Volume 3 1894 > Volume 3, No.2, June 1894 > The coming of Mata-atua, Kurahaupo and other canoes from Hawaiki to New Zealand by Takaanui Tarakawa, translated by S. Percy Smith, p 65-71
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Should thou be asked in other lands,
To relate thy family history,
Thou shall reply, “Ignorant am I,
And but a child,
And like a child, forgetful.”
Has it not been heard by all?
That Tainui, Te Arawa, Mata-atua,
Kurahaupo and Tokomaru,
Were the great canoes of thy ancestors,
That paddled hitherward over the ocean,
That lies before us.
(Part of the lament for Te Tahuri, by Peou.)

THE canoes that came to this country of Aotearoa (New Zealand) landed first on the East Coast, because the direct lines to Hawaiki, Rarotonga, Tahiti, and America are at Whangara, East Cape, Tikirau (Cape Runaway) and at Whangaparaoa near the latter. The clearest accounts of these canoes are to be found on the East Coast, and it is the place where they separated, the greatest number passing by this Coast (Bay of Plenty) on their way North, only two canoes proceeding by the West Coast—Takitumu and Aotea.

The following are the canoes enumerated in the song of Peou:1—Tainui, Te Arawa, Mata-atua, Kurahaupo, Tokomaru—five canoes which are more particularly well known. Besides these, Takitumu and Aotea are also well known. It was arranged by the chiefs that Mata-atua, Kurahaupo, and Tokomaru should sail from Hawaiki at the same time, Takitumu and Aotea having sailed previously. The reason that Mata-atua was delayed was in consequence of the wreck of Kurahaupo, whose owners were Te Moungaroa and Turu. One of the chiefs on board Tokomaru named Niwaniwa, wished them and their people to proceed by his canoe, but Tane-atua, Akuramatapu, Puhi, and Nuiho insisted on their coming on board Mata-atua, which was finally agreed to, so they came in Mata-atua. The preceding were the principal chiefs of Mata-atua.

So the three canoes sailed hitherward over the great ocean and made the land at Whangara—about fourteen miles north of Poverty Bay—whilst Aotea sailed on outside.2 After the altar had been duly set up at Whangara, Te Moungaroa demanded that his karakias (invocations) should be offered up there, but his claim was disputed by zTaneatua who claimed that his should rather be used; Nuiho - 66 then asked: “Which of you two intends to remain here?” Te Moungaroa replied that he intended to do so. Then all agreed and said, “In that case, thy karakias must be offered at this altar.”

After the above events the two canoes—Mata-atua and Tokomaru—sailed northwards; the latter was left behind by Mata-atua, which was the swiftest sailer, and when day dawned she was near Whakaari, or White Island, in the Bay of Plenty, and they could see before them Moutohora Island, towards which they directed their course and finally landed at the mouth of the Whakatane River on the main land. Here the stern of the canoe only was beached, whilst the men set off to climb up to Kapu to look at the appearance of the land. Hikaroa said to them, “Let us leave it until to-morrow to explore the land,” to which Puhi consented. They slept there, and when morning broke they looked down and saw the waves breaking over Mata-atua. The granddaughter of Hikaroa, named Wairaka, called out: “The canoe will be broken!” but the men all went away to look at the country, and did not attend to what the girl had said; so Wairaka then exclaimed, “Ah! then let me act the part of a man!” in reference to the danger of the canoe over which the waves were dashing. At this all the men felt ashamed, even her grandfather Hikaroa. Puhi then said, “Let us sail on to some other place, for the canoe cannot enter the river,” to which they all consented. Wairaka then said to her father Toroa, “If we proceed on the voyage I shall die of sickness.” So Toroa spoke to his father Hikaroa and said, “Thy granddaughter will die, let us remain here.” Hikaroa then consented to this, and so he and his children and his grandchildren remained there at Whakatane.

