Volume 59 1950 > Volume 59, No. 4 > The Io Cult - early migration - puzzle of the canoes, by A. T. Ngata, p 335-346
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THE memories that will be retained longest by friends of the late Sir Apirana Ngata are those of the all too few occasions when, by a fireside, in a room, at the fringe of a marae, at a tribal gathering, in a meetinghouse, he would release a veritable flood of knowledge once the word spoken, or the gesture made perhaps, fused with the thoughts upper-most or deepest in his mind at that instant.

All who had the privilege of listening to him in these circumstances—the “talks” at times lasted from the early evening to the early morning hours, or began after midnight and ended as the sun rose—often wished that these quite informal and spontaneous exchanges could be preserved in their entirety. Unfortunately the conditions were never really favourable, and the recording means not then at hand, to secure his words.

Sir Apirana's fluency when he spoke was a byword. His informative narrations which ranged over the breadth and depth of Maori national and tribal history, indeed of the whole realm of the Maori and Polynesian world, were masterpieces and much treasured. And were all the more remarkable because he scorned the use of notes or aids to prompt his prodigious memory, his ever ready mind. The great pity is that so little of all his talks has been committed in anything like permanent form, which would have allowed others access to the wealth of his unparalled knowledge.

However, last year, Mr. John Te Herekiekie Grace obtained the use of a tape recording machine and asked Sir Apirana Ngata if he would be willing to have an informal talk recorded. The outcome was the “trial talk” which follows, a trial which, it was hoped, would have led to other invaluable recordings being made. This one talk is presented almost verbatim. It was entirely unrehearsed and made without notes, and is but slightly abridged in accordance with Mr. Grace's wishes.

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The Society acknowledges its debt to Mr. Grace for making available for publication this transcription of the first—and most regrettably the last—recorded talk of such a character by Sir Apirana.—The Editors.


In the depreciation of the value of Stimson's work in the Pacific and of Whatahoro's here in New Zealand, conclusions have been arrived at by certain people that the Cult of Io was evolved in New Zealand, and never in the Pacific. I tupu ki konei (It was evolved here).

The evidence of the coverage of the Cult of Io in New Zealand shows that it is not confined to one district like the Wairarapa or even the East Coast. We may say that the East Coast is fairly uniform in its tradition. You find it in the Wanganui River, you find it at Thames, and the remarkable thing from our point of view on the East Coast, you find it at Tolaga Bay in the Rakeiora whare wananga.

Judge Maning as a young man, not long settled in the Hokianga and quite unaware of the tapu and prohibitions, one day went chasing his horse which had strayed, and presently he heard a voice intoning. He began to follow up the voice and broke in on an old chap stark naked up against a cliff intoning the Io karakia. The old tohunga pulled himself up and addressed himself to the young Pakeha and he said to him, “Oh well, you have only got the alternative of death or becoming an adept of this Cult.”

Maning chose to become an adept and he was the only Pakeha who made a complete study of the Cult of Io. He absorbed it all, karakia and everything, and was even initiated in it. Well, in due course he had to go to London for medical advice. He had cancer and while he was dying he wrote down all this material. Then his conscience began to prick him because one of the things that you do when you become initiated in the Cult of Io is to swear secrecy, and he had taken the oath of secrecy. Well now, would that obtain in the case of an oath made to a savage? He was arguing that point when he heard of Bishop W. L. Williams from Gisborne. Williams was not a Bishop then but an Archdeacon. So he sent for him and discussed with him this - 337 question of conscience. The Archdeacon said, “Well, your duty is clear. It does not matter whether the oath is given to a heathen or otherwise. Once it is given it is binding on your conscience.”

When the Archdeacon left Maning ordered the housemaid to make a fire and he burned the manuscript. Now, that story is well accredited. It comes from Bishop Leonard Williams to Bishop Herbert Williams and it was Herbert Williams who told it. I said to Herbert, “What would you have done?” “Oh,” he said, “I would have had the manuscript saved in the interest of science.”

You can't have a cult obtaining amongst seven different tribes unless you were to say that the secrecy which hedged round it had collapsed when the Pakeha came. It did not.


I now refer to the earlier settlement of New Zealand. One of the most persistent traditions you encounter—you get it in different tribes—refers to an area called Mataora. The Tuhoe people say it was at Mataora where the Maui brothers struck land—Mauimua and Mauikatoa and the others—and that the territory was occupied by the well-known—call them ancestors if you like, or deified ancestors—Pani and Rongo Maui who are associated with the kumara cult. Wherever you find the name Pani, Panitinaku, that refers to the kumara cult.

