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Coromandel students participating in Tuia 250 commemorations

26 July 2019

Up to 200 students from local schools across the Coromandel will be part of a Ngati Hei pōwhiri - a ritual of welcome - at the Wharetaewa Pa site in Wharekaho (Simpsons Beach) north of Whitianga as part of Tuia – Encounters 250 (Tuia 250).

Photo: The Wharetaewa Pa site in Wharekaho (Simpsons Beach)

October marks 250 years since Captain James Cook and the Endeavour’s landfall in New Zealand and the first meetings between Māori and Europeans. The national Tuia 250 commemoration acknowledes this pivotal moment in our nation’s history as well as the exceptional feats of Pacific voyagers who reached and settled in Aotearoa/New Zealand many centuries earlier.

The Coromandel enjoys a close link with the commemoration as Te Whanganui o Hei/Mercury Bay is one of four landing sites in Aotearoa where Māori and European met during James Cook’s 1768-1771 voyages of exploration.Whitianga is also a stop for the Tuia 250 flotilla of heritage vessels as it makes its voyage around the country.

The flotilla includes waka hourua Haunui (pictured above) and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, va’a tipaerua Fa’afaite from Tahiti, and the tall ships HMB Endeavour replica from Sydney and youth ship Spirit of New Zealand, as well as R. Tucker Thompson. You can read more about the flotilla here.

Following the pōwhiri, commemoration activities will continue at the Tuia Stage in Whitianga Town with a 12-hour outdoor cultural event featuring local performing artists - poets, storytellers, musicians, dancers and kapa haka groups. The central performance is a 30-minute composition by Dr Charles Royal, commissioned by Creative Mercury Bay for the Mercury Bay Community Choir and accompanied by James Webster and friends, incorporating taonga puoro (traditional Māori instruments).

The Mercury 250 Anniversary Trust, represented by tangata whenua Ngati Hei kaumatua, community leaders, local historians and an education leader, has helped facilitate the commemoration ceremonies, community events and legacy projects reflecting the kaupapa of Tuia 250. You can hear more thoughts on Tuia 250 from Joe Davis, one of the trustees and a Ngati Hei kaumatua on Te Ao with Moana - full episode here and Dame Jenny’s standalone interview here.

Mercury 250 Trust invites you to learn more at wānanga - a discussion presented by Joe Davis and two local historians, John Steele and Richard Gates, focussing on what happened during the 12 days in 1769 that HM Bark Endeavour was anchored off the Purangi River. The event will be held at 7pm on Thursday, 8 August at the Coghill Theatre in Whitianga. This is a free event, but you still need to collect a ticket from Whitianga Paper Plus. 

Meanwhile, information about Te Pōwhiri and other local events including the viewing of the Transit of Mercury and education events can be found on the Trust’s Mercury250 website.

Trustee and Mercury Bay Area School Principal John Wright says 2019 is a remarkable year for our region, with hundreds of people from across Aotearoa expected to attend Te Whanganui o Hei’s major commemoration ceremonies led by Ngati Hei during 2019.

“Te Pōwhiri is a ‘once in a life time’ opportunity for us all to embrace this kaupapa and acknowledge a profoundly important moment in our young country's development," Mr Wright says.

School kids to use Tuia 250 in the classroom

Tuia 250 is also looking to the future in helping young New Zealanders understand our shared heritage as part of the school curriculum.

Thousands of students will be learning about Tuia 250 in the coming term. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage has created a school kit that encourages students to critically examine what previous generations have been taught about the first onshore encounters between Māori and Pākehā.

Another Tuia 250 school kit created by the Auckland Museum for Term 3 uses character cards to reveal 16 different stories of a single day in Whitianga in 1769. The Maritime Museum will also put out their Tuia 250 school kit in Term 1 of next year which will encourage using art as a response to Tuia 250 themes.

You can find out more about the national Tuia 250 commemoration here.

Tuia 250 frequently asked questions are available at the this link.