Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Chapter I — “Tribes of the Rising Sun”

page 1

Chapter I
“Tribes of the Rising Sun”

Toi People Preceded by Mouriuri—Mystery Stone Anchor—Historic Migrations to Other Districts—Famous “House of Learning” at Uawa.

According to Elsdon Best (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Vol. 48, p. 435 and The Gisborne Times, 23 December, 1925) portions of the North Island, including Poverty Bay and the East Coast, were first settled by folk whom he calls “Mouriur” or “Maruiwi.” They were, he says, descendants of the crews of three canoes which reached the Taranaki coast from “Horanui-a-Tau,” their homeland, and spread round the North Cape at least as far as Poverty Bay. It was his opinion that they were of mixed Polynesian-Melanesian extraction. The Toi people (who landed in New Zealand in the twelfth century) intermarried with them and, consequently, the inhabitants whom the settlers by the Pilgrim Fleet in the fourteenth century found in New Zealand were of mixed Mouriuri-Toi descent.

Evidence that representatives of more than one branch of the Pacific peoples reached New Zealand in early times is afforded by the physical and cultural differences which distinguished the now extinct Moriori from the Maori. Noteworthy also is the presence of the dark Melanesian strain among the Ngai-Tama-whiro, who made their abode near the Rangitaiki River, and among the East Cape natives. In the Urewera Country, where a fair strain is found, Best says that, in 1877, he also saw some natives who had Fijian-like heads of frizzy hair. That the Pilgrim Fleet brought immigrants bearing such a wide variety of physical characteristics seems unlikely. Nor is it certain that the admixture of Maori and Mouriuri-Toi blood could have produced such a wide range of results.

Best claimed that, although the Maoris of the East Coast districts lay great stress on their descent from the immigrants who arrived about the middle of the fourteenth century, they must, nevertheless, be principally of Mouriuri-Toi blood: that is to say, that the coming of a few hundred immigrants to settle among a numerous population of the Mouriuri-Toi tribes could not have furnished later generations with more than a small proportion of the blood of the later migration. He added:

“Possibly, there was some effect in relation to character and mental powers consequent upon the immigrants by Horouta and Takitimu intermarrying with the Toi folk. In any event, the Maoris of Poverty Bay and of the East Coast are, assuredly, a superior type. We have page 2 to thank them for the preservation of most interesting accounts of old-time Maori beliefs, usages and ritual and, fortunately, this important information has found its way into the printed works of the pakeha.”

Poverty Bay Canoe-Anchor

Although not a single authentic pre-Maori relic has ever been found in Poverty Bay or on the East Coast, much interest centres upon a stone-anchor in the Dominion Museum listed as the “Poverty Bay Canoe-anchor.” It consists of two ornate lobes, joined across the middle. What is most remarkable about it is that an unusual type of human face is carved on each lobe. The faces are of identical design even to the out-thrust tongues, which point in the same direction. Facial adornment is of a very low order, being limited to single spirals on the cheeks, spirals on chin, and certain tattoo-like lines on the forehead. Dr. W. R. B. Oliver considers the faces identical with those on the statues found on Easter Island. (See The Mystery of Easter Island, Mrs. Routledge, 1920, Figs. 31 and 67.)

W. J. Phillipps, of the Dominion Museum staff, to whom the author was indebted for photographs and these particulars of the anchor, says that he was given to understand that a collector met a native at an hotel near Gisborne. Their conversation turned to the question as to whether there were any ancient relics in the district. The native went home, dug up the anchor from his backyard, and presented it to the visitor. Inquiries in Poverty Bay have failed to throw any further light on the subject.

All the stories that have been handed down concerning the Pilgrim Fleet vary and are, at best, very imperfect. A much-debated point is: “Were Takitimu and Horouta two separate canoes, or only one vessel known, at first, by the former name and, afterwards, by the latter designation?” Some writers claim that Takitimu, before she left Hawaiki, was rechristened Horouta because of her fast-sailing qualities. Others, again, contend that Takitimu was a sacred canoe and that, as food could not be carried on her, she was sailed in company with Horouta. On the East Coast, the general belief is that the canoes were not identical and that they journeyed separately.

