Te Huataki and Rangitāne settle in the south



Since the epic battle between Kupe and the taniwha, Te Wheke a Muturangi, Queen Charlotte Sounds has been known to tangata whenua as ‘Tōtaranui’. Evidence of prehistoric occupation left behind by residents and travelling parties taking shelter from the highly changeable weather can be found in all the bays and coves of Tōtaranui. The close proximity of the argillite quarries at Whangamoa and Rangitoto, lush native forests connected with trails to the interior all served to enhance the area’s value as a key asset in trade in raw materials and finished goods. Indeed, the importance of Tōtaranui as a trading hub is evident in the artefacts collected during James Cook’s expeditions which reflect a range of cultural influences spanning the wider Raukawakawamoana (Cook Strait) region. 


The history of Tōtaranui has been recorded in place names and in linguistic devices such as waiata and karakia. Whakapapa to ancestors such as Kupe help substantiate customary rights and have been remembered up to the present day. However, descent from a founding ancestor alone was not enough to maintain one’s occupational rights to the land. Seasonal harvesting visits, marriages between neighbouring groups and alliances to drive out interlopers or trouble makers were required to keep one’s ancestral fires alight. Over time the gradual pattern of settlement southwards soon saw people from the east and west coasts of the North Island established in Whanganui a Tara, Tōtaranui, Arapaoa, Wairau and even Kaipara Te Hau. 


When Cook arrived in Tōtaranui he met people who were of Kurahaupo origin, the ancestral canoe that had made landfall at Nukutaurua on the Mahia Peninsula. Over time the descendants of the Kurahaupo chief, Whatonga, expanded their territory to include the Wairarapa, Manawatu, Horowhenua, Whanganui a Tara and Raukawakawamoana.  Ngāi Tara and Rangitāne, the descendants of Whatonga’s son and grandson, would eventually enter the South Island via Tōtaranui. Their dominance of the lower North Island as been remembered in names such as ‘Te Whanganui a Tara’ (Port Nicholson) and ‘Te Waewae Kāpiti o Rangitāne raua ko Tara’ (Kāpiti Island). An important Ngāi Tara Chief, Tuteremoana, was buried on the highest point of the island which still carries his name to the present day. His wife, Wharekohu of the Manawatū branch of the Rangitāne, was buried in a cave at the southern end of the Island.


The migration of Rangitāne from the Wairarapa south to Tōtaranui had its beginnings in the classic tale of a fishing expedition gone wrong. Te Huataki, a chief of both Rangitāne and Ngāi Tara lineage, who lived close to Lake Wairarapa at a place called Onoke was caught in a southerly squall that blew him across to the other side of Raukawakawamoana. Huataki and his crew eventually landed in Anamāhanga and were taken in by a  group of Ngāi Tara Pounamu living in the bay. These people derived their name on the basis that they were a branch of Ngāi Tara who resided in the South Island and were closely related to the earlier residents.


While initially suspicious of the motives behind this new group’s sudden arrival into their area, due to his maternal Ngāi Tara lineage Huataki was saved from the fate often reserved for castaways. The people of Anamāhanga were unwilling to harm these new arrivals in case their relatives across the water arrived to repay the unkindness. Huataki and his crew were fed and entertained and shown around the holdings of their new benefactors. The visitors must have been impressed because they did not return to the Wairarapa for some time. 


To encourage the visitors to stay the people of Ngāi Tara Pounamu willingly gave up daughters and nieces for marriage to the men of Rangitāne, averting any potential for bloodshed by ensuring that the rights of both parties would be vested in their children and future descendants. Te Huataki was married to Te Wharepuka, the daughter of reigning chief Te Aomarire. The union between these two chiefly people is imbedded in the Tōtaranui landscape. A prominent peak known as ‘Rahotia’, at the head of Te Whanganui (Port Underwood) and overlooking the entrance to Kura Te Au (Tory Channel) derives its name from the covenant of rights conferred on the descendants of both the marriage partners - ratou o Rangitāne me Ngāi Tara kua rahotia. An adjoining peak is named ‘Te Piripiri o Te Huataki’ and signifies the ascent of Te Huataki into one of the chiefly lines of Ngāi Tara Pounamu. 


That would have been the end of the story but for the desire of some of Huataki’s crew to return to the Wairarapa. Once again Te Huataki set off for the North Island and again was caught in a squall that swept them far out to sea and after some hours riding out the storm managed to land in darkness well short of their destination. The hapless voyagers arrived at the village of Tiotio who was also a distant relative to Te Huataki’s Ngāi Tara mother. After assuring him they meant no harm, the new arrivals sat down and entertained him with stories of their most recent escapades. As dawn broke the rest of the village saw the waka on the beach and rushed up to the old man’s house to see who had arrived in the night. They were relieved to see their chief had come to no harm and on hearing the stories they also expressed an interest to travel south to these rich and less crowded lands. 


After a suitable time had elapsed the party again set out overland for the Wairarapa, this time arriving without incident. During their absence things had changed drastically. The Rangitāne villages surrounding Lake Wairarapa were now under constant pressure from new people who had moved into the area. Eeling grounds were being plundered, weirs were being emptied, waterfowl were being taken without permission and skirmishes were happening all around the rohe. After a while the stories of Te Huataki reminding his people of the better opportunities that awaited them if they moved south began to become more attractive.


Huataki also returned to Te Whanganui a Tara to visit Tiotio and Tukanae who were also interested in travelling to new lands at Arapaoa and Tōtaranui. As a result of these discussions Te Huataki wed the two daughters of Tiotio, Rakai Te Kura and Te Mahinganui, whose families participated in the return the journey south. The six waka were eventually completed and the mammoth task of ferrying the people of the Wairarapa to Tōtaranui began under the leadership of Te Huataki and Te Rerewa of Rangitāne, Te Whakamana, his brother Te Rangitahatiti and Tukanae of Ngāi Tara. Although comprised of both Ngāi Tara and Rangitāne people the expedition was viewed as the Rangitāne migration to the South Island. 


The task of moving a significant number of people across Raukawakawamoana was a huge undertaking that would require considerable organisation and leadership. Essential to the operation were suitable canoes, small fishing waka would not be robust enough for the journey south. Te Huataki and Te Rerewa set in place arrangements cemented by marriage that would ensure the expedition south proceeded in an orderly manner. These were designed to unify the respective chiefs in a plan that would guarantee success. An arrangement was completed that saw the people of the Wairarapa cede lands to the newcomers who in return would construct six ocean going waka. 


The first migration landed at Anamāhanga and after some initial squabbling with the resident Ngāi Tara Pounamu leaders, preparations began to accommodate the remaining migrants. The Rangitāne newcomers settled in relatively quickly and began to spread amongst their relatives of Ngāi Tara Pounamu and Ngāti Mamoe who lived further south. Over time settlements were established on Arapaoa, at Kura Te Au, Waikawa, Waitohi, Kaipupu, Ngakuta, Te Aumiti, Te Taonui o Kupe, Te Koko o Kupe and Te Pokohiwi.


News of the expansive new lands soon travelled back to the remaining people of Whanganui a Tara. Pressure from other iwi in the area saw the sons of Tiotio move south to stay with their in-laws at Arapaoa. This group travelled across under their own leadership and settled in Kaihinu under the mountain where Te Huataki’s father in law, Te Aomarire, was buried. The people who had established themselves on Moioi Island opposite Kaihinu began to treat the Ngāti Tara Pounamu badly, raiding their cultivations and intimidating their fishing parties around the region. Ngāi Tara Pounamu with their greater number initially resisted the urge to expel them from the area and matters worsened. The scuffles continued and eventually some of the new arrivals were killed and their bodies taken away. Unfortunately simmering tensions between the two closely related groups migrant soon escalated into conflict. 


In an effort to both placate their Rangitāne allies and teach the newcomers a lesson, a fish hakari (feast) was held by the Ngāi Tara.  During which the hosts revealed to their guests that their kinsmen had been the bait for the pots in which the fish they were now eating had been caught. The guests were mortified as this was tantamount to them eating their own relatives, and they left vowing to exact revenge for the insult.


Some days later a party of the newcomers were seen sitting in their fishing waka hauling in copious amounts of Blue Cod. When one of the anglers was heard to remark that “the old man’s magic was still working”. Their suspicions aroused, Ngāi Tara ascended to the summit of Kaihinu where they found that the grave of Te Ao Marire had been interfered with and bones removed. It was obvious the newcomers had fashioned the bones of their revered chief into fish hooks, an insult that demanded compensation. And so began a series of battles known as the ‘Fish Hook wars’ between Ngāi Tara and their allies Rangitāne with the newly arrived people of Ngāti Kuri of Ngāi Tahu.


The skirmishes between the parties continued for some time around the various bays of Tōtaranui. Eventually Huataki devised another plan that would finally result in the expulsion of the troublemakers from the area. The chief of the people residing on Moioio, Puraho, would rise religiously at dawn every morning to carry out his morning latrine. Late one night a group of Ngāi Tara came ashore and positioned themselves under the latrine. That morning the old man was skewered on the warriors lances. The villages on Moioi and Kaihinu were then sacked by a combined force of Rangitāne and Ngāi Tara, the survivors being driven out of Tōtaranui into the nearby Wairau where the skirmishing continued. With the expulsion of the troublesome elements from the Tōtaranui region, the people of Ngāi Tara, Rangitāne, and Ngāti Apa set about restoring order to the region. 


The events recounted here occurred not long before the arrival of James Cook in 1770. Some of the observations made by Cook and his crew can certainly be understood when placed against this background. Entries in Cook’s journals record the names of people he encountered; moreover, the genealogical associations of these people also allows for the alignment of traditions of occupation and settlement in the Queen Charlotte and supports the notion of a resident population that readily accommodated visits from kin based groups from other parts of Raukawakawamoana.  


Cecil R. Bradley

Photo : www.andrewdc.co.nz


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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