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Marutūahu tribes

by  Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal

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.


The tribes

The tribes of the Marutūahu confederation are Ngāti Rongoū, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Pāoa. They are all located in the Hauraki region, and trace their descent from a common ancestor, Marutūahu. Marutūahu’s forebears came to New Zealand on the Tainui canoe.

Hotunui and Marutūahu

The ancestor Hotunui lived at Kāwhia, where he was accused by his father-in-law Māhanga of stealing kūmara (sweet potato) seedlings. While the claim was never proven, Hotunui left voluntarily and exiled himself in Hauraki. Just before leaving he said to his pregnant wife, ‘Should you bear a daughter, name her Paretūahu. If a son, call him Marutūahu.’

Hotunui settled at Whakatīwai, on the western side of the Firth of Thames, where he came to live in reduced circumstances. Some months later his wife gave birth to a son, who was duly named Marutūahu. When this boy reached adulthood, he set off towards the east in search of his father. Arriving in western Hauraki, he found his father and discovered that he had been mistreated over a long period of time. Enraged, Marutūahu sought to restore his father’s reputation and position. He embarked on a series of campaigns in which he overcame the local people and was able to secure land in the Wharekawa area. This area is bounded by Te Tāpapakanga-o-Puku in the north and Kaiaua in the south.

Hauraki is the land

This tribal saying asserts the collective identity of the tribes that make up the Marutūahu confederation:

Ngā puke ki Hauraki ka tārehua.

E mihi ana ki te whenua
E tangi ana ki te tangata.

Ko Moehau ki waho
Ko Te Aroha ki uta.

Ko Tīkapa te moana
Ko Hauraki te whenua
Ko Marutūahu te tangata.

The peaks of Hauraki are shrouded in mist.

We acknowledge the land
And lament the people.

Moehau stands distant
And Te Aroha stands inland.

Tīkapa is the waterway
Hauraki is the land
Marutūahu is the man.

The children of Marutūahu

Marutūahu established his near Whakatīwai. Later he married two sisters and had five children – Tamatepō, Tamaterā, Whanaunga, Te Ngako, and Tāurukapakapa. These children became the ancestors of the Marutūahu confederation of tribes, which subsequently conquered the Hauraki region from Mahurangi in the north to Ngā Kurī-a-Whārei, a boundary point located near Katikati. Hence, the traditional region of the Marutūahu confederation includes the Tāmaki isthmus, Te Hapū-a-Kohe, the Piako, Ōhinemuri and Wairoa districts, the Coromandel Peninsula and Whangamatā. Today, all the Marutūahu peoples retain links with these various districts, collectively known as Hauraki, and their marae are scattered throughout the region.

Ngāti Rongoū, Ngāti Tamaterā and Ngāti Whanaunga

All the children of Marutūahu took part in campaigns to conquer the Hauraki region and districts. Whanaunga and his elder brother Tamaterā were particularly distinguished by their fighting prowess. When Marutūahu died, Tamaterā took on his father’s mantle, overshadowing the rightful heir, his elder brother Tamatepō. This provocative act also brought him into conflict with his younger brother Whanaunga. The differences among the three brothers underlie the development of three separate tribes.

Ngāti Tamaterā

After Tamaterā took on his father’s status, there was such antagonism from his brother Whanaunga that Tamaterā eventually departed, living in several districts including Ōhinemuri, Katikati and Whakatāne. Tamaterā married his mother’s sister, which further strained family relationships. He also obtained certain treasures belonging to his father, Marutūahu.

His people, Ngāti Tamaterā, are a major tribe within the Marutūahu confederation, and their leaders have been prominent in Hauraki history and Marutūahu tribal affairs for many generations. Important early chiefs such as Taharua, Taiuru and Tāwhaki, along with others, have sub-tribes bearing their names. Among the tribe’s 19th-century leaders were Whataangaanga Tūpaea, Tūterangiānini, Tukukino Te Ahiātaewa and Tāraia Ngākuti Te Tumuhuia.