Well, the traditions we have in New Zealand have almost complete gaps as to migrations from Mataora.

Tiwakawaka, one of the earliest recorded immigrants, was a descendant of Maui, who came to Whakatane. We have the story of Kupe and Ngahue who visited New Zealand and went back and reported that there were places unoccupied except by Tiwakawaka: one wants to keep that in the background. Was Kupe referring to birds (the fantail) or was he referring to a people over whom the name Tiwakawaka had become established?

You have two or three tribes in the North Island and I want to quote the East Coast people who say of themselves that they are direct descendants of Mauipotiki, of Maui Tikitiki a Taranga. Their land rights come through Maui right down to the present day. You have that settlement at - 338 Ruatoria from the coast right up to Hikurangi. The Uepohatu people trace direct from Maui. They don't worry their heads about Porourangi or any of the later ancestors or the canoe people. No—Maui right down, and all their land rights are so derived. They are not the only ones. You have that in the Bay of Plenty too, right round to Te Puke—sufficient anyhow to make Judge Wilson visualise a Mauipotiki nation. That has been dismissed by later writers, but it is a story that persists when you work back to traditions relating to Mataora. You begin to speculate whether there was not a much earlier migration.

The organization of the Polynesian became more and more complicated as their social organization was built up, as the power of the priests increased, and there was no line of demarcation in places between the chiefs and the priests. More often than not the chiefs were the priests. Expeditions became much more elaborate—the equipment and so on, the karakia and the recording.

Earlier voyages of the Polynesians would not be so elaborate and would not be hedged about with all those tapu, but reliant on the initiative of individuals who had a simpler form of society, and I venture the opinion that it was during that stage when they were breaking out all over the Pacific that quite a number of canoes whose existence tradition has not handed down, landed on various parts of the New Zealand coast, and the most important areas were the Bay of Plenty right up to the North Cape. You have only to look at it on the map to see what a target it is for voyages from the Pacific. Well, that is the only explanation one can offer for a fairly considerable population in New Zealand before these organized expeditions commencing with Toi which we hear about.

There is the story of Rakaihautu. He was the gentleman who dug up all the lakes and who was responsible for all the natural features in the South Island. He landed in the north. Whether he went south is very doubtful. They localized him in the South Island because the people who knew the position moved south. Well, that was somewhere about the ninth century. It is recorded in White's Ancient History of the Maori.

So we must not dismiss the possibility that these earlier migrations took place more or less in a direct line from this - 339 Mataora, wherever that might have been, and to New Zealand. They were strays, but then they strayed elsewhere.

The next feature is that a very considerable element of the Maori population in New Zealand did not come from Hawaiki direct, but it had established itself for quite a while in the Cook Group; and we must record the Cook Group as a secondary Hawaiki. The most considerable element in the settlement of the East Coast from Opotiki round to Gisborne came from Rarotonga, Mangaia, and so on. All the traditions point to that and the outstanding event—what is known as “Te Huripureiata” (set out in great detail in Percy Smith's History and Traditions of the Taranaki Coast—just condensing the account by White, and in other books, but mostly White), the few precise series of movements of the old Polynesian population from the Society Group south-ward to the Cook Group several hundred years before the migration to New Zealand, and migrations, some recorded and some not, from the Cook Group to New Zealand.

You can work them back as Jock McEwen has done, 100 years or more. From the whakapapa evidence alone, that movement was a hundred years at least before the Arawa and Tainui touched land at Whangaparaoa—contemporaneous with Tauira and Mangarara, which landed round about the East Cape, and brought people called Ngaitamatea, pointing to the Cook Group. They established themselves on the East Cape so that when the later canoes came, like Nukutere, they knew who these people were. They moved round (Nukutere under Whironui) in conjunction with these people at the Cape so that when Paikea, after his sojourn in various parts of New Zealand, made for that spot, too, you had a foregathering near the East Coast of elements from Mangaia, Cook Group, and so he had related ancestors. It is out of that that Porourangi and Tahu were evolved. They moved down and established themselves at Whangara, mated with the Toi element there, and that is our makeup.

When Shapiro 1 was out here with the scientists last year a few measurements that he took round about Ruatoria, Rangitukia and Tikitiki, inclined him to the view that we - 340 were an earlier strain because we were long-headed. Our head type was very close to the Mangaian, who is the marginal Polynesian. Now the later comers—the accredited main migration of 1350—came among well-established Polynesian elements everywhere and you can thus account for their slow development. In no part of New Zealand did that element assert itself until a fairly long period, a century in some cases—sometimes longer—after the landing of the canoes. With the Arawa, you don't hear about the Arawa ancestors until Rangitihi, and with the Taupo people, Tuwharetoa, and so on, right through. Pretty well they reached the same stage in their development and began to assert themselves at about the same time—about the middle of the 15th century on to about the 16th century. You get Kahungunu and those others on the East Coast. Rangitihi (Te Arawa) was a contemporary, and so on. That was that. You had another stage of assertiveness about 200 years ago.


