Tāhuhu kōrero

Te Rarawa Iwi Narrative

According to Te Rarawa tradition, Te Rarawa’s historical development can be broken down into three main periods.  The first is cosmological, consisting of our Atua Māori.  This indigenous understanding of the universe benchmarks our existence as early Polynesians. 

Te Rarawa shares a 6,000-year history of traversing the vast southern Pacific oceans.  Te Rarawa ancestry flows from tūpuna like Tāwhaki, Toi and Kiwa whose lineages can be traced from numerous Pacific locations to living Te Rarawa communities of today.  Perhaps the most important icon of Te Rarawa prehistory is Māui, who is credited with discovering Te Ika a Māui and giving rise to the very first name of our region, Te Hiku o Te Ika a Māui - The Tail of the Fish of Māui.  Te Rarawa genealogy descends from Māui and the attributes of Māui are found throughout our culture and cultural institutions.  Māui, who was born of people but raised by divine elements, ended an era that we barely understand today by losing a battle with death that cannot now be won.


Kupe the explorer ancestor introduces the next period of history.  Kupe is a well-remembered and understood ancestor of all Māori people and with one of his wives, Kuramarotini, renamed Te Ika ā Māui, as Aotearoa.  Kupe initiated the first rites of manawhenua in Aotearoa.  This was achieved by the discovery, installation of tapu and the naming of numerous locations throughout Te Hiku o Te Ika and Aotearoa.  Kupe and his descendants brought with them an ancient model of Polynesian social organisation contained in sacred Whare Wānanga and based on values derived from common Polynesian understandings.  After circumnavigating Aotearoa and part of Te Waka ā Māui (the South Island), Kupe returned to the North to finally depart Aotearoa after about fifteen years.  The naming of Te Hokianga Nui ā Kupe (Hokianga Harbour) commemorates this event and cements the first chapter of Te Rarawa history in Aotearoa between 650 and 950 AD.


Kupe’s discovery and mana whenua in the Te Rarawa rohe was consolidated by the arrival of two waka following his directions to return to Hokianga.  One of the waka was Kupe’s Matahourua re-adzed and renamed Ngātokimatawhaorua; and captained by his grandson, Nukutawhiti.  The other, Māmari was purpose built by Nukutawhiti’s brother-in-law, Ruānui-o-Tāne.  Aboard these waka were people whose names have been remembered in our genealogy as the whānau of Kupe returning to the place he had prepared.  These were the next wave of Te Rarawa forebears.


The third and most significant period in Te Rarawa prehistory began with a number of waka making landfall and contributing to the evolving demographic landscape of communities throughout Te Hiku o Te Ika. The arrivals of these waka were seminal events that set Iwi origins and identities. The bonds that sustain those Iwi identities, and the events and ancestors that gave rise to them, culminated in an alliance of hapū communities that weaves through the history of our region and is shared by all descendants regardless of Iwi. Consequently, all Te Hiku Iwi can claim ancestry from these waka. For Te Rarawa, the foundation stones of our Iwi are represented by key ancestors associated with these waka who have occupied our rohe as tāngata whenua and kaitiaki of our natural environment.


For Te Rarawa, The most significant of these waka was the Tīnana captained by Tūmoana. The Tīnana arrived at Tauroa from Hawaiki more than 20 generations ago. Tūmoana consolidated a process of establishing manawhenua. The consequential emergence of hapū amongst Tūmoana’s descendants entrenched the mana of the Tīnana waka. Two such descendants include Houpure, whose descent lines culminate in Te Rarawa Iwi; and brother Houmeaiti, who was based in Hokianga. The brothers fought with Ngāti Miru and Ngāti Awa who were living further north. Upon their conquest, they took possession of the land, dividing it between themselves. Houmeaiti took the portion from Hokianga to Ahipara, and Houpure took the land north of Ahipara. Houpure was assisted by his son Patito in the battle for Ahipara. Subsequent conquests by his son Toakai, during the sixteenth century established hapū from the western seaboard, further consolidating the early threads of Te Rarawa manawhenua. However it was the confluence of Hokianga descent lines in the south with Kurahaupo in the north, which fused with the descendants of the Tīnana waka to create a new confederacy.

Te Rarawa tūpuna Ueoneone lived on what became the Whāngāpe Harbour. The name Whāngāpe has its origin in Waikato, and was the name of the place from which famous twin sisters Reitū and Reipae originated. They journeyed north on a bird, that Ueoneone sent to Waikato in pursuit of a wife. On the way north, Reipae asked the bird to land and remained in what became Whāngā-Reipae now Whāngārei. Reitu continued the journey north and became the wife of Ueoneone. They built Te Tomo Pā on the peninsular opposite the entrance of the Whāngāpe Harbour.


