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Story: Taranaki tribe

The mountains of the Kaitake Range, Pouākai Range and Mt Taranaki (Mt Egmont) dominate the territory and history of the Taranaki tribe. They symbolise the peaceful endurance of a people who have survived invasion and confiscation of their land, and are now looking to the future.

Story by Te Miringa Hōhaia
Main image: Mt Taranaki

Story Summary

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The tribe and its territory

The area of the Taranaki tribe covers the west cape of the North Island. It stretches from Ōnukutaipari in the north to the Ōuri River in the south, and includes Mt Taranaki (Mt Egmont).

Ancestors

The earliest ancestors of the Taranaki people were called Te Kāhui Maunga – the people of the mountains. Mt Taranaki was named after Rua Taranaki, the first in a line of chiefs. The Taranaki tribe emerged when arrivals from the Kurahaupō canoe intermarried with the people of the mountains.

War with other tribes

The Taranaki tribe’s close relationship with neighbouring tribes was constantly changing. This was because of regular raids by Waikato tribes from the late 1700s, and the arrival of other northern tribes armed with muskets in the early 1800s. Some other tribes moved south, changing the balance of power in the region.

War with Europeans

There was further upheaval when European settlers arrived in New Zealand after 1840. Their demand for land suitable for farming put pressure on all Taranaki tribes to sell. The tribes refused, and war broke out between Māori and the government in 1860. Many villages in the Taranaki region were destroyed. Land was confiscated by the government and sold for settlement.

The Hauhau faith

In 1862 Te Ua Haumēne of the Taranaki tribe founded a new religion, called Hauhau (also known as Pai Mārire, meaning ‘goodness and peace’). The faith taught that Māori people would eventually get back their land. It spread rapidly among Māori, and was seen as a threat by Europeans. Fighting broke out between Hauhau followers and government forces.

Parihaka and peaceful protest

In the mid-1860s the village of Parihaka was the centre of a movement which encouraged non-violent resistance to the confiscation of land. Its followers prevented surveys, and ploughed and fenced land that was occupied by European settlers. Many of them were arrested and held without trial, but the protests continued. Finally, government troops marched on Parihaka in 1881, arresting and driving away its inhabitants. Some were imprisoned without trial until the late 1890s.

The Taranaki tribe today

Today there is a new interest in the tribe’s traditional knowledge and culture, and the story of Parihaka continues to inspire art, poetry and song. More than 6,000 people said they were descended from the Taranaki tribe in 2013.

How to cite this page:

Te Miringa Hōhaia, 'Taranaki tribe', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/taranaki-tribe (accessed 17 October 2017)

Story by Te Miringa Hōhaia, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 22 Mar 2017