Story: Ngāti Porou

Page 2. Tribal boundaries and resources

All images & media in this story

The Ngāti Porou homeland is the most easterly region of the North Island. It sits inside the two canoe boundaries of Horouta and Tākitimu. The traditional Horouta canoe territory is from Te Taumata-ō-Apanui in the north to Paritū in the south, then inland to Ngāti Ruapani territory and to Waikaremoana. It then runs north along the Raukūmara Range. The Gisborne region is regarded as the overlapping boundary between the two canoes.

As set out under the Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou Act 1987, Ngāti Porou’s internal boundaries are from Pōtikirua in the north to Te Toka a Taiau in the south.

The traditional tribal area is mountainous, hilly and blessed with a long beautiful coastline. The native forests were largely cleared in the early days of farming, while quite significant stands of radiata pine have been planted since the mid-1950s.

One of the tribe’s greatest assets today is its isolation and strong sense of sovereignty – mana motuhake.

New territory

In the early 1800s some sections of Ngāti Porou moved to Harataunga (Kennedy Bay, Coromandel), where land was gifted to them by the Chief Pāora Te Putu. This was Ngāti Porou’s only formal occupation of a territory outside their traditional homeland. The gift acknowledged the generosity shown by Ngāti Porou during the early trading period. Returning from shipping expeditions to the Auckland markets, they would take shelter in the Harataunga region and share the benefits of their trade, including the protection of arms, with the locals.

The tribal proverb of identity

Ko Hikurangi te maunga
Ko Waiapu te awa
Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi.
Hikurangi is the mountain
Waiapu is the river
Ngāti Porou is the tribe.

Especially in the presence of other tribes, this saying is accompanied by songs of famous ancestors such as Māui and his canoe Nukutaimemeha, and Paikea and his grand history. Many sub-tribes recite their own proverbs and songs at Ngāti Porou gatherings.

The rugged terrain and coastline of the tribal region is dotted with settlements, each rich in local stories. Their proverbs echo the tribal saying, reinforcing the mana of the sub-tribes and families who live there.

Mountains and rivers

The mountain of Hikurangi remains the tribe’s most significant icon because of the legend in which the ancestor Māui fished up the North Island. As he hauled up the great fish, the first part to emerge was the mountain, on which his canoe, Nukutaimemeha, became stranded. Hikurangi was the refuge of the people during the great ocean deluge known as Te Tai a Ruatapu, sent to destroy the survivors of the Te Huripūreiata massacre in Hawaiki. The ancient name of Hikurangi is also found in Rarotonga and Tahiti.

Mt Hikurangi is celebrated in the Ngāti Porou haka, Rūaumoko (the earthquake god). Its pulsating rhythmic flow resounds with:

He atua! He tangata! He atua! He tangata! Ho!
Behold, it is divine! It is human! It is divine! It is human! Ah!

The Waiapu River is the most famous in the region and, like Hikurangi, its name is also found in Tahiti. Offering a protected region where people could settle and find safety in times of war, the river valley is referred to in a tribal saying:

Hoake tāua ki Waiapu ki tātara e maru ana.
Let us shelter under the thick matted cloak of Waiapu.
How to cite this page:

Tamati Muturangi Reedy, 'Ngāti Porou - Tribal boundaries and resources', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 July 2024)

Story by Tamati Muturangi Reedy, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Mar 2017