The ancestor Whātonga
The Rangitāne tribe trace their origins to Whātonga, one of three chiefs who commanded the Kurahaupō canoe as it sailed to New Zealand. According to tradition, the canoe was hewn out of a tree from the Tawhitinui forest, in the Pacific homeland Hawaiki. It survived an epic voyage across the Pacific Ocean and landed at Nukutaurua, a small bay on Māhia Peninsula, around 1350 (some accounts give a date two centuries earlier). There, the canoe is said to have been turned into stone by the tohunga Hau.
The ancestor Rangitāne
Whātonga eventually settled in Heretaunga (the Hastings area). He married Hotuwaipara, and their son Tarataraika became the ancestor of the Ngāi Tara people in the Wellington region. The harbour there is called Te Whanganui a Tara (the great harbour of Tara). Whātonga’s second wife, Reretua, bore him a son, Tautoki, and a daughter, Rerekitaiari. Tautoki married Waipuna, a great-granddaughter of the great navigator Kupe, and their child was named Rangitāne (also known as Rangitānenui, Tānenui-a-rangi and Rangitānenui-a-rangi) – from whom the tribe took its name.
Some generations later the Rangitāne tribe migrated to Tāmakinui-a-Rua (around present-day Dannevirke), Wairarapa, Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington), and Wairau in the south, and Manawatū and Horowhenua to the west. The Rangitāne people continue to claim mana whenua (traditional authority over the land) in these places.
The tribe’s expansion led to the saying:
Tini whetū ki te rangi
Ko Tānenui-a-rangi ki te whenua.
Like the multitude of stars in the sky
So great is Rangitāne on the earth.
As the tribe grew, some groups such as Muaūpoko became tribes in their own right, but most hapū (sub-tribes) remained part of a wider tribal consortium that endures in the 21st century. These groups include Ngāti Kere, Ngāti Parakiore, Ngāti Hāmua, Te Rangiwhakāewa, Ngāti Mairehau, Ngāti Hauiti, Ngāti Hineaute, Ngāti Tauira, Ngāti Rangiaranaki, Ngāti Rangitepaia, Ngāti Kuia and Ngāti Huataki.