Detail of one of the General Library pou, carved by Tim Codyre

Te Tumu Herenga: Our name and our story

Ko au Te Tumu Herenga, ko te tumu herenga ko au: I am Te Tumu Herenga and the chief tethering post is me.

I love saying our beautiful name, ‘Te Tumu Herenga’.

Our story began when we received this name as a koha from the late Dr Merimeri Penfold. Using it demonstrates our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi which is embedded throughout our work. Many of us remember the formidable and generous-spirited Ngāti Kuri rangatira as a lecturer in Māori studies. In return for her koha, the then Library Manager (Māori Services) Robert Sullivan wrote Dr Penfold a poem that is published on our website.

Te tumu herenga is a phrase known throughout Polynesia and the Pacific nations (Ka’ai, 2008). In a practical sense, the waka (vessels), are tied (herenga) to the ‘tumu’ (foundation and unmovable mainstay). In her paper, ‘Utilising Te Tiriti o Waitangi to decolonise practices at New Zealand Tertiary Institutions’, our ex-colleague Anahera Morehu (2018) suggests that metaphorically, the word ‘tumu’ also refers to a highly ranked leader.

Te Tumu Herenga therefore is a name and metaphor that embraces inclusiveness in a way the name Libraries and Learning Services never could.

In 2017, our colleague Jackie Ede approached her partner and University alumni Roy Blok to create an image for the name and metaphor to support our Equity student success and Māori student success reports. Roy gifted the image to Te Tumu Herenga and acknowledged it as a special place where he and Jackie developed their relationship as students. Later on, our ‘tumu’ Sue Roberts began using the Te Tumu Herenga name and image as part of a rebranding effort.

Te Tumu Herenga waka

The tumu post in the image is centrally placed and deliberately grounded in Papatuanuku’s (Mother earth’s) foundation to symbolise an embeddedness in values. The head of the tumu connects us with Ranginui (Sky father) our higher consciousness, the universe, and spiritual nature. The three waka represent the many who bind to us: students, staff, faculties, and services. Māori as tangata whenua have their own waka but are also part of all the other waka. The rope with many strands, highlights our priority learners and epitomises inclusion, diversity, and equity. This name and design also tell us that while we are all tethered to the post we can untether at any stage.

Te Reo Māori and Te Tumu Herenga: Our Story, is part of my story. A story rooted in transformation, leadership, and collaboration. I feel proud of our name, our story, and to be a part of a kaupapa bigger than myself.

As we celebrate Māori Language Week, let’s reflect on all our stories because Te Wiki o te Reo Māori is not only about speaking te reo but also about embedding te Reo Māori principles into our kaupapa and every aspect of our lives.

Nā Abigail McClutchie

Ka’ai, T. (2008). The role of marae in tertiary education institutions. Te Kaharoa, 1(1).
Morehu, A. (2018, August 24). Utilising Te Tiriti o Waitangi to decolonise practices at a New Zealand Tertiary Institution. Transform Libraries, Transform Societies, Indigenous Matters Section. Going Global IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2018, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.