Aoraki Bound experience

As a young boy growing up in a small town in heartland mid-Canterbury, I always knew I was Kāi Tahu, and that my grandfather’s family had grown up around Moeraki. I was told that a Dutch whaler had arrived several generations back, he married a ‘princess’ from down south and that’s how the Waterreus name made it to New Zealand. Unfortunately 40 years ago in mid-Canterbury it wasn’t cool to identify as being Māori, and there were limited opportunities to engage with Māori culture, to learn about tikaka or how to speak te reo. So my identity was limited to the Pākehā side of my family, and apart from a few small meetings with other Waterreus family members, my upbringing was rather devoid of my Māori heritage. I felt this hole as I grew up, and the older I got the more I wanted to know in order to fill in those gaps.

Years ago I saw Aoraki Bound advertised, and I knew at that moment that I had to do it in order to find myself. Aoraki Bound was an amazing journey crammed full of reflections, self-awareness, cultural learnings, stories about days of old, Kāi Tahu tikaka, the Atua, myths and legends, feeling a new whānau bonding and a growing pride in discovering who I am, and where I’m from. The defining moment for me however came after the last day of Aoraki Bound, when with the support and help of Alice Dimond from TRoNT I came home to Moeraki. My partner and I arrived at the rūnaka to meet Jenny Brooks and Mary-Anne Tipa. Jenny had produced information and documents relating to my whakapapa and we all sat and discussed how I fitted in to Moeraki. David Higgins soon arrived and explained how we were related, before taking us in the car to all the areas of significance, telling rich stories of a lifetime growing up on the whenua and moana. David was able to point out relatives final resting places, and I got to see the grave of my great-great grandmother at Hamden.

The high point of my visit to Moeraki though, was finally feeling like my Pepeha now has validity. I can call Moeraki my marae, I can now identify with my hapū, thanks to David’s knowledge of whakapapa I have clarity around my waka, and I have a clearer view of who I am. I would like to say a huge thank you to Kāi Tahu for Aoraki Bound, to Alice Dimond for arranging our visit to Moeraki and to Mary-Anne, Jenny and David for their knowledge, care and attention while we were there. Ko Aaron Waterreus ahau, Aoraki Matatū.

Aaron Waterreus.

Aaron Waterreus.

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