The origins of Te Āti Awa of Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) lie with Toitehuatahi or Toi-kai-rākau, the Polynesian explorer. One of Toi’s sons, Ruarangi, married a woman called Rongoueroa. She gave birth to Rauru, and to Whātonga, whose son Tara gave his name to Wellington Harbour and environs – Te Whanganui-a-Tara (the great harbour of Tara). In Te Āti Awa tradition, Rongoueroa also became the mother of Awanuiarangi, following a liaison with a spirit ancestor called Tamarau. The history of Te Āti Awa in Wellington started with the ancestral connection between Awanuiarangi and Whātonga.
Te Āti Awa of Wellington have close connections with the Te Āti Awa tribe of Taranaki, and more distantly with Ngāti Awa of the Bay of Plenty and the far north. All have a common ancestor in Awanuiarangi, but became differentiated through later marriages, and moved to different locations.
A history of migration
The history of the tribe centres on a series of battles and migrations that brought several tribes down from Kāwhia and Taranaki to the Kāpiti Coast and ultimately to the Wellington area. The migrations started in the 1820s and were largely complete by 1835.
Over many generations, people of Te Āti Awa moved on, either to other places or back to reclaim customary lands in Taranaki. Those who stayed in the Wellington region maintained the interests of those who had lived there before European settlement.