Another thing that exercises one's mind is in regard to the type of canoe that brought the Maori ancestors over. Now in their poetry, every now and again you meet some old lady crooning about the canoes. You get a name [of a canoe] like tau ihu waka tau. We have several on the East Coast like that. “Kei nga ihu waka tau kei o tupuna, kia rere koe tama tu ana te hama.” That is one of the lines I remember. The Urewera talk of the waka unua. Well, these things have two meanings. You have waka tau—just a fishing canoe. You would not sing much about a fishing canoe. They are referring to the canoe that brought over their ancestors. I put that down as a suggestion of a double canoe—ihu waka tau. Then go through your books, scour your Nga mahi a nga Tupuna, White, and others. You get the expression “He mahanga.” Tainui and Arawa are given as “He mahanga.” The name of the Arawa canoe is Mahanga a Tuamatua. They were twins. The Maori in his traditions and reconstruction has put the totara on Hawaiki, and the whole of his forestry revolves round big totara trees. His canoe culture evolved in New Zealand and was taken back to Hawaiki. Well, anyhow, there is the one tree. It is cut, hewn down and then divided—Te Arawa tetahi taha, Tainui tetahi—he mahanga. Then you have Aotea and - 341 Kupe's canoe, Matahourua. Those are mahanga. They belong to Toto. He gives one daughter (Purumaruwhenua) one canoe—Mataparua—and the other to Turi—he mahanga. You work it out and there you find these canoes paired.

Now we get from Aitutaki just a stray bit, maybe not worth much—it may be influence from New Zealand for all I know—but there is a tradition that Horouta and Takitimu were double canoes. Now let's examine that further. The most exasperating thing is that you get one set of tohunga giving you a list of the crew and putting them on Horouta. Another tohunga comes along and takes half that list and puts it on Takitimu, and so on. The traditions of the two canoes are so intertwined as regards personnel that it's a real puzzle to sort them out. Now Arawa and Tainui approach that—Arawa-Tainui. The kumara lore and the karakia. To which canoe does [the karakia] “toia te Arawa tapotu ki te moana” belong? Now which? Is it Tainui or Te Arawa both claiming? I think Matatua had it too. Just the opening bars of a song speak of Matatua having it, but the Arawa-Tainui have exactly the same passages: Ngatoroirangi, priest of Tainui, stolen by Tamatekapua and so on. Well, I just ventured the opinion to Peter, 2 “Why not Arawa and Tainui, double canoes with a platform connecting them and the people living under shelter, otherwise the picture of Ngatoroirangi trying to catch the illicit relations between Tama and Kearoa would have no point unless you have some sort of structure, two-decker.”

Many features in the tradition common to Arawa and Tainui are difficult to explain unless you have a close association between the two vessels on the voyage out. They land together at Ratanui, Whangaparaoa. That was where the incident of the burning of the flax took place. 3 Ratanui— not in Whangaparaoa, but on the coast facing north, northeast direct. That's where they pulled up on their arrival from Hawaiki—a little sandy beach, very nice clear water and absolutely blazing with the pohutukawa. It is straight over the ridge. You have Tikirau there—that's Cape Runaway—and you have the leading ridge from Cape Runaway - 342 to Patangata just above Matakaoa (that's almost due east, east-west) and this little bay just over a low ridge from Whangaparaoa proper. They probably worked round and they tied to the rock called Tainui in Whangaparaoa.

Well, Aotea (Turi), and Matahourua (Kupe) in tradition are also twins from the same tree, but there the tradition separates them because Kupe eloped with Kuramarotini which is the real reason for his seeking new land, not this wheke, and Aotea at a subsequent period comes out to New Zealand. But with the Aotea canoe you find another one—Te Ririno—very closely associated. Our friend Potoru is the man who is having arguments with Turi about the navigation instructions out to New Zealand. Of the Te Ririno canoe—being a less distinguished vessel I suppose—we have confused traditions. According to one it landed in New Zealand. According to another it was wrecked on the way out. It was supposed to have finally landed on the boulder bank at Nelson—Te Rangaatamatea. That's the tradition. Well, there they were paired.

