We are all descendants of nature based peoples, where it was innately understood that we are connected with the living rivers and streams, the mountains, the rocks, the trees.
As a Pakeha living here in New Zealand, connection with the sacred, of my ancestors, of Britain and Ireland has been buried under centuries of imported religion, later industrialisation and its child, rampant capitalism, combined with migration – forces that have almost severed us all from the sacredness of life.
But in this land, where Maori – tangata whenua identify with and are one spiritually with their maunga (mountain) and their Awa (river), we whose roots are yet to be deep within the whenua, are offered a gift, a way to connect to our sacred.
I grew up in Upper Hutt, under Remutaka te maunga, in the valley of te awa kairangi, te awa. (The Hutt river), but isn’t is true name, translated as -the river food of Rangi (the Sky father), far more meaningful and sacred?
I now live in the Wairarapa under Tararua, in the Valley of the awa, Ruamahanga. The mountain I can see from home, the river I learnt to trout fish in as a child and now walk as a fly fisher.
But I also know that one stream of my ancestors came from the Wigan region in England. The more recent of them coalminers and that’s how my father’s mother came to live as a child on the West Coast of New Zealand – her father chasing work in the coal mines.
I know too that my ancestors of early Britain lived for thousands of years within a broad location. The early Celts where some of my family come from where called Brigantes. Their mountain (by no means the height of those here in Aotearoa), was called Gwyn Tyr Hield – blessed god hill – The mother of the River (now called Winter Hill). From this sacred hill the Asland river flowed (the Douglas river) into the Ribble – the place of the river goddess Belisama – the brightest one.
This land, Aotearoa New Zealand, is home, it is the place I stand. I have ancestors who have lived and died here, the sons and daughters of immigrants. I stand stronger here because of them, because my ancestors who stood in another land for millennia intertwined with the sacred, knew my mountain and my river, now with me here in this land. Tangata whenua offer us a fresh window to our sacred. A place to know our newest mountains and rivers too. A chance to reclaim our sacred nature.