About Te Ātiawa

The History of Te Ātiawa and the Migration to Te Tau Ihu

Toi-kai-rakau, the wood eater

Te Ātiawa stem from Toi-te-huatahi or Toi-kai-rakau, the wood eater. Toi was the progenitor of many tribes occupying a considerable stretch of country, eight generations prior to the waka migrations of the fourteenth century. Soon after Toi arrived in New Zealand with his people, he established a pa at Whakatane. In the years following, descendants of Toi moved further afield and different familial branches arose including: Te Tini o Awa, Te Marangaranga, Te Tini o Tuio, Te Tini o Taunga and Ngā Turanga.

One of Toi’s son’s, Ruarangi, married a woman named Rongoueroa. Rongoueroa was the mother of Awanuiarangi, the eponymous ancestor of Te Ātiawa. According to tradition, the father of Awanuiarangi was Tamarau-Te-Heketanga-A-Rangi (Tamarau), a whatukura or heavenly guardian from the tenth heaven. A child of Ranginui and Papatuānuku, Tamarau came down from the heavens after seeing Rongoueroa bathing beside a stream. He took the form of a man and embraced her. From their union, Awanuiarangi was born. From Awanuiarangi came the multitudes – Te Tini o Awanuiarangi. They grew strong and settled themselves principally at Taranaki and Whakatane.

The origins of Te Ātiawa are recounted in the following ngeri:

Tamarau no Runga i Te Rangi heke iho ki raro ki te whakamarimari te tari ai Te hurahanga o te tapora o Rongo-u-eroa Tamarau from the heavens above came down to make love and waited until he could have Rongo-u-eroa to wife

Taku kuia e! Taku kuia e! She is our Kuia! She is our Kuia!

Te Ara o taku tupuna o tohia ai au This therefore is the consecrated pathway of my ancestors

Ko Te Ātiawa no Runga i Te Rangi Te Ātiawa from the heavens above

Te toki te tangatanga e te ra The adze (of Tamarau) which can remove the very sun from its axis

Taringa mango, ko to kete nge Ue ha! Ue ha!

The Awa people

The descendants of Awanuiarangi, the Awa people, occupied Taranaki for many generations. Te Ātiawa is sometimes referred to as the Awa tribes or Ngātiawa. Te Ātiawa connects with the three hapū, Te Kahui Tu, Te Kahui Rangi and Te Kahui Tawake. These hapū originated from the ancestor Rua Taranaki, the first man to climb Maunga Taranaki. Some of the earliest tangata whenua to have occupied Totaranui and the surrounding districts came from these three hapū.

The Awa people living in Northern Taranaki in the nineteenth century commonly used the name Ngāti Awa. Te Ātiawa Manawhenua Ki Te Tau Ihu Trust recognises that the Tūpuna of all its Beneficiaries at one time came under the name of Ngāti Awa. Through the years the name of Ngāti Awa has evolved to where many of the descendants of these Tūpuna now go by the tribal name of Te Ātiawa. It is also recognised that many continue to go by the name Ngāti Awa.

Today, the manawhenua status of Te Ātiawa is recognised within the four Marae across Te Tau Ihu – Waikawa, Whakatū, Te Āwhina and Onetahua – all have Te Ātiawa interests.

The arrival of the Europeans

The arrival of the Europeans with their muskets in the early 1800s had a huge impact on the Māori population. At first, chiefs seized on the new weapon as a deadly and effective way of settling old scores with old enemies. They quickly recognised that a taua armed with muskets had a decided advantage over one that was more traditionally armed. The conquest of new lands was possible on a far grander scale than ever before. As a result, people found themselves driven from their homes, either temporarily or permanently. In turn, they drove weaker opponents from their land, thereby causing the displacement of yet more tribes; those who were not killed in the fighting were absorbed into the conquering tribes. The events of this early period set off a chain reaction that would span almost the full length of the country.