The people who were on board Mata-atua on the voyage from Hawaiki were eighteen in all, as follows:—

  • Hikaroa,
  • Taneatua,
  • Puhi,
  • Nuiho,
  • Nuake,
  • Weka,
  • Rahiri,
  • Toroa,
  • Ruaihonga,
  • Whakapoi,
  • Akurama-tapu,
  • Tukapua,
  • Waituhi,
  • Muriwai (f),
  • Kaki-piki-tua (f),
  • Wairaka (f),
  • Te Moungaroa, and Turu.

The following remained at Whangara on the arrival of Mata-atua:—Te Moungaroa and Turu. Those who came north were sixteen in number, and those who remained at Whakatane were seven; those who went on, nine; and those latter took the canoe with them. The names of those who remained at Whakatane were:—Hikaroa, Toroa, Whakapoi, Rua-ihonga, Muriwai, Wairaka, and Kaki-piki-tua.

Subsequent to the sailing of Mata-atua, Hikaroa remembered the words of his granddaughter Wairaka, when she said, “Ah! then let me act the part of a man!” in reference to the canoe over which the waves were dashing, and in remembrance of it named the country “Whakatane”3—a district which is bounded on the north by Te-awa-a-te-atua, on the south by Ohiwa, and then by that river to the mountains which bound it on the inland side. At the same time the old man recollected the other saying of his granddaughter, i.e., this, “If we proceed on the voyage I shall die of sickness (koohi).” Hence the name of the projecting rocky point just to the east of Whakatane River, called “Koohi.” This word koohi, with Ngati-awa, means “sick”; when the head aches with sickness, Ngati-awa says it is koohi.

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Soon after the landing, and when all had gone up to the ridge to spy out the land, the sister of Toroa, Muriwai by name, proceeded to the canoe to bring ashore the maawe4 of their vessel. None of the men had remembered this, but when Muriwai jumped ashore after them, she caught up the maawe from the stern of the canoe, and proceeded straight to a certain cave which opened towards her, and there left it over the entrance.

Now, as Muriwai was in the act of depositing the maawe, an admonition of the fact reached her mother Wairakewa, who had been left behind in Hawaiki. Her thoughts at once took this form:—“It will not be right that Muriwai should conduct this affair, if it were her elder brother Toroa, then it would be correct.” The old lady at once went forth from her house, and the first thing that struck her eye was a manuka tree; she seized it, and with her right hand stripped off branches and leaves and then with it went down to the sea-shore. Here she placed the butt end first, the branches behind, and mounting on it, came straight away to Whakatane. In the morning she was seen by her grandchildren at Whakatane who called out the welcome; “O! old lady, ascend!” But the old lady proceeded on her way to a certain hillock situated to the east of Te Wairere,5 and there planted her manuka tree, at the same time uttering the karakias of her ancestors, appropriate to the occasion. This done she returned to the cave of her daughter Muriwai, and said to her; “What was the reason you assumed the functions connected with your canoe?” Muriwai said to her; “The men of our party merely beached the stern of the canoe, and immediately went off to the mountains to look out the good places of the land, and forgot all about performing the proper ceremonies.” The old lady replied: “Yes, that was why I came; if I had been sure that your elder brother Toroa, or some other qualified person had acted, I should not have come.” Behold, hence is “the manuka at Whakatane”; I saw it standing there formerly myself; it is said that the Pakeha soldiers cut down that mauri,6 that manuka, during the war. (A reference to this manuka will be found in an old waiata or song in Sir G. Grey's collection called “Nga Moteatea,” p. 26, of which the following is an extract:—

“The manuka at Whakatane,
The means by which,
Thy ancestor Wairakewa,
Swam hither from afar.”)

