The story of the sacred Tākitimu canoe and its people helped form the identity of Ngāti Kahungunu.
The Tākitimu arrived from Hawaiki, captained by Tamatea Arikinui. Having decided to settle in the Tauranga area, he handed command of the canoe to Tahu Pōtiki. A senior tohunga on the canoe, Ruawharo, settled at Te Māhia.
The Tākitimu travelled up the Wairoa River and landed at Mākeakea. The ancestral house, Tākitimu, now stands nearby. Tahu Pōtiki left some descendants here, who became Ngāi Tahu of Te Wairoa. Tūpai, another tohunga on the canoe, settled in the Wairarapa. Tahu Pōtiki then continued to the South Island, where he became the ancestor of Ngāi Tahu.
Tamatea Arikinui’s son was Rongokako, a tohunga who could take giant strides. In the contest with Pāoa to win the hand of Muriwhenua, he strode across land and sea, leaving footprints at Kahurānaki in the Heretaunga area, Kirihaehae at Māhia, and Te Tapuwae o Rongokako near Whāngārā.
Rongokako and Muriwhenua had a son, Tamatea Ure Haea (Tamatea the circumcised). He was also known as Tamatea-pōkai-whenua-pōkai-moana (Tamatea who travelled over land, over sea) because he circumnavigated New Zealand. This version of his name is incorporated in one of the world’s longest place names:
It was at this spot, near Pōrangahau, that Tamatea played the flute to his lover.
The birth of Kahungunu
Tamatea Ure Haea had three wives, who were sisters: Te Onoono-i-waho, Iwipūpū and Te Moana-i-kauia, the daughters of Ira and Tokerauwahine. With Iwipūpū he had a son, whom they named Kahungunu.