Ngare Raumati are one of the oldest tribes in the northern Whangārei region. The centre of their traditional homelands is Te Rāwhiti. Ngare Raumati lost much of their lands during late 18th-century battles with Ngāpuhi, who expanded from Kaikohe and Te Waimate into the Bay of Islands.
Ngāi Tāhuhu, another of the earliest tribes in the northern Whangārei and Bay of Islands region, descend from Tāhuhunui-o-te-rangi, the captain of the Moekākara canoe. Ngāi Tāhuhu established pā at Pouērua in the Bay of Islands, the Mangakāhia river valley, Whangārei, Te Ārai, and at Ōtāhuhu (Mt Richmond) in Auckland. By the mid-1800s their lands had diminished to encompass only the upper Wairoa and Mangakāhia valleys. Tāhuhunui-o-te-rangi’s son or grandson, Tāhuhupōtiki, married the famous Waikato woman chief Reipae.
Ngātiwai are descended from Manaia (the captain of the Māhuhu-ki-te-rangi or Ruakaramea canoe) and his people Ngāti Manaia, and are another early Whangārei tribe. The history of Ngātiwai is intimately connected with the coastal waters. The tribe’s name comes from a tradition at Manawahuna, a cave beneath Motu Kōkako, where priests would foretell their fortunes from the way water (wai) passed through the cave. Well known as coastal raiders and traders, Ngātiwai have links to ancestors from Whangaroa in the north to Tāmaki (Auckland) in the south, and eastward to Little Barrier and Great Barrier islands where Ngāti Rehua, a sub-tribe of Ngātiwai, settled. Today, most of the tribe live north and south of Whangārei, and are interspersed with other coastal groups such as Ngāti Kahu, Te Whānauwhero, Te Ākitai and Te Panupuha.
Te Parawhau are located to the north and south of Whangārei, and inland. They have close connections with Ngātiwai, Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Whātua, and also with Tahuwhakatiki, a captain of the Te Arawa canoe who settled in Whangārei. One account says the name Parawhau comes from the practice of making floats for fishing nets out of wood from the whau tree. Another traces the name to the practice of preserving the dead in the gum of the whau tree. There is also a tradition that says when the tribe was under siege on a mountain in Whangārei the ancestor Para performed a haka (war dance) to rally his people to victory. The name of the mountain has since changed from Parahaki to Parahaka (the haka of Para).
Patuharakeke, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Manuhiri and Te Ākitai
Patuharakeke, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Manuhiri and Te Ākitai are tribes related to Ngātiwai and Te Parawhau, and occupy the coastal lands mainly from the southern side of Whangārei Harbour to Mahurangi. Te Ākitai (meaning to be beaten by the tide) take their name from an ancestor whose body was dashed on rocks. Ngāti Kahu is an old tribe with an important link to Ngāti Kahu of Muriwhenua.