Ngāti Whanaunga

When Tamaterā left, Whanaunga became the dominant brother in the western districts of Hauraki. He and his people, Ngāti Whanaunga, were centrally involved in the conquest of Hauraki lands. They still maintain their presence in the Coromandel Peninsula, on various islands of the Hauraki Gulf, and in the western districts. Key sub-tribes include Ngāti Karaua and Ngāti Pākira. The most well-known 19th-century Ngāti Whanaunga chiefs were Te Horetā Te Taniwha and Hōri Ngākapa Te Whanaunga.

Ngāti Rongoū

Ngāti Rongoū descend from Marutūahu’s eldest child Tamatepō. The name Rongoū derives from the ancestor Rongomai, a great-grandson of Marutūahu. After Marutūahu’s death, Tametepō’s family faded into obscurity and the line did not achieve prominence until the time of Rongomai. Subsequently Ngāti Rongoū emerged as a tribe. Their name commemorates the establishment (‘ū’ in Māori) of a separate people, perhaps in response to their earlier diminished status.

Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Pāoa

Ngāti Maru

The emergence of the Ngāti Maru tribe is an involved story. The complexity of the original family’s relationships is noted by Taimoana Tūroa:

When Tamaterā [the second son of Marutūahu] returned to Whakatīwai … he married his stepmother, Hineurunga …This union made his half-brothers Te Ngako and Tāurukapakapa his stepsons. Te Ngako confounds the situation by marrying Pareterā, Tamaterā’s daughter, and their son, Kahurautao, compounds the issue further by marrying Hineterā, a granddaughter of Tamaterā. Their issue was Rautao, which is where the story of Ngāti Maru really begins. 1

Ngāti Maru’s identity first began to emerge in the time of Rautao. Rautao and his people achieved prominence in tribal history when they took retributive action in Tāmaki following the deaths of Rautao’s brother and father. They made further forays into the Tāmaki region as a result of the death of the Hauraki water monster, Ureia, in the Manukau Harbour.

Later, warriors were sent north to fight Ngāpuhi, who responded by sending forces south. Such were the numbers of war parties and expeditions that the waters of the Hauraki Gulf became known as ‘ngā tai whakarewa kauri’ or ‘the kauri-bearing tides’ – referring to the war canoes, which were sometimes made of kauri. These conflicts with northern tribes continued into the 19th century. They culminated with the sacking of Te Tōtara (a near Thames) by the Ngāpuhi chief Hongi Hika.

In the 19th century Hauāuru Taipari became the leader of the Ngāti Maru people. The marriage of his son Wīrope Hōtereni Taipari to a Ngāti Awa chieftainess was commemorated with the construction of Hotunui, a carved meeting house.

Ngāti Pāoa

The ancestor Pāoa came from the central Waikato region and was a younger brother of the well-known Mahuta. He had a number of children by his first wife Tauhākari, but eventually left his home near Taupiri and moved to Hauraki. This followed an embarrassing incident when his brother Mahuta arrived and could not be welcomed in a manner befitting his rank. At Hauraki Pāoa married Tukutuku, a granddaughter of Tamaterā, and they had two sons. Hence, over the years, Ngāti Pāoa have enjoyed relationships with both the Waikato and Hauraki peoples.

Their traditional lands lie between Waikato and Hauraki, stretching from the western side of the Hauraki plains to Tāmaki. Ngāti Pāoa also settled on a number of Hauraki islands including Waiheke. Haora Tipa Te Koinaki was an important Ngāti Pāoa leader in the 19th century.

  1. Taimonana Tūroa, Te takoto o te whenua o Hauraki – Hauraki landmarks. Auckland: Reed, 2000, p. 64. › Back

Marutūahu icons

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.

Resources of the Hauraki region

The Hauraki Gulf

Hauraki is a region rich in marine, mineral and forest resources. Since the arrival of the Tainui peoples in the region, there have been conflicts and negotiations for control of these resources. The Hauraki Gulf itself is a major source of seafood, and coastal and deep-sea fishing has been maintained over many generations. Conflicts with Ngāpuhi of the north often centred on the control of waterways across the gulf, and access to prized fish such as whāpuku (groper). The islands of the gulf were fought over, and some island settlements were transitory. Today, the protection of the gulf remains an important issue for the Hauraki people, who have been prominent in discussions on the management of the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park.

