E kore au e ngaro, he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea. I will never be lost, for I am a seed sown in Rangiātea*.
I read “ruia” in this whakataukī+ as meaning the foundation and contributing factors in a seed’s potential.
A couple of generations before me, our people hunted and fished to share. They would string up the tuna or herring catch and take it around to the old people in Ōtaki.
That’s partly because in te ao Māori we understand the village (or hapū/iwi) thrives when one of us thrives.
Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi. With your basket and my basket the people will live.
Also, the young people took care of the kaumātua. That was the tikanga. If you knew where to set the hīnaki or how to smoke the tuna, that knowledge often came from those before you. Your catch wouldn’t be what it was without them. I probably didn’t follow that tikanga as well as I should have, but I know that now.
If you are successful in any measure of life, think about the part the village around you played. Even before you acknowledge the system of education you went through, and the specific teachers who helped you learn, remember the genes passed down from your tūpuna.
The way your brain works, your raw curiosity and interest. Those are gifts, not rewards you worked for. That brain and those traits influence the choices you make, and the direction your life goes. That doesn’t make the waka you’re paddling any less yours, but the wood your paddle is carved from was a gift. Acknowledge and be grateful for it.
I’ll talk to my kids about their great great great great great great grandfather, Te Rangihiroa, and their great x6 grandmother, Pohe, a wartime wāhine rangatira. They have those genes, that’s their inheritance. Those genes and traits now lend my daughter’s head her critical thinking, her heart its courage, and her shoulders their strength.
After those genes, and for good or bad, the way you were raised affects you. My wife and I are lucky to have been encouraged by parents who cared about reading, education, morals and community. They painted their values on the walls of the homes they housed us in.
Those values were influenced by the way their parents raised them. And so on, and so on. Up through Te Rangihiroa and his line of Toitoi, Pikauterangi, Te Maunu, Marangaiparoa, all the way to Toarangatira and beyond. The same for every line that connects us to our tūpuna.
A lot of us seem to forget the part the soil played in growing us into what we are. We talk about intelligence like it’s something the thinker created from books or nothing. Grit and work ethic as things we woke up and decided on. As if the genetic lottery and generations before us didn’t play a major part in the way our brains work.
We reward mahi and determination in school and business – as we should. But don’t forget where the spark of that ahi came from. Acknowledge it and make those gifts worthy.
When you remember you are a seed of Rangiātea, give thanks, then take the time to water the soil that gave so much to you. Give back to that village, however you can. Your roots are still in the soil, you still need it, and the as yet un-sprouted seeds need you.
They won’t all have the same gifts. So use that thinking, that courage and those shoulders for something worthy, give back where you can, like those before gave to you. too.
Pera Barrett is a rap singer, story writer and Shoebox Christmas freedom fighter. He is the 2019 Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year for his work providing Christmas gifts to children in low decile schools. He was born and grew up in Ōtaki.