Until recently, Ngā Rauru Kītahi were thought to have descended from the people of the Aotea canoe, whose leader was Turi. It is now believed that they are descended from a tribe which lived in the area around Waitōtara in south Taranaki before the canoe’s arrival. These early people came from the East Coast of the North Island; travelling by sea, they landed at Pātea and Waitōtara. They called themselves Te Kāhui Rere (the flying people). Later, when the Aotea canoe arrived in south Taranaki, Turi’s descendants married members of Te Kāhui Rere, giving rise to the tradition that Ngā Rauru were Aotea people.
Ngā Rauru take their name from the ancestor Rauru Kītahi. Rauru was a grandson of the early Polynesian explorer Toitehuatahi, and the first son of Ruarangi and Rongoueroa. It is likely that his birthplace was at Whakatāne. Awanuiarangi, the principal ancestor of Te Āti Awa, was his half-brother.
A Ngā Rauru saying goes: ‘Ko Rauru kī tahi, e kore te kupu e whati’ (Rauru of the one word, never would that word be broken).
It refers to the ancestor Rauru Kītahi (Rauru of the one word), who was reputed to be a man of few words, and one who always kept his word. Another saying, ‘Ko Rauru koe’ (you are like Rauru), is a compliment reserved for someone known to be true to his word.
As a young man, Rauru gained a reputation as a warrior and a man of his word. Rauru and his people travelled extensively around New Zealand. As an old man he arrived in south Taranaki, where he settled until the end of his days. The people of south Taranaki later called themselves Ngā Rauru as a tribute to him.
In 1840 the tribal area of Ngā Rauru could be traced from Kaihaukupe (Castlecliff, Whanganui), where there were six settlements, to Kaierau (now St Johns Hill, Whanganui). From there it extended to Tawhitinui (opposite Rānana, on the banks of the Whanganui River) and the Matemateaonga Range, near the source of the Pātea River. There were a number of pā and kāinga along the Pātea River, and from the mouth of the river along the shoreline back to Kaihaukupe.
From the early 19th century northern tribes, including Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Toa, moved south on expeditions to seek out new territory and resources. In the 1820s Ngāti Toa and some of the northern Taranaki tribes – Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga and Te Āti Awa – began a series of migrations to the Kapiti and Wellington regions, passing through Ngā Rauru territory. In 1822, Te Rauparaha of Ngāti Toa attacked and occupied the principal Ngā Rauru pā, Te Ihupuku. In the 1840s Ngā Rauru came under attack from Ngāti Tuwharetoa, but resisted with the help of other Taranaki tribes.
Following the arrival of European missionaries and settlers to the Taranaki region, Ngā Rauru embraced Christianity and built up extensive trade networks, becoming prosperous. In 1848 the government had purchased land in south Taranaki. Some Ngā Rauru entered into a pact with other Taranaki tribes in the 1850s to oppose further land sales. Māori resistance to the sale of land at Waitara in 1860 was seen as rebellion against the government, leading to the outbreak of war in north Taranaki. In this conflict, some Ngā Rauru supported those who opposed the land sale.
In 1859 a section of Ngā Rauru agreed to sell the Waitōtara block to the government. Although there was considerable opposition from other members of the tribe, the sale was pushed through in 1863. That year, war broke out again in Taranaki and continued until 1867. Government troops fought a ‘scorched earth’ campaign, destroying villages and cultivations. Ngā Rauru suffered the loss of many lives and a great deal of property. In 1865, over 150,000 acres (60,700 hectares) of their territory was confiscated.
Fighting resumed in south Taranaki in 1868, and many Ngā Rauru supported the Ngāti Ruanui resistance leader Tītokowaru. This time, government troops pushed Ngā Rauru back into the interior, destroying crops, livestock and dwellings. Before 1873, most were forbidden to return to their lands. In the early 1870s the Crown also acquired Ngā Rauru land outside the confiscation zone, without proper investigation of title. With their land holdings severely reduced, the tribe had virtually no economic power.
Ngā Rauru participated in the passive resistance movement of the spiritual and political leaders Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi, centred at Parihaka in central Taranaki. This movement protested against settlement of confiscated land by peaceful methods. Ngā Rauru people were among those expelled from Parihaka by government troops in 1881, and some were taken prisoner and sent to the South Island.
During the 1880s there were attempts to compensate Taranaki tribes, including Ngā Rauru, for their losses, and some land was returned. However, such land was under the control of the Public Trustee. Collective title customary to Māori was ignored, and returned land was sold or farmed by settlers under perpetually renewable leases. The Sim Commission of 1926–27 provided some compensation, but this was not seen by the tribe as adequate.
The fighting of the 1860s gave rise to new political and religious movements, and some Ngā Rauru became adherents of the Pai Mārire (Hauhau) faith, which originated in Taranaki. The search for a creed relevant to Māori aspirations continued. From the 1920s, many Ngā Rauru became followers of Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, founder of a religious movement which later became a major political movement. However, some became disturbed by what they saw as a departure from Christian belief in the Rātana Church. Led by Ngāpiki Hākaraia and her husband Hoani, they became followers of a new religion called Te Māramatanga (enlightenment). From the 1940s, Te Māramatanga had its headquarters at Kai Iwi, but it declined from the 1950s. Some followers believe that another leader will emerge and revitalise the movement.
In 2013, Ngā Rauru had about 4,000 members, who belonged to 14 hapū (clan or descent goups).
The 14 hapū are affiliated to the following marae:
The tribe is represented by the Ngā Rauru Iwi Authority.
In 2000 the tribal authority began negotiations with the Crown to settle historical grievances, including the loss of life, land and property as a consequence of war in the 1860s, and disadvantage from subsequent land dealings. These negotiations began after years of discussion, submissions and applications for the Crown to honour its role as a treaty partner. In November 2003 a settlement was signed after the agreement was ratified by members of the tribe. The settlement included a Crown apology, cultural redress including access to traditional foods and food-gathering areas, and financial compensation of $31 million. They also gained the right of first refusal to buy Crown-owned properties.
With the treaty settlement finalised, the tribe is in a position to revitalise Ngā Raurutanga – the values, beliefs and customs that are unique to Ngā Rauru. Plans for social development include support for the learning and use of the Māori language, and ensuring that marae are important in the lives of Ngā Rauru people. Economic development of the tribe is also a key aim. Recent commercial enterprises include a venture to produce and market traditional herbal remedies using native plants.
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 Ngā Rauru (including those who indicated more than one tribe), and the regions where they were found in the greatest numbers in 2013.
Broughton, Ruka. The origins of Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi. Wellington: Dept of Māori Affairs, 1983.
Simon, Morvin T. Taku whare e: he mauri tu. My home my heart: the spirit dwells still. Wanganui: Wanganui Regional Community College, 1986.
Waitangi Tribunal. The Taranaki report: kaupapa tuatahi. Wai 143. Wellington: GP Publications, 1996 (reprinted with corrections in 2001).