Seven wāhine Māori from Raukawa have completed a 370km trek across the north island retracing the footsteps of their ancestor Māhinaarangi.
Over three weeks, Dr Naomi Simmonds from Te Whare Wānanga o Awananuiārangi and her six relatives travelled on foot from Hastings to a pā site in Rangiātea, arriving at their destination this past Sunday.
Māhinaarangi trekked 500km while pregnant, on the way giving birth to her son, the ancestor Raukawa.
"It's a love story, Māhinaarangi fell in love with Tūrongo from Tainui Waka, who had gone over to the neck of the woods down in Ngāti Kahungunu to help build a house. They fell in love, and she fell pregnant," Dr Simmonds said.
The hīkoi will contribute to Dr Simmonds' final doctorate research project, funded by Marsden, Taku Ara Rā.
The journey was a chance for the women to reconnect with ancestral whenua while also having a physical and spiritual experience as wāhine Māori.
"For years I'd researched the journey of Māhinaarangi as part of my PhD research, and one thing that was missing was the actual physical experience of the haerenga itself," Dr Simmonds said.
The wāhine were well looked after along the way by local marae and whānau who joined the hīkoi at different stages.
Dr Simmonds said it was an incredibly humbling expereince to reconnect with their tribal stories and the surrounding terrain.
Although the journey was challenging, the women bonded amidst the sweat and tears while learning what it meant to be Raukawa wāhine in contemprary Aotearoa.
"It was an incredible privilege to follow, even if not in its exact form, the path that Māhinaarangi likely took to Rangiātea, and to have six strong Raukawa wāhine join me in this mission."
The other wāhine who joined Dr Simmonds were Kyea Watene-Hakaraia, Arahia Moeke, Ngahuia Kopa and Lisa Begbie along with her two daughters Tyra and Klee.
She hoped more ancestral hīkoi would be able to be carried out in the near future.