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Te Ātiawa And Outward Bound Celebrate The Success Of Inaugural Course

Paddling in waka ama through the Marlborough Sounds, sharing a sunrise karakia on the shores of Anakiwa, listening to traditional stories, and exploring sacred sites once stood by their tūpuna, was experienced this week for 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.

Today, a pōwhiri on Waikawa Marae near Waitohi Picton will be hosted by the 12 Te Ātiawa whānau members, marking the end of their five-day Te Toki o Awa haerenga (journey).

Under the guidance of Te Ātiawa and Outward Bound kaiako (facilitators), 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, moana and their people through wāhi tapu, pōwhiri, pūrākau, noho marae, kōrero tuku iho 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 instil 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.

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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 is 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 in te ao Māori, 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 environment, 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 of the area where we are privileged to live and work,” says Riley.

A rā whakanui (celebration day) will take place at Waikawa Marae from 11:30 a.m. today in Waikawa to commemorate the completion of the first Te Toki o Awa course.

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