Manataka™ American Indian Council





Sharing the Sacred Pipe



The Keepers of the sacred tradition of Pipemakers shares their culture all over the world as well as work in the prison system and donate pipes to stay inside the walls.

Bud, Rona and Camas Johnson recently returned from their cultural exchange trip to New Zealand. The trip had its ups and downs. If you do not already know they fly stand by. Bud worked for United Airlines for 37 years and they get really cheap tickets for the family. Flying stand by means many times you do not get on a flight. Well that is what happened when they tried to fly to New Zealand. They left Sioux Falls on Monday, everyone got to San Francisco by the next morning then stood by for the only flight out of San Francisco. On Friday Oct 19 we arrived in Sydney where we were told we no longer had a flight to Dunedin. We spent hours resolving that before finally getting on a flight to Auckland then to Dunedin.

We were a bit tired after the 21 hours on flights, and the many days at airports. Our host families home was very comfortable and we soon were settled and asleep. On Sat and Sun we did talks at the theosophy Society we were there most of a day for each. Met many great people including Kane and his family they were local Mori. Bud and Kane hit it off and talked for more than an hour. He came back the next day with gifts and stories of his people. A rose made of their native flax, a carving of bone and mutton birds. Monday we took a tour of part of the interior and then dinner at Tracy’s home where she prepared the mutton birds for us to try.

The mountain were beautiful the weather a little cooler than I like it even snowed when we stopped for gas. That night at the dinner we all got to try mutton birds. They were dry and salty almost like jerky but very oily. Bud ate most of them.

Tuesday we rested a little did some laundry and took a walk we then met a couple people for dinner on the ocean.

Wednesday we slept in and then took a walk up a mountain three hours later we were back to the car then off to a pot luck and another get together at the theosophical Society.

Thursday we went to a local Mori meeting house about 2 hours away we met up and were greeted and lead into the meeting house with a typical Mori welcoming. The women chant and call the women with the men following. Everyone removed their shoes and then were seated in the hall. Women to the back. The local Mori representatives began they all spoke in Mori. I was told later they introduce themselves by reciting their family linage and then their connection with the land the mountain and rivers of their families homeland. Then the invited Mori do the same once all the introductions are out of the way. They stand and sing songs and state the reasons that they have come together. Now everyone stands and a line forms so each invited guest stands forehead to nose and Hakas a traditional exchange of breath. Afterwards everyone who is staying for the meetings get their sleeping bags as everyone will sleep together in the meeting house until the discussions are completed. We meet everyone for a feast and get a chance to talk to some of the Maori people.

Just as with our tribal people they were from all over the islands some with dark skin some with lighter skin and all wore contemporary clothing. All wore a traditional carving from green stone a connection to their traditions and to the land. They were there to discuss environmental concerns that would be taken to the government. The Maori people have refused to allow their government to push them aside and are currently suing their government for water rights.

Bud met David a Maori and shared stories. They continued talking even after everyone finished eating and headed back to the meeting hall. Bud gifted David with a couple Pipestone turtles and thanked him for sharing. David then took off his green stone and with tears in his eyes put his green stone on Bud and began telling him the story of where the stone came from and it’s history. David invited Us back in fact he said we had to come back because the green stone required it. it was a very memorable day.

Kia ora, Bud! Tena koutou to your lovely whanau! And humble greetings to your people.


I belong to the hills, mountains, grasslands, forests and lakes of Central Otago, in the South Island (Te waka o Maui - the canoe of Maui in one story of creation, or Te Wai Pounamu – the waters of greenstone) of Aotearoa–New Zealand. The mountain ranges I anchor my travels to are known as Leaning Rock (Haehaeata), The Old Man Range (Kopuwai) and behind them, from where Istand, the Remarkables (Tupuaenuku). I am p?keh? - European, of the McKay family, and fortunate to be son of Colin and Esther, fantastic parents, both of whom are respected teachers. I am brother to Bruce and Trudy-Jayne, father of Louis and Wilson, once husband of their mother, Sophia and now husband and partner to my friend and love, Hana. I am David McKay.

Thanks to you for the taonga of the turtles. I look forward to their influence. :-)


Thanks also for your email - I did not get a card from you, yet was confident you would be in touch.


I am glad and proud that you have kept the taonga patu warm. That is how it should be in terms of maintenance of wairua (spiritual connectedness/interrelatedness/interdependence) and in terms of practicalities – body warmth and body oil and personal contact keep the link alive. As I am sure you are aware, you are literally wearing and carrying a part of and link with me and a with Rawiri Pipiri, the Maori warrior and teacher who placed the taonga upon me in 1990. I trust that you will guard us and yourself with the mauri of the patu.

I have read and have noted myself that many European interpretations of indigenous cultural words, meanings and values are simplifications and convey a snippet (sometimes only a shadow) of true or full meanings. I notice that sometimes this is a major frustration for Maori. Conversely, I notice and have been told that such can suit elders perfectly, because true and full meaning and understanding comes with time, maturity and readiness. Few Europeans comprehend such things – which is understandable because the European / Western mainstream worldview is so materialistic and time constrained – everything is 'rush-rush'. I am sure you will be familiar with such sentiments and rationales? It makes good sense to me. In such ways, many more sacred places and treasures are kept in secret from those who are not ready or who might damage the mauri or perhaps tapu (in simple terms, sacred life-force) of those things.


