Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō


Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō is one of four iwi of Meretoto/Ship Cove in Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound). Along with whanaunga Rangitāne and Ngāti Kuia, their tīpuna, or ancestors, were present at Meretoto when James Cook sailed into the bay in January 1770.  For Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Tuia 250 represents an opportunity to be able to retell their story.


Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō’s eponymous ancestor was Apa-Hapai-Taketake, grandson of Ruatea, who was captain of the great ocean-going Kurahaupō waka, which arrived in Aotearoa sometime between the 13th and 14th centuries. Ngāti Apa first settled in the Heretaunga (Hastings) district, later migrating across and down to the west coast of Te Ika-a-Maui (the North Island). Ultimately, they came to control much of the area between Rangitīkei and Te Moana o Ngā Raukawakawa (Cook Strait). From the mid-1500s Ngāti Apa made increasingly regular forays south into Te Tauihu (the northern South Island) and began to establish permanent communities in and around Tōtaranui (Queen Charlotte Sound). Those Ngāti Apa who went south came to be known as Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō - Ngāti Apa of the Setting Sun.


Today, the iwi’s rohe, or tribal area, stretches across the top of the South, including areas in Golden Bay, Tasman Bay, the Nelson Lakes, the Marlborough Sounds and Buller. In the Marlborough Sounds a number of areas are considered sacred to the iwi – including Puhikereru, or Mt Furneaux. 

Puhikereru overlooks Te Anamāhanga (Port Gore). Its name (“plume of the pigeon”) evokes the kereru that were found here, the appearance of the clouds as they come over the maunga, and also recalls a tipuna particularly associated with this place. The maunga is also of great significance to Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō because of its association with Kupe. When Kupe came to Aotearoa, he brought two birds with him named Rupe and Kawau-a-toru. The task of these birds was, among other things, to seek out the fruits of the forest and determine currents. When Kupe settled at Rimurapa (Sinclair Head, on the northern shores of Te Moana o Ngā Raukawakawa) his birds flew to Te Waipounamu and alighted on Puhikereru. Rupe joined the local pigeons in feasting on the abundant forest food of the maunga and its environs, and never returned to Kupe.


In 2019, New Zealand will mark 250 years since the first meetings between Māori and Pākehā during James Cook and the Endeavour’s 1769 voyage to Aotearoa New Zealand. Tuia – Encounters 250 will acknowledge this pivotal moment in our nation’s history as well as the extraordinary feats of Pacific voyagers who reached and settled in Aotearoa many years earlier.

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