Fisheries and marine management

Marine aquaculture is an important enterprise of the Marutūahu peoples. Projects such as a mussel farm in Manaia Harbour have been the catalyst for Hauraki involvement in national concerns relating to fisheries and marine management. Hauraki people have long taken a leading role in the settlement of fisheries claims. The 19th-century Ngāti Tamaterā chief Tanumeha Te Moananui brought a claim to the foreshore and seabed out from the township of Thames. This claim gives context to contemporary Hauraki activities relating to the sea, and has featured in the Hauraki claim to the Waitangi Tribunal.

Gold and timber

Gold was discovered at Coromandel in 1852, in the bed of the Kapanga Stream. This attracted great national and international interest to the Hauraki region, but brought conflict to Hauraki Māori. Some, including Te Hira Te Tuiri, Ngāti Tamaterā chief Tukukino and his cousin Mere Kuru, resisted the intrusion of European gold miners and the subsequent loss of land.

The four Hauraki posts

When the Māori King movement was established in the late 1850s, some tribes pledged mountains as symbolic pou (supporting posts). In Hauraki, the Kohukohunui and Rātāroa mountains on the western side of the Firth of Thames, and Te Aroha and Moehau on the eastern side were pledged. Kohukohunui (sometimes referred to as Wharekawa) was offered on behalf of Ngāti Whanaunga, and Rātāroa on behalf of Ngāti Pāoa. Te Aroha mountain was given by Ngāti Maru, and Moehau by Ngāti Tamaterā.

The Hauraki goldfields were to become immensely rich sources of gold in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, and gold seeking resumed in the later 20th century. Gold mining has revived awareness of the widespread loss of land, desecration of sacred sites, and management of key places of interest such as Moehau mountain.

Timber was another resource coveted by Europeans, and large-scale kauri and other timber milling began on the Coromandel Peninsula in the early 1800s. By the outbreak of the First World War, this resource had been depleted. Although there are now a number of forest parks in the region, only a few stands of original kauri remain.

Facts and figures

Iwi (tribal) identification

In the New Zealand censuses since 1991, residents of Māori descent were asked to indicate the tribe to which they were affiliated. The figures below show the number who indicated the Marutūahu tribes (including those who indicated more than one tribe), and the regions where they were found in the greatest numbers in 2013.

The only previous census asking Māori to indicate tribal affiliation – but not of multiple tribes – was that of 1901.

Ngāti Maru

  • 1901 census: 1,350
  • 1991 census: 384
  • 2001 census: 2,604
  • 2006 census: 3,375
  • 2013 census: 3,768

Major regional locations

  • Auckland: 1,230
  • Waikato: 1,185

Ngāti Pāoa

  • 1991 census: 1,695
  • 2001 census: 2,397
  • 2006 census: 3,375
  • 2013 census: 3,456

Major regional locations

  • Auckland: 1,440
  • Waikato: 966

Ngāti Tamaterā

  • 1991 census: 903
  • 2001 census: 1,866
  • 2006 census: 2,460
  • 2013 census: 2,577

Major regional locations

  • Waikato: 1,152
  • Auckland: 618

Ngāti Whanaunga

  • 1991 census: 177
  • 2001 census: 399
  • 2006 census: 588
  • 2013 census: 624

Major regional locations

  • Auckland: 294
  • Waikato: 177

Treaty settlements

In 2016 the Marutūāhu Iwi Collective, covering the tribes of Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Whanaunga and Te Patukirikiri, was preparing to settle its historic treaty claims. The total financial redress envisaged was valued at $30 million, including the transfer to iwi ownership of Maramarua Crown Forest land.

The Marutūāhu tribes will also share in wider collective treaty settlements that were under negotiation in 2016. The Hauraki Iwi Collective and Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Deeds both acknowledge the treaty claims of these tribes.

External links and sources

More suggestions and sources

How to cite this page: Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Marutūahu tribes', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 July 2024)

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