Kete Kōrero: The Endangered Pūpūharakeke
On behalf of the Te Hāpua community, Saana Murray gifted these two kete to the Te Roopu Raranga Whatu o Aotearoa weavers at the 1995 National Weavers’ Hui, as the biennial gathering was that year held at her marae, Te Hiku O Te Ika, in Te Hāpua. They were received by Cath Brown as Chair of Te Roopu Raranga Whatu at that time.
The smaller of the two kete contains a taonga: a small pūpūharakeke shell. Following her work on the Wai 262 claim, Saana Murray wore a fossilised pūpūharakeke shell rei as a tohu of her kaupapa. Throughout her life, Saana fought tirelessly for tino rangatiranga over taonga Māori, and the pūpūharakeke represents only one of the many issues held close to her heart as an advocate.
Saana Murray (left) wearing her pūpūharakeke rei, inaugural Kāhui Whiritoi Gathering, Rotorua, 2006. Image courtesy of Christina Hurihia Wirihana.
Pūpūharakeke are significant to Saana's people, Ngāti Kurī, as, historically, they would warn of trouble coming from the sand hills. Incoming war parties would inadvertantly crush their shells underfoot, which could cause the pūpūharakeke to wail. Cold, unpredictable winds could drive the pūpūharakeke deeper into their shells, causing the shell to emit a whistling noise as the wind passed over its opening. Thus, the pūpūharakeke played an important role in enabling Saana’s tūpuna to evade danger and now link Ngāti Kurī to their ancestors as kaitiaki of the iwi.
Once plentiful in the North, the clearing of coastal forest by the Crown has destroyed the pūpūharakeke’s natural habitat and endangered the species. A remnant of the pūpūharakeke population survived on Poor Knights Island, but they could not be accessed by Ngāti Kurī due to the Crown’s creation of scientific reserves. Saana saw Ngāti Kurī as the guardians of pūpūharakeke and argued that kaitiakitanga of such a precious taonga should not be taken away.
Written by Lily Kara-Liu (Waikato-Tainui, Ngāpuhi). 08 Feb 2023.