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This paper illuminates the significance of the braided mighty Waitaki River and how it sustains the people that shelter within her valley. This article begins acknowledging Rākaihautū as the first person to occupy and consecrate the land of Te Waipounamu, the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. It is Rākaihautū that journeyed through this island as he carved out and named the great southern mountains and lakes, thus establishing ahi kā (occupation rights) of the Waitaha tribe. These ancient names anoint and link these sacred waterways and bountiful pools to the ancestral Pacific homelands of Te Patu Nui o Aio. The naming and formation of the land and cascading waterways that flow from her is further explored in a pūrākau (narrative) about the Māori atua (deity) of Tane and his brothers, which includes the positioning of his tallest brother Aoraki, whose tears symbolically represent the Waitaki River.
The second half of this article then turns to focus on several Waitaha sociocultural and political events based around the Waitaki River and valley over the last one hundred and fifty years. One of the major founding political and cultural events within the Waitaki Valley includes the passive resistance march of Te Heke (1877-79), led by Te Maihāroa, in protest against settler land encroachment and Māori grievances against the Crown.
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