Te Rarawa tūpuna Ueoneone lived on what became the Whāngāpe Harbour. The name Whāngāpe has its origin in Waikato, and was the name of the place from which famous twin sisters Reitū and Reipae originated. They journeyed north on a bird, that Ueoneone sent to Waikato in pursuit of a wife. On the way north, Reipae asked the bird to land and remained in what became Whāngā-Reipae now Whāngārei. Reitu continued the journey north and became the wife of Ueoneone. They built Te Tomo Pā on the peninsular opposite the entrance of the Whāngāpe Harbour.


Maukoro Pā on the Hokianga Harbour is an important place in the history of Te Rarawa and the Iwi of the Far North. Ruanui II lived there with his four sons Tarauaua, Tūwhenuaroa, Koromaiterangi and Tangaroatūpō. The brothers were a united group but after a series of raids they agreed to separate and an exodus occurred. Several moved to various strategic locations to the north and south, and out to the coast. They have been identified as important tūpuna across the Hokianga, Te Hiku o Te Ika and beyond.


The Iwi of Te Rarawa carry a name derived from an event rather than any single ancestor. However, central to the emergence of Te Rarawa as an Iwi was the leadership taken by Tarutaru and Ruapounamu and their descendants. Tarutaru is descended from Moetonga and Tūmoana. These lines extend back to Ruatapu and Manuotehuia, the sons of Ruanui who captained the waka, Māmari. Tarutaru was renowned for his steadfastness in battle. His determination to win manifested itself in an aspect so terrifying to behold that his opponents’ courage would often fail them. He lived at Ngāmehaua at Waireia and his pā were Te Pare and Te Ahukawakawa. His hapū is referred to at Te Tāwhiu. All his children were born at Waireia and Tarutaru himself died there, his bones being later moved to Pukepoto. An altercation with Ngāti Whātua united the founding hapū of Te Rarawa under the leadership of Tarutaru from the mid-1700s.


The founding hapū of Te Rarawa were defeated by Ngāti Whātua at Rangiputa pā, in the Whāngāpe area. In this battle an important kuia named Te Ripo was captured and taken to Kaipara. The captors of Te Ripo directed her to recite whakapapa. While she recited her genealogy, one warrior quipped: “Kauwhau roa, kauwhau poto, ka patua a Te Ripo ki Kaimanu” (Whether you recite long or short, Te Ripo is killed at Kaimanu). True to this remark, Te Ripo was cast off a cliff. Although Tarutaru took action for these transgressions, when his sons grew up, they felt that revenge had not been sufficiently exacted. Te Rarawa war parties assembled and invaded their enemy’s pā. Only a few old women remained. The invading war party, in their desire for utu, knew there was no mana in killing the old kuia. Instead they turned upon the wāhi tapu and urupā of the local people which they desecrated. There was no wood for their fires so they made use instead of the fence-posts and the ātāmira (platforms) upon which a deceased tohunga and others lay. When the kuia saw the assembled war-party desecrate the burial grounds and sacred places without reprisal, they exclaimed: “Kātahi anō te Iwi kai rārawa” (these are the first people to consume platforms); “Tēnei rā, tō Iwi kai wāhi tapu”. This statement is attributed as the meaning behind the name, Te Rarawa-kai-whare. They scattered the remains of the fire and hāngi into the harbour – a gesture to the gods to provide fine weather and calm the agitated waters. When this was done, the war parties were able to advance across the harbour and take two further pā. The killing of Te Ripo was avenged and the war parties returned home.

These actions brought the name Rarawa into prominence. The designation Te Rarawa-kai-whare subsequently entered common usage and was used to identify the hapū and descendants of the rangatira and toa who avenged the murder of Te Ripo. Tarutaru and his children hold a prominent place within these accounts which establish them among the key progenitors of Te Rarawa. From this broad alliance of people, bonded together by a common goal, Te Rarawa consolidated under one name through the leadership and mana of Tarutaru and Ruapounamu. The emergence of Te Rarawa built on relationships and common whakapapa to tūpuna and land, which predated these events.


The development of Te Rarawa continued through Tarutaru’s children, Pākurakura, Te Tūngutu, Ngāmotu, Kahi, Mānihi, Kahuwhakarewa, and Mōria. A number of Te Rarawa’s most prominent leaders descend from these offspring including Pōroa, the son of Ngāmotu. The hapū of Te Rarawa have historically occupied all parts of the rohe of Te Rarawa from Hokianga to Hukatere and across to Kaitāia, Takahue, and Maungataniwha. At the time of the arrival of the Pākehā, Pōroa had senior standing and leadership among the hapū and over the Iwi of Te Rarawa. Pōroa mentored a number of younger Iwi members including Papāhia, Te Hūhū, Te Morenga, Te Ripi Pūhipi, Panakareao and Erenora Kaimumu. As ariki and rangatira they were groomed to take up leadership roles and this was especially important within the volatile early colonial period. From the early nineteenth century these forebears and others affiliated to them engaged with Pākehā and their institutions with the intention of developing entrepreneurial opportunities for their iwi. These leaders forged a future for Te Rarawa which included the provision of the land for the mission at Kaitāia and the signing of He Whakaputanga, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi / the Treaty of Waitangi at Kaitāia.