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The descendants of Toroa dwelt permanently at Whakatane. Rua-ihonga and his aunt Muriwai went to the east and settled down there. (Hence, in part, the Waka-tohea tribe.7) Whakapoi and Wairaka remained permanently at Whakatane. In those days there arrived a strange people called Te Wai-o-hua8 who came from the north, from the district of Manukau. On their arrival at Whakatane they stayed with Toroa as his guests. They learned that Wairaka, Toroa's daughter, was a virgin, and in the evening arranged a haka, or dance, during which one amongst them particularly distinguished himself. After looking on for some time, Wairaka returned to the dwelling of her parents and said to her father Toroa, “O, Sir! I am going to visit the house of the strangers.” So Wairaka went; at the doorway of the house she sat down and gazed within, where she saw the man who excelled in dancing, and soon divined his sleeping place. She then returned to the porch of her parents' house, where Toroa said to her, “O, daughter! come inside.” The girl replied:—“The house is too warm; I will remain outside, and enter presently.” After some time she concluded that the fire had gone out in the house of the guests and that they were asleep, so she returned thither and found that her surmise was correct; she entered the house and made for the place where she had seen the young fellow she had noticed. A man was lying there in the place where she had seen him, and she at once concluded it was the same young fellow, so she scratched his face that she might know him in the morning, and feeling sure that her mark would be effectual, returned to her parents' house. They slept; the day dawned; the food was cooked. Wairaka still slept. Toroa, who was outside underneath the window, called out, “O, daughter! arise, come forth to eat.” After thrice calling, the girl replied, “O, Sir! fetch hither my lover, then will I eat.” The old man said, “I do not know which of the strangers is thy lover; go thyself and fetch him; why do you make a child of me?” The girl replied, “You will know him; I have scratched his face—go!” So the old man—Toroa—arose and went; arrived at the guest-house he found them at breakfast. Toroa looked about, and finally saw the man he was in search of in the midst of the others. He called out, “Arise and come.” Then this one said, “Here I am.” Another said, “Is it I?” Toroa said, “It is that one there.” Then all called out, “It is Mai!” “It is Mai!” So Mai arose (his proper name was Mai-ure-nui), and he and Toroa went away together, whilst the latter all the time felt in his heart disgusted at the man, who was both ill-shaped and very ugly.

The sleeping place of that man Mai was at the back part of the guest-house, from whence he detected the glances of Wairaka towards the handsome young fellow, so presently he moved over to the other's place and strove with him for it and finally secured it for himself. Wairaka was consequently deceived, and thought it was the handsome young fellow that she scratched, whereas it was the ugly one.

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The young woman, after her father had gone to fetch her lover, entered her house and spread out the mats and the best clothing. When Toroa returned he remained outside beneath the window, whilst the man (Mai) entered the house, Toroa having said “Go right into the house.” He stood at the corner within the house where the girl could see him from where she was lying. She arose, she stood erect, and uttered her (horrified) exclamation:—“O, what have I done in the darkness, which has brought confusion on Wairaka!” This saying of her's has existed from that time to the present, and it is often quoted in Maori songs, for instance:—

Strike O thou wind, pierce through the skin,
Barely can I see the stars of the Heavens;
Bewildered am I, like the drifting clouds,
Like the darkness by which Wairaka was deceived.
Who could imagine it?
(Part of a very old chant.)

So Wairaka married the ugly man, Mai, and there was born to them a son named Tamatea-ki-te-huatahi. Soon after the birth of the son the ugly man, Mai, left, and was capsized at sea and drowned.

Now! I will explain: There are two canoes of these people of Ngati-awa, the Ara-tawhao is one, Mata-atua is the other. There are three, or even four tribes which claim these canoes, that is, Ngati-awa, Te Ure-wera, Ngai-te-rangi, and Te Whanau-a-apanui.

