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History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840

Ngai-Tahu of Mokau

Ngai-Tahu of Mokau.

But there appears to have been in occupation of Mokau, in very early times a tribe that it is certainly very suprising to find here, for, if it is the same, it distinctly belongs to the "Taki-tumu" migration, which settled on the East Coast and in the Middle Island. These people were called Ngai-Tahu. Messrs. W. H. and John Skinner obtained some information about them, which is briefly as follows:—"Ngai-Tahu came to New Zealand prior to the general migration, and mixed with the tangata-whenua people who were then living at Mokau. They lived principally around Mohaka-tino river (two miles south of Mokau) and had a large house there at Waihi. They also occupied a strong pa called Rangi-ohua. Many generations ago—how many the natives do not now know, but Tatana says it was before Rakei's time, and he lived seventeen generations ago—they were attacked by page 108Ngati-Tama, and driven into the fortified pa of Rangi-ohua. Here they were besieged, but by the powers of their incantations—so it is said—they opened a way from the pa by a subterranean passage at a place called Tawhiri, and so the main body escaped, and thence fled to Taupo, afterwards to Ahuriri, Wellington, and subsequently to Nelson and Otago. Only one man named Rokiroki and a woman named Kaea fell into the hands of Ngati-Tama, and from these two are descended several of the families now living at Mokau, such as Mr. Phelp's wife, Te Rera's family, and others. They call themselves Ngai-Tahu. Taiaroa (late chief of the Otago Ngai-Tahu) once laid claim to lands at Mokau, on account of his ancestors having formerly owned lands there, but his claim was disallowed. Rakei, before mentioned, was a descendant of Hape who came over in the 'Tainui' canoe. He married a woman of the 'Toko-maru' canoe, and their daughter, Kiwi-nui, was the mother of Rakei." (From Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. I., p. 227, it will be seen that Rakei—who is the eponymous ancestor of Ngati-Rakei of Mokau—was married to Kara-pinepine, a great grand-daughter of Mateora, one of the crew of the "Tainui," and therefore Rakei must have flourished eighteen or nineteen generations back from the year 1900, i.e., about 1425 to 1450, s.p.s.) "After the Ati-Awa—the descendants of Te Tini-o-Pawa-tiretire—had driven out Ngai-Tahu, they took possession of the whole of the Mokau country, and retained it till Titoko-rangi, a chief of Waikato, (? Ngati-Mania-poto) with his tribe came down and drove them out to beyond Mohaka-tino, and they have retained possession ever since." (See infra on this subject.) "It was not Ngati-Mania-poto who drove out Ngai-Tahu; on this my informants are all agreed."

When at Waitara in March, 1897, with Mr. W. H. Skinner, old Watene Taungatara, a good authority, confirmed to us the fact of the Southern Ngai-Tahu having once lived at Mokau. An old man of Mokau, named Rihari, in January, 1906, also corroborated part of the above story, but said the period of the expulsion was long after the "Tainui's" arrived. The Ngai-Tahu, he said, lived just opposite Mahoe-nui on the Mokau river, and the place where they so mysteriously disappeared is near a rock in the bend of the river there, which the Maoris to this day believe has miraculous powers—if any one touches it a whirlwind springs up at once!

The late Mr. G. T. Wilkinson, Government Native Agent for Waikato, kindly made some inquiries as to the descendants of Ngai-Tahu on the Upper Mokau, and he supplies the following table of descent page 109
Ngai Tahu
Te Kapa-te-Aria
from Kaea to Te Kapa, wife of Te Rangi-tuataka (died at Mahoe-nui, 11th June, 1904) elder brother of the late Wetere-te-Rerenga, principal chief of Mokau.

Mr. Wilkinson adds—"A celebrated canoe was made, or rather commenced but never finished, by Ngai-Tahu at Mokau—it was called 'Whakapau-karakia.' It is said both the pa of Rangi-ohua and the remains of the canoe are to be seen at Mokau at this day." The period of Kaea, however, here given differs considerably from that shown above.

No doubt there is some foundation for this story. A party of people driven-from Mokau may have afterwards formed part of the great Ngai-Tahu tribe; whose main stem, however, must be looked for in their ancestor Tahu-makaka-nui, whose home was at the East Cape, the younger brother of Porou, who was born about 1350, at the time of the heke. (See Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. XV., p. 93.)