Faith and culture meet at Hui Aranga

By Leah Te Whata

More than a thousand members of the Māori Catholic faith community have gathered in Ohakune for the 72nd annual Hui Aranga, a uniquely Māori Easter celebration.

It's a tradition that dates back seventy-two years and still, the Hui Aranga is drawing thirteen Māori Catholic clubs from Hokianga to Wellington together during the Easter break.

The Hui Aranga consists of five days of sports, kapa haka, speech competitions, choir, mass and religious quizzes.

This year's event is being held at Ruapehu College, set at the foot of Mt Ruapehu, and is focussed on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Esteemed Ngāti Rangi elder and spokesperson for host club Ruapehu, Raana Mareikura, says it's an opportunity for Māori to celebrate their faith and culture simultaneously.

Mareikura told Te Kāea, “This is a wonderful event where Māori can come together to share in our culture and our religion. Not everyone here is Catholic but we all pray to the one god.”

In a Te Puni Kōkiri survey, 71,700 Māori said they were Catholic in 2013, falling from 79,098 in the year 2006. 

Dominic Blake is a member of the Hawkes' Bay Māori Catholic Club, Waipatu, and attends 'the Hui' every year.

He says that although participation has decreased in recent years, he's confident the tradition will live on.

"We've been born into this. This is a taonga for us and we need to maintain that. That is going to keep our Hui Aranga going for another 72 years."

Next year's Hui Aranga will be hosted by the Te Araukuku Catholic Māori Club in Taranaki.