Friday, January 3, 2014

Aoraki and Rarakiroa

Mt. Cook (Aoraki) and Mt. Tasman (Rarakiroa), New Zealand (June 1, 2008)

In the creation myth of the Ngai Tahu people, at the beginning the gods were living in the ocean of nothingness. At that time Raki (the Sky) was married with Pokoharua-te-po, and they had several children, the eldest of which was Aoraki (the Clouds in the Sky). One day Raki left Pokoharua-te-po, to join Papatuanuku (the Earth): from their union the world was born.

The mists of lake Matheson
Aoraki and his brothers, curious to visit their new stepmother, decided to descend from the heaven to visit Papatuanuku. They took the great canoe from the sky (Te Waka o Aoraki) and descended on the oceans of Earth. Once they saw Papatuanaki with their father, however, they realized that Raki would never return to the heavens, and felt sorry for their abandoned mother. They set to return to Pokoharua-te-po, once more raising to the heavens with their waka. Unfortunately things didn't go according to the plan. Their canoe failed to raise and was overwhelmed by the growing winds and swelling tides, and got overturned by the waves. The brothers climbed back on the overturned canoe, waiting for rescue from the gods. Time passed, and nobody came. Their hair became white and they turned to stone. Their waka was transformed in the South Island of New Zealand, and the brothers in the Southern Alp peaks. Aoraki, the elder son of the god of the Sky, became the tallest peak of all, the one the Pakeha (the fair skinned ones) call Mount Cook. [adapted from the Ko Tane web site]

The area of Aoraki and Rarakiroa (Mount Tasman) are sacred to the Ngai Tau people. As part of the Waitangi Treaty settlement in 1998, the whole area was returned to the tribe, to be then donated back for the benefit of all the New Zealand people. It is now part of the Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. The treaty also provided the restoration of all Maori geographical names, including the mountains, following their common english names. To underline the importance of Aoraki for the Ngai Tau culture, the Maori name of Mount Cook precedes its english name.

Fox Glacier in front of Mt. Tasman (June 1, 2008)

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