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Te Kāhui Kura Māori, Volume 0, Issue 1

PAREHAURAKI: The People of Hauraki

PAREHAURAKI: The People of Hauraki


Te Takoto o te Whenua o Hauraki: Hauraki Landmarks by Taimoana Tūroa is a history of the tribes of the Hauraki district. It is not the history of any particular iwi as much as that of the area itself and the movement and interaction of the many peoples that made Hauraki their home.

Parehauraki is the term by which Tūroa refers to these people who come from several distinct lineages, including Tainui, Arawa and ‘pre fleet’ peoples such as Te Tini-o-Toi. Although the expression Parehauraki has clear Tainui origins, the author employs it in a contemporary pan-iwi sense (2000:43). Tūroa’s work encompasses the narratives of many elders, some of whom speak from under the umbrella of the Parehauraki authority, and others who relate their iwi’s tales regarding interaction with Hauraki tribes.

Te Takoto o te Whenua o Hauraki is primarily concerned with the era prior to contact with Europeans and provides a fascinating window through which many aspects of historical Māori society may be viewed. The focus of this essay is to examine Tūroa’s representation of Māori society, his methodology, and the organizing device by which the material is presented. In view of debates concerning the veracity of tribal histories and traditional accounts of events, the nature and intent of Tūroa’s account will be contrasted and compared with the perspective on pre-European Māori society offered by ethnographies.


Tūroa’s own ancestry is both that of Hauraki and Whanganui. His mother, Arini Tētēkura Paraku, was of Ngāti Tamaterā, a branch of the Marutūahu confederation of tribes which dominated the Hauraki rohe in the 17th and 18th centuries. His father, Rangi Wiari Tūroa, was of an aristocratic Whanganui family related to several iwi of the district, most notably Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi the people of the Whanganui River. It was in the lower North Island among his Whanganui relatives that Tūroa spent most of the early years of his life. Later he was to journey to Hauraki, where he encountered his mother’s people and came into contact with the many elders who were to become contributors to his book (Royal 2000:11).

Tūroa’s interactions with these Hauraki kaumātua are vividly recalled in his introduction to Te Takoto o te Whenua o Hauraki. Among his mother’s people he was absorbed by their lively marae based communities. He was schooled in the deeds and customary stories of Hauraki by listening in on the many debates among the elders of the group as they discussed history deep into the night. “Endless streams of ancestors are conjured forth from the carved panels of these many houses to reinforce and give weight to pertinent points. Waiata are sung, whakapapa is interspersed and appropriate fables and proverbs containing axioms difficult to deny are spoken” (Tūroa 2000:19).

The taonga of Hauraki tūpuna held him in an increasing state of wonder and awe as each chapter of their lives and deeds came into view. The landmarks began to hold a new significance. In his own words this ‘was the beginning of a passionate love affair with Hauraki’ (Tūroa 2000:26).

Ethnographic Methods

It is interesting to note that Tūroa, like many of the early New Zealand ethnographers such as Elsdon Best and Percy Smith, came into contact with much of his primary material through work as a land surveyor (2000:27). However, he worked in a much later era than Best and Smith, during the 1950-70’s (Royal 2000:11). As he traveled the length of New Zealand, Tūroa stayed with many Māori communities, partaking of their hospitality and listening to their accounts of the past as remembered by the kaumātua.

Tūroa kept extensive notebooks in which he recorded detailed descriptions of these stories. Within the context of a broadening realization of the complexity of Māori tribal histories, he began piecing together a comprehensive chronology of Hauraki iwi, that is, Parehauraki. Hauraki tribes, particularly Ngāti Tamaterā, in that 20th century period had continued a reputation of violence and treachery among several tribes such as Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāti Kahungunu, owing to their participation in the musket wars of the 1820-30’s (Tūroa 2000:25,28).

In fact in the author’s introduction Tūroa discloses that when in the district of such traditional enemies, he felt it necessary to downplay the Hauraki branches of his ancestry in order to avoid confronting the long-held sensitivities of his hosts (2000:27). The stories of his own Hauraki iwi and those from iwi in other parts of New Zealand, whom he met during his travels as a surveyor, form the basis of his manuscript. Te Ahukaramā Charles Royal, author of Te Haurapa: An Introduction to Researching Tribal Histories and Traditions (1991) and Tūroa’s kin (see genealogy below) is the editor of Te Takoto o te Whenua o Hauraki and added footnotes here and there in order to elaborate on situations he felt Tūroa was too brief with (see: Royal 2000:11-17 editor’s introduction).

