Sunday, 3 February 2013

PETER KEREMETA - Paraawera near Te Awamutu. Born before 1930

I spent my childhood at Mangakopara, Ure Paraawera.  I grew up on the banks of the Mangahoe rivers, its watershed being Maungatautari.  I lived there with my Father and Mother, a brother and a sister; until I went to live with my Grandfather. I was the first born, and that's why part of my childhood was spent with my Grandfather.

My Father built our house.  It was made of wooden walls, iron roof with a wooden floor. It was "Quite some house" in those days.  My Parents were farmers.  The property has an Urupa on it called Ahurei.  It was used before Taupiri Kuao Maunga.  People from Ngapuhi are buried there also.  I believe they were Ngati Korora (an ancient name).

Our house had two bedrooms. My Father and Mother were in one room, about the size of a large wardrobe.  My brother and I were in the second room, and my sister had a bed in the hot water cupboard.  It was comfortable and I was taught to be thankful for it. We never compared it with others.

Our dining table and long forms were hand made by my Father - all rough sawn.  I missed sitting on the floor after my father made these, I could no longer dominate the other children (laughs).  We had a sitting room that was used for manuhiri or for karakia.  No furniture and I felt threatened by this room. We as children were never quite sure what was happening in this room.

Beds seemed unnecessary, we slept on kapok mattresses on the floor, neat floor boards.  My Parents had a double bed. Kapok mattresses were used to iron clothes, they were placed between the kapok and the floor boards.  I always resented the laughter about the creases in our clothes.

The earliest possession I remember owning individually was a bible. It was considered necessary for me to have that. My Father was the local coffin maker. I still think about those coffins today, especially where we got the timber from.  Many and each taonga has its own history linked with it, I still wear one today. We had korowai from the last century, we had photos of Tupuna born before the Pakeha invasion of Waikato and a pounamu patu over 160 years old we believe.

We had running water in the house, and a coal range which annoyed me because most other People had open fires to cook on.  It began to change our practices and our Tikanga.  We never had a bath tub, we washed at the cowshed.

You went outside to the long drop shack, night and day. In later years Mother would not allow toilet to be installed in the living quarters; it was a no-no to our tikanga.  We had electricity, and the rule was - when our Parents put out their lights, all lights were to be switched off.  We had no curtains, and we were also not allowed to look at the full moon.  We always slept facing North.  Your space was all of the room.  No one disputed any area. You slept in your bedroom totally in the world of darkness.

We had whakairo in our house. Being the oldest of the family, I am now the caretaker.

Our house was on a farm.  The bedrooms were private.  Our house was built close to the Urupa, for we were the caretakers.  We had lots of neighbours. We never made any noise.  I always remembered korero to the this day "Do not be afraid of your Tupuna in the Urupa.  Watch out for the live ones, they might sell you".

My Father was a farmer, and later a coal miner. He worked very hard to give us the best of life which I didn't appreciate at the time.  He was away a lot, working for Pakeha farmers to help to pay the farm mortgage. While he was away, my Mother was also a Farmer.  She milked cows, 25 total; and kept our house and worked on the farm.  I never took much notice of what my mother did, but she seemed to be magical.  She taught us traditional food preparation; whanake, kotero, koura, tuna, kanga wai, huahua; and i hated that kind of food.

My sister had to do the washing, and this was always done in the daylight.  We never left our washing in at night. Men never touched women's clothing during washing and drying.  My brother and I did all the heavy household chores; such as lifting and cutting firewood.  Once again, because of the wood range, tikanga changed and the wood needed to be cut shorter.  I missed the traditional fire setting.  We lost the warmth, it seemed different.

As we got older, my Father bought more cows.  I went to live with my Grandfather who had more cows as well.  I had to look after his farm.  I was only young - twelve.  I hated the Tainui Maori Trust Board, my Grandfather was a founding member; and he was always away.  On Sundays, we had church at the Marae. Full moon time for tuna, New Moon huahua - preserving meat in fat.  Also, no meat on Fridays, because my father was Catholic.  I always enjoyed the work, it gave me direction.

