Story: Tāmaki tribes

Page 3. The tribes of Tāmaki

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Ngāti Pāoa

Ngāti Pāoa descend from the ancestor Pāoa, who migrated from Ngāruawāhia on the Waikato River to Hauraki (Coromandel). There, he married Tukutuku, a descendant of Marutūahu. Rautao, a descendant of Marutūahu, and Kapetaua of Ngāti Pāoa, conquered much of Tāmaki (Auckland) in separate battles. Ngāti Pāoa fought a number of campaigns against Ngāti Whātua and Te Wai-o-Hua of Tāmaki at Mahurangi and the Whau and Tāmaki rivers. Until European contact, the tribe occupied most of the land from the Thames estuary, the Hūnua Ranges, east Tāmaki, Waiheke Island and the coast northward to Whangaparāoa.

Ngāi Tai

Ngāi Tai descend from the Tainui ancestors Taihaua, Taikehu and Te Kete-ana-taua, who settled in Tāmaki when the Tainui canoe passed across the isthmus on its way to Kāwhia Harbour. The tribe was once part of an extensive coastal trading network between Tāmaki, the Coromandel, Aotea (Great Barrier Island) and across the Bay of Plenty to Tōrere Bay, where another Tainui-related tribe, Ngāti Tai, live today. Links between Ngāi Tai and Ngāti Tai were reinforced several generations ago when three sisters, Raukohekohe, Motuitawhiti and Te Kawenga, led several hundred people in a migration called Te Heke-o-Ngā-Tokotoru (the migration of the three) from Tōrere Bay to Tāmaki. Here, Raukohekohe and Motuitawhiti both married both Te Wai-o-Hua and Ngāi Tai chief Te Whatatau.

Te Wai-o-Hua and Ngā Oho

Te Wai-o-Hua originate from Te Wakatūwhenua and Te Moekākara canoes, and from the early Te Arawa tribe Ngā Ohomatakamokamo-o-Ohomairangi (Ngā Oho), who once dominated much of the land between Tauranga and Cape Rodney, near Leigh. Ngā Oho subsequently divided into three groups, based in three areas: Ngā Oho at Papakura; Ngā Riki from Papakura to Ōtāhuhu; and Ngā Iwi from Ōtāhuhu to the North Shore. Eventually they merged to become Te Wai-o-Hua (the waters of Hua) under the chief Te Hua-o-kaiwaka.

Te Wai-o-Hua remained the main tribe on the Tāmaki isthmus well into the 18th century. Around 1741 their paramount chief, Kiwi Tāmaki, was killed in a battle at Paruroa (Great Muddy Creek) by Te Waha-akiaki of Te Taoū and Ngāti Whātua. This happened during a sequence of events that saw Ngāti Whātua take possession of central Tāmaki.

Ngāti Whātua-o-Ōrākei

Ngāti Whātua-o-Ōrākei descend from the Ngāti Whātua confederation of tribes, which also includes Te Roroa, Te Uri-o-Hau and Te Taoū. The confederation originates from the ancestor Tumutumuwhenua (also known as Tuputupuwhenua) and the Māhuhu-ki-te-rangi canoe. Their ancestors migrated from Muriwhenua to the Waimamaku River valley, Waipoua Forest, Kaihū River valley and Kaipara Harbour, where they intermarried with, and subsumed, earlier peoples. Ngāti Whātua-o-Ōrākei occupied the central isthmus during the mid-18th century after an invasion led by Te Waha-akiaki and Tuperiri.

Ngāti Te Ata

Ngāti Te Ata were also known as Te Ruakaiwhare, after the tribal guardian who protects the waters of Manukau Harbour. They occupied the area around Waiuku, the Awhitū peninsula, Huia and the Waitākere Ranges.

The tribe gets its name from the famous woman chief Te Atairehia, a granddaughter of the founding Te Wai-o-Hua chief Te Hua-o-kaiwaka. She was given land in Waiuku after helping the local hapū (sub-tribe) Ngāti Kahukōkā in its fight against other tribes. Te Atairehia married Tapuae, a Tainui chief who was killed after winning control of a stretch of the Waikato River from Taupiri to Port Waikato. His death was avenged by his son Pāpaka, who secured Waiuku for Ngāti Te Ata.

Te Kawerau-a-Maki

Te Kawerau-a-Maki is one of the older Tāmaki tribes, whose territory once extended from the Waitākere Ranges north to Cape Rodney.

Te Kawerau-a-Maki descend from the Tainui, Te Wakatūwhenua and Te Moekākara canoes. Their ancestor Tiriwa is one of the oldest and more mysterious Tāmaki forebears, credited with uplifting Rangitoto volcano from Karekare beach and carrying it to its present location in the Hauraki Gulf. An older name for the Waitākere Ranges, the tribe's heartland, was Te Waonui-a-Tiriwa (the great forest of Tiriwa).

The tribe trace their descent from the Tainui priest Rakataura, or Hape. They also have links with the now extinct Bay of Plenty tribe Te Kawerau, who were said to have migrated to Tāmaki.

Te Kawerau-a-Maki’s ancestor Maki, who migrated from the Tainui and Taranaki regions, took control of much of the land between Tāmaki and the Kaipara. The tribe take their name from his son Te Kawerau-a-Maki, who was named after a dispute between his father and Ngāti Whātua over kūmara (sweet potato) plantations (te kawerau is the term for the straps of a bag used for carrying kūmara). Maki’s great-grandson, Te Auotewhenua, went on to control the land between Muriwai and Manukau Harbour.

How to cite this page:

Rāwiri Taonui, 'Tāmaki tribes - The tribes of Tāmaki', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 June 2024)

Story by Rāwiri Taonui, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 22 Mar 2017