There is also a wide range of beliefs as to who commanded Takitimu. In Poverty Bay and on the East Coast, Kiwa is usually named as her captain. Best suggests that Tamatea-pokai-whenua (father of Kahungunu) was in charge of her. Taylor (New Zealand and Its Inhabitants) held that Tamatea-hua-tahi-nuku-roa was the chief. In a tradition given to J. E. Dalton, it is stated that the commander was Paikea (also known as “Kahutia-te-Rangi”); that he landed at Whangara, and went back to Hawaiki page 3 and did not return. Kahutia-te-Rangi was the name of the sea monster which, other accounts state, carried Paikea on its back to New Zealand. However, Judge Gudgeon (Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 5) says that Paikea married Hotu-Rangi, a daughter of Whironui, who had arrived by Nukutere and had settled at East Cape earlier, and that from Porourangi and his brother Tahu-potiki (descendants of Paikea) sprang all the tribes of the East Coast and of the South Island.

Little or no support can be found on the East Coast to-day for the contention upheld by John White in Ancient History of the Maori, that the ancestors of the Poverty Bay and East Coast tribes all came by Takitimu (or Takitumu). In Vikings of the Sunrise, Sir Peter Buck says that the immigrants by Horouta settled between Cape Runaway and Poverty Bay, and that those who came by Takitimu occupied the seaboard between Poverty Bay and Wellington. Sir A. T. Ngata (Echoes of the Pa, pp. 7 and 8) holds that the Ngati-Porou regard Takitimu as “an unimportant canoe,” which came to New Zealand after Horouta. Takitimu merely coasted along, dropping, here and there, a few people, whose blood became mixed with that of the Horouta immigrants. Incidentally, he describes Kahungunu and his contemporaries as belonging to “a comparatively modern generation.” At Whangara in April, 1939, Sir Apirana remarked: “This site is the landing-place of the first Maoris who settled the East Coast. The canoe from which they landed is not so well known as Horouta and Takitimu because it has not had so much publicity.”

An Illustrious Couple

In an address to the Rotary Club of Gisborne in 1934, Captain W. T. Pitt said that, when the canoe Takitimu called in at Nukutaurua (Mahia) her captain (Kiwa) left her and, with a small party, set off overland for Turanga (Poverty Bay). There he met Paoa, Horouta's captain. To celebrate the occasion they agreed that Kahutuanui (Kiwa's son) should wed Hine-a-Kua (Paoa's daughter). The descendants of this illustrious couple married with the issue of Paikea (who was reputed to have journeyed to New Zealand on the back of a whale); with those of Maia (who was said to have crossed the seas on a gourd), and with the Toi people. When the seventh generation was reached, the head chief was Ruapani, in whom converged all the lines of Maori greatness. Ruapani had three wives and, in all, twenty-five children. Among those who could claim descent from him were Te Kani-a-Takirau, Heuheu, Te Rauparaha, Tomoana, Te Kooti, Wi Pere, Sir J. Carroll, Sir Maui Pomare, Sir A. T. Ngata, and other prominent Maori leaders.

page 4

During the investigation, on 6 July, 1875, into the ownership of the blocks situate along the seafront on the western side of the Turanganui River, Judge Rogan held that the original proprieter was Kiwa. He also laid it down that, in the fifteenth century, Ruapani was the head chief of the district. He added:

“Little or nothing is known of the people who occupied Poverty Bay for nearly two hundred years after Ruapani's day. The next chief who appeared as proprietor was Te Nonoi, from whom both claimants and counter-claimants have traced their descent…. The history of the widespread wars which were carried on by the forefathers of the people in court reveals that the country at that time was in a frightful state of anarchy and confusion. It is hardly necessary for me to add that the original cause was a woman.”

Writing in Te Waka Maori o Aotearoa (March, 1878) the Rev. Mohi Turei, who was a noted authority on the Ngati-Porou clan, refers to Horouta as “the canoe in which our [the Ngati-Porou] ancestors came from Hawaiki.” Before she left the old homeland, her crew were warned not to put fernroot with the kumaras, lest the kumara god should get angry. When she reached Ahuahu (one of the Mercury Islands), a woman named Kanawa took some fernroot on board unbeknown to the priests. A great storm arose, and, at Ohiwa, the canoe was swept on to the bar and damaged.