From the time following the emergence of Te Rarawa as a confederation of hapū, and prior to the arrival of tauiwi in Aotearoa, Te Rarawa was an autonomous, self-governing and independent Iwi. Tribal traditions and histories, and the formation of relationships that fashioned and sustained ‘boundaries’ between whānau, hapū and iwi, cannot be surveyed and divided in the same way as land. The boundaries of Te Rarawa are characterised by fluid relationships with their neighbours. Te Rarawa’s ‘boundaries’ as such are located in the history of deep and textured tribal narratives rather than the somewhat shallow approach of a block-specific focus. Te Rarawa’s mana over its territory does not terminate at a given line, instead, its boundaries are where the influence of whānau, hapū and Iwi meet and merge.

The notion of fluidity in tribal boundaries notwithstanding, Te Rarawa exercised tino rangatiratanga as tāngata whenua generally in the areas beginning from Hokianga; eastwards following the Hokianga River to Mangataipa, situated at the base of Maungataniwha; northwards along the ranges of Raetea to Takahue and following down the Pamapuria River to Maimaru, across towards Awanui; and westwards to Hukatere on Te Oneroa a Tōhē (Ninety-Mile Beach), then back down the beach to Ahipara; southwards to Tauroa, Ōwhata and Whāngāpe and down the coastline to Mitimiti and back to Hokianga, being the southern boundary of Te Rarawa Iwi. For centuries the rohe of Te Rarawa was continually tested through rivalry, conflict and dispute with neighbouring Iwi, who shared common historical associations, whakapapa and tūpuna with Te Rarawa.


The events which defined Te Rarawa’s influence to the north of its rohe took place in the early nineteenth century. At that time, Pōroa was living at Ahipara and Te Aupōuri in the area would not allow Te Rarawa to access seafood. Te Rarawa, led by Pōroa, fought Te Aupōuri in a series of skirmishes and battles in the Ahipara area and along Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē. Two of the most noted encounters were the battles of Te Waitukupāhau at Waimimiha, and Te Oneroa near Honuhonu. After the two iwi had been engaged in battle for a time, Pōroa sought to prevent further loss of life. He ran in front of the warring parties and slashed a line in the sand right down to the sea at Ngāpae signifying an end to the fighting between the two Iwi. A while after the battle at Honuhonu, Te Rarawa fought Te Aupōuri again at Hukatere, north of the line at Ngāpae. This battle marked another formative event in the relationship between the two Iwi and served to firm up and extend Te Rarawa’s influence in the area. After these battles houhourongo (peace-making) were initiated and a number of marriages were arranged to reinforce the peace. Te Rarawa and Te Aupōuri are closely linked and over the years have worked together to exercise kaitiakitanga of Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē. This led to the joint application to the Māori Land Court in 1955 to determine ownership of the beach.


During the battles between Te Rarawa and Te Aupōuri, Pōroa called for the assistance of his relatives in Hokianga. Consequently, the lands from Whakarapa to the coast became deserted. When the war ended, the people formerly of Hokianga remained at Ahipara for mutual protection in the event they were attacked. During their absence, Iwi from the south-side of the Hokianga Harbour crossed over and occupied the land. The hapū included Te Pouka, Ngāti Korokoro, and Ngāti Wharara. After Kahi died at Ahipara, Whakarongouru moved back to the Hokianga and built a pā on the site of Maukoro. The land was occupied by Ngāti Korokoro but Moetara eventually came over and signalled that his people should return home because Whakarongouru was returning to his own land. Afterwards Papāhia and Te Hūhū returned, and Whakarongouru built a house at Waihou for his sister, Herepaenga (Ngākahuwhero). When Whakarongouru died, all the people of Waihou and Pākanae gathered at Orongotea. It was here that Moetara declared that he would fight Ngāti Manawa for that area. The conflict grew between Moetara, of Ngāti Korokoro, and Muriwhenua, of Ngāti Manawa. The two Iwi struggled with each other. The deciding battle in this affair was Te Wai o Te Kauri, which took place at Motukauri in the 1830s. After this battle, Mohi Tāwhai, a chief of Te Māhurehure, initiated hohourongo (peacemaking) between Ngāti Korokoro and Ngāti Manawa, Moetara and Muriwhenua. Peace was eventually made at Kawehītiki and it was agreed that Ngāti Korokoro would remain on the southern side of the Hokianga, and Ngāti Manawa would retain the northern side. Kawehītiki is a significant place within the history of Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi.