Ngāi Tahu – Cultural Mapping Project

Waitaki River

Tieke Pukurākau Map, 1896

This map of Māori place names along the Waitaki River and the North Otago coastline was drawn by Tieke Pukurākau in 1896. Pukurākau was regarded as the last master mōkihi navigator and was renowned for his annual mahinga kai (food-gathering) expeditions to Te Manahuna (the Mackenzie Basin). In 1896 William Gordon Rutherford of Rugged Ridges Station approached Eliza Slodden from Glenavy to assist him with making a map of the Māori names of the Waitaki River. Eliza advised Rutherford that Pukurākau was the only person in the area who could assist. She subsequently secured the map from Pukurākau and sent it to Rutherford in 1896. In 1920 Rutherford shared the map with ethnologist and historian Johannes Andersen. The map has only been recently discovered in Andersen's personal papers held at the Auckland Memorial War Museum, and has been a crucial source for uncovering the original Māori place names of the Waitaki Valley.

Tieke Pukurākau

Tieke Pukurākau (Ngāi Tahu) was a noted authority on the Māori place names of the Waitaki region, and is regarded as the last master mōkihi navigator of the Waitaki. Born in 1848, he spent most of his life living in the Waitaki region. He was an expert at constructing mōkihi: rafts made from buoyant material such as raupō or kōrari used for travelling along waterways, particularly throughout southern Te Waipounamu. He had an extensive navigational knowledge of the Waitaki River, and at one time worked as a ferryman at the river mouth.

Up until the early twentieth century, Tieke continued to make annual mahinga kai expeditions to Te Manahuna (Mackenzie Basin), where he gathered birds and tuna (eels) to be preserved and stored for the upcoming winter months. Over years of occupation and use of the Waitaki, Pukurākau obtained an intimate knowledge of traditional Māori place names throughout the catchment, and generously shared these with Pākehā ethnologists. 

Tieke Pukurākau. Ngaitahu Maori Trust Board Collection, Ngai Tahu Archive, 1@@2-122364-F


This model mōkihi was made by Tieke Pukurākau. It was in the possession of Edward John Robertson who lived at Glenavy and worked for a local farmer. His daughter Mrs Robertson came into possession of the mōkihi and donated it to Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. She was not sure why her father was given the mōkihi but believed it was used as some sort of trophy and he lived in Glenavy at time. Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, 2021-0905-001

"Old Jack [Pukurākau] was a wizard at steering and could wriggle a course through roots, snags, trees, rocks or shingle beds that in the case of a less skilful steerer would have cut the flax underneath the raft and so ripped up its bottom so that it would break up. He used to take trips up to the heads of the lakes (Ohau, Pukaki and Tekapo) to get birds and more especially eels, to be preserved for storage as winter food. He had a pataka or whata down here to put his catch in and he valued his annual trips. The process was to gut the eels when caught and sun dry them or sun cure them and then pack them in handy form to be brought down river to the sea coast. Great numbers were caught and it required strong mōkihi to transport them."

Sandy Te Maiharoa reflecting on the navigational skills of Tieke Pukurākau, c.1935

William Gordon Rutherford

William Gordon Rutherford owned Rugged Ridges Station from 1883 to 1899. Rutherford often spent time searching for deposits of moa bones on his station and nearby areas. In 1888 Christian Shirres recorded that during her stay at Rugged Ridges they would often search for moa bones and that Rutherford had gifted her a small collection of moa bones.

Rutherford wanted to create a map showing the Māori names from Te Warokurī (Wharekuri Creek) to the Waitaki River mouth. Te Warokurī is the southern boundary of Rugged Ridges Station. In Rutherford's words "we are trying to make a map showing Maori names only for future reference when those who remember the names are dead".

Upon hearing these efforts, Surveyor-General Stevenson Percy Smith contacted Rutherford to encourage him to carry on with this task. When Smith was appointed Surveyor General in 1889 he directed the Department of Lands and Survey to actively collect and preserve Māori place names. Smith told Rutherford 'there is much of the old native history yet to be collected about the Waitaki, by any one who could spare the time for it.'

In 1896 Rutherford approached Eliza Slodden (nee Sizemore) to assist. Eliza lived at Glenavy and was the daughter of Richard Sizemore and Waniwani. She responded by saying that 'there is only one Maori family here that can give you any information and that is John Pukuraki.' A few months later in December 1896, Eliza sent Rutherford a map drawn by Tieke Pukurākau showing the Māori place names along the southern bank of the Waitaki River stretching from the river mouth to lakes Ōhau, Takapō and Pūkaki. The map also records the traditional place names along the North Otago coastline from the Waitaki River mouth to Waikouaiti.