I don't remember ever having pocket money, until I earnt my own money.  I was always told how to spend the money that I had. I spent a lot of time reading the bible when I was young. It was under my Father's direction.  He was a scholar, my Mother could not read nor write.

Our family went on outings to Kihikihi.  This was a big occasion. Te Awamutu from Paraawera was like going to Australia.  Pakeha wealth was obvious.  We lost the war so why shouldn't they be.  I spent very little time with my Father, he was always busy working, though he did always manage to give us three evenings.  When I was older, I worked with my Father, especially clearing and cleaning the Urupa.  I would tell my Father about the school activities.  When I went to the Puahue Pakeha School, I knew of the attitude they had toward Maori.  My Mother taught us to be humble.

The things I most admired about my father was that he was a Christian, Honest and Hardworking Man.  Some times I think I hated him, because I knew I couldn't do the same.  I felt the Pakeha used him.  They would bring him home on the farm tractor, because they thought he might dirty their car. I think he died hating me too.  I had a "know it all" attitude towards my Father.  He lived out his last days in an "Old Folks Home".  I will never forget that decision for the rest of my life. I remember the address of that place, "Von Tempsky Street, Hamilton".  There is no excuse for that decision from myself and the family. Tikanga went out the door.

Every hour of the day - One will never forget a Mother.  Our time together we would "korero korero korero".  She could not write or speak English.  Shopkeepers used pigeon english with her. I hated them.
My Mother never spoke a harsh word against anyone.  She always believed anything that happens has a meaning.  She always "gave" and never expected anything in return. They both taught me to have understanding towards other people; to be able to communicate with them, leaving room for other people to participate in any activity or more importantly in a discussion. I am personally more attracted to what I detest  the most.

My Parents gave me life, itself a gift to mankind good or bad. The relationship with my brother and sister was very close in times of need. We were taught to be independent but never to forget who we were.  Being the oldest in the family is difficult for I have not got the skills of Parents.

My Father was Catholic, but we attended the Church of England service that was held at Te Taumata Pa, Ure Paraawera.  It was conducted in Maori and our Minita was Maori.  There were lay readers that attended with the Minita - they were Pakeha.  At times, Pakeha attended the Church at the Marae.  Religion was a large part of our Life, and we were all taught to pray individually at the beginning of each day.

Christmas Day was the day that everyone's birthdays were celebrated.  We'd have a good kai, and a day of karakia; and we all believed in Santa Claus in the beginning.  I never had any birthday parties myself.  We celebrated Easter, this was celebrated as a Puna Kai.  Saturday was a family gathering day; and that is still upheld today, though on a much smaller scale.  It was a day for sharing.

The only time we go to the Pa is for uhunga.  I cannot recall going to any other Pa, apart from Te Koroneihana, 8th October - Turangawaewae.  On our own Marae, we are to keep out of the way.  The Maraeatea was out of bounds, we taught it meant "danger".  I knew about our Tikanga from a young age.  Tainui kawa was the Tau-utuutu.  "Raukawa Mauri Tau mata Korero.  Huri takapau - takapau wharanui.
I was also taught that I played a small part in helping the iwi.  My Grandfather was a founding member of the Tainui Maori Trust Board; and while he attended hui, I took care of the farm.  He paid with his life.  He taught me that Tainui was the best waka, and the fastest.  Taha Maori for us was expressed in Taha Tinana, Taha Hinengaro, Taha Wairua.

Sometimes Pakeha hired out our hall.  The Marae had the only hall in the district for many years.  We charged a hireage fee. We also held our own dances there to raise more money for the Marae.  The major difference that I noticed between Maori and Pakeha were the colour of our skin, and their arrogance. I also knew that the Pakeha were the victors in the so called Maori Land Wars.  I learnt this from my Grandfather, and because we lived in Paraawera.  My Grandfather always look old.  He always spoke in Te Reo; and he had a forgiving attitude.  He was my Father's Father.  My Grandmother died before I was born.  My Mother's Father was Ngati Paretekawa, I thought he was arrogant.  My Grandmother on that side, did not communicate with anyone.  Both of my Grandfather's were farmers, and they owned good houses.

