Wairarapa College has marked Waitangi Day by celebrating its special relationship with Rangitane o Wairarapa.
At a rainy midday ceremony on Friday, the college hoisted the tino rangatiratanga flag for the first time ever from its turret and gifted the iwi three stuffed birds: a kakapo and two huia.
Principal Matt White said the school was unsure how it came to have the manu [birds] but said he believed they had been at the school since the 1960s.
He said the school understood the huia were two of the last seven of the species hunted in the Tararua Ranges [the last confirmed sighting of a living huia was in the Tararuas in 1907].
The birds had been passed from the science department to the library and then put into storage. School caretaker Dave Henwood restored and encased the birds, then placed them in the school server room to protect them from moisture.
White said the gifts and the decision to fly the tino rangatiratanga flag were a way of acknowledging the school’s long-standing relationship with Rangitane o Wairarapa.
“Waitangi Day is about partnerships: between the crown and Maori, and between our school and our local iwi.
“We know you’ll take care of these taonga [treasures], and after all the cultural expertise you’ve provided the college over the decades, we want to support you any way we can,” White said.
Rangitane o Wairarapa kaumatua Mike Kawana said Wairarapa College can be confident the taonga will be well looked after.
“In te ao Maori [Maori worldview], the rain is a sign, so I take all this rain as a good sign for us,” he said.
“You can be assured that these taonga will be displayed prominently in our tari [office].
“We hope this kaupapa [mission] of raising the tino rangatiratanga flag on Waitangi Day will continue into the future, to commemorate the making of one nation through the signing of the treaty,” Kawana said.
Wairarapa College head girl Keira Potangaroa and head boy Mitchell Wiramanaden unveiled the birds.
Potangaroa said she was proud to be a part of the ceremony.
“As a Maori person, it’s an honour to represent my school at this event.
“On Waitangi Day, it’s really crucial we learn about our history and see how much work our ancestors did so we could be here today,” she said.