Ngāti Kurī descend from Pōhurihanga, the captain of the Kurahaupō canoe, which landed at Takapaukura near North Cape. On landing, Pōhurihanga declared, ‘Te muri o te whenua’ (This is the end of the land) – hence the founding tribe’s name, Muriwhenua.
Pōhurihanga married Maieke, and their children settled Kapowairua, Pārengarenga Harbour, and Murimotu. A daughter, Muriwhenua, moved to Karikari where she married Rongokako of the Tākitimu canoe.
A traditional account explains why this tribe was named Kurī, which means ‘dog’. Many generations ago these people besieged a strongly fortified pā. Unable to take the pā by direct assault, they constructed a whale from dog skin and hid beneath it on the beach in front of the pā. Their enemies, lured out by the sight of the ‘whale’ and its promise of bone, blubber and meat, were surprised and heavily defeated. Traditions variously place this event at Maunga Piko in Kapowairua Bay, Whangatauatea near Ahipara, or at Waitaha, between Herekino and Whāngāpē.
A different account tells of a feast of dogs on Motu Whāngaikurī Island in Pārengarenga Harbour, for the funeral of the chief Ihutara.
Ngāi Takoto and Te Pātū
The tribes Ngāi Takoto and Te Pātū also trace descent from the Kurahaupō canoe. Pōhurihanga's descendant Tūwhakatere married two women. With the first, Tūterangi-a-tōhia, he had Pōpota, who became an important ancestor of Te Pātū. With Tūpōia, the second, he had a son, Hoka.
In an account of how Ngāi Takoto got their name, it is said that when Hoka was killed in battle, Tūwhakatere was so overcome with grief that he lay down and eventually died; ‘takoto’ means to lie down.
The tribe takes its name from Kahutianui-o-te-rangi, the daughter of Tūmoana. Tūmoana was captain of the Tinana canoe. He returned to Hawaiki where his nephew Te Parata renamed the canoe Māmaru.
The Māmaru returned to Muriwhenua territory, first sighting land at Pūwheke mountain. Te Parata married Kahutianui-o-te-rangi, and their descendants settled the Rangaunu and Tokerau harbours. They spread south to Whangaroa Harbour, Matauri Bay and Te Tī, where they intermarried with the descendants of Puhi, the captain of the Mataatua canoe.
The Tākitimu canoe, captained by Tamatea, landed at Awanui in Rangaunu Harbour. (This connection was once very important; Ngāti Kahu were sometimes known as Ngāi Tamatea.) Other canoes significant to Ngāti Kahu include:
- Riukakara, captained by Pāoa, which landed at Mangōnui
- Waipapa, captained by Kaiwhetū and Wairere, which landed on the Karikari Peninsula
- Ruakaramea, captained by Moehuri and Tukiata (another version says Te Uriparāoa and Te Papawi were the captains).
Ngāti Kahu were well known as coastal raiders and traders as far south as the Waipoua Forest, Whangārei, Mahurangi and beyond.