Story: Hawaiki

Page 3. Location and associations

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Hawaiki in Polynesia

Generations of Māori have wondered about the physical location of Hawaiki. The arrival of Europeans and the establishment of communications with other Pacific islands led to a renewal of Māori interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In a 1929 letter, Taranaki elder Ōriwa Haddon wrote about a visit he made to Tahiti, where he learned of many similarities between Aotea canoe traditions and those of Tahiti.

Hawaiki and Rangiātea

Rangiātea is an ancient name that is strongly associated with Hawaiki. An old expression goes:

Kia puta ai te ihu ki Rangiātea.
So that your nose may arrive at Rangiātea.

This is an exhortation to excellence and the fulfilment of potential.

Like Hawaiki, Rangiātea is seen as both a physical place and a spiritual realm – the fount of wisdom about the nature of existence. In the myth that describes Tāne’s ascent to the 12th heaven, Tāne received the baskets of knowledge from Io, the supreme being. These baskets were suspended within a building called Rangiātea. Hence, Rangiātea is said to be the first whare wānanga (house of higher learning).

Hawaiki place names in New Zealand

Numerous places in New Zealand have names that are said to have come from Hawaiki. Some examples are:

Hawaiki – a garden in Kāwhia

Te Motutapu-a-Tinirau – the name for both Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua and Motutapu Island in the Waitematā Harbour

Waihīhī – on the western side of the Firth of Thames, and in Auckland

Waihāhā – in Auckland.

The name Rangiātea has been given to various localities. Ra‘iātea, an island in Tahiti, is said to be Rangiātea. The Ngāti Raukawa ancestor, Tūrongo, gave the name Rangiātea to his meeting house near Ōtorohanga. The most well known locality bearing this name is Rangiātea Church in Ōtaki, where an earlier tribal altar has been incorporated into a Christian church. In each of these cases the name Rangiātea is imbued with spiritual power.

How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Hawaiki - Location and associations', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 April 2024)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Apr 2015