices and the use of te reo Māori. While the course was designed for people at any stage of their haerenga (journey) in te ao Māori (Māori worldview), it was a safe place for beginners while also providing deeper learning opportunities for more culturally confident whānau members.

Carter says the course is the culmination of a 20-year partnership with Outward Bound Trust of New Zealand.

“We have continued to strengthen the partnership between Te Ātiawa and Outward Bound with the genuine co-design of Te Toki o Awa. Both organisations have been committed to delivering a journey of self-discovery and cultural reconnection for our people.”

Outward Bound Course Design Manager Jen Riley underscores the collaborative effort between Te Ātiawa and the Outward Bound school in Anakiwa.

“The development of people and facilitating connection to others and te taiao (the natural world), is at the heart of our mahi. Te Toki o Awa is a way that we can contribute to the strengthening of Te Ātiawa who guide us in our te ao Māori journey and are manawhenua (territorial rights) of the area where we are privileged to live and work,” says Riley. 

A rā whakanui (celebration day) was held at Waikawa Marae on the final day to commemorate the completion of the first Te Toki o Awa course.