Whakatauakī

whakatauakī are proverbs used in speeches, and as day-to-day guidelines
  • Te kopa iti a Raureka

    The small purse of Raureka

    White 1887: 106, Keane 2006, Tau 2008: 120, O’Regan 2014: 119.

    This whakatauakī refers to the story of Raureka, who travelled from Te Tai Poutini to the East Coast of the South Island where she encountered people in South Canterbury. It was there that she produced her pounamu from her kopa (purse) to assist the party. Upon the realisation of the value of this resource, Raureka then led the before mentioned party back to the coast. This whakatauakī is used to denote something small but precious. It can be used synonymously with the more well-known whakatauakī, ‘ahakoa he iti, he pounamu’- although it is small, it is precious. This whakatauakī can be used when handing over a koha or gift. An appropriate thing to say or write would be ‘Nā te kopa iti a Raureka’ which would refer to Raureka’s purse with a valuable gift.

  • Nā te tia te kōkō i mahiti, nā te takata te kōkō kīhai i mahiti

    The tūī bird will be totally consumed by a low-bred person, but not by the well-bred person

    White 1887: 30 – Vol II

    This whakatauakī describes someone with exceptional manners as opposed to someone with a lack of manners. In a contemporary setting, this saying could be used to comment on the good manners of someone who leaves food aside for those who are not yet present, or who checks to see whether all manuhiri have eaten before serving themselves. On the other hand, this whakatauakī could be used to point out the lack of manners of someone who fills their plates and scoffs their food greedily without considering the people around them. A good way to respond to this would be “Nā te tia te kōkō i mahiti”. The overall meaning of this whakatauakī is embedded in manners.

  • Kei hea rā kā tākata nānā i tapuwae

    Where are the people who have left these footprints?

    White 1887:47 – Vol II

    This whakatauakī is a phrase that could be used to ask someone who has left their mark but may or may not be present. It can be used positively as a mihi to someone who has left huge boots to fill or it could be used with negative connotations as a way of asking ‘who created this problem and how will they fix it?’ This whakatauakī is all about holding someone accountable and making sure they walk the talk.

  • Kai raro i te tui o te kaka

    Hidden under the fold of the mat

    Beattie 1920:249

    This whakatauakī is a good way of putting someone in their place if they are being nosy. If someone asks where you heard a story, or who your sources are, you could use ‘Kai raro i te tūī o te kaka’ as a great way to say ‘I do not reveal my sources’ or ‘wouldn’t you like to know?’ In this context, ‘kaka’ is a type of matting and ‘tūī’ refers to the stitching of the mat.

  • E rite ana mātou ki te kauwau e noho ana i ruka i te toka; ka pari te tai, ka karo te kōhatu, ka rere te manu.

    We are the same as a shag perched upon an ocean rock; the tide encroaches, the stone disappears and the bird must fly away

    Maori Messenger, December 31 1860: 7 & 8

    On the 6th of January 1860 all of the Canterbury Kāi Tahu gathered to welcome Governor Gore Browne into the district at Port Cooper (Lyttleton). A speaker, Hoani Paratene, was nominated to deliver the people’s message. He used this whakatauakī as a way to highlight that they had no land, no houses or no markets to participate in trade, or more importantly, to live sustainable lives. He referred to the imagery of a shag (kauwau, or kawau) on a rock. When the tide hits the rock and the rock is compromised, the bird does not just sit there, it moves on to a safer place.

    This whakatauakī can be used today when someone or something is resilient in nature, and knows the right time to take decisive action. It could also be used as a way to tell someone that it is time to move on.

  • Nōku te kori, kia kori hoki mai koe.

    When I move, you move

    Wanikau 1890: 3

    This whakatauakī is all about following the lead of experts. It was used in the Te Wanikau manuscript as a way of saying ‘if something happens, follow my lead’. This whakatauakī can be used in many different contexts. More recently it has been used in the context of language revitalisation to encapsulate the idea of learning from the best and following the experts’ footsteps.

  • Ki te nui pata āwhā, mākū katoa te whenua

    If it rains, the land will be sodden

    Wanikau 1890: 3

    This kīwaha was first used by Marukaitātea of Kāti Kurī descent who was a pivotal figure in Kāi Tahu history. In a contemporary setting, it is a good way to ask if someone has analysed every avenue for success- ‘have you thought of everything?’ It is a whakataukī to encourage people to think of all possible outcomes and to plan for how they might overcome any obstacle that comes their way.