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Reflections during Matariki

Matariki 2021 has been particularly special for Mr Marshall (Cookie) Cook.

12 August, 2021

“This year was different for me, my focus was mainly on remembering my father who passed last year. That’s part of Matariki, remembering lost loved ones from the previous year. This reflection was just so much more important for me,” he says.

Affectionately known as ‘Cookie’, he has spent his entire adult life serving the Air Force. Formerly in uniform, his primary role now is Material Planner within the Fleet Planning Unit and he also serves as the Māori Liaison Officer at Whenuapai.

“I was very humbled when I was asked to take on the role of cultural advisor. It’s a perfect opportunity to share my culture with my people, those people are the RNZAF. 

“To guide us into the future as a culturally diverse organisation is amazing. It’s helping us move forward in sharing that information so that it’s not a scary thing to delve into different cultures.” 

For Māori, the appearance of the star cluster Pleiades signals a time of remembrance, joy and peace. It is a time for communities to come together, celebrate and share kai.

“Matariki is a time to share kai and time with people, the biggest memory of Dad was that he was a provider of food.

“Dad’s name was Hori Hern. He was a third generation military man, after he left the Army he spent most of his time chasing deer, pigs and crayfish, he lived off the land. In recent years he dedicated a lot of time to teaching others to garden, be self-sufficient, hunt and catch kaimoana. He liked not having to rely on the supermarket too often,” he says.

The life of Mr Hern really did embody the spirit of Matariki and he died doing what he loved most.

“Dad passed away while he was at work. He was working on a project to reduce erosion of the Waiapu River. He passed away on the job site. He was doing what he loved in the bush and the only thing that was different was he wasn’t chasing pigs. 

“He was training a crew of rough diamonds and polished them in to an efficient team, giving them the skills to provide for themselves and their whānau.” 

“I look almost exactly like my Dad, so I see him every day, which was hard when he first passed.”

This Matariki was also about passing down knowledge to Cookies’ 7-year-old son and his school mates. 

“On 2 July about 500 of us went to the top of Mt Atkinson in Titirangi at dawn to commemorate Matariki with school, staff, families and kaumatua. Then we went back and shared a big breakfast, it was an important community gathering and gave a lot of learning for my son.

“It’s teaching about the future, about what our connection to the land means. It’s teaching him that Matariki is more than just a public holiday.”

Published in Air Force News #238