Great Great Great Grandparents

Day Whatever + 11

54 cars at New World. Longest queue yet for that early in the morning. Snaked right across the back of the carpark, out onto and along the street. Be a good idea to borrow a wheelchair before joining a queue like that. There was an essential worker out there filling in for the Easter Hare and handing out Easter eggs.

Apropos of nothing. But adding a little off-beat perspective to COVID-19. I tweeted this yesterday.

“Every year worldwide about 75 billion animals are killed for humans to eat”.

Went down like a lead balloon.

Moving on.

Dannevirkians could be forgiven for thinking I was a little harsh yesterday, on them and on our town. But it’s all about perspective.

You see, all of us, yes all of us, have “murdering, enslaving, raping, looting, burning, thieving, pillaging and plundering” ancestors. In those times they weren’t really “all-round historical criminals of the worst kind”. It was just the way it was in the dim dark past. Except of course for the “musket armed thugs from several northern criminal gangs who came marauding through our region” in the early 19th Century. I’ll make an exception for them.

The philosopher A.C.Grayling wrote that we are all probably descended from both slaves and slave owners. Victims and perpetrators. The Slavery Abolition Act was passed in Great Britain as late as 1833. It abolished slavery in Britain and in her colonies. That was about the time that slavery came to an end in Aotearoa.

Human slavery after all had been the main source of energy before and alongside the elephant, the horse, the bullock and whale oil; and before steam, fossil fuels and renewables. Although before renewables became a thing wind and water had long been sources of energy.

We avoid acknowledging that human flesh was a source of food energy in most if not all cultures at one time in their evolution, and that infanticide was a widespread form of population control especially in times of food crisis.

We consign all of that and much much more to the Great Forgetting, until academic historians and hard-wired iconoclasts like me tip it out of the dustbin of cultural forgetfulness and annoy the hell out of people.

Cultural evolution is about forgetting and about remembering, mostly about forgetting. We conveniently forget that which doesn’t accord with our perceptions of who we are, and we sanitise, reimagine and reconstruct our remembrance, the stories and narratives that shape our culture, and our image of ourselves.

Novelist Daniel Quinn described culture as “a people enacting a story”; and to enact a story as “to live so as to make the story a reality”.

Dannevirkians in their “unhealthy obsession with Vikings” mirrored within their settler museum are enacting a reimagined and reconstructed story so as to make it a reality. We all do it.

This morning as I powered around Dannevirke I remembered another of the stories told in my whanau.

It has long been told in our whanau that as a young girl our great grandmother, the one in the museum, tasted the flesh of a white man. I don’t know whether it’s true or not. I knew her when I was very young and didn’t hear it from her own lips. I’ve heard the same story said about a lot of others’ ancestors who lived in the early days of settlement and colonisation. So it could just be a bit of reimagined whanau mischief making. My great grandmother was known to make a bit of mischief herself.

But if it is true it would indicate a very close link indeed between my whanau and the early Scandinavian settlers.

That story led me to remember another that happened about the beginning of the 19th Century, quite a while before the Vikings invaded. It happened right here in the middle of Dannevirke, except that Dannevirke wasn’t here already of course.

A war party of people from a tribe to the near north, from Ngai Te Whatuiapiti led by one Marangaihenuku, raided us here at Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua and killed two brothers, Te Hokitonga and Tuhakoria. Our tribe Ngati Rangiwhakaewa quickly deployed our own war party, then closed with and engaged them in a battle called Te Whakarapaki. The aforementioned Marangaihenuku was captured. The grieving sister of the two who had been killed, Wheraka-i-te-rangi (Wheraka for short), called out that he was not to be killed until she arrived.

She killed Marangaihenuku herself, ripping his still beating heart from his chest.

Her enemies composed this song-curse about and against her.

Kati, kati, tu ai taku kai nei a Wheraka
E utu ana koe tohou matenga
Koia i aranga na ko Te Whakarapaki
E kai e te hau ki runga I nga iwi
Tatau e te kohu ki roto o Kahotea
Ka maunu hoki ra te ika I tona rua.

Kei te komaingomaingo oku rau e rua mot e upoko, e,
Mohou e Tioirangi e herepu mai na kei tou hemihemi.

Behold there stands my food, Wheraka.
You are avenging your loss
Which gave rise to Te Whakarapaki.

Blow, o wind, on the hilltops,
Descend, o mist, on Kahotea,
The fish has come forth from his lair.

My two plumes are yearning for a head
It is for you, Tioirangi, to bind them in your hair.

Wheraka-i-te-rangi is my great-great-great-grandmother.

I discovered years and years ago that holding a grudge, historical or personal, is a total waste of time and energy. The grudger is the one infected, and the grudgee totally unaffected.

It wouldn’t make sense in this case anyway, for the biological and peace-making imperatives of lust and multiplication have conspired some generations later to land me on both sides of that exchange, Ngati Rangiwhakaewa and Ngai Te Whatuiapiti.

Some years later another tribe from south-west of here was trying to impose itself upon and install itself in our lands here at Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua and further north in Hawke’s Bay. They captured Ngarara, a member of our tribe Ngati Rangiwhakaewa, and took him off to their place called Paranui, near present day Foxton. They killed him and consigned him to the oven. Ngati Pakapaka, one of our tribes here in Tamaki-Nui-A-Rua was then named in remembrance of that foul deed. We don’t forget.

Ngarara was the husband of Wheraka-i-te-rangi. He was my great-great-great-grandfather.

You will remember that I don’t bear grudges, historical or personal. But I don’t forget. At 76, not yet anyway. So although I’m a forgiving soul, my great-great-great-grandmother was not so inclined, and you would be wise Ngati Raukawa to be careful not to cross me anytime in the next 25 years.

I must investigate whether the Vikings brought with them their own propensity for tribal and family feuding. This could be a dangerous town.