Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby: Not sir by chance

Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby was given a knighthood for his service to Māori on this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

He is known by many names: Papa Hec to some, Hector to others. And now Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby. You may not have heard of him but it is a name you should know.  His name is known all over the Pacific for his huge contributions to the revitalisation of celestial navigation, as a master carver, Te Rarawa elder, a font of cultural knowledge, for the revitalisation of waka building and waka hourua (double-hulled boat), as kaitiaki of Waitangi waka Ngātokimatawhaorua, and as he man responsible for the first return journey of Māori to Rarotonga by traditional methods after more than 600 years.

In February, I was extremely lucky to attend ACE Aotearoa’s Hui-Fono (an annual conference for Pasifika and Māori educators working in the Adult Community Education space) in Te Tai Tokerau – the Far North where we got to hear Sir Hec speak at his beautiful home in Aurere. Turning onto the Doubtless Bay Road after Te Awanui if you are heading north, you drive a few kilometres to the turn off to Aurere. There is no sign. Just a bridge that leads to a dirt road. Our two coach buses crossed that bridge, and although we couldn’t see the bridge under our bus we were assured that it was safe as Papa Hec was a bridge builder before he retired to carve waka and learn celestial navigation.

About two kilometres up the dirt road, we came to a clearing. A grassy hill, bordered by a warehouse, a carved whare, a waka hourua resting under a tarpaulin, and a house that had been extended several times looking out onto the expanse of the Doubtless Bay Sound.

On top of the emerald green, grassy hill was a ring of pou. And inside the ring was a group waiting to welcome us on. Papa Hec sat in the middle on a seat next to his golf cart. The scenery was breath taking. When Papa Hec began to speak his reo was so fluid, initially our group of over 100 sat far away from him. But as his sharing continued we crept forward mesmerised by his kōrero, and even when the Northland skies decided to sprinkle us with rain we still sat there listening intently.

Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby sitting next to his golf cart
Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby sitting in his special chair next to his golf cart

The circle that we sat inside was actually a compass. Each of the 32 pou, set 11 degrees apart represented a direction, and when he began to swivel in his chair we realised that through his own design Sir Hector had manufactured a seat centred in the middle of his compass, complete with adjustable sights to study the night sky. It was here that Sir Hec began to study celestial navigation guided by Master Navigator Mau Piailug who came to stay with Sir Hec at Aurere to teach wayfinding and navigating using the sun, stars, clouds, other indicators of nature, and the importance of finding true north.

32 pou on a hill at Te Aurere
32 pou on a hill at Aurere

I came away from Aurere, the lucky winner of a copy of Sir Hec’s biography written by Jeff Evans. I devoured that book, hungry for more and inspired by the ability of our ancestors to traverse the largest ocean in the world with ease. The things that are shared in that book made me realise that our hour with Sir Hec shed very little light on his amazing achievements and contribution to navigation worldwide.

Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby and Jan-Hai with a copy of his biography
Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Nga-Iwi Busby and Jan-Hai with a copy of his biography

I am blessed to have had the opportunity to hear such a man speak in person at his beautiful home in Te Tai Tokerau, and we as a community that spans the Pacific Ocean are immensely grateful for your efforts and willingness to share your knowledge and inspiration to find our true North.

Thank you Sir Heke-Nuku-Mai-Ngai-Iwi Busby.

Find out more

Jan-Hai
Libraries Learning Specialist

Tokelau Language Week – Te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau 2016

Mālō ni. It’s Te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau -Tokelau Language Week from 23-29 October.

Tokelau is a group of three coral atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. The population of Tokelau is about 1,000. The language of the Tokelau is related to Samoan. More than 7,100 people of Tokelauan heritage who live in New Zealand. There are approximately 80 people of Tokelauan heritage living in Christchurch.

This year NZ Post are issuing a special set of stamps for Te Vaiaho o te Gagana Tokelau.

If you would like to know more about Tokelau and it’s language, we can help you.

And, don’t forget to say “Mālō ni”.

Niue Language Week – Vagahau Niue Week

Niue Language Week – Vagahau Niue Week celebrates the culture and language of Niue. According to Statistics New Zealand data, there are approximately  23,883 people of Niuean heritage living in New Zealand. About 495 people of Niuean heritage live in Christchurch.

By 2014, the island country of Niue had a population of only 1,190.  To prevent Vagahau Niue (Niue language) becoming extinct The Vagahau Niue Trust was established. One of its roles is to celebrate Vagahau Niue Week. This will be held from 16 October to 22 October 2016.

The goal of the week is, “Ponataki, Tukutaula ke Mauokafua e Vagahau Niue –
Bind, Anchor to Firmly Uphold the Vagahau Niue”.

It serves as a national platform for raising awareness of Vagahau Niue. It aims to ensure Vagahau Niue speakers use, maintain, retain and develop Vagahau Niue within families, communities and households.

Niuean greetings

Malotele Stevens-Polata who works at Aranui Library has some suggestions of a few Niuean greetings to try:

Hello (Informal) – Fakaalofa atu!

Hello (Formal welcome to a group) – Fakaalofa lahi atu kia mutolu oti

Goodbye (Formal) – Kia monuina

Goodbye (Informal) – Koe kia

Thank you, everyone – Fakaaue lahi kia mutolu oti

Library resources

We have a selection of books for adults and children. We also have books about Niue.

We have eResources that you will find useful:

The Human Rights Commission has created a page for Niuean Language Week and has links to resources such as a poster of Niuean words and phrases.

Do you know anyone from Niue? Have you greeted them with “Fakaalofa atu“? You did? Thank you, you have helped save the language.

Cook Islands Language Week 2015

Hibiscus flowerCook Islands Language Week – Te ‘Epetoma o Te Reo Kūki ‘Āirani celebrates the languages spoken by the people of the Cook Islands; Cook Islands Māori, the Western Polynesian language Pukapuka, and the distinctive mixture of Cook Islands Māori and English spoken by the people of Palmerston Island.

In 2015 Cook Islands Language week will take place from 3 – 9 August. The theme for Cook Islands Language week this year is –

To tatou reo tupuna e korona ia no to tatou matakeinanga

Our language is a crowning glory of our community

2015 is also the Cook Islands’ 50th year anniversary of self-governance in free association with New Zealand.

Celebrate at Christchurch City Libraries

Cook Islands Māori Storytimes at Aranui Library

In conjunction with the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, Aranui Library will be hosting a community event in the form of a Cook Islands Māori Language themed storytime on Thursday 6 August, 11am-11.30am.

Our Resources

Check out our Cook Islands Language Week page for sound files of basic Cook Islands Māori greetings and words.

Cover of Cook Islands Māori alphabet bookSearch our catalogue for Cook Islands Language resources –