Horouta and Takitimu are paired in their story, but there is a tradition—a South Island one—about Araiteuru. That was a canoe like Horouta, loaded with kumara and so on. That was in the fleet and accompanied Takitimu and then went on south. There are stories round about Gisborne that quite a fleet came with Horouta, that these people who were all put in the one vessel came in two or three different vessels. They name them in Gisborne, like Hakirirangi—a sister of Pawa supposed to have accompanied him on the Horouta canoe—according to Kani and other authorities of Gisborne, came on a different canoe altogether, landed at the same time and formed part of the same colony.

It is unfortunate that we have lost most of the Ngapuhi traditions in regard to Takitimu. You can establish that Tamatea was father of Kahungunu, but not the Tamatea who came in Takitimu. At least according to some whakapapa there is a period of four generations between the Tamatea who came over in Takitimu and his great-grandson Kahungunu. All the Ngati Porou whakapapa, that's our Rakeiora whare wananga [versions], count [from Tamatea] 1, 2, 3, then Kahungunu. Iranui, the sister of Kahungunu, is one of the top East Coast ancestresses.

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We are indebted to Ngapuhi for what I reckon to be the commencement of the Takitimu story in New Zealand. Tamateamaitawhiti or Tamateaariki, or give him all his various names, lands at Muriwhenua. That's probably Rangaunu Bay, because we have evidence of a very considerable colony that settled round by Rangaunu Bay depending on the food supplies, mostly mullet. It was a great mullet place. The story in the Transactions [of the New Zealand Institute], the picture of Rangaunu of the old days and the mullet fishing; and of the pa round about; the kumara cultivations, the taro and so on, are very illuminating. You had a complete economy for a very large population. That was about the time when Ngati Awa, a people called Ngati Awa, were pervading the north and growing in strength from all Hokianga right across to the Bay of Islands and from the Bay of Islands up to North Auckland, all inhabited by Ngati Awa, who were probably the colony from the Cook Group or maybe from the Society Group.

Ngati Awa is an old tribal name in Eastern Polynesia. You have a lot of them in the north. The Mahurehure at Waima is just a transplanting from Tahiti over to Hokianga. People like the Kawerau, Waiohua, and so on. These early tribes established themselves in the north while the Toi people were in the Bay of Plenty. So this Ngati Awa tribe was fully established round about Kaitaia, Awanui, Rangaunu Bay and toward Taipa, and according to the Ngapuhi story that is where the Tamatea family established themselves.

In due course came the rising of the Ngati Whatua who were located at Awanui, and the Ngapuhi at the mouth of the Hokianga. They revolted against this Ngati Awa domination. You get the story in Percy Smith's Peopling of the North. They laid to and just slaughtered them. During all these troubles the Tamatea family—that's the Tamatea, father of Kahungunu—migrated to Tauranga. You've only got this little bit on record, that out at sea, after they had rounded the rocky islet called Nukutaurua—you can see it from the Taipa beach and from Mangonui, fairly prominent out at sea—they met their Ngati Awa chief Kauri who tried to persuade him to go back. Tamatea said, “He ranga maomao taka ki tua o Nukutaurua, e kore e muia hoki a - 344 muri.4 Ngati Kahungunu always refer to that as the Nukutaurua at Mahia. But this is not a maomao fishing ground, Mahia. It is essentially a Bay of Plenty and North Auckland fish. They came down, and the first thing that we have in Tauranga tradition is the coming of Takitimu with Tamatea, and Kahungunu and the whole lot landing at Tauranga. They picked the story up in great detail. They can tell you the pa they lived in was Papamoa, the beach they landed on was Kowhainui, just north of Te Puke. That is where they lived—all this business about the kahawai fishing and so on taking place there. And Kahungunu has to move on. Well, apparently the family were spread down the coast. The sister, or half-sister, Houmoana, was married to a Pananehu chief. (You're in another country now. You're with the Ngariki and Hanene Pounamu tribes.)

Kahungunu was a fighting man. That was about the only thing he did, and propagate his species. He would go out with his brother-in-law and take part in fighting and when the expeditions were over he retired into his hut and just slept, and the sister got wild because he would not go out in the kumara cultivations, and she had words with him. We lose trace of him entirely between west Opotiki until he emerges at Whangara. The reason is quite clear, because his sister married a Tolaga Bay man, Te Ngangaro. He appeared at Whangara and very soon the graces of the gentleman became the talk of all the countryside and in due course got to Ruapani's daughter at Popoia, Gisborne. The rest is history.

