Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Meet the People - 3

At Hokonui Marae, Feb 2009. Ajr
Meet the People – Contemporary Maori Doing Ordinary and Extraordinary Things – Margaret Bragg of Bluff is 75 years old and in all of those years, she has never once missed an annual titi (mutton bird) harvest. Margaret was just eight months old when she was first taken to Big Island, which is one of the mutton bird islands to the south-west of Stewart Island; and in the one year she missed visiting the island, she was actually ‘birding’ on another of the Titi Islands. Titi - also called muttonbird, sooty shearwater, Puffinus griseus – is a migratory seabird and the young birds caught by Maori as an annual delicacy on the Muttonbird Islands, southwest of Stewart Island, are fat with the oils of the fish eaten and regurgitated by their parents. The parent birds come home every night, having eaten pilchards, shrimps, sprats and small squid and the young birds gobble down their oily dinner and grow very, very fat. For Rakiura Maori (the only people permitted to hunt muttonbird on the islands), arrival there was always two weeks prior to the official start of titi hunting on April 1st. It was a time used by each family to chop wood, tidy up and make repairs to their little houses. And traditionally, they would have gathered kelp from the beaches back home, dried it and taken it with them to the islands where it was made into pouches to preserve the titi in. Like most ‘birders,’ Maureen eagerly awaits the titi season – she’s already booked her helicopter flight to the islands in fact; and she’s taken an active part on the Titi Committee. She has also worked as a Department of Conservation volunteer in the Saddleback Recovery Programme and takes great pride in the fact that the 29 saddlebacks released on Big Island back in 1964 have flourished and the programme has since re-distributed nearly 800 birds around the South Island.

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