​​​Te Arawa/The Voyage of the Arawa canoe

Ngātoro-i-rangi was the high priest who navigated the Arawa waka on their eventful journey from Hawaiki to Aotearoa. He started his journey on board the Tainui waka and was persuaded by his cousin Tamatekapua into sailing to Aotearoa aboard the Arawa waka.

This journey would take a turn for the worst.  During their voyage Tamatekapua decided to seduce his cousin’s wife Kearoa. On discovering what Tamatekapua had done,

Ngātoro-i-rangi in his rage performed a karakia creating a great whirlpool named


As the waka descended into the whirlpool, the people aboard, realising their fate cried out to Ngātoro-i-rangi pleading for their lives. Eventually Ngātoro-i-rangi felt sorry for the people, reciting a powerful karakia to stop this catastrophe from occurring.

The waka eventually arrived at Whangaparāoa and from there it followed the eastern coastline northwards to Whakaari and stopped at Moehau. Continuing the journey, they sailed along the Coromandel Penninsula, finally landing in an area of the Waitematā harbour.

Shortly afterwards, Ruaeo arrived, Tamatekapua had left him behind in Hawaiki so he could seduce his wife, Whakaotirangi. Determined to get even with Tamatekapua, a fight ensued and the nose of Tamatekapua bled; this palce is now called Rangitoto Island. The full name is 'Te-Rangi-i-toto-ai-te-ihu-o-Tamatekapua'. 

As the waka returned to Waitematā towards the Bay of Plenty the waka travelled on to
Te-Awa-ā-te-Atua and then journeyed back to Maketu. The people of the Te Arawa waka attribute the naming of Te-Awa-ā-te-Atua to Ngātoro-i-rangi.      

Mai i Maketu ki Tongariro

Te Arawa comprises a confederation of tribes which landed at Maketu many hundreds of years ago. From Maketu the voyagers and their succeeding generations moved inland occupying the central part of the North Island thus the saying 'Mai i Maketu ki Tongariro'
(from Maketu to Tongariro).   

As the Arawa waka lay off the Bay of Plenty coastline, noted ancestors would taunaha the land. This was a practice whereby certain geographical features or land areas were proclaimed, and named after some part of the human anatomy.

Hei, the twin brother to Tia stood first to proclaim an area along the coast so as to give to his son Waitaha-a-Hei. Hei claimed the land from Ōtawa westward to a place named Te Papa near Tauranga. He named it ‘Te-Takapū-o-tōna-pōtiki-ā-Waitaha'.

They continued paddling and reached off Wairākei, Tia then stood up to proclaim the land at Rangiuru, naming it 'Te-Takapū-o-tōna-pōtiki-ā-Tapuika'. Pointing to the headland which juts out into the sea at Maketu, Tamatekapua proclaimed that piece of land after the bridge of his nose, ko te kūreitanga o te ihu o Tamatekapua, which was shortened to Ōkūrei.

The Arawa people embarked upon their new lands with interest, Ngātoro-i-rangi journeyed east until he reached the Tarawera river which he named Te Awa ā te Atua; exploring inland toward Ruawāhia/Tarawera region.

Hei Went to Tauranga, the land from Waiari stream westward to Tauranga. Tia and his son Tapuika, went to Rangiuru to the piece of land he had proclaimed. Tamatekapua and his children remained at Maketu before moving further inland.

Maketu holds a special significance for Arawa peoples; in the first instance it was the landing place of their waka. Secondly the the land was fertile, the moana provided abundant food supplies to sustain their survival while planning the future; Maketu is the northern boundary, Tongariro is the southern referred to in the pepeha 'Mai i Maketu ki Tongariro'.

Page reviewed: 26 Jan 2016 4:28pm