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Whakapapa connects all people to their ancestors and to their environment and whānau. It's never too early for pēpi to learn their whakapapa.

Whakapapa is what connects us all to our ancestors. It links us all with whānau, hapū, iwi and marae. It’s never too early for pēpi to learn about their whakapapa.

Whakapapa can be introduced in different ways, through waiata, stories, carvings, art and photos. (See Te Pihinga Kaitiaki Pēpi 1, page 31.)

The whakapapa tree on page 42 will be a useful tool for whānau to create a record for their pēpi. It can include their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Whānau may wish to create their own version to include aunties, uncles, siblings and cousins. They can identify the tuakana and teina roles within the whānau for pēpi.

Your kōrero while building the whakapapa will encourage discussion around a sense of whānau connectedness and belonging. This sense of belonging to whānau extends to the land – mana whenua. In traditional times, mana whenua referred to authority over land and land-based resources. It was associated with the life-sustaining role that the land had in providing food, shelter and security.

In more modern times, mana whenua can also represent the sense of belonging a person has to familiar places, whether natural or made by humans. It is similar to the feelings associated with the ancient concepts around ownership of land, a sense of safety, confidence and intimacy through knowledge of home and whānau boundaries. It makes for a safe and secure world.

Whakapapa links people with their ancestral lands or whenua. Traditional Māori practice was to return babies’ whenua (afterbirth) back to the ancestral whenua. ‘Whenua ki te whenua.’

For a variety of reasons, a child may not grow up with their birth parents. Traditionally the practice of the first child being raised by grandparents, aunts or uncles was common. Most often, this would take place within the whakapapa whānau, with children knowing who their birth parents were. The term ‘whangai’ describes this practice, which still happens today and may take place outside the whakapapa whānau.

The pakiwaitara on page 40 is an example of whangai. It is ‘The legend of Māui Tikitiki a Tāranga’. This is the first legend of Māui, where we are told of his birth to Tāranga, who mistakenly believed Māui to be stillborn. In her grief, she wrapped his body in her tikitiki, or top knot, and cast him into the sea. Māui was rescued by his great-grandfather, who raised him. As a young man Maui searched for and found his mother and brothers, and thus his life story begins to unfold.

The page on Te Ara titled Whakapapa | genealogy(external link) provides a summary followed by a fuller version of the meaning and history of whakapapa. It explains how whakapapa refers to a line of descent from ancestors long ago down to the present time. It also explains how whakapapa encompasses links not only to all living things but to everything in the universe.

Further information regarding whakapapa, particularly with reference to the oral arts and the construction of whakapapa from the beginning of creation and the evolution of the universe and all living creatures within it, can be accessed at this website. http://maaori.com/whakapapa/whakpap2.htm(external link)

For an example of a recited whakapapa titled Maniapoto’s whakapapa(external link), watch and listen to Tom Roa.

Otago University(external link) has more information on whakapapa and links with mihimihi and pepeha.