This Is Where She Was.

Girl on beach playing with sand

As my hands turn the steering wheel I feel the generations of mamae pressing down on me. My stomach turns and the tips of my fingers feel numb. If I think too hard, tears start at my eyes. She was here. And so was he. I turn the car into Waikanae beach on the Kāpiti Coast.

She was born in 1834, or there about, at Kaiapoi. Prior to her birth, her tūrangawaewaea was a tumultuous place. She happened to enter this world when he had control over her lands and had begun to seek utu on her people. In 1830, the Brig Elizabeth transported him and his men in secrecy where they  launched a surprise attack in Akaroa. This continued  at Kaiapoi, and then again at Ōnewa Pa. The introduction of muskets  and their power took lives  far more easily than traditional means. He was organised and had an authority to him. A skilled politician, he had alliances with other iwi as well as Pākehā, putting himself in a position of power and working the new economy to his benefit.  He was celebrated as a great leader. But to her, he was a bringer of misery. 

Seventeen years after the Treaty of Waitangi, she was to marry a Te Ātiawa man to bring peace between Ngati Toa and Ngāi Tahu. Like many in his iwi, her husband-to-be was already feeling a sense of displacement in Taranaki, and the Marlborough Sounds was chosen as their new rohe. She made the journey from Banks Peninsula possibly with a child of her own, although the truth of this whisper will remain unconfirmed, along with the assumption that she wore a tiki taonga around her neck. In 1858, she birthed a daughter at Little River, coinciding with the first year that the non-Māori population surpassed that of Māori.

As she raised her children, there were further rumblings in her husband's land. The peaceful protest village Parihaka was formed during the Taranaki Land Wars, as more whenua was taken. With this increased presence in Taranaki, Te Ātiawa sailed the Marlborough Sounds more often. Then in 1877, four years before the Parihaka Invasion, her daughter married the son of high-ranking Irish colonialists who had immigrated from British India to this rapidly changing country. She was now tied by blood to Pākehā, and her mokopuna would bear the colonialist title of 'half caste'.

Well experienced in the ins and outs of colonisation, the settlers used English law and order as a tool to acquire land and strip Māori of their rangatiratanga. ‘Landowners’ were summoned to the Native Settlement Court to prove who they were and their entitlement to the land; a concept of land ownership that was at odds with Te Ao Māori. Nonetheless the race to prove ones claim to the whenua was rapid, and anything productive would be taken faster than ink drying on paper.

But where was she? 

Her Aunt died in 1882 and the settlers wanted Ōnuku; a block of land that wasn't left to anyone in a will. Its proof of ownership was in question. Her brother testified in court that the aunt was buried at Ōnuku and possessed an interest in this block of land; it had not been sold. In accordance with English property rights, ownership was to fall on the next of kin; as the aunt had no living children, she would be that person. 

Except there was a problem. 

"(I) do not know where Aramainana is whether dead or alive she went away, she was taken prisoner by Rauparaha to the North Island and has never returned" - 26th of October 1885.

As my toes sink into the sand, I stare at Kāpiti Island as it lies across the water . The hairs on my skin stand up, my heart weighted down with something heavy. Tears roll down my cheeks as I call out a mōteatea in the hopes of shifting generations of trauma and grief.

This is where she was. Where he took her.


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