Letters: Sinking the Great Fleet

Monday September 09, 2019 Published in Letters to the Editor

Dear editor,

Thank you Papa Ngarima for your response (Letters, Sept 7).

I do indeed claim tupuna status to Ngaputoru, Aitutaki and the Northern Pa Enua to Raiatea and I know from whom I descend and I believe that I stand in a position to be able to talk with some authority on this matter regarding the ‘Great Fleet’.


Unlike many of my Cook Islands cousins I was chosen at a very early age to be given the knowledge of my extensive whakapapa and the korero pertaining to the founding of Aotearoa and its links and close relationship to our brothers and sisters in the Cook Islands and thence the greater Pacific Islands to whom I can trace my DNA and in doing so, I can whakapapa back 2000 years.

Does this give me the knowledge? I believe it does.

I hold tuakana chiefly titles for both sides of my whanau and I do not apologise for expressing my concerns regarding the ‘Great Fleet’ tradition.

I do not attack your tupuna, but I do reserve the right to debate the korero they have handed down.

Would you rather believe in misinformation based in part on Chinese whispers or are you a seeker of the simple truth?

The vaka did exist, my whakapapa tells me this, that we can agree on.

What my whakapapa also tells me and many learned scholars both Maori and Pakeha (Kelly, Best, Buck et al) tell me is that those waka were separated by years if not generations of time and therefore cannot be said to be contemporaneous or grouped together into a fleet of ocean going vaka paddling or sailing serenely together into the sunrise.

If we agree with that picture then we must also agree that this calls into serious discussion as to whether this forms the definition of a fleet. I submit that it does not.

If you do not challenge established doctrine, then you are doing a disservice in the quest for understanding and knowledge regarding whom we are, where we come from, to enable us to see where we are going and how best to get everyone there. 

It does not matter what hundreds, thousands or millions believe, for without corroborative evidence it is still a belief and becomes more like the glass is half full or half empty discussion.

Te Tuhi Kelly

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