Hoki Mai / Welcome Back

Last night my sister and her daughter with three tamariki in tow, arrived to stay the night. They are on their way farther south. A kind of return journey. Home for them is Christchurch, but the home of our ancestors lies farther south. And that’s what this trip of theirs is all about.

Once settled into our upstairs accommodation, my niece capably organised her three daughters into bedtime mode – no technology tonight, just books with fluorescent pink covers they’d bought that day at a book sale.

After her daughters had fallen asleep, my niece juggled family tree information with the scattershot information that her mother and I were giving her. Most of it coming from what we’d learned from our late Aunty Lorna – the family archivist as far as family tree and memories go.

At the hub of this talk crouched, as it often does, the mystery of the two John Lees. One whose mother was Timu and one whose mother was Caroline. But Caroline who? Has anyone found her? Ruapuke Island has a Caroline Bay my niece discovered on a map … this was food for thought. Was that Caroline our great x2 grandmother? We conjecture, rallying pot shot guesses back and forth. It’s such a familiar mystery. One we are forever chewing over.

Thankfully our connection to Motoitoi who married William Dallas is irrefutable. The only mystery there is where does the red hair come from?

With the help of my niece’s huge interest in her Maaori heritage; her whakapapa; and my sister’s and my combined experience of what we have been told by generations that have passed; we are making our way through new territory. Regaining losses. Placing back what knowledge our grandparents and great grandparents, either through negative influences or by preference, believed was of no advantage to us.

I will join my sister and niece in Riverton – leaving at the crack of dawn – where we will meet people from the Marae we whakapapa to, Takutai o Te Tītī Marae.

It’s all before us as spangled and with as many points and directions as the shape of a Matariki star; a compass rose; a peacock’s tail in full flower.

I’ll keep you posted.


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

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