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The Coming of the Maori

The Whatonga Expedition

The Whatonga Expedition

Whatonga and Turahui had forged well ahead of the other contestants in the canoe race at Pikopikoiwhiti and were about to turn when the heavy squall came off the land and drove the vessel away to the deep page 25ocean. Night came on and during it and the next day, they ran before the wind. At night a fog closed down and direction was lost. Happily, when the fog lifted the next day, they saw an island ahead. They were hospitably received when they landed and Rangiatea, the ariki of the island, gave his daughter in marriage to Turahui. He also provided Whatonga and the members of the crew with wives. And so they settled down for a time at least. In a further reference, the name of the island was also given as Rangiatea. The inhabitants of Rangiatea (81, p. 105) were described as forming three types and the physical characters of each type were enumerated in detail with the same facility that characterized the description of the impossible first settlers.

A highly imaginative episode now follows. After the departure of Toi, the mother of Turahui further consulted the priests for news of her son. The priests decided to send Turahui's pet bird, a green-breasted cuckoo (wharauroa) named Te Kawa, to search for its owner. A string knotted to convey a message (tau ponapona) was tied around the bird's neck and it was sent on its way with a blessing. It reached Rangiatea and alighted on the roof of a house. Seeing its master below, it called down, "Are you Turahui?" Receiving an affirmative reply, the gifted bird alighted on Turahui's shoulder. Turahui removed the knotted cord and read the message, which ran as follows (81, pp. 84,105):

Kei te ora koutou? Kei tewhea motu koutou?
Are you alive? At what island are you?

Another knotted cord was sent back with the bird with the following message, "We are all alive at Rangiatea." The bird flew off towards the east and the direction was noted.

Whatonga, Turahui and their men with their wives and families set out in six canoes on the course indicated by the bird. They were met by the bird with another knotted message asking if they would return. The canoes finally arrived back at Hawaiki where they were welcomed with all the detail characteristic of Maori receptions. Whatonga asked the priests to create a solar halo (kura-hau-awatea) and a lunar halo (kura-hau-po) to inform the people of Rangiatea that they had arrived safely.

In this story, it would appear that if Rangiatea was the present Ra'iatea, the Hawaiki from which Whatonga set out and to which he returned, was Tahiti. In the Tahitian legends, Hawaiki was the old name of Ra'iatea. As Ra'iatea is little over 100 miles from Tahiti, and Whatonga made it on the second day after the race, this part of the story may have some grain of fact. However, it is curious that Toi did not search the islands of the Society group before he set out for New Zealand. The selection of a cuckoo to perform the functions of a carrier pigeon may have been induced by a knowledge of the migratory habits of that bird.

page 26

The use of a knotted cord to convey messages is somewhat startling. The Marquesans used a mnemonic device (ta'o mata) of sennit with a knot for each generation in a lineage much as the Maoris used a genealogical stick (rakau whakapapa) with knobs to represent the generations. The Hawaiian tax collectors kept a tally of the taxes to be paid in dogs, hogs, and other commodities by tying loops, knots, and tufts of various sizes and colours to lines of cordage. These three devices, however, were for numerical counts and could not convey any other form of message. The scribe (81, p. 104) who explained the technique of the knotted cord to Percy Smith, stated that knots spaced from the tip of the finger to the first joint, the second joint, the knuckle joint, and the wrist joint, conveyed four different messages. The only message he could remember was that the spacing from the finger tip to the first joint meant, "How are you all getting on?". This rather conveniently explains the first part of the message from Hawaiki but the scribe could not explain how to send such a message as "We are at Rangiatea". The whole story appears to be pure fiction and one wonders if the scribe had included it in the tradition after hearing about the Peruvian quipu.

Whatonga fitted out a voyaging canoe named Te Hawai to search in turn for his grandfather Toi. The canoe hull had three blunt joins (haumi tuporo), 26 thwarts (taumanu), two bailing places (puna wai), and two anchors. Wash boards (pairi) were added to the bow and it was painted with red ochre (kokowai whenua) mixed with shark oil. A crew of 66 experienced men were given appointed places in the canoe. The canoe name was changed to Kurahaupo in memory of the lunar sign which had been given to Rangiatea. The vessel was launched after the appropriate religious ritual.

Whatonga and his younger cousin Mahutonga occupied the place of honour in the stern. Mahutonga was the priest of the canoe and had charge of the gods, Maru, Tunuiateika, and Ruamano. The gods were evidently in the form of material symbols and, though the tradition does not state their form, Percy Smith (81, p. 110) inferred that they were images. Various chiefs are mentioned, among them being Tamaahua and his wives, Ruatea and his wife, Hatauira, Maungaroa, Taramanga, Tokaroa, and Popoto. Popoto had charge of the bow anchor and the bow uplifting paddle (hoe-whakaara).

The Kurahaupo reached Rarotonga, where Whatonga was informed that Toi had gone on to the land of the high mists. Ruatea decided to remain in Rarotonga, but Whatonga decided to follow in the wake of Toi. Land was finally sighted at Muriwhenua (North Cape) and after catching some fish, the Kurahaupo sailed down the west coast as far as Tongaporutu. Here Whatonga went ashore to make inquiries from the local settlers. A woman of the Tini o Pananehu people informed him that page 27Toi was living on the east side of the island and that it would not take long to reach that part if he travelled overland. However, Whatonga decided to sail round the northern end of the island and complete his quest by canoe. Thereupon Maungaroa, Hatauira, Korehewa, Moko, Pou, Te Auaha and some others decided to remain at Tongaporutu. Having rounded the North Cape, Whatonga and his men went ashore at a place they named Otuako after one of their crew who had died.

