Te Hokinga o Kapuarangi

This story is about a patu pounamu inanga, called Kapuarangi, that was taken from an urupā in Uawa. It was taken for a period of time before being returned to Te Aitanga a Hauiti. The year 2019 marks the 20 year anniversary of the return of Kapuarangi.

What follows is the history of the patu, some of it explained... and some of it not.

This story is based on true events.


Prologue - Early History


What we do know is that Inanga Pounamu is native to Te Waipounamu (the South Island). It would seem that the patu was fashioned there and somehow made it’s way to Uawa. After a period of time, it lay in the ancient ancestral resting place called Kapuarangi which is located at Te Karaka Bay, north of the Tolaga Bay township. The peaks Te Karaka and to the north those of Paerau and Te Marau were the home of the the children of our great ancestor Hauiti (circa 1500). Namely Rongotipare, Tamateapaia, Pirau and Kahukuranui. Subsequent generations saw the setting of hapū configurations relevant to their time. Some five-six generations after Hauiti saw the ascension of the hapū (sub-tribes) of Te Whānau-a-Te Rangipureora and Ngāti Kuranui respectively, in the Te Karaka - Paerau locality.

Under the leadership of Te Rangipureora, Kuranui and Te Aopuangiangi, the hapū maintained the ahikā of their antecedents. They lived, loved and toiled on the land. They protected the waterways and coastal reaches and sustained the resources for the benefit of all. They mourned the passing of their loved ones and buried them in the three known urupa of; Kourateuwhi, Kapuarangi and Takinga Whetū. As fate would have it, the patu was found and taken from Kapuarangi. How long had she rested there? No one knows. That is where our story begins.


Te Kitenga | the discovery


The narrative begins in 1981 with a teacher resident in Ūawa at the time who had a great interest in the local Maori history. He visited kaumātua in the area, he visited pā sites including Kapuarangi. On one particular visit to Kapuarangi, he saw kōiwi (human) remains had been exposed on the eroding sand dunes. He told Hauiti kaumatua about what he had seen.

Weeks later, he went back to see if the bones had been buried. They remained exposed. On closer examination he spied a green glassy object glittering in the sunlight. It was the patu pounamu. Instead of leaving the patu where it lay, he did a most interesting thing, he removed it and took it home with him. When he left Uawa, with his family, for the South Island he took the patu with him, where it remained for some time.

In 1995, the teachers brother wrote a letter addressed to the secretary of Hauiti Marae. In that letter he expressed concern about what he thought the patu pounamu was doing to the family of his sibling. His brother had actually become very sick and all manner of unfortunate events had befallen him. The letter described the patu as having a mystical power, not unlike the ring of Tolkien. He urged his brother to return the patu back to it’s rightful place. Unfortunately, his brother died shortly after.


Hui-a-iwi | The gathering

Paretukiterangi Rangiaho nee Rangiuia, the ‘deciding voice’, stands behind Victor Walker who picks up Kapuarangi.

Paretukiterangi Rangiaho nee Rangiuia, the ‘deciding voice’, stands behind Victor Walker who picks up Kapuarangi.

At this time, Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti through a series of hui-a-iwi had established a resource management entity called ‘Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti Mana Kaitiaki’. Madeline Tangohau, the secretary of Hauiti Marae gave the letter to Victor Walker, the Chair of Hauiti Mana Kaitiaki and asked that the ropū might like to investigate the matter. It was clear that the patu was from Te Karaka and from the description of the urupā, from Kapuarangi. Mr Walker contacted Mike Spedding, the Director of the Tairāwhiti Museum to inquire if the patu had been deposited in the last few years and that the donor could possibly be the teacher who resided in Ūawa back then.

According to Mr Walker, Mike Spedding rang back in less than 10 minutes to confirm that the patu was there and the donor was in fact the teacher, who had also written a letter explaining his relationship with the patu. Mr Spedding said to Victor that because the provenance of the patu was obvious the hapū should consider repatriation. It was quite an innovative point of view in 1995. In the next few months Te Whānau a Te Rangipureora and Ngāti Kuranui did exactly that. The return of Kapuarangi - now named after the urupā from whence she was taken - became an agenda item at Puketawai Marae Committee meetings and hui organised to discuss and debate her return or not. Essentially the whānau were divided - not unlike the gods debating the separation of their parents! There was the; (1) enthusiastic ‘lets bring her home’ section (2) the let’s return her to the urupā section and (3) last but not least ‘the leave her in the Museum’ section. The decision to bring her home prevailed and the opinion of kuia kaumātua Paretukiterangi Rangiaho nee Rangiuia was the ultimate deciding voice.


Te hokinga mai o Kapuarangi | The return of Kapuarangi.

In 1999, Tairāwhiti Museum returned the patu to Te Whānau a Te Rangipureora and Ngati Kuranui, hapu of Te Aitanga a Hauiti, at Puketawai Marae. The photographic collection below is a record of the first repatriation of a taonga from the Tairāwhiti Museum to Tairāwhiti iwi and hapū. What makes the gallery even more significant is the fact that so many of the whānau are no longer with us. It was a special time when a special taonga returned home. Our belief remains strong that from that point on, Kapuarangi has become a focus of the re imagination and the revitalisation of Hauiti language, culture and identity.

Puketawai Marae, 13 Jan 1999


Click on an image to begin slideshow


2019 | present day

We also consider the return of the patu pounamu a catalyst for events surrounding modern art in Uawa. Our aim now is to maintain the eternal thread and traditions immortalised in the words of Rangiuia “Ka tipu te whaihanga, e hika, ki Uawa” – and the arts flourished, my friend, in Uawa.