The Pakehas said they were here to save us from Cannibalism by the very Preachers who were in bed with our women. James Cook said to have brought civilisation, Queen Victoria said to be protecting Maori from Pakeha, and George Grey committed adultery with Maori Women.  I never learnt about the Treaty Of Waitangi until I got older, learnt that in "pub talk", and all I really knew about the Maori Wars, is that we lost.
I certainly knew the difference between Pakeha and Maori, the skin colour was obvious, and of course the "raupa" on their skin. The milk car driver was Pakeha, the cream truck driver was Pakeha, the Taxi driver was Pakeha, the School teacher was Pakeha, the Publican was Pakeha and the Policeman was Pakeha.  It seemed like they control everything - Hard Control !  I figured out early that to survive in this world, I should learn some of their skills. They had the things that we did not have - and they seemed to be blessed with good fortune.

I began school when I was six years old, and I stayed for ten years.  My first school was a Native School, and then I moved to the Puahue School which was Pakeha.  There were no Maori teachers at the school. When I was at the Native School, there was one Pakeha at the school.  When I went to the Public School, they were all Pakeha, with only two Maori.  There was plenty of animousity toward us two Maori boys at the School, and plenty of name calling. Punishment for my fighting back was in the form of corporal punishment, and manual work around the school grounds.  I was also barred from swimming trips to the river.  My Parents knew about the punishments, and were supportive of the school - they felt I deserved the punishments. I was never allowed to prepare the cocoa in the winter, and most of the time was excluded from sporting activities. My Mother's influence taught me to obey the rules without question, eventually.

I had no opinion of my school teachers, they were a person of skill, and that I needed to learn from them.  I noticed that I was always addressed as "Hey Boy", while the Pakeha children were addressed by their christian names.  I learnt about Trafalgar, and Nelson and his one eye.  I also remember learning about the Crimean War.  King George VI was the reigning British Monarch, and Koroki was ours.  My Mother was uneducated, whilst my Father had attended college in Fielding. However my Mother encouraged me to learn as much as I could. I had a bad experience at school where I was falsely accused of stealing.

There was no sport in my Early life. Later during my working life I tried to play Rugby.  In my weekends, sometimes I visit my friends in Te Awamutu or Otorohanga.  I had Pakeha friends, and they are still friends of mine to this day.  The only toys I remember owning was the Ping Pong bat and ball.  Id often go eeling with my Dog that could understand Maori.  As for musical instruments, Im sure Im the only Maori that can't play the Guitar. I remember going to the Pictures, it was held in the Parawera Marae hall.  It was the only one in the district; Ron Mercer owned a Mobile Projector and he ran the pictures in Parawera right up till 1948.

My health was pretty good.  Of course there was occassional "ngenge", "hakihaki" and "whewhe".  There was a District Nurse that we were able to see.  I thought they were useless; and I felt that we were "separated" from other children because we were Maori.  We didnt need it anyhow, we had our own Rongoa, Hono, and Karakia. Once when I was ngenge, I ended up in Hospital ward 16 of the Hocken wing.

My clothing was shop bought; at some of our many shopping trips that were when we received our cream cheque on the 20th of each month.  I always wanted a Jersey.  I was 18 years old when I finally received one. I also had my Church clothes.

Breakfast was Cream and Paratihi on one day, and Paratihi and Cream the next day.  Lunch was flat bread. Tea was the best, "kai o te ahiahi" after Pai Marire.  I enjoyed the meals on the Lords Day - Christmas; and birthday kai, was a kai for everyone.  We ate different kai from the ngahere, I didn't like the work; it was women's work.  I didn't get a lot of kai moana, we didn't have a beach at Paraawera.  We used to go to Kawakawa over in Hauraki, because we had whakapapa ties; this was occassionally.  I disliked tuna, I think it was because Id had too many.

The time I spent with my Grandparents was the best time of my childhood.  They were a gift from God.  Sometimes I ask myself, where did it all go wrong ?

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