Hen | Hokitika, West Coast

“I think a very grateful moment of mine is probably just the 18 years I’ve spent with my father. I’ve a lot of friends out there in the world who don’t have fathers, and a lot of close friends tell me a lot of time, man I wish I had a dad like you do, Hen.

I’m quite a lucky, fortunate person. But a very grateful moment in my life is probably all the stories that my father told me about the five generations of greenstone protecting that we do. We call it pounamu, but other people call it greenstone jade, which is actually sourced straight out of our river the Waitaiki, Milltown River, right up the top there, that runs all the way down into the Arahura, out to the mouth where we whitebait. So it was intergenerational. Five generations. I’m the fifth generation. I wouldn’t say we own it, but we are like kaitiaki. The people that look over and protect this sort of stuff. We’re the first people they come to when asking for things on behalf of greenstone. Where they ask for permission, just for little things like walking up the river. I’m one person they’d come to. I’m only 18. My old man’s, he’s 47, so obviously he’s got a little more authority than I do, but it’s all a big time in the making. Gradually build your ranking up. Well, my father is pretty up there. He’s pretty up there. I’d still say I’ve got my foot in the soil.

Another thing that we do that is generationally passed down, is we pass our father’s name down to our kids. So, if you go back five generations, my name is Henare Tairua Tye Harry James Mason. The very first one was James mason. The next was Harry James Mason. The other one was Tye Harry James Mason, he’s my grandfather, Tye, he’s still alive. He’d be about 63. He’s a pretty proud person about who he is, with his guardianship of the pounamu. So if I had a kid and I named it Jack, it would be Jack Henare Tairua Tye Harry James Mason. We’re pretty proud people, us Masons. Local. This is where we’ve settled for five generations and I personally don’t see myself moving anywhere else. You just can’t beat today. Sun’s out. Birds are flying. Just a beautiful place to be.

I think the learning factor I’ve got from it was just being proud of who you are. Because once upon a time I wasn’t. I was kind of ashamed of it. A lot of other people rely on jobs or trades, but just having the river there and having all the stone there, it just kind of cemented us as people. It’s made us who we are, and that’s probably the learning part of it, just learning about ourselves. I encourage people to learn their own whakapapa. Learn a little piece of their home and go somewhere else, share your knowledge with other people, and bring people that into what you’ve got going on, as well.

I was born up in Rotorua. Um, that’s where my mum’s family is originally from, and they’re still living there, but my mother came down here, stayed. Fell in love with the land, fell in love with the people, and we moved down here when I must have been three, and I’ve been here ever since. We still make our way back up to Rotorua all the time. We haven’t been back in about a year or so now, but we still try and get back as much as possible. A lot of my family is from here. Been here, schooled here, from primary school right up to high school, into my last year of school this year. But I left and started working. I painted for a fella named Butch. Butch Simmons. He’s a good guy but I ended up leaving him. I ended up going back to school, because I didn’t have my Levels, but I went back to try and finish, and I’m almost finished. Two more credits and then I’m out. So, I’m coming for you, Butch. 

Pounamu and greenstone is a very significant part of our lives for Ngā Wai, or Ngāi Tahu. Our stories and our history, a lot of it is around the greenstone. We’ve got a guy, his name is Poutini and we’ve actually named our sub-tribe Poutini Ngāi Tahu, which obviously goes back to him, but there’s a story. There’s a story from all the way up in Mayor Island. Tūhua is the place up there, and there’s a guy. His name’s Tamaāhua, and he had a beautiful wife by the name of Waitaiki and there was a guy. His name’s Poutini, who had seen this beautiful lady and he thought to himself, if I can’t have you, then no-one else can, because he was in love with this lady. So, what he did is, when she went down and bathed, he took her out of the river and, and he kidnapped her. Her partner Tamaāhua had come back, and he’d been wondering, where’s my beautiful wife?  And he just knew that this guy Poutini had taken her. So, cut a long story short, they travelled all the way down here just into the Arahura River which they walked in and for such a long time, Tamaāhua had been stressing and wondering where his wife had been, and Poutini and this beautiful lady had gotten to a certain part of the river where they reached a dead-end. So, what he did was he did the karakia and he gave her a hongi, which is the touching of the noses, and turned her into this beautiful bit of jade. And what ended up happening was this lady’s husband had gotten into this river and knew he could feel her, and he decided to walk up the river as well, and once he got to the top of that water he came to a dead-end, and he looked down into the water and instead of seeing a person, he’s seen a beautiful green bit of jade, and he knew what had happened. So, what they ended up doing was he looked to the mountain right next to him and named it Tūhua on behalf of where he’d ventured from and, and the taniwha Poutini who had taken this lady, stayed in the waters and swam out here in the sea. Which is the tides of Poutini. This story gets passed down to my little cousins who are only three or four years old. I’ve known this story, and I learned this story from my father, and he was told the story from his father as well, and when my kids come one day, then I will tell them the story as well. 

Oh, I’ve got, I’ve got one. It’s actually my dad. I look up, yeah I look up, but um, he says this one, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei which is not for us, but for the generations to come. It’s probably my favourite proverb or whakataukī that I’ve ever heard. Kia ora.”

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