Ngāti Raukawa trace descent from Raukawa. He was of Tainui descent and through his mother, Māhinaarangi, he also belonged to peoples of Te Tai Rāwhiti (the eastern districts of the North Island), particularly Ngāti Kahungunu. Raukawa was born 20–25 generations ago at the springs of Ōkoroire and grew up at his father’s home of Rangiātea, near Ōtorohanga.
Events in the life of Raukawa are not well known. However, many illustrious ancestors of Ngāti Raukawa have richly influenced the history of the Waikato and southern districts of the North Island. They include the sons of Takihiku, Kapumanawawhiti and Huia. Among the 19th-century ancestors were Te Whatanui, Te Ahukaramū and Te Rauparaha.
Ngāti Raukawa history is full of the triumphs and tragedies of a traditional tribal life.
The children of Raukawa
Tēnā anō rā kei ngā tamariki toa nā Rakamamao
Kei te rangi e haere ana nā Mōtai-tangata-rau.
There go the children of Rakamamao
Across the skies, [the progeny] of the multitudes of Mōtai.
Early tribal history centres on the children of Raukawa – Rereahu, Takihiku, Whakatere and Kurawari. Even today these ancestors are marker points in Ngāti Raukawa history. Except for Kurawari, each of the children was immortalised in the name of a distinct tribe.
The most significant and well-known ancestor in the next generation is Maniapoto, son of Rereahu and ancestor of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe. Maniapoto succeeded to his father’s position even though he had an elder brother, Te Ihinga-a-rangi.
Maniapoto had a younger sister named Te Rongorito. She became an important ancestor of many Ngāti Raukawa people. Te Rongorito was a puhi, a sacred woman trained in the teachings of the aristocracy. She gave rise to a very powerful section of Ngāti Raukawa.
Te Rongorito’s grandson was Kapumanawawhiti, a man of great prowess in battle who was responsible for taking the name of Ngāti Raukawa far and wide. After a series of successful battles in northern Taranaki, a cousin of Kapumanawawhiti, Parekarau, stated:
He uri tamawahine, māna e takahi te one i Hākerekere.
The descendant of a woman, he shall traverse the shore at Hākerekere.
This is often quoted in Ngāti Raukawa circles to honour Kapumanawawhiti.
Kapumanawawhiti was succeeded by his nephew Ngātokowaru, who also became a famous warrior. However, Ngātokowaru was finally captured in battle and taken to the ailing Te Putu, chief of the Ngāti Mahuta people. As Ngātokowaru leaned over the dying chief of his enemy, he produced a hidden dagger and killed Te Putu, saying, ‘Ko te tete o Ngātokowaru, tēnā ka rangona!’ (The dagger of Ngātokowaru shall be famous!).