Story: Marutūahu tribes

The five sons of Marutūahu gave rise to the five tribes that dominate the Hauraki region. For centuries a unique grove of trees at Waihīhī symbolised the fertility of the area. Other icons still survive: the stone mauri (effigy) of Marutūahu, and the carved meeting house Hotunui, at Auckland Museum.

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal
Main image: The Marutūahu mauri

Story summary

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The ancestor Marutūahu

The five tribes of the Marutūahu confederation are Ngāti Rongoū, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Pāoa. These peoples are all descended from the ancestor Marutūahu, who came from Kāwhia on the west coast of the North Island.

Before Marutūahu was born, his father Hotunui had fallen out with his father-in-law. Hotunui went to live in the Hauraki region, where he was treated badly by the local people. When Marutūahu grew up he wanted to restore his father’s reputation. He went to Hauraki, conquered the local people, and settled there.

The origin of the Marutūahu tribes

Marutūahu married two sisters. The children of these two marriages became the ancestors of the tribes who eventually conquered the whole Hauraki region, including the Tāmaki isthmus, the Wairoa, Piako and Ōhinemuri districts, the Coromandel Peninsula (Moehau) and Whangamatā.

Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Rongoū and Ngāti Whanaunga

Marutūahu’s ambitious second son, Tamaterā, gave his name to the dominant tribe, Ngāti Tamaterā. The eldest son, Tamatepō, was the ancestor of the Ngāti Rongoū people. Because Tamatepō was overshadowed by Tamaterā, his descendants did not achieve prominence until the time of his grandson, Rongomai.

Whanaunga, Marutūahu’s third son, was the ancestor of Ngāti Whanaunga.

Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Pāoa

Marutūahu’s eldest son from his second marriage was Te Ngako. Te Ngako married his half-brother Tamaterā’s daughter. After further intermarriage between the families of Te Ngako and Tamaterā, the ancestor Rautao was born, and the tribe of Ngāti Maru emerged. Ngāti Pāoa took their name from the Waikato ancestor Pāoa, who married a granddaughter of Tamaterā.

Hauraki resources

The Hauraki region is rich in gold, timber and marine resources. The first two were exploited by European settlers. In recent times the Marutūahu people have established successful enterprises such as mussel farms, and are involved in the management of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park and forest reserves.


In the 2013 census, over 10,000 people claimed descent from the Marutūahu tribes.

How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Marutūahu tribes', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 13 June 2024)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 8 February 2005, updated 22 March 2017