Hauraki Histories

The Hauraki rohe encompasses the entire Coromandel Peninsula, the Hauraki plains, the land bordering Tīkapa Moana-o-Hauraki (the Hauraki Gulf) as far north as Cape Rodney, and the gulf islands including Rangitoto, Waiheke, Hauturu and Aotea. Bordered by Tāmaki in the north, Waikato to the west and Tauranga in the south, Hauraki is rich in natural resources on account of a great diversity in the landscape. The high mountain ranges of Te Paeroa-o-Toitehuatahi (the Coromandel Range) and Te Hapū-a-Kohe (the Hapuakohe Range) which delineates the south-western boundary were (prior to extensive logging initiated by European settlers) cloaked in virgin forest. Kauri, kahikatea and other big timber species predominated the forests and fruiting species such as puriri and miro attracted birds like kereru, kokako, korimako and tui (Monin 2001:9).

The flat swamplands of the Hauraki plains, with its many waterways, provided uninterrupted passage to the southern inland reaches of the rohe, as well as extensive stocks of eels and other fresh water and estuarine fauna and fertile tracts of land ideal for cultivation. In addition, Hauraki comprises some 500km of irregular coastline, boasting vast fishing grounds, as well as bays, inlets and headlands providing a variety of situations for pā and kāinga. Owing to the ready access by water, temperate climate and abundance of available resources, Hauraki was one of the first areas to be settled by the Polynesian voyagers some thousand years ago (Monin 2001:10). Indeed, the legendary explorers Kupe and Toi-te-huatahi were visitors to Hauraki and conferred their names on geographical features such as Te Paeroa-o-Toitehuatahi (the long mountain range of Toi) and Te Whitianga-o-Kupe (the crossing of Kupe). According to Tūroa this is interpreted as ‘the arrival place of Kupe after having crossed over from Hawaiki’ (2000:185)).

Tūroa relates the histories of Hauraki iwi, their origins and settlement patterns, the alliances formed and the wars fought both among themselves and with iwi of other districts. According to the narratives, Ngāti Hako were the earliest of the extant Hauraki peoples, and are believed to be the remnants of the tribe Te Tini-o-Toi, formed of Toi-te-huatahi’s people intermarrying with the aboriginal Maruiwi (Tūroa 2000:48). Following the expansion of these ‘Toi-tangata’ peoples in Hauraki, came new settlers from Hawaiki following the course set by Kupe. The Arawa and Tainui canoes, believed to have arrived in new land in the 1300’s, came in close succession and were destined to play major roles in Hauraki history (Monin 2001:12). Arawa peoples, from their strongholds in Te Moana-a-Toitehuatahi (Bay of Plenty) ventured north and carved out niches for themselves in Hauraki, forming the once powerful Ngāti Huarere, and Ngāti Hei.

These early Arawa peoples are believed to have coexisted fairly peacefully with the Toi-tangata, intermarriage leading to their eventual absorption by the Arawa lineage. Some Toi-tangata survived by withdrawing to the southern parts of the Hauraki domain such as Te Waitangi-o-Hinemuri, Te Aroha and Wai-hīhī, there forming the modern Ngāti Hako line. Tainui peoples too, established a small presence in Hauraki from initial landings of the Tainui waka; the Ngāi Tai in Tāmaki and Ngā Marama at Whakatiwai. Later, from their base in Waikato, Tainui people began extending their territory into Hauraki. Te Uri-o-Pou was established early on the western shores of Tīkapa Moana by intermarriage with, and assimilation of Toi-tangata there. Ngāti Tara, from the South-Waikato followed, moving into Ngāti Hako territory and challenging them at Te Waitangi-o-Hinemuri .

