Story: Ngāti Maniapoto

Page 2. The ancestor Maniapoto

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How Maniapoto was chosen

Maniapoto lived in the 17th century, and established numerous powerful tribes. To understand how he came to be the leader of his people involves returning to the time of his father Rereahu’s impending death.

It was the custom for chiefs to select the person who would take on their chiefly mana. Rereahu’s eldest son by his first marriage was Te Ihingaarangi. This son naturally expected that his father’s mana would pass to him. However Rereahu preferred Maniapoto, the eldest son by his marriage to Hineaupounamu. While Te Ihingaarangi was away, Rereahu summoned Maniapoto before him.

The dying chief instructed Maniapoto to bite the crown of his head, which he had anointed with red ochre. This act signified the passing of Rereahu’s chiefly mana to Maniapoto. By the time Te Ihingaarangi had returned, Rereahu was dead. Te Ihingaarangi observed the red stains on Maniapoto’s lips and realised that he himself had been denied the mana of his father.

After attempting to promote himself over his younger brother, Te Ihingaarangi went with his children to settle in the Maungatautari district. Te Ihingaarangi’s people there came to be known as Ngāti Korokī, Ngāti Hape and Ngāti Haua. However, after his death, many of his followers returned to the Ōtorohanga area. They can still be found there today as Ngāti Te Ihingaarangi.


The subsequent history of Ngāti Maniapoto centres around Maniapoto, his younger siblings including Matakore, and their children and grandchildren.

They are the ancestors from whom many of the hapū of today are descended and take their names, such as Ngāti Matakore. Matakore had supported his brother Maniapoto against the challenges of Te Ihingaarangi, and acquired the lands south of the Waipā River and the Rangitoto Ranges. Matakore’s marriage to Waiharapepe connected his tribe to the Te Arawa people.

Maniapoto’s wives and children

Maniapoto had three wives, including the great-granddaughter of Te Ihingaarangi, Hinewhatihua. He later married her daughter Paparauwhare, from a former marriage. From that marriage was born Rōrā, ancestor of the Ngāti Rōrā hapū who settled the Te Kūiti district.

Te Kawairirangi

The son of Maniapoto’s first marriage to Hinemania was the celebrated Te Kawairirangi, who journeyed north to the great Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) in the present-day Auckland district. There he married the twins Mārei and Māroa. He was treacherously killed in Tāmaki, as was his son Rungaterangi in the Mōkau district to the south. From these deaths came the saying: ‘Mōkau ki runga, Tāmaki ki raro’ (Mōkau above, Tāmaki below), as a reminder to Ngāti Maniapoto of these episodes in their history. The saying would later be expanded to signify the boundaries of the entire Tainui confederation of tribes.

A tribal motto

In his latter years Maniapoto lived in a cave, Te Ana-uriuri, in the limestone region of Waitomo. When he was close to death he went to Pukeroa at Hangatiki, where he called the people before him. He gave his farewell speech, and instructed the men to perform war dances. His younger brothers and their children then performed under the leadership of Te Kawairirangi. Finally Maniapoto gave his approval, instructing his people:

Kia mau tonu ki tēnā; kia mau ki te kawau mārō. Whanake ake! Whanake ake!
Stick to that, the straight-flying cormorant!

He was referring to a fighting force that, like the cormorant, darts forward in the charge, unyielding. It was adopted by Ngāti Maniapoto as their tribal motto.

How to cite this page:

Tūhuatahi Tui Adams and Paul Meredith, 'Ngāti Maniapoto - The ancestor Maniapoto', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 April 2024)

Story by Tūhuatahi Tui Adams and Paul Meredith, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 22 Mar 2017