Ngāpuhi is the largest tribe in New Zealand. Their heartland lies at Te Tai Tokerau (the northern tide) in the far north. The territory stretches west to east from Hokianga Harbour to the Bay of Islands, and southward to Maunganui Bluff and Whangārei. The following chant likens the lands of Ngāpuhi to a traditional house:
The house of Ngāpuhi
He mea hanga tēnei tōku whare
Ko Ranginui e titiro iho nei te tuanui
Ko Papatūānuku te paparahi
Ko ngā maunga ngā poupou
Pūhanga Tohorā titiro ki Te Ramaroa
Te Ramaroa titiro ki Whiria
Ko te paiaka o te riri, te kawa o Rāhiri
Whiria titiro ki Panguru ki Papata, te rākau e tū papata ki Te Tai Hauāuru
Panguru–Papata titiro ki Maunga Taniwha-whakarongorua
Maungataniwha titiro ki Tokerau
Tokerau titiro ki Rākaumangamanga
Rākaumangamanga titiro ki Manaia
Manaia titiro ki Tūtāmoe
Tūtāmoe titiro ki Maunganui
Maunganui titiro ki Pūhanga Tohorā
Ko tēnei te wharetapu ō Ngāpuhi-nuitonu.
A house is constructed thus
The sky father is the roof
The earth mother is the floor
The mountains are the posts
Pūhanga Tohorā faces Te Ramaroa
Te Ramaroa faces Whiria
The taproot of strife, the custom of Rāhiri
Whiria faces Panguru-Papata, the trees bent by the western wind
Panguru-Papata faces Maungataniwha that hears
both the eastern and western coasts
Maunga Taniwha faces Tokerau
Tokerau faces Rākaumangamanga
Rākaumangamanga faces Manaia
Manaia faces Tūtāmoe
Tūtāmoe faces Maunganui
Maunganui faces Pūhanga Tohorā
This is the sacred house of everlasting Ngāpuhi.
Each of the mountains that form the sacred house of Ngāpuhi has significance.
Pūhanga Tohorā (the whale), also known as Pīhanga Tohorā, has the shape of a whale. A sacred freshwater spring near the peak is the whale’s blowhole. Te Ramaroa (the eternal flame) is the mountain that guided the great navigator Kupe into Hokianga Harbour. Whiria was the home of many members of the founding family of Ngāpuhi.
Panguru and Papata, the two peaks on the northern side of the Hokianga Harbour, act like a wind tunnel. The strength of the prevailing westerly winds across the saddle joining the peaks is so strong that trees growing there are bent towards the east.
Maunga-taniwha-whakarongorua (the taniwha that hears the east and west) is the only mountain in the territory of Ngāpuhi from which both coasts can be seen. Tokerau and Rākaumangamanga are sentinels standing at the northern and southern entrances to the Bay of Islands. Manaia, the main ancestral mountain for the tribes of Whangārei, is named after one of their earliest ancestors. Tūtāmoe is a guardian of the tribes around present-day Dargaville.
Maunganui is a sacred mountain standing between the Kaipara and Hokianga harbours. Several important chiefs and priests are said to be buried there.