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Maori War Canoe


Arrival of the Tainui Waka ( Canoe )

When the Tainui waka ( canoe ) reached Aotearoa, its first landfall was at Whangaparaoa, at the eastern end of the Bay of Plenty.

On arrival, the captain of the canoe, Hoturoa, built an altar there to give thanks to the Gods for their safe arrival, and to seek continuing protection and sanction for the future well-being of the ship's company.

Geneological traditions tell us that some of the company stayed behind in the Bay of Plenty, at both Whangaparaoa and further west at Torere, but the majority continued westward to Coromandel (where one of the sails was left at Whitianga).

Eventually they entered the Hauraki gulf and the Waitemata, where some others left the Tainui waka - canoe and settled on the narrow isthmus which later became known as Tamaki-makaurau.

At each resting place altars were constructed and prayers offered-up for a continuation of their well-being.


Nga Iwi O Tainui: The Traditional History of the Tainui People/Nga Koorero Tuku Iho O Nga Tuupuna

Nga Iwi O Tainui: The Traditional History of the Tainui People/Nga Koorero Tuku Iho O Nga TuupunaNga Iwi o Tainui is a classic work of New Zealand and Maori history, first published in 1995. A bilingual collection, in 67 chapters, of the histories, genealogies, songs and chants of the Tainui people, it represents the culmination of a life's work by the scholar and historian Dr Pei Te Hurinui Jones. His beautiful Maori text is matched on facing pages by Dr Bruce Biggs's English translations, a layout which facilitates a close study of the Maori language, valuable for scholars and students alike. Genealogical tables and map references place each separate incident in its social and geographical context. Extensive footnotes provide further information and there is a complete index to all place names and personal names in the text. Nga Iwi o Tainui received an Honour Award at the 1996 Montana New Zealand Book Awards...Order Nga iwi O Tainui Book


At Tamaki, the Tainui waka was dragged over the narrow portage between the Waitemata and the Manuka (Manukau) harbours.

It is said that the priest Rakataura (also called Rakaiuru) in the company of other tohunga left Tainui and proceeded southwards through the forestlands by foot.

Still, the majority of the company was aboard when Tainui cleared the Manuka heads and sailed along the boisterous west coast of the island, which is still referred to today as the Tai Tamatane.

At first, the Tainui waka sailed north into the Kaipara harbour and then beyond it, but then turned south and explored the coast to the south of Manuka.

Initially they sailed past the Waikato heads and the three harbours, Whaingaroa, Aotea and Kawhia, eventually making landfall at Mimi, in North Taranaki, where Hoturoa planted a pohutukawa tree which he had transported from the east coast (the Tai Tamawahine).

Turning northwards again, Hoturoa navigated the Tainui waka ( canoe ) to Mokau, where it was hauled ashore and secured to three posts.

According to oral traditions recorded by Kelly, the ship's company left Tainui at Mokau and travelled northwards to Kawhia where Hoturoa and Rakataura were able to reconcile their differences.

The Tainui waka was launched again at Mokau, where its anchor-stone was left, and it was sailed back up the coast to Kawhia, where, at Maketu, it was finally hauled ashore to rest.

The extent of these early excursions established the boundaries of the territory claimed by Tainui, and still recognised by all the other tribes today.

Te Punga 0 Tainui 'The anchor of Tainui'

When the Tainui waka ( canoe ) arrived at Kawhia the first concern of Hoturoa appears to have been the establishment of a whare wananga, a school of learning, at Ahurei.

It must have been clear to him that as his crew would become tribal leaders in the new colony, they and their children should be instructed in the culture and priestly skills which gave them authority over the common people.

His second concern was undoubtedly the establishment of the seed stocks of kumara, hue and taro which had been brought from Rangiatea.

This was of tremendous significance to .him and his people, for it meant not only more palatable and nutritious food but also that they would not be bound to the life-style of the original inhabitants, forever wandering in small bands in search of food and a supply