He kākano au i ruia mai i Rangiātea — I am a seed sown back in Rangiātea.

(From page 14 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1.)

At a simple level, whakapapa starts with pēpi and the people they see regularly. Photos help to reinforce their names and their relationship to pēpi. Use words like tuakana, teina, tungāne, tuahine, koro, kuia, whaea and mātua, and introduce terms such as mātāmua and pōtiki. Talk to pēpi about their maunga, awa and marae. Repeatedly hearing whakapapa names not only helps pēpi’s memory but also strengthens their sense of belonging and identity. (From page 19 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1.)

For mokopuna

A child’s horizons are growing at this age and the connections in their brain strengthen as information is repeated. On page 8 in Te Hinengaro Mīharo we are reminded of the need for continued repetition to consolidate information. Using photos of family members to share whakapapa works well. Photos might be in albums or boxes, on walls, or in an electronic format. The format doesn’t matter — the key is making reference to them regularly. Starting early and enjoying these photos together can be a much repeated and enjoyed experience. More whānau stories can be added over time.

Early experiences like these let pēpi know that they belong to, and are connected with, other people. They belong to a group — a whānau, a hapū and an iwi. Growing up secure in the knowledge that they belong in the world is an important factor in promoting well-being and resilience.

For mātua

Support and connection are very important protective factors in building resilience. Dislocation from family and roots is a risk factor. Family support workers can help young isolated parents find appropriate social supports. Finding and strengthening whānau links can also be advantageous, not just as a support system, but also in that important aspect of a sense of belonging — mana whenua. Feeling confident in who we are and how we cope with the world now is to some degree dependent on knowing where we’re from and from whom we’re descended.

Often the most successful social services will put energy and time into helping young parents find their roots — both living relatives and past history. Knowing one’s whakapapa can put lives into perspective, and give a secure footing in the world.

Mana whenua — Āhuru Mōwai page 21 

Children experience positive links with the home environment of whānau, and those links are affirmed and extended within the wider world.

A sense of belonging promotes feelings of safety, confidence and intimacy. It is brought about through knowledge of home and whānau boundaries, and positive connections with the wider world.

Whānau tangata — Āhuru Mōwai page 12

The world of the child’s whānau, hapū, iwi and the wider community is an integral part of a child’s learning and development.

The fuller version of the whakataukī shown on page 14 of the Whakatipu booklet Te Kōhuri 1 is:

E kore au e ngaro; he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea

I will never be lost; the seed was sown in Rangiātea.

This stresses the importance of retaining or reclaiming links to whakapapa.

Further information

Hohepa Tamehana wrote the waiata ‘He kākano āhau(external link)’ in 2001. This modern day song uses an old proverb to remind us of the rich ancestry of the Māori language. Listen to the waiata and read the interesting background, which clearly explains the meaning of the whakataukī.

Ngā mahi tika Terms for family members -(external link) An interactive article that explains terms for family members.

Tātai Kōrero — Whakapapa (te reo)(external link) - Māori whānau share their views and experiences of parenting. In this episode whānau talk about the value of mokopuna knowing their whakapapa — who they are and where they belong, and the sense of connectedness it brings them.

Whakataukī(external link) - This explanation was written about a learning situation but is also applicable to parenting as it expands on ‘kākano’, ‘ruia’ and ‘Rangiātea’.

Helpful resources for whānau