Whilst some of the crew remained behind to repair the vessel, the others, in two parties, set off for the south. Pouheni and his sacred band journeyed via the coast; the others, including the women, proceeded by an inland route, leaving the beach at Kereu and coming out again on the coast at Tuparoa, Anaura and elsewhere. Nepia Pohuhu told John White (Legendary History of the Maoris, 1880) that tradition stated that, when the party which had travelled by the inland route reached Whangara, Pouheni's band were lying about, apparently lifeless from lack of food. Their jaws were forced open with a piece of wood and they were revived.

Upon being repaired with timber said to have been procured from Maungahaumi, Horouta was sailed down the coast and beached at Muriwai in Poverty Bay. Nepia Pohuhu says that the kumaras which were on board were planted at Manawaru (near Manutuke) by Hine Hakirirangi, and that they were the first to be grown in New Zealand. Another story, however, credits Pou-Rangahua with having made a voyage from New Zealand. to Hawaiki on the back of the whale “Ruanuku” to obtain the first kumaras that were cultivated in the new land. Pou was flown back by the Great Bird of Ruakapanga, which was afterwards slain by a dread ogre known as Tama-i-waho, who lived on Mt. page 5 Hikurangi. The kumaras brought by Pou are also stated to have been planted at Manawaru.

Naming of Turanga

There is (Elsdon Best says) one tradition that seems to indicate that Poverty Bay was occupied, albeit but sparsely, by Mouriuri during Toi's lifetime. It states that, shortly after Whatonga reached New Zealand and had found Toi dwelling at Whakatane, he resolved to seek a home for himself and his followers. As they were about to leave in the Kurahaupo, Toi said to their leader:

“Farewell! When you see a bay trending inward to the north-west, wherein are two rivers, one at the southern end of the sandy beach, and the other at the other end of the beach where it trends westward, a bald cliff south of the southern river, a ridge on the eastern side of the other river, the outspread (hora) land lying between the two rivers, a range to the south-west and one to the eastward—when you see this lay of the land, then that is the place where I stopped (halted) out at sea and inspected the place from my vessel. Now do you make your home here, for human occupation is scattered, as it also is farther south. When you enter the bay, turn your face to the south and you will see the point of land I spoke of projecting outward. Now do you name it ‘Turanga’ for me in memory of my turanga (halting) out on the ocean.”

This story, with some topographical variations, was obtained by J. M. Jury in Poverty Bay in 1840, and was published by his son, H. T. Whatahora, in the Journal of the Polynesian Society (December, 1913). However, the Maoris of Poverty Bay do not agree with Best and Whatahora that the district was ever known as “Turanga-nui-o-Toi.” They claim that it was named “Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa (after Kiwa, captain of Takitimu canoe). Several stories have been handed down as to the circumstances in which the designation “Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa” was bestowed. One states that a canoe in which a son of Kiwa was fishing was blown out to sea and did not regain the land. The distraught father was unable to realize that he had lost his son. Day after day, he would stand on the beach, near the mouth of the Turanganui River, gazing seaward and always hoping that his son would return. On that account, the spot became known as “Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa” (“The long standing-place of Kiwa”), and was subsequently adopted as the name for the district. In another story, the district is stated to have received the name because it was the locality in which Kiwa halted after he had set out on foot from Mahia to explore the land higher up the coast.

Another name which the district is said to have borne is “Turanga-nui-a-Rua.” Best was of the opinion that the Rua so honoured might have been Ruawharo, one of the principal chiefs page 6 of Takitimu; or Rua-te-Hohonu, a reputed ancestor of the Rongowhakaata tribe, of Turanga; or even Ruapani, the eponymic ancestor of Ngati-Ruapani. He added that the Maoris of Poverty Bay hold that the Rua in question was Ruamatua, a famed chief of Hawaiki, whose island was named “Tawhiti-nui-a-Ruamatua.”

Migrations from East Coast

There were, it seems, several migrations from Poverty Bay and the East Coast during, and subsequent to, the turbulent times referred to by Judge Rogan (supra). As a sequel to the slaying of Kahutapere's twins (Taraku-ita and Taraki-tai) at the instigation of Rakai-hiku-roa and, in turn, of the slaying of Tupurupuru (Rakai-hiku-roa's son), a section of the Poverty Bay people left, or was expelled from the district and settled in Hawke's Bay, where it eventually spread far and wide.

