Ngā Tupu o Mauao
Te Uru Karaka is an area on Mauao from around Pilot Wharf through to Wai-patu-kākahu. “Te Uru” meaning “the grove” or “the entryway”, and “Karaka” relating to the karaka tree.
Despite being classified as endemic to Aotearoa, traditional knowledge states that our Māori ancestors brought the karaka berry with them on their travels and planted orchards of the karaka tree as a food source. There were few sources of carbohydrates that grew naturally in Aotearoa, and a lot of it requires much processing for little product. So the likes of karaka was an essential for our pacific-dwelling ancestors who came from lands with more diverse nutrition.
Today, the karaka tree takes quite naturally on the maunga, self-seeding areas with new shoots popping through every year. It is said that there are no original trees on the mountain due to being burnt off at some stage, however many of the older trees are children of the originals. This includes the larger karaka trees, with a few found in Te Uru Karaka.
As a food source, it’s the berries that provide. The nut, or seed of the berry in its raw form contains the neurotoxin now known as “karakin”. Eaten raw, it can cause convulsions, paralysis, incoordination and even death. They are definitely lethal for animals.
However it is devoured by kererū who have the ability to process the flesh within their digestive system and poop out the seed without it harming them. Kererū are now the only bird in Aotearoa capable of eating these large berries.
The traditional processing of the berry for consumption is a tedious task that can take over a week. The raw berry would be placed in a kete and soaked in a flowing cold water stream to soften. The flesh would be removed and the pip would be rigorously boiled for several hours to remove the toxin. The final product can then be toasted as a nutty snack, ground into a paste and flattened into a patty to be cooked on a hot stone, or dried and ground into a flour.
The Mauao Trust aspire to plant the area in karaka so the true essence of Te Uru Karaka is restored.
There are many different varieties of harakeke, some of which are endemic to Aotearoa. Mauao was traditionally a home for flax as there is a place where our ancestors would weave from called Waipatukākahu. “Wai” meaning “water”, “patu” meaning to beat or in this case to fashion, kākahu is the word for “clothing”.
At Waipatukākahu, there is a spring that holds the same name. It once flowed abundantly and it even pooled like a natural spring normally would. This area is where people would bath and go about their daily activities. It was also a weaving station.
While there is very little flax in that area now, the Mauao Trust plan to plant three pā harakeke there and bring back the tradition of weaving from this area. “Pā harakeke” is the term for both a collection of harakeke plants and the leaf formation on each plant.
Like a “pā”, or village, the flax and its leaves are dependent on others and their lineage. If you take a look at the photo above, the flax plant consists of a centre shoot and layers of leaves fanning outwards. In traditional knowledge, the centre shoot, being the youngest, is the child. The ones next to it are it’s parents, then grandparents, great grandparents and so on. In order to keep the harakeke producing beautiful fresh leaves, it’s important to prune them regularly. Those pruned leaves can then be used to weave. It is much like when we lose our elders to the next life, those older fronds leave the pā and take on another form.
Kōrero tuku iho through Jack Thatcher, Dean Flavell, Hemi O’Callaghan, Rangituaia Walker
Mauao Ranger - Josh Clark
People traversing lands by foot similar to how our people would have.