The Story of Tamatane

A long time ago there was a Maori boy named Tamatane. He was a lazy easy-going fellow. He never made any effort to help his mother and father. As he grew up he did not even bother to learn how to hunt and fish. When he married, his poor wife and children had to depend on others for food and care. At last, one day, Tamatane saw what a poor person he was.

“My life is just a waste,” he said to himself. “I am good for nothing.”

So Tamatane went to see the chief, the ariki. He told him his problem. The ariki sent him to talk to the tohunga. The tohunga said to Tamatane, “You must fly to the Gods and ask them how you can make a better life.”

For several days, Tamatane wondered how he could ever fly to the Gods. They lived far away in the western sky. He was sitting by the river as usual, just thinking, when a beautiful white heron flew overhead. It was a kotuku on its way to its home in south Westland.

“I will change myself into a kotuku,” said Tamatane. “It is a graceful bird. It will take me to the Gods.”

That night as the sun was setting, Tamatane flew off towards the lofty home of the Gods. He found them kind. He listened carefully to their advice. At last he said to himself, “I will return to my home and look after my family properly. I will try to be brave, kind, generous, alert and consider others.”

Tamatane returned home and quickly learned to hunt and fish. He studied the art of carving and helped build the new whare that his people were working on. He listened to his elders and learned how to speak on the marae. Before long, he knew the whole story of his ancestors. He was proud to be a member of his tribe.

In a very short time Tamatane’s children could say, “Look at our father, he is a wonderful person. We are proud of him.”

The other members of the tribe were also pleased with the new Tamatane. If ever one of their children complained about helping out, their parents would look at them and say “KIA TAMATANE’” (“Be like Tamatane”).