Sufficient food having been gathered, the Kurahaupo moved down the east coast and arrived at Moharuru (Maketu), where they saw smoke arising ashore. They landed and were hospitably received by the settlers of Pananehu and Taitawaro stock. The local chief, Matakana, gave 50 girls in marriage to Whatonga's party, who were men selected for their fine physique and strength and were greatly desired as husbands by the local women. On inquiring about Toi, the people pointed east to the headland of Kōhi, saying that there was a river (Whakatane) there and on the high ground on its far bank was the home of Toi. Thereupon, Whatonga passed along the coast to Kaputerangi, where grandfather and grandson were reunited and the long search happily ended.

By this time, Toi's own people had waxed numerous, because his men had taken two and three wives each from the local people. The young men captured in a previous battle had been incorporated into Toi's tribe which adopted the name of the Tini o Awanuiarangi from one of Toi's grandsons as shown in the following genealogy:

The Tini o Awanuiarangi tribe subsequently split into two divisions. One division remained at Whakatane with Toi and became the present Ngati Awa of that district. The other division moved off through Hawkes Bay and finally settled in Taranaki where they became the Atiawa of the present day. This is an east coast version which is not held by the Atiawa.

Whatonga also decided to move owing to overcrowding in the Whakatane district. The Kurahaupo canoe was launched and voyaged south to Turanga (Poverty Bay) where Mahutonga and Popoto settled.

Whatonga had three wives and one named Hotuwaipara gave birth to a son whom she named Tara because she had pricked her finger with a fish spine (tara) shortly before he was born. Through another wife named Reretua, Whatonga had a grandson named Rangitane. Tara and page 28Rangitane with their forces defeated the Tini o Ruatamore in Hawkes Bay. Tara and his people, evidently accompanied by his father and mother, moved on to the area around the present Wellington Harbour which was given the name of Whanganui a Tara (Great harbour of Tara). His tribe took the name of Ngaitara and it also occupied Porirua and the islands of Kapiti and Mana. Tara, Whatonga, and Hotuwaipara are said to have been buried in a cave named Wharekohu on Kapiti Island.

The descendants of Rangitane under the tribal name of Rangitane occupied country in Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Horowhenua, Otaki, and Paekakariki. This is the Matorohanga version of the origin of the Rangitane as descended from Whatonga, the commander of the Kurahaupo canoe which came to New Zealand in the time of Toi. A different account states that the Rangitane claim descent from ancestors who came in the Kurahaupo two centuries later with the Fleet.

Confusion has arisen through two canoes bearing the name of Kurahaupo. Percy Smith (79, p. 162) states that Te Moungaroa was the chief and priest of the Kurahaupo canoe which formed one of the Fleet. Associated with Te Moungaroa is the charming story of Wharematangi, son of Ngarue, and his magic dart. According to a Taranaki lineage (79, p. 103), Ngarue was a son of Te Moungaroa and the lineage numbers only 17 generations back from 1900 A.D. Ngarue lived at Waitara in Taranaki and on a visit to Awakino further north, he married Urutekakara, said to be a daughter of Raumati who set fire to the Arawa canoe. While living in a temporary shelter on a cultivation, the local people made disparaging remarks about Ngarue living on other people's land. Ngarue, deeply offended, decided to return to Waitara. Before leaving, he told Urutekakara, who was pregnant, the name to give to the son or daughter when it was born. A son was born and named Wharematangi (House open to the wind) after the shelter on the cultivation. To cut a long story short, Wharematangi, by means of repeatedly casting a magic dart, was guided to his father's home at Waitara and acknowledged.

There seems little doubt that Te Moungaroa and the magic dart story links up with the Kurahaupo canoe which came with the Fleet in about 1350 A.D. However, Te Matorohanga (81, p. 119) states that Maungaroa was one of the crew of the Kurahaupo commanded by Whatonga in about 1150 A.D. and that he was disembarked at Tongaporutu on the west coast where he married a local woman named Torohanga. They had a son named Ngarue who married Urutekakara and their son named Wharematangi found his father Ngarue at Waitara by means of a magic dart. The version given by Percy Smith is the Taranaki one and as the Waitara people claim descent from Ngarue and had a large meeting house named Ngarue, it is more likely to be correct.

Te Matorohanga also included Te Hatauira as a member of the crew page 29of the first Kurahaupo but the Taranaki tribe claim him as an ancestor who came in the second Kurahaupo which is supported by a genealogy (79, p. 105) of only 20 generations.

It is thus evident that the Matorohanga school in order to add detail to their narrative of Whatonga have transferred some well-known Taranaki ancestors from the Kurahaupo of the Fleet to the Kurahaupo of Whatonga. Knowing that Te Maungaroa and Te Hatauira were west coast ancestors, Whatonga's canoe was deflected to Tongaporutu to unload them and men Whatonga had to sail round the North Cape to reach the Bay of Plenty area with which Maori tradition associated him.