Family Tree. Hikaroa, married Wairakewa, (f.) Kaki-piki-tua=Toroa, Muriwai (f.), Rua-ihonga, Wairaka=Mai, Whakapoi, Tahinga-o-te-rangi, Tamatea-ki-te-huatahi=Paewhiti (f.), 5 Awa-nui-a-rangi, Rongo-tangi-awa, Irapeke, Tamatea-rehe, Taiwhakaea, 5 Ue-i-mua Tane-moeahi Tuhoe-potiki Uenuku-rauiri, Te Kato-o-tawhaki, Te Rangi-aniwaniwa, Tuhinga-ki-uta, Te Ohonga, 10 Te Kura-tapiri-rangi, Ika-puku, Hapainga, Kapua-i-te-rangi, Te Amonga, 10 Tu-tapuakekura=Taiwhakaea, Te Kura-tapiri-rangi, Ika-puku, Hapainga, Kapua-i-te-rangi, (No. 9 on the Rua-iho-nga line), 15 Te Hine-tapu, Turanga-i-te-whatu, Ngauru-o-te-rangi, Tarakawa, 15 Te Amonga, Te Auhi, Umuroa, Te Awhe-o-te-rangi, Takaanui Tarakawa, 20 Hipera Rauru, Te Rangituakoha, 20 Mita-te-Rangituakoha, Takuira Mita, Rimini, Timi-Whata-Rimini, Mere Wakana Timi Wata
This is also the genealogical line of Te Whanau-a-apanui tribe, who descend from Hapainga.
6 Rongo-tangi-awa =, Romai, Rongokurae, Irapeke,
From Romai descended Te Rangi-hou-whiri,9 and from him the Ngai-te-rangi tribe. The chief on board the Ara-tawhao canoe was Toi-kai-rakau; from him are descended the tribes of Ngati-awa, Ngai-te-rangi, and Te Whanau-a-apanui.
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The canoe Mata-atua was taken away to the north by Rahiri, by Puhi, by Nuiho, by Nuake, by Weka, by Tane-atua, by Akuramatapu, by Tukapua, and others, and she was wrecked there. Nevertheless the name, and the prestige of the canoe were left behind at Whakatane with the Ngati-awa and the Ngai-te-rangi tribes. The name of the men, with the prestige of the men, even to the prestige of the canoe itself remains fixed at Whakatane. The canoe itself alone was taken away to the north. “Mata-atua is the canoe, Toroa is the man,” is a proverbial saying well known on all this coast. The European Missionaries of old knew of the landing place of Mata-atua in the north in the county of the Ngapuhi tribes.

Rahiri, Akuramatapu, and Tukapua subsequently returned from the north by way of the West Coast and Rahiri settled down at Kawhia; his descendants are known to me. His friends proceeded along the coast in search of those who came here in the Aotea canoe, and to see if perchance they could find Te Moungaroa and Turu, who had been left at Whangara by the Mata-atua when she sailed for Whakatane.

Now this canoe—Kurahaupo—was left behind at Hawaiki when Mata-atua left for this country; she was wrecked, and consequently was abandoned by Te Moungaroa, Turu, and Tukapua. After the sailing of Mata-atua, Tokomaru, and Takitumu,10 she was repaired; the parts were drawn and sewn together, whilst the Tohungas recited their karakias, one of the Tohungas being Te Hoka-o-te-rangi. It was by the aid of the god, Tu-kai-te-uru, that she was restored. When she was completed, she sailed hither together with the Horouta canoe. But the former name was abandoned; it was agreed that she should be renamed Te Rangi-matoru, lest on her crossing over to this side those who originally owned her should claim her. And so consent was given to rename Kurahaupo by the name of Te Rangi-matoru. On their arrival here they landed at Ohiwa, whilst Horouta continued her voyage towards the east (along the coast). My knowledge of this matter is certain; equally so is the persistence of what I have heard as to Kurahaupo having actually come itself to this island. Likewise the other story should be mentioned, that Te Rangi-matoru was a distinct canoe, Te Rangi-hokaia being the chief on board. The latter is my own canoe (in which my ancestors came)—it is the canoe of the Nga-ariki tribe, the canoe of Te Hoka-o-te-rangi. This is my genealogical descent from him:—

  • Ruatapu
  • Te Hoka-o-te-rangi
  • Motatau = Hine-kaewa (f.)
  • Te Atua-rere-tahi
  • 5 Te Whiwhinga-o-te-rangi
  • Rakaia
  • Ihungaru
  • Tete
  • Parera
  • 10 Whakapoi
  • Hikitia
  • Maharangi
  • Te Umu-whakapuru = Whakahinga
  • Te Rangitahia
  • - 71
  • 15 Te Amonga
  • Te Hine-tapu
  • Turanga-i-te-whatu
  • Rauru
  • Tarakawa
  • 20 Takaanui Tarakawa
  • Hepera Rauru

The origin of the name Nga-ariki is derived from Te Hoka-o-te-rangi, but there have been inter-marriages with the descendants of Toroa and Tama-te-kapua.