I tell you this because I believe it should be noted that I am pakeha, relating my pakeha understanding of Maori concepts that have been told to me and imbued upon me over the years of my interactions with Maori people, some of whom have themselves been learning the ways and worldviews of their culture and meanings. It is a journey. So my understanding is but one explanation of what it is I understand at this point in time of what it is and why it is and how it came to be.


'Taonga' is interpreted in English as meaning simply 'treasure' - but it is much more than this – multi-levelled, as so many things are in indigenous perspectives. The pounamu that you now wear is a taonga. As I understand, it is greenstone taken appropriately from the source of such taonga in the South Island Aotearoa-New Zealand. I will ask a mastercarver who has admired the patu if he can recall or suggest from where exactly.


'Patu' is the general description of a striking weapon. Mere and other refined clubs are part of this group of weapons. A patu tends to be a straight forward shape, such as this one. As has been explained to me, a patu iti (small club) such you now wear was worn by some warriors (male or female) as the equivalent of a stilleto knife, for both spiritual and physical protection, for engagement if no other weapon is at hand or disarmed. Maori fighting styles were/are very refined martial arts involving unarmed and armed close-combat, using striking and stabbing implements. There were few implements for throwing and no projecting implements, such as bows and arrows, to my knowledge. Warriors liked it that way, I understand – up and close. Patu iti were useful for jabbing nerve centres and throat thrust to break trachea. Not nice, but there you have it.


This patu iti was passed to me by its wearer, Rawiri Pipiri, upon our graduation as teachers from the College of Education in Christchurch in 1990. We were friends throughout our training, I had some challenges in the system, I majored in Maori studies, I had admired the taonga Rawiri wore, he admired the efforts of a reading challenged pakeha and my relationship with the land and with the kids, so he entrusted me with some of his mauri and mana through the patu to keep up the good work, so to speak. I am ashamed to say I do not recall Rawiri's whakapapa (genealogy) or tribal affiliations, other than I know he came from the East Coast of the North Island (Te ika o Maui – the fish of Maui). I understand that the taonga belonged to his father and his father before him, yet am unsure of the accuracy of this understanding – a mastercarver has explained to me that often pieces that are believed by museums or collectors to be generations old are known by carvers to have been made within their life-time under commission, which is a bit of a grin really – a mystification by error and willing belief of both some pakeha and some Maori not in the know. Be this as it may, I have carried and worn the Pipiri patu iti ever since, against my skin mainly or openly (outside my shirt) during occassions of ceremony or where I have represented or been amongst Maori or when I have needed bolstering.


Therefore my mauri and mana are attached to and within the patu, along with Rawiri's, and because of this, it is linked with his and my vibrations. Accordingly I have been very careful not to allow anyone to touch the taonga without my knowledge and invitation, and never anyone who might be disrespectful or may bear me ill. This I have entrusted to you; upon meeting you I felt that this was perhaps the right thing to do, and after speaking with you I had no hesitation. I believe it was no chance that we met at Puketeraki. We are walking similar paths and the taonga patu iti has chosen to walk with you. I know and trust that it will bolster you and your family and your people on your journies and that you will know what to do with it.


Journey well my friend.


Na Dave


Friday was our last day there we had lunch with Aelred he was here for our pow wow 2 years ago and is a member he played the bag pipes. His partner made us a vegan meal of chips, dips, pizza and a beautiful pudding for desert. I really liked the macadam nut cream. We then drove to the other side of the island to meet a man who took us on a tour of their forest. We had planned to stop of tea they call it on the way home but the restaurant was closed because of a wedding so we hung out at the beach before going home to fix up a stir fry for dinner.

Saturday morning we had to get up and go to the airport and fly to Auckland. Tracy had arranged us to be picked up at the airport there because our flight didn’t leave again till Sun morning. Sandy is the National President of the Theosophical Society of Auckland. Their facility is a large Victorian house with 2 kitchens, 5 + bathrooms, and too many to count other rooms. We stayed in the bunkroom. We spent the morning visiting with Sandy sharing stories then we walked up the side of the hill the house sits on to see the caldera that the house has almost in their back yard. It was quit a site to see. While walking back we ran into Sandy who took us in the car for a little tour of Auckland and a spot at the beach were the sunny summer weather helped to wash away the stress I was beginning to feel because of our travel ahead. Camas and I played at the beach for a little while and Bud continued sharing with Sandy.

She dropped us off at an area close to the House and we had a Chinese meal in New Zealand. We were up and out of the house by 4am to catch our flight headed home. It was a long flight and we got on all our flights, until we got to Denver were we stood by for 3 flight before getting seats. It was unique to leave Auckland New Zealand on the morning of Oct 28th fly 4.5 hours to Sydney spend all the time to get through customs and recheck bags then fly 12.5 hour to Los Angles to Arrive there on the morning of Oct 28th.

We want to thank everyone who made this possible. We met great people. I feel our lives are now and maybe have been connected in some way which we may all understand better as we learn and grow. After getting to the states I realized I still had the key to the house we stayed in Auckland so I texted Sandy who responded by email that I should keep it as I would be returning so enough and would need it.

Rona & Bud Johnston