Making a Journey into the Realms of Ancient Sacred Knowledge
The Power of Place
Barry Brailsford says his love of the land and the mystery of the past is his birthright. Born in Cobden, Te Ake Ake o Poutini, the ancient anchorage of the great navigator Poutini, and nurtured by the wild coastlines and forested mountains of New Zealand, he knew a childhood where his spirit was free to soar.
He graduated MA (Hons) in History at Canterbury University, was a member of the NZ Archaeology Association Council and a Principal Lecturer at the Christchurch College of Education.
In 1990 he was awarded an MBE for his contribution to education and Maori scholarship. When asked about his ancestry, he smiles and says,
‘You will find “Elfin of Brailsford” in the Derbyshire pages of the Doomsday book of 1086.’
Histories of a Nation
In 1989, Te Pani Manawatu, of the Rangitane tribe, a surviving remnant of the Waitaha Nation, asked Barry to bring their ancient lore to the world. Te Pani, was the Ariki [Chief] of the Tuahuriri Runanga [Council] of Ngai Tahu, a major South Island tribe.
This was an unprecedented event in the history of Maori, an amazing moment in the relationship of the indigenous people and the nation. The sacred knowledge shared had never left the Inner School of Learning before and now someone, whose European ancestors arrived four generations ago, became the custodian of their greatest treasure.
To this day some Maori wonder why the elders stepped beyond their own to find the voice to carry their message to the world. When setting the task, Te Pani Manawatu said…
‘You have been chosen to write the record of our ancestors and tell the story of Waitaha because of your skill and the awhi [support] you gave the people of Ngai Tahu during the Waitangi Tribunal hearings. This is not the easiest of tasks because of the things that have been hidden away from the majority of the people.
‘People will ridicule all the things you say and do in the name of Waitaha… it is a dangerous journey, it is a hard journey… you must walk it as a student… write what you learn and hear in peace and love… carry your cross well for it is a heavy one that you bear.’
A unique alignment of the stars, foretold centuries before, opened the way for the Waitaha wisdom keepers to share their sacred lore. It was time for the people of peace to stand tall once more.
In 1989 Barry was called to lead a party of 12 over the mountain passes to reopen Te Huarahi o Rongo-marae-roa, the Trail of the Peace Maker. It had been closed for 130 years because gold miners had spilt blood on it in anger. Only when that 9-day journey was completed, and the tapu lifted, was the way open for the writing of Song of Waitaha that shared their history and ancient lore.
Then in 1990 representatives from 140 tribes gathered in Whangarei to decide how much of the old knowledge to release. After five days they stood one by one to say…
‘We support you to the death’,
‘We give you everything we have, our lives, our dreams, our prayers and the most sacred of treasures, the wisdom gifted by the ancestors.’
Talks and Tours
Since writing full-time from 1990, Barry has made fifteen speaking tours in New Zealand. In 2000 he gave 50 talks in the USA, Canada, the UK, Finland and Hawaii and in 2006 he gave 25 talks in California, the UK and Germany. 2011 he gave 7 talks in California and the UK. Now at seventy-seven he is slowing down a little.