The murder of Taraku-ita and Taraki-tai arose out of jealousy on the part of Rakai-hiku-roa, who was determined that they should not displace his favourite son (Tupurupuru) in the hearts of the people. When the children were found to be missing, Kahutapere flew magic kites with the object of ascertaining their whereabouts. Rakai-hiku-roa's action in sending up other kites to entangle Kahutapere's led to the conclusion that he was connected with the disappearance of the children.

Kahutapere proceeded to Rakai-hiku-roa's fort at Pukepoto (on Repongaere) to make inquiries, but he and his party were chased back to their own pa (Korowhio, near Ormond), where Kahutapere's two remaining sons were killed. Kahutapere then sent for Mahaki and his people to aid in avenging the murders and, in the course of the fighting, Rakai-hiku-roa's son (Tupurupuru) was slain. Rakai-hiku-roa's assailants taunted him by placing Tupurupuru's body on the limb of a tree standing within their pa and swinging it towards him, but never within his reach. Accounts vary as to the fate of Tupurupuru's body. In some versions in which it is stoutly denied that it was eaten, it is admitted that it was baked, although it is consolingly added that only cooking-stones worthy of being used—they are even said to have been supplied by the bereaved father—went to form the oven.

As the northern Poverty Bay migrants marched south under Taraia and Te Aomatarahi in quest of new lands upon which to settle, they became engaged in several fights. Strategy had to be chosen as the weapon of offence against Heipipi pa (near Petane); it had been declared impregnable by the scouts.

“Just as the Shaftsmen of the Dawn were battling with the Rearguard of the Night,” says A. L. D. Fraser's account, “the lookout man at the pa espied what he fonndly imagined were upokohue (block-fish) page 7 floundering in the surf—a stranded feast cast up as a gift from their god, Tunui. Unceremoniously, the pa barriers were thrown down and the inmates, young and old, raced madly for the spoil. When they had got up to their waists in the water, the ‘black-fish’ arose, and, casting off their dark mats, stood armed before their unarmed, horror-stricken, would-be assailants. Blood and lives went out with the falling tide, and Heipipi proclaimed its new masters. In turn, Otatara pa (near Taradale) was overthrown and the ownership of Heretaunga changed hands and has remained with the conquerors.”

Some time afterwards, the Ngati-Ira, who had been expelled by their neighbours from Tauwhareparae, Huiarua and adjacent lands, drifted through Hawke's Bay to Wairarapa. Driven away from the Wairoa district by Rakaipaaka, the Tauira people are said also to have fled to the south. The Ngai-Tahu, who derived their name from Tahu-potiki (a younger brother of Porourangi), found their way from the East Coast to the South Island and became the paramount people there.

Uawa's “House of Learning”

“Te Ra-wheoro,” which stood near Tolaga Bay, is claimed to have been the most famous “House of Learning” in New Zealand. Other sacred buildings of a like character in the Poverty Bay-East Coast area were: “Te Aho Matariki,” at Whangara; “Puhikai-iti,” near the site of the Cook Monument at Gisborne; “Tapere-nui-a-Whatonga,” near East Cape; and “Te Tuahu” and “Whare-korero,” which were also on the East Coast. J. E. Dalton, who became a well-known identity on the East Coast, stated that “Te Ra-wheoro” stood on what is now the Paremata soldiers' settlement block. In other quarters, it is suggested that it originally stood on Mangaheia No. 1 block.

According to Dalton, the building was about 63 feet long and 26 feet wide. Several old pu korero (men of knowledge) whom he consulted told him that there was a verandah on the eastern end; that a fireplace stood in the centre of the main portion; and that the “Holy of Holies” was at the western end. Instruction was divided into two classes—celestial and terrestrial. The celestial lore pertained to Io, the Supreme Being, the primal parents and their offspring, the upper world and cosmogonic myths. Amongst the terrestrial knowledge imparted was information concerning the homeland of the race, traditions, migrations, tribal history and other matters of worldly importance.


“I found that all the families of the present day, of any consideration [in the South Island: 1843–4] traced their origin to the Turanga, or Poverty Bay, sources …“—Shortland (The Southern Districts of New Zealand, p. 102).