TODAY there is no doubting the mana of Te Patuwai.
Eight members of the Ngati Awa subtribe are among those graduating from Te Whare Wananga o Awanuirangi at a ceremony this morning.
Among the eight are Jean Young and Marcia Wahapango. The two women, who are also cousins, started the Bachelor of Matauranga Maori programme together three years ago and today they both fulfilled their goal by graduating.
Ms Young said she wasn’t convinced about studying at first because of the level of commitment it required but she wanted to be able to support her marae. She said the number of people able to undertake the cultural practices and protocols had dwindled over the years and she realised she would have to step up.
“Our people to do those jobs on the marae are few and far between. There is such a big gap between our kaumatua like Nanny Mere and Koro Pai and the next lot that we had step up.
“I don’t know if the old people thought about succession planning and the like. My parents were part of the generation that went away to live in the cities because their parents were all about learning about the world of Pakeha.
“They were alright back then because they were fluent in te reo Maori. But it is not the same we can’t just sit by and do nothing. We have to uphold the practices and protocols otherwise it will be lost to our mokopuna.
During the three-year study programme, the women learnt about the traditional aspects of Maori as well as exploring contemporary issues. Ms Young said working fulltime and studying was gruelling but the hard work had paid off.
She said her son had travelled from Perth to be at his mother’s graduation and he had also brought her newest grandchild home for her to meet for the first time.
“My moko have missed out on Nanny going to watch their soccer games and weekends were just a no-go for three years, but now it has all paid off because I think I have something to offer them.”
Mrs Wahapango said she had gathered a range of new skills and was teaching her granddaughter about the art of being the caller, kai karangi, at the marae
She said now she had completed her degree she was heading back to do an additional year of studying, focusing on become more fluent in te reo Maori.
The graduation celebrations begin at 8am with a powhiri at Te Manuka Tutahi Marae, followed at 10am by the annual Gown and Town Hikoi from Mitchell Park Reserve through the centre of Whakatane to the marae. The eight members from Te Patuwai will among 200 graduates receiving their degrees or certificates during the ceremony.