The following is taken from the speech of Allanah Burgess, Ngāi Tahu, Te Ati Awa, at the launch of the digital exhibition, He Rau Mahara, on 30 October 2019
Imagine not knowing anything about one of your whanaunga - relations, a Poua - Grandfather, a brother, an uncle. That's how this project began. People from different whānau found themselves asking the same questions and Whakapapa Ngāi Tahu were trying to support these whānau – family, with the answers they were looking for. He Rau Mahara was undertaken to try and shed some light on this and became a platform for other whānau, no matter what their knowledge was of their tūpuna who served.
After the 100 years commemorations [of the Great War – World War 1] we were thrilled to have the opportunity to display our project as a digital exhibition throughout the library network here in Ōtautahi – Christchurch. This will be on show at Tūranga, Te Hāpua – Halswell, Matuku Takotako – Sumner, Whakaraupō – Lyttelton, Ōrauwhata – Bishopdale and Wai Mōkihi – South Christchurch Libraries from 30 October until the end of November.
The opportunity to learn
It is a real honour to be involved in this project, and to have been given the opportunity to learn the whakapapa and the stories of our men and their whānau over the last few years. This will go down as one of the most rewarding things that I have had the opportunity to be part of. He Rau Mahara is a tribute and an acknowledgement to everyone involved, everyone that shared stories, memories, photographs and knowledge.
For future generations
It is about holding on to a taonga that recognises the contributions that our soldiers made in the Great War. Within the book, and on our website we can ensure that the stories of our tūpuna are preserved for future generations.
Talking about and sharing memories around these contributions are an important part of our future. They give life to our service men and women which means that the next generation can make their own links to these stories, these memories and these soldiers. At the heart of what we do; is people – he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.
Whether it’s looking after social needs, financial needs and in some respect remembering who they are or supporting the journey of finding some answers to their questions and filling in the blanks they have regarding their whakapapa – genealogy.
Laying the foundation
It is important to remember that these people laid a foundation and paid the price for us; either during training, on the battlefields or when they came home. They represent a group of people we can’t forget.
I would like to take this opportunity to also acknowledge all the hard work that has gone into this project. We would not have able to create this taonga without the assistance of Te Puna Tahua, Kotahi Mano Kāika, Ngāi Tahu Archives, the entire Whakapapa Ngāi Tahu team and Ngāi Tahu Communications.
To our inspiring leaders, Tā Tipene O’Regan, Major General Arthur David Gawn, Arihia Bennet, Lisa Tumahai, Charisma Rangipunga, Lynne Te Aika, Arapata Reuben and Dr Monty Soutar. Their guidance and contributions have been essential to ensuring this project truly represents they journey of our tūpuna.
Protecting the stories
A highlight of this project was having the opportunity to meet, listen and become guardian of the story of so many Ngāi Tahu men. We owe a great debt of gratitude to all of the descendants – some whom are sitting here with us today. They openly shared their personal memories, both the good and the challenging, and without these personal contributions, this project would be merely a collection of war records.
I remember the story of john Reardon of Kaikōura. He was one of the first New Zealanders – one of our men, to serve on a submarine, and sadly, the first to die in active service during World War One. On September 14, 1914, the HMAS AE1 went missing while patrolling off the coast of Duke of York Island.
Several searches were made for the submarine but no traces were found and the cause of loss wasn’t established until the discovery in December 2017. I still remember the phone call late that night from Richard Drake – who shared his knowledge and stories from whānau – family for our project. You can imagine the emotions when after 100 years the whānau of John Reardon finally had some answers to his story.
It is those stories that have transformed this project into taonga and all others who continue to work with us to identify further soldiers, photographs and [provide] information.
Sharing in honour and remembrance
Awarua – Bluff commemorated Armistice Day, 11 November 2018 and were able to work with us to identify 13 more soldiers and their photographs. The Canterbury Museum were able to share information and material that they found during their 100 years exhibition.
Whakapapa Ngāi Tahu were able to support Dr Monty Soutar with his recent publication Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E! by working together to connect to whānau and making sure they were part of his important kaupapa – project.
Through working with the Onward Project [– “who seek to locate and publish a photograph of every member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force who served overseas during the First World War 1914 – 18.”] Whakapapa Ngāi Tahu were able to add 42 soldier photographs to our collection.
This project continues to touch others, to trigger their memories, to encourage them to share them, and to keep those connections in the now. I hope all Ngāi Tahu whānau and their wider communities will feel the same sense of pride that I feel when I look at this work, when I talk about it or when I share about it.
We will remember them. we will cherish them and we will never forget. Ka maumahara tōnu tātou ki a rātou.
The Ode of Remembrance
E kore rātou e kaumātuatia
Pēnei i a tātou kua mahue nei
E kore hoki rātou e ngoikore
Ahakoa pehea i ngā āhuatanga o te wā
I te hekenga atu o te rā
Tae noa ki te aranga mai i te ata
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them
We will remember them