My narrative will now return to the kuras11; there were no kuras in any other canoe but the Arawa. It is correct that it was a sign of chieftainship when any man of those days became possessed of the kura. Behold! it was Tama-te-kapua alone who brought a kura to this island. There was also a knowledge of the karakias brought over in the Arawa. Did not Ngatoro-i-rangi return the Arawa from the Waha-o-te-Parata (by aid of his karakias)? But enough of that; these was no “sign” (or emblem) left by the canoe Mata-atua at Whakatane; nothing but her name, and prestige (or fame) which rests on and remains with the offspring of Toroa. The name of the canoe Horouta rests on the Ngati-porou tribe, that of Takitumu rests on the Ngati-kahungunu tribe, that of Tokomaru with the Rongo-whaka-ata tribe, also with Te-aitanga-a-mahaki, and with Ngati-porou. Kurahaupo has also its name on the East Coast—not to mention the canoes, Tainui, Te Arawa, Mata-atua, Aotea, and Te Ara-tawhao. These are all the canoes I know of—including also Te Ringa-matoru—together there are ten of them. There are others besides, but their fame is not so great; the above are all the celebrated canoes of this island of Aotearoa.12

1  Peou, was a chief of Whanganui; his lament for Te Tahuri—part of which is given above—will be found in full at page 231 of Sir George Grey's “Nga Moteatea.”
2  The narrative conflicts here with the first statement that Aotea had sailed previously from Hawaiki, and the Maori historians of Aotea whose ancestors came in her, would not I think admit that that canoe went so far south on the East Coast as Whangara.
3  Whakatane remains to this day the name of the district and river; it means “man-like,” “masculine,” or to “act like a man.” A different version of this story will be found at page 50, Vol. II., of this Journal.
4  The author says in answer to my enquiries as to the meaning of maawe, “It was the ara of Mata-atua by which she came from Hawaiki and was similar to that left by Ngatoro-i-rangi on the rock at Moehau; the power, or prestige of the ara of the canoe which was brought from Hawaiki.” (See Journal, vol. II., p. 234, note 4). Judge Gudgeon at my request asked some of the old people of Hauraki what the ara was; the reply is, “It was one of the divining rods of stone or wood, which were the niu by which the presence of an enemy was detected,” a meaning which does not seem to apply in these cases. Tamahau of Wairarapa, however, tells me he thinks it is identical with what his tribe calls a kaha, which was a piece of sea-weed stem, which had been carefully dried after preparation in a native oven or umu, and over which the Tohunga or Priest had said the appropriate karakias. No canoe ever went on a voyage without taking this kaha with it carefully deposited in the bows, and on return it was as carefully replaced on the tuahu or altar where it was kept. The kaha was very tapu, and no woman allowed to touch it. The use was as a talisman, to ward off evil.
5  Te Wairere, the little waterfall which falls over the cliffs behind the present township of Whakatane.
6  Mauri, see vol. II. of this Journal, page 235.
7  This tribal name should be spelt Wakatohea not Whakatohea I think. The origin of the name is derived from the strife between Toroa, Rahiri and Muriwai, in reference to Mata-atua, as to whether that canoe should remain at Whakatane, or go north as described in the text. So Hoani Pururu of Ngati-awa of Whakatane says. The meaning of the word is “the canoe striven for.” For Muriwai's descendants see Journal, vol. III., p. 50.
8  See a reference to the Wai-o-hua tribe, Journal, Vol. III., page 48. These are the people who built the great pas around the City of Auckland.
9  For some account of Te Rangi-hou-whiri, see Journal, vol. II., p. 242.
10  This should be Aotea, we think.—Editors.
11  See vol. II., p. 234, note 3, for description of the kura.
12  Our author whilst enumerating most of the celebrated canoes, has left out Mamari, Matahourua, Mahuhu and Riukakara which are certainly claimed by the descendants of those who came in them to be as celebrated as those he has given.—Editors.