By TOMMY KAPAI
FOR the Tauiwi (Non Maori) of Tauranga there is understandably some confusion over what tribe arrived when and from where. The confusion comes from the similar-sounding but distinctly different tribal names of two of the three main tribes of Tauranga.
One is Ngati Ranginui, the first tribe to settle on Mauao after arriving on their waka, Takitimu, from Hawaiiki Nui in or around 1300AD. After placing the Mauri on top of Mauao, Takitimu carried on to Hastings, or Ngati Kahungunu, as the tribe is know there.
The second similar sounding tribe is Ngaiterangi, who arrived on another waka, Mataatua, in or around 1700AD and took over much of the land here in Tauranga, including Mauao.
And for a good 200 years, Ngati Ranginui became somewhat poor second cousins in terms of local tribal recognition.
This was until the early 1980s, when a renaissance in Ranginui's status as tangata whenua of Tauranga Moana began. It started with the forming of Ngati Ranginui Iwi Society and soon after the building of a replica ceremonial waka, named Takitimu after the original that carried their ancestors here.
A cultural performing group was put together after a local delegation of kuia and kaumatua visited Takitimu Marae in Wairoa to have Ngati Ranginui included in the national kapa haka festival.
The Everest of every kapa haka performer is to make it to the national festival and this has always been a challenge for Ngati Ranginui performers who wanted to enter under the umbrella of Takitimu waka and not Mataatua, the waka of the other tribe, Ngaiterangi, who as I mentioned held the local tribal power of attorney in most things Maori. Are you still with me on this one?
So to compete, Ngati Ranginui had to travel to Hastings, home of the Takitimu kapa haka regionals, over the weekend.
Remember, you have to win at a regional level or climb a Mount Cook before you get a chance to have a crack at Everest or the nationals.
But, and it's a big but! Every time Ngati Ranginui, the tangata whenua tribe of Tauranga Moana, compete in these regionals as they last did successfully in 1997, they win and get disqualified for nothing more than wanting to represent their own tribe.
So this year was Ranginui's big chance because if they won at the weekend they would be the only performing Tauranga team at next year's nationals as no local Mataatua teams made it through, and it is to be held here in Tauranga for the first time at Blue Chip, or Fish N Chip Stadium as some call it now their shares aren't worth wrapping a feed in.
But before this could happen, they had to get sanction from the governing body of Matatini, the National Kapa Haka festival organisers, and only as recently as last Wednesday a delegation representing Matatini, Ngati Kahungunu and the hosts of next year's festival in Tauranga visited Ngai Tamarawaho Marae, in Judea, to try and solve the dilemma of what many see as unfair delineation of identity.
I was one of the fortunate who sat and listened as the Matatini delegationgave its verdict last Wednesday and when the whaikorero of their chairman gave the green light for Ranginui to compete unconditionally, it was one of the most emotional moments I have witnessed on a marae.
The emotion started as a ripple of respect that was carried across the marae by generations of former performers who never got to walk on that national stage. It felt like the homecoming of a tribe sent into the wilderness for no other reason than belonging to their beliefs. A tribe almost exiled and alienated from its Turangawaewae.
And so it was Ngati Ranginui travelled to Hastings, carrying the dreams of generations on to the stage with them. And back home, all over Tauranga, ears listened and eyes cried to the live broadcast as their whanau climbed back on top of the mountain where they belong.
Yes, they won in Hastings yesterday and now they are on the road to Everest. This amazing grace of kindness shown by Kahungunu and Matatini to Ngati Ranginui will become legendary.
And now a tribe who were almost lost - are now found.
The start of a new dawn for two tribes with similar-sounding names. Where old hurts can be healed and new horizons walked toward - side by side.