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The Coming of the Maori

The Naming of Family Groups

The Naming of Family Groups

Mention has been made that the expanded family groups of the first settlers were named after ancestors with the prefix Tini as in the Tini o Maruiwi. Later groupings received descriptive names without a prefix as in the Purukupenga and Waiohua. Later again the prefix Kahui was used as in the Kahui-maunga.

The terminology used in the third settlement period consisted usually of a prefix applied to the name of the ancestor from whom the group traced their descent. The prefixes varied with Ati, Nga, Ngai, and Ngati. The tribal prefix Ati occurred in Tahiti in early times but appears to have been dropped in more recent times. It occurs in Maori legends relating to Hawaiki, such as in the story of the Atihapai, but it was also dropped in New Zealand apparently in favour of the Nga variations. It survives in Taranaki in the name of the Atiawa tribe. The other prefixes are variations of the plural demonstrative adjective nga and carry the meaning of the descendants of the ancestor indicated by the prefix. Of the three forms, Ngati is by far the most used, and the others seem to have been used for euphony. Thus we have Ngati Porou, Ngaitahu, and Ngapuhi. In most tribal names, the eponymous ancestor is a male but instances occur in which the ancestor selected is a female, as in the Ngati Ruanui of Taranaki.

Some tribes have kept the biological family term of whanau as a designation for the tribal group as in the Whanau a Apanui of the Bay of Plenty. Others have used the term aitanga, the noun formed from the verb ai (to produce, to copulate) as in the Aitanga a Hauiti of the east coast. Both Whanau and Aitanga, associated with an ancestral name, stress the blood tie of birth descent from that ancestor.

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A number of tribes adopted the ancestral name without any prefix, as in Tuhourangi of Rotorua, Rongowhakaata of Poverty Bay, Manukorihi of Waitara, and Tuhoe of the Urewera district. Others again have adopted a name from a historical event, as the Aupouri (au, smoke; pouri, dark) of North Auckland, whose ancestors vacated their beseiged fort in the Whangape district under a smoke screen created by burning bracken fern. Such a name may have been accepted to avoid conflict in selecting a chiefly name from among a number whose descendants felt they had equal rights to the honour. The name of the Rarawa tribe of North Auckland is held to have been derived from the action of an ancestor in eating the flesh of an exhumed enemy (kai rarawa) in order to heap disgrace on the enemy line. In recent times, a direct descendant of the Rarawa ancestor referred to some other chiefs as not belonging to the Rarawa tribe because they were not descended from the particular ancestor whose action gave rise to the name. The other chiefs immediately selected one of their own ancestors, named Kahu, as an eponymous ancestor and declared tiemselves independent of the Rarawa as the newly organized tribe of Ngati Kahu.

The first family group which expanded in a certain locality adopted a group name from a common ancestor, usually the first leader of the group. When the locality became overcrowded, it was usually a junior family which moved out under their own leader. The moving family would be referred to as the whanau, or family, of that leader. When it expanded into a sub-tribe, the whanau name became a hapu name. A similar process occurred in the development of other sub-tribes. The senior group, which remained in the first locality settled, had no need to adopt a new name for it retained the group name from the original first leader. Thus, though the first group name became a tribal name, it also denoted the senior sub-tribe which remained at the original headquarters of the tribe. The Ngati Awa tribe of the Bay of Plenty has a number of sub-tribes, but the group residing at the original landing place of Whakatane also retained Ngati Awa as a group name.

Life flowed on; new tribes developed, and old names were dropped. Turi, the commander of the Aotea, belonged to the Ngati Rongotea tribe in Hawaiki but in New Zealand, his descendants through his daughter Ruanui adopted her name in the tribal name of Ngati Ruanui but his descendants through his eldest son Turangaimua assumed the tribal name of Ngarauru from one of Turi's ancestors. The people inhabiting the thermal district of Rotorua were known originally as Ngaohomata-kamokamo, but that name was abandoned after the development of the present tribes. My own family group is descended from a tribe known as Ngati Kahukura; but when the descendants of Mutunga increased in numbers, they adopted the name of Ngati Mutunga and dropped the page 336earlier name of Ngati Kahukura. The birth of new names and the death of old ones were a natural result of changes in population.

Though sentiment served as a link between tribes whose ancestors came in the same voyaging canoe, there is only one instance in which the canoe name was actually used in current speech as a term to include a number of tribes. This, however, occurred in post-European times during the period when Sir George Grey was Governor of New Zealand. When Sir George was collecting information concerning Maori legendary history, his informants of the Ngati Whakaue tribe of Ohinemutu very naturally stressed the importance of their own tribe in the history relating to the Arawa canoe. The neighbouring tribes of Ngati Rangiwewehi, Ngati Uenukukopako, Tuhourangi, Ngati Pikiao, and others who were all descended from tile crew of the Arawa felt that they were being left out of the historical record and being submerged under the name of Ngati Whakaue. To obviate the dissatisfaction, a general name to include the tribes on equal terms was sought and the canoe name, Te Arawa, adopted. Thus Te Arawa is a federation of the tribes extending from Lake Rotorua to Maketu on the coast and claiming descent from members of the crew of the Arawa. The descendants of Ngatoroirangi, the priest of the Arawa, are merged in the Ngati Tuwharetoa of Lake Taupo, which is independent of the Arawa federation.

A number of related tribes have been grouped together under a territorial term, as it saves enumerating a number of tribal names some of which are little known to outside tribes. Such are the Waikato and Whanganui tribes which inhabit the valleys of these rivers. The Whanganui tribes refer to themselves under the embracing name of Te Atihau o Paparangi. Another tribe has the name of Taranaki, which was also applied to Mount Egmont, which is in their territory. The name was afterwards applied by the European settlers to the provincial district of Taranaki.

Some tribes have attributed their descent to two canoes and the origin of some tribes is doubtful. In the intertribal wars which took place after the introduction of firearms, some tribes moved out of their original territory and occupied new areas. The Ngati Toa under Te Rauparaha vacated Kawhia and enlisted the aid of the Atiawa and Ngati Raukawa tribes in conquering territory in the Wellington district The Ngati Raukawa occupied land at Otaki and Horowhenua, the Atiawa at Waikanae and the present city of Wellington and Petone, and the Ngati Toa at Porirua. These tribes also crossed to the South Island and conquered territory in the Marlborough and Nelson districts. The Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama tribes of the Atiawa confederation also crossed to Chatham Island and dispossessed the Moriori inhabitants.

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The following list gives the main tribes claiming descent from the historic canoes, and the districts they occupy.