Story: Marutūahu tribes

Page 4. Marutūahu icons

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The mauri named ‘Marutūahu’

Like all chiefs, Marutūahu possessed a number of emblems befitting his important status. One was a small stone effigy, known as a mauri, that was about the size of a kūmara (sweet potato). Marutūahu used it in ceremonies to assert his authority and rights to land in the Hauraki region. These were conducted at various sites, including a number of sacred rocks standing off the northern tip of Waiheke Island. This was where the crews of the Tainui and Te Arawa canoes conducted similar rites when they first arrived in New Zealand from Polynesia.

After a while, the small stone was held on Repanga (Cuvier) Island, but was removed by Tamaterā when he succeeded his father. Tamaterā appears to have taken it to Katikati and then to Whakatāne. Eventually the mauri was lost or hidden among Mataatua clans for many generations before it came to light in the early 1890s. At that time it was held by the Te Whānau-ā-Apanui people of the eastern Bay of Plenty. It was finally deposited in the Auckland Institute and Museum for safekeeping.

The carved meeting house, Hotunui

Aside from the land itself, perhaps the most vivid and dramatic treasure of the Marutūahu people is the carved meeting house, Hotunui, which now stands inside the Auckland Museum. Carved by Ngāti Awa experts in 1878, the house was a gift at the marriage of Mereana Mokomoko of Ngāti Awa, to Wīrope Hōtereni Taipari of Ngāti Maru. It is a magnificent example of 19th-century carving. At some point, it fell into disuse and its condition deteriorated. To ensure its preservation the house was moved to the museum from its original site at Pārāwai, near the township of Thames, in 1929.

The aute plant

The aute or paper mulberry tree, used for making tapa (bark cloth) in Polynesia, was brought to New Zealand aboard the Tainui canoe. It later became an important symbol of the fertility and mana of Hauraki land. A number of canoes from Hawaiki brought this plant and attempted to grow it in the new country. However, none took hold except for a small grove at Waihīhī. When the Tainui arrived there, a woman named Mārama went ashore with an entourage and planted a tree, from which others grew. This grove was called Te Uru-aute-o-Mārama-tāhanga (the aute grove of Mārama-tāhanga). It was planted beside an altar also established when the Tainui arrived.

According to Tukumana Te Taniwha, a local Ngāti Whanaunga elder of the first half of the 20th century, the grove survived until the early 1900s, and its importance was reflected in the tribal saying:

Haere mai ki Hauraki, he aute tē awhea.
Come to Hauraki, where the aute plant endured.

This expression was used by Wīrope Hōtereni Taipari when he welcomed Waikato people to the opening of the meeting house, Hotunui.

How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Marutūahu tribes - Marutūahu icons', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 April 2024)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 22 Mar 2017