Messages from the mountain top
Ever wondered how our ancestors communicated important or urgent messages over long distances? Pukeone (Mount Campbell), one of our ancestral maunga, holds some of the answers.
When our ancestors needed to communicate with whanau in Nelson, they would climb Pukeone and light fires on the mountain top, using a system of smoke signals by day and blazing fires by night. A series of large fires along the summit would signal important news or events, usually related to war or the threat of war, and were often used as a call to arms.
After the Europeans arrived, fires were lit on Pukeone to signal other events, such as important hui, or to encourage the people of Nelson to come closer. A fire was lit, for example, at the time of Wakefield’s acceptance of Nelson as a settlement ground. Charcoal remnants of the fires can still be found along the summit of Pukeone.
The mountain holds many secrets, and among them is the meaning of the river sand and gravel that can still be found on the summit and from which Pukeone (meaning ‘sand hill’) takes its name. It appears that our tūpuna went to great effort to transport sand and gravel from the river all the way to the mountain top. But to this day, it is not understood why.
Pukeone continues to play a role in our communications today, just as it did for our tūpuna. You can spot Pukeone by the antenna sitting on the top.