In 1920 Rutherford sent the map to ethnologist and historian Johannes Andersen. Andersen had previously worked at the Christchurch office of the Department of Lands and Survey and was part of the much larger effort of the Department to actively gather and preserve local Māori place names in Canterbury.

Rugged Ridges Station, 1887. Hocken Library, University of Otago, 2249_01_001A

James Herries Beattie

James Herries Beattie (1881 - 1972) was the most prolific collector of Ngāi Tahu histories, place names and traditions. Beattie developed a wide-ranging and lasting interest in the traditional lifestyle and history of Ngāi Tahu in southern New Zealand, and would often travel by train and bicycle to isolated Ngāi Tahu communities interviewing Ngāi Tahu kaumātua.

In December 1915 Beattie travelled to Glenavy to interview Taare Te Maiharoa. While Beattie was waiting to interview Taare he met Tieke for the first time. Years later Beattie reflected on this initial encounter:

We drifted into conversation when he mentioned three Maori place-names he said that some of the fishing camp Pakehas wanted him to give the Maori names of islands in river near Waitaki mouth and he refused unless they gave him 2/- each and as they loved their silver better than their information nothing eventuated. I said ‘I hope you don’t expect I am going to pay you for what you are telling me?’

The following day when Beattie was interviewing Taare Te Maiharoa at his hut, Tieke arrived unexpectedly and presented Beattie with two long lists of Māori place names of the Waitaki. Beattie recalled that Tieke ‘went to the trouble of laboriously writing them out and presenting them to a comparative stranger, and without having been approached or solicited in any way’. The two lists were written on ‘sheets of paper covered with his big, childlike handwriting’.

One list outlined the Māori place names situated along the northern bank of the Waitaki, and the second list the place names along the southern bank. These, along with Beattie’s annotations, provide a detailed account of more than one hundred place names of creeks, islands, ponds, gullies, springs and many other landmarks located throughout the Waitaki Valley.

In 1930 Beattie published these place names in the Otago Daily Times as part of his ‘The Southern Maori: Stray Papers’. Some of this material was republished in his books Maori Placenames of Canterbury and Maori Placenames of Otago.

In his later years Tieke lived by himself in his hut at Glenavy, where Beattie continued to visit, repaying Tieke with ‘one or two acts of kindness’ for sharing his knowledge. Described as ‘a silent and reserved man’, Tieke died in February 1925, aged seventy-seven. It is thanks to his knowledge that many of the traditional Māori place names of the Waitaki have been retained, and to his notes that ‘those interested in the preservation of those ancient and correct Maori nomenclature of that region can now trace his footsteps’.

James Herries Beattie. Courtesy of the Hocken Library, ex MS 582/R/16

<p>Tieke Pukurākau notebook of Māori place names along the north bank of the Waitaki River.</p>
<p>Hocken Library, University of Otago, MS-582/B/10</p>
<p>Click&nbsp;here&nbsp;to view the notebooks in Kareao</p>

Tieke Pukurākau Notebooks

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"An old Māori, Teone Pukurakau, who lived at Glenavy, and who was only casually known to me, once did the writer a signal honour. He was known as an authority on the place-names up the Waitaki River, but had apparently refused on occasions to divulge them to the inquisitive white man, yet he went to the trouble of laboriously writing them out and presenting them to this writer, a comparative stranger, and without having been approached or solicited in any way."

James Herries Beattie, The Waitaki River, Otago Daily Times, 1930

"The aged Māori having thus painstakingly brought us from the mouth of the Waitaki River to Lake Ohau, and having revealed to use 120 of the ancient place names of his people on this journey adds a remark in Māori to the effect that he known no more places up this way for he “has reached the end of his knowledge,” and he there and then lays down the pen."

James Herries Beattie, The Waitaki River, Otago Daily Times, 1930
<p>The Ahuriri River flows through the southernmost part of Te Manahuna (the Mackenzie Basin) before reaching the Ahuriri Arm of the man-made Lake Benmore. Prior to the creation of Lake Benmore, the Ahuriri River flowed directly into the Waitaki. In 1877 the visionary religious leader Hipa Te Maiharoa led over 200 people to the Ōmārama settlement on the banks of the Ahuriri River to assert Ngāi Tahu ownership over the interior of Te Waipounamu. During the 1879 Smith-Nairn Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Ngāi Tahu land claims, Ngāi Tahu kaumātua recorded Ahuriri as a kāinga nohoanga (seasonal settlement) and kāinga mahinga kai (food-gathering place) where tuna (eels), pora (&lsquo;Māori turnip&rsquo;), weka, and purau (&lsquo;Māori onion&rsquo;) were gathered.</p>
<p>Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Collection, Ngāi Tahu Archive, 2014-103</p>

Ngā Wāhi Ingoa from Tieke Pukurākau

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