Then, in the 17th century, Marutūahu, a Tainui descendent based at Kāwhia, began a campaign for personal revenge on the Te Uri-o-Pou for their disrespectful treatment of his father, Hotunui (Tūroa 2000:59-60; Monin 2001:12). The fierce and unrelenting assault on Hauraki people continued over several generations, Marutūahu’s descendents, the Marutūahu confederation, rising to almost complete domination in Hauraki (Tūroa 2000:31). The major tribes of the confederation are Ngāti Rongo-u, Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Whanaunga, Ngāti Maru and Tūroa’s own Ngāti Tamaterā (Tūroa 2000:60). Their 200 year long campaign of the Marutūahu confederation is perhaps the most well known episode in Hauraki history. The descendents of Marutūahu had interests in all corners of the Hauraki rohe on the eve of European contact (Monin 2001:13).

Historical Narratives

In addition to relating events and movements of the people, Tūroa has focused on the places and landmarks of Hauraki. With each entry recorded under its traditional title, he gives a description of the type, location and map reference of the place, listing the tribes who have had claim there as well as providing an account of events and individuals associated with it. Tribal histories such as Te Takoto o te Whenua o Hauraki necessarily follow the conventions of traditional Māori narrative. That is, a chronological recount of those people, places and events considered significant by the narrator. The central structure is based on whakapapa reflecting the backbone of Māori society. Handed down through family lines, whakapapa extends over many generations emphasizing feats of individuals and generations relative to the particular lineage.

Tūroa includes many diagrammatic representations linking the narrators back to their noteworthy ancestors in Te Takoto o te Whenua o Hauraki (as an example Tūroa’s relationship with the editor is included above and demonstrates their common descent from Tamaterā). The nature of such historical narratives does tend exclude preservation of the histories of non-dominant groups when conquest, intermarriage or settlement occurs. Thus in the course of history information may become condensed or lost. Tūroa has collected all the references from iwi in many areas pertaining to Hauraki and significant figures in Hauraki history. Because of this the overall narrative of his compilation does not offer an overly one-sided account of events or favour the perspective of his own iwi.

Historical Traditions

As a collection of traditions relating to a district rather than one iwi there is a degree of separation between Tūroa’s work and that of other tribal historians, in that many of the events, particularly those concerning intertribal conflicts, include the point of view of both the iwi of concern and the out group. He writes in an interested but emotionally detached manner, committing to getting the traditional accounts recorded as a resource for the future. In this respect Tūroa comes with an approach similar to those of many ethnographers. In general, tribal histories usually differ from ethnographical accounts in that they represent insider perspectives on the society under investigation.

This can be perceived as an advantage or disadvantage owing to the prerequisite level of cultural comprehension required by the reader of tribal histories. In contrast to the content of ethnographical work, they offer rather little detail concerning the day-to-day reality of the people. Whereas ethnographers pay particular attention to description of social organization, belief systems, material culture, the routines of daily life and the technologies used, tribal histories focus primarily on key events and assumes that the listener already knows full well what goes on in daily Māori society. Furthermore the author of a tribal history does not attempt to impose their own theories on to the raw material, allowing iwi to be the authority of their own pasts.

In difference to tribal histories, ethnography is concerned with the formation of theories of origin and development in a manner aligned with the fundamental dogma of science. That is, that theoretical rationale must be developed from the observation, identification, description and experimental investigation of phenomena and that this method is the ultimate way to know truth. Thus as scientists, ethnologists frequently seek to put rational explanations to whakapapa and myths which exposes Māori traditions to the distorting lens of another culture and creates a researcher/researched dynamic (see: Nakata 2007; Smith 1999). At times this presents a rather condescending view of Māori society.

Tribal Histories and Ethnography

Clearly then the main point of difference between tribal histories and tribal ethnography, is that of intellectual intention. Tribal histories seek to record the tribe’s version of their history. To doubt the veracity of a tribal history according to the conventions of science seems to be a moot point because they are the product of society that does not subscribe to scientific framework in the western, modernist sense.

Tūroa’s work in certain respects encompasses aspects of both tribal histories and ethnography. He has collected and recorded the stories associated with Parehauraki in meticulous detail and from the perspective of a neutral observer in the same manner as would ethnographers and, like many ethnographers, he sought to record Māori traditions out of concern they may become lost. Unlike them however, Tūroa writes as a direct inheritor of the history. By writing it down Tūroa makes a contribution to the continuation of his culture, handing the traditional information of his ancestors on to the following generations, as Māori have always done.