Now to straighten out the Takitimu history, as far as one can piece the project together, you have to start from Hawaiki, and you have among the early population people called the Haputuihi who were the forestry people, the Ngati Kotekarangi, Puhi te Kawai, Waitaha and so forth. You get the whole of this history in Whatahoro's version, and Whanau a Tata. Tamatea was their chief. They had no high priests among them. Tamatea was no priest, but a chief and he was more kin to the tangata whenua over there, and the subsidiary tribes, than he was to the elite of Hawaiki. The forceful characters there at the time were Uenuku, Ruawharo (you are in with the Kupe people now), Tupai, - 345 Whakarongowananga and those. Tumuwhakairia was a Whakarongowananga. They were Whangara people. When these subtribes got into difficulties about hauling their log out for their canoe they besought themselves to these great tohunga and went to them. Ruawharo and Tupai had just recently suffered indignity at the hands of Uenuku (Te Whiti a Poutama—net put over them and they got all tangled up with the fish and so on, and the scales, and they didn't like it). Full of revenge, also full of scare; and they wanted to get out of the way. So they went looking for a canoe and they thought, “Here's a canoe,” and so the story goes on how Puhi and others were hauling the canoe toward their village while Tupai and Ruawharo were chanting incantations to take it toward their village. Eventually their karakia prevailed and the canoe landed at Pikopikoiwhiti. Well, we've got to reconstruct Pikopikoiwhiti. It must have been the cradle of the Maori race. We have Te Hae and others at Kuparu, we have Raiatea here and you have Poroporo over there. You've got this lagoon, little coral inlet. Almost every name that you have in New Zealand among the early names you can get from that little lagoon. Motueka is there, Rangitoto is there, Whangaparaoa is just on the coast, Taha Island is there, Whangara, and so on, and then you get a lot of your Arawa-Tainui names on the Raiatea mainland. We have been able to recover a number of areas. Turanga is on Taha Island, Turanganui, and almost all the names you will find at the mouth of the Mangahauini creek at Tokomaru Bay. That's where they named these places. In the old days it was quite an expedition to get from one hut to another. You look today and you wonder what on earth had happened to your scale of values and perspective to have magnified distance from where you were born out to the mouth of the creek where you went to learn to swim.

Our top high priest Rangiuia comes in and he says of Takitimu “te waka hoehoe.” That is where the Takitimu canoe was paddled in the lagoon, and because of its speed it acquired the name “Horouta.” We defer to Ngati Kahungunu, and we say, “Yes, that is all right. Horouta was the name given because of the speed of Takitimu, but it was also the name of the canoe that accompanied Takitimu.” Then a tussle took place, Ruawharo and Tupai were - 346 bargaining with the owners of the canoe for the canoe to bring them over to New Zealand, and eventually they decoyed these people and made off. Rangiuia comes in again and says, “Te waka kahakina” (the canoe taken by force). There are little bits in the whare wananga which are very illuminating regarding the waka hoehoe confirming all the traditions about the exercise in Pikopiko and waka kahakina, establishing the fact that these two navigators were determined to get the canoe away, decoyed the crew on board and it was there they came to the arrangement: “All right, we will take you across to New Zealand and bring our canoe back.” They made Rarotonga in due course and it is recorded that Takitimu was one in the fleet that came over to New Zealand, and I suppose after a lapse of several years the Takitimu canoe went back, the only one that went back of that fleet. That confirms the story that there was a bargain with the real owners of the canoe to take it back. That's the story of Takitimu, and they touch at various places along the New Zealand coast dropping important ancestors—Tamatea, Muriwhenua—and we lost all record in between. There may have been others who did not survive. Then you have a bunch at Te Mahia, Ruawharo, Tupai and others and Taewa at Waimarama. If you can add to that list that would be a most valuable addition you could make, but it is undoubted that the Takitimu that came over and brought these ancestors was not the one that was sailing round about New Zealand. No, it went back. But the second Tamatea must have been a bit of a navigator too, in inland waters. He was the one who went sailing round and round. He went up the Wanganui River through Taupo and came out and met Turi at Patea.

Coming back to the two canoes—Arawa and Tainui—it might clear up a lot of the difficulties and other confused stories might be clarified if it could be established that they were double canoes. My only difficulty about the double canoe is at what point off the New Zealand coast did they cease to be double.

1   Dr. H. L. Shapiro, anthropologist of the American Museum of Natural History, attended the Seventh Pacific Science Congress in Auckland and Christchurch in 1949.
2   Sir Peter Buck.
3   One of the migrants singed the flax ropes attached to the anchor of his canoe, to give an appearance of age, and thus convey the impression that he had arrived first.
4   A proverb: “The shoals of maomao which pass Nukutaurua will not return again.”