Story: Tūranganui-a-Kiwa tribes

Page 1. Lands and ancestors

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Tribal lands

For centuries, four tribes – Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and Te Aitanga a Hauiti – have dominated the southern part of the North Island’s East Cape. The tribes’ traditional lands stretch from Paritū in the south to Pouawa in the north. Their lands extend inland to the headwaters of the Mōtū, Waipāoa and Waiōeka rivers, and to Lake Waikaremoana. The heart of this district is Tūranga (the area of present-day Gisborne) and Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (Poverty Bay). The rich history of this area is summed up in the saying:

Ko Tūranga-a-Mua
Ko Tūranga Ararau
Ko Tūranga Makaurau
Ko Tūranga Tangata-rite
Ko Tūranganui-a-Kiwa.
Tūranga the ancient
Tūranga the pathway of many
Tūranga of a thousand lovers
Tūranga the meeting place of people
The long waiting place of Kiwa.

The early people of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa

The members of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and Ngāti Oneone (a sub-tribe of Te Aitanga a Hauiti) are descended from voyagers on board the Te Ikaroa-a-Rauru, Horouta and Tākitimu canoes, which sailed from Hawaiki. Once in New Zealand, the groups had intermingled and formed alliances. Important ancestors were Māui, Paikea, Kiwa, Pāoa, Hine Hakirirangi, Tamatea, Māia, Porourangi, Hamo-te-Rangi, Tahupōtiki, Ruapani, Kahungunu, Māhaki, Rongowhakaata, Tāmanuhiri and Hauiti.

Manutukutuku – kites

Kites feature prominently in the mythology and history of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa. They could represent striving: the god Tāwhaki attempted to ascend to heaven on one. They were also used to send messages: the ancestor Tahupōtiki was informed of his brother’s death by a flying kite. Their importance has led to the saying: ‘A treasured kite lost to the winds, brings much joy when found again.’

The ancestor Kiwa

According to one account, the area of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa was named by the ancestor Kiwa, who arrived on board the Tākitimu canoe, ahead of the Horouta. Because it took so long for the Horouta to arrive, he named its final landing place Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (the long waiting place of Kiwa). In another version, the name tells of the time Kiwa spent gazing out to sea, anxiously awaiting the return of his lost son. Yet another tradition suggests that Kiwa, not wishing to be outdone by Tamatea, captain of the Tākitimu, who had named the north-eastern side of the bay Te Tūranga-a-Ruamatua, laid claim to the southern side by naming it Tūranganui-a-Kiwa.

How to cite this page:

Nick Tūpara, 'Tūranganui-a-Kiwa tribes - Lands and ancestors', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 February 2024)

Story by Nick Tūpara, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Mar 2017