Celebrating Matariki: The History of Te Ti Tūtahi

The 2nd of July signals the beginning of Matariki; Māori New Year. Matariki is a cluster of stars which are visible at a specific time of the year, and is a time for renewal and celebration and a chance for us to reflect on Newmarket’s Māori history. Nestled under Maungawhau, ‘mountain of the whau’, Newmarket was occupied by various iwi until the eventual sale of the land to the British Crown.

Māori knew Newmarket as Te Ti Tūtahi, meaning ‘sacred tree standing alone’. The original cabbage tree stood at the corner of Mortimer Pass and Broadway. You can see a depiction of the tree by artist Peata Larkin, on the side of Westfield just up Mortimer Pass from where it once stood. The tree was significant for local iwi. Te Ti Tūtahi was the tree where the whenua (placenta) and pito (umbilical cord) of newborn babies were buried. This practice strengthened the relationship between the child, the land and the area where they were born. It was also a landmark meeting point.

In 1908 Te Ti Tūtahi was felled, rather controversially. Cuttings from the tree were rescued by the Buckland family who lived in Highwic House at the time, which were used to populate the trees on Lumsden Green many years later and as part of the Teed Street upgrade in 2017.

Have you seen the Te Ti Tūtahi mural in the entrance to Station Square? The mural by Flox, includes the sacred cabbage tree, making reference to the geographic location of Newmarket and symbolises the three Māori Pa sites which once inhabited the surrounding maunga.

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