Warring amongst the northern tribes

It was from these beginnings and against a background of escalated warring amongst the more northern tribes that the ‘Musket Wars’ erupted. The Kawhia tribes, who were continually at war with the powerful Waikato and Maniapoto, became involved and, as a result, many Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Rārua and Ngāti Koata chose to leave Kawhia. They decided that relocation to Kapiti would give them a better chance of survival. On the long journey south they were pursued by Waikato and, at Taranaki, Te Ātiawa (Ngātiawa) stood with the Kawhia people and together they defeated Waikato at the battle of Motunui. Following this success, Te Ātiawa assisted the Kawhia people to Kapiti. The assistance given by Te Ātiawa to the Kawhia tribes made them a prime target for Waikato and Maniapoto and precipitated their departure to Kapiti, with the intent to secure muskets to defend themselves against Waikato and Maniapoto.

At least four main heke left Taranaki between 1822 and 1833. The first, already mentioned, Te Heke Mairaro, was as the escort to the Kawhia tribes. After the majority of Te Ātiawa people returned to Taranaki, the second heke, consisting largely of Ngāti Tama, moved south in Te Heke Hauhaua. They were followed by Te Heke Niho Puta, a large contingent of Ngāti Mutunga, Manukorihi and Puketapu, about 1824.

Demand for more land and resources and the conquest of Te Tau Ihu

As the numbers of Te Ātiawa increased in the lower North Island, so too did the demand for more land and resources. Inevitably, the Taranaki and Kawhia tribes turned their attention to the South Island. Te Ātiawa took up opportunities with the arrival of the early whalers and traders. They also took advantage of the opportunity to acquire land in Te Tau Ihu.

The conquest of Te Tau Ihu was a joint effort with the Kawhia tribes. Te Manutoheroa, Huriwhenua, Te Koihua, Whitikau and many others led the contingent for Te Ātiawa in a series of attacks. The main attack took place around 1829-1830. The Northern tribes fought battles against Ngāti Kuia, Rangitāne, Ngāti Apa and Tu-mata-kokiri, who were armed with traditional weapons. The local tribes never really stood a chance against the northern tribes who were well armed with muskets. Ngai Tahu did not escape the wrath of the northern tribes either. The Poutini people occupying the West Coast were subdued and those on the East Coast suffered great losses.

Waikato and Maniapoto seek revenge, more Ngātiawa head South

In 1832, Waikato and Maniapoto finally executed their threat to seek payment for both the assistance given to the Kawhia tribes at the Battle of Motunui, and for their subsequent loss of chiefs. Attacks were made at Pukerangiora and Ngā Motu. As a result, most of the remaining Ngātiawa people, along with the Europeans who had helped them, decided to migrate South to join their relatives – many of whom were now widely distributed about the Cook Strait District and the Northern South Island. Te Heke Tamateuaua left Taranaki with around two thousand men, women and children.

Te Ātiawa settlement of Te Tau Ihu was a gradual process. Land was first settled in 1832, and by 1840 Te Ātiawa occupied land from Totaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound) to Mohua (Golden Bay).

Protecting the tribal estate of Te Ātiawa

Many Te Ātiawa returned to Taranaki in 1848 and subsequent heke occurred after the mid 1850s. In both cases the return was influenced by concern about the land in Taranaki and, in the latter, as a result of the actions of the Colonial Government. The Taranaki Land Wars, one of the major events of the nineteenth century, stemmed from the desire of Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitaake to protect the tribal estate of Te Ātiawa. In 1860, the first of the country’s land wars involving the Crown began and Māori resistance at Parihaka continued through until the end of the century.

Systematic loss of asset base and ability to exercise rangatiratanga

By 1860 Te Ātiawa were more restricted in their movements, largely because huge land purchases had already taken place by this time. In the 1840s and 1850s reserves were established for Te Ātiawa to live on. These reserves were all that remained of their land. Apart from the fact that the reserves were inadequate, in many cases, the land was worthless. Through successive government legislation and policy, Te Ātiawa have been systematically stripped of their main asset base, and the ability to exercise rangatiratanga in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The Aquaculture Settlement

The Aquaculture Settlement and the pending settlement of Te Ātiawa’s Tribunal Claim, while returning only a pittance of what was taken, will provide for the re-establishment of an economic base and the ability to exercise some semblance of rangatiratanga over our future.