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

Ngati-Maru Tribe

Ngati-Maru Tribe.

The proper name of this tribe is Ngati-Maru-whara-nui, derived from an ancestor named Maru-whara-nui, a name which distinguishes them from the Ngati-Maru tribe of the Thames. This tribe is closely allied to Ati-Awa and also with Ngati-Rua-nui, which latter tribe bounds them on the south. They are an inland people of forest dwellers, whose territories no where touch the coast. Precise information as to their boundaries is lacking, but it may be said generally that they owned the whole of the Waitara valley and most of its page 125branches from about the junction of the Manga-nui with that river. Their boundaries thus marched with Ngati-Mutunga and Ati-Awa on the west, Ati-Awa and Ngati-Rua-nui on the south, and the numerous tribes known under the general name of Whanganui on the east, and with Ngati-Hāua on the north.

Exclusive of a few clearings, the whole territory was forest-clad, and the surface somewhat broken, but no where do the hills rise to a greater elevation than 1,500 feet, whilst the general heights are much less. The Waitara river was navigable for light canoes, with great difficulty, for some miles into their country, but it could never have been a highway except for the conveyance of heavy loads. There are not so many old pas in this district as on the coast, but nevertheless a few of some renown are to be found. The Ngati-Maru, from the nature of their homes, must have largely existed on birds, eels, and other wild products, in the pursuit of which their lives would resemble those of the old tangata-whenua, from whom no doubt many of them descend. The tribe could never have been a very numerous one, and is now sadly reduced in numbers. They are principally confined to the neighbourhood of Purangi, on the Upper Wa[gap — reason: illegible]tara river, some twenty-two miles in a direct line from the mouth of the river, where their principal chief is Tu-tanuku, with a few of them living at Otaki on the Wellington-Manawatu Railway line. The only hapus of the tribe known are Ngariki and Ngati-Hine.

There was for sometime a doubt about the eponymous ancestor of this tribe, which, however, has been set at rest, as will be shown, and at the same time an error corrected which has led more than one person astray as to the date the fleet arrived in this country, which the erroneous account of Maru-tuahu, in Sir G. Grey's 'Nga Mahinga,' is answerable for. I possess a letter from the Maori author of that account wherein he acknowledges his error, due to his confusing the brother of the captain of the 'Tainui' canoe, named Hotunui, with one of the same name who lived eight generations later. This, of course, made the period of the heke in Sir G. Grey's account only about fourteen generations ago instead of the mean number of twenty-two from the year 1900. Mr. John White, in his "Ancient History of the Maori," was led into the same error—as to the identity of Hotu-nui—and both accounts state that this man was a native of, and migrated from, Kawhia to the Thames, and there his son Marutuahu founded the tribe of Ngati-Maru and others. This, however, is now proved by Ati-Awa, Ngati-Maru and Ngati-Rua-nui to have been an error, for Hotu-nui came originally from the Tau-kokako pa, (or, as another account says, Kai-ka-kai) near the modern village of page 126Tai-porohe-nui, Hawera district, where his house named Rata-maru is known to have stood. Hotu-nui is also called Hotu-nuku and Hoturape by some. The most learned man of Ngati-Maru, now deceased, named Mangu, is the authority for these statements.

The following table from Col. Gudgeon will prove the above. The adventures of Maru-tuahu (who is shown in the table below) form an interesting and romantic tale, but it is not connected with our story.

Table No. XXXVII.

Table No. XXXVII.

The above table shows that the three brothers, Maru, were descendants of the Captain of the "Tai-nui," by Mihi-rawhiti, a woman of Waikato, who lived at Kawhia, where her children were born; after which they moved to the Ngati-Rua-nui country, her husband's home. A celebrated stone-axe, which was brought from Hawaiki when the fleet came, was taken to Hauraki when Hotu-nui (or Hotu-nuku) migrated thither from near Hawera, Taranaki.

The Ngati-Maru tribe suffered a good deal from the incursions of the so-called Titahi people on their way from the North, who were, however, none other than a branch of the great Ngati-Awa tribe—for which see under 'Titahi.' See also Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. II., p, 209, for a reference to this migration.

The Ngati-Maru tribe—some eleven generations ago—possessed a page 127poet named Te Mamangu, whom we shall have occasion to refer to later on, and to quote some of his productions for the sake of their historical importance.