The original name of Cape Kidnappers / Te Kauwae-a-Māui comes from the story of Māui fishing up the North Island (Te-Ika-a-Maui), using a hook made from the jawbone of his grandmother, Murirangawhenua. The curve of the cape represents the hook and Te Kauwae-a-Māui means 'the jawbone of Māui'. Another name for the area is Te Matau-a-Māui (the fish hook of Māui).
On 15 October 1769 Lieutenant James Cook named the area Cape Kidnappers after local Māori tried to take the young boy who was accompanying the Tahitian arioi Tupaia:
‘[O]ne of the fishing boat came along side and offer’d us some more fish, the Indian Boy Tiata, Tupia’s servant being over the side, they seized hold of him, pulld him into the boat and endeavourd to carry him off, this obliged us to fire upon them which gave the Boy an oppertunity to jump over board and we brought the Ship too, lower’d a boat into the Water and took him up unhurt. Two or three paid for this daring attempt with the loss of their lives and many more would have suffered had it not been for fear of killing the boy. This affair occation’d my giveing this point of land the name of Cape Kidnappers…’
But for the iwi involved, the 'kidnapping' was in fact a rescue attempt – as described in the 2015 Heretaunga Tamatea Deed of Settlement:
'On 15 October 1769, several waka came into contact with Captain James Cook’s ship the Endeavour off the Heretaunga Tamatea coast. Local tradition remembers that these waka carried a Ngai Te Whatuiapiti force under the rangatira Te Rangikoianake and his son Hawea. Seeing what they believed to be a young Maori boy being held captive, Te Rangikoianake’s party attempted to free the Endeavour’s Tahitian cabin boy. The crew of the Endeavour fired on them and some were killed. Te Kauwae-a-Maui, close to where this incident occurred, has borne the name Cape Kidnappers ever since.'
The Deed of Settlement reinstated Te Kauwae-a-Māui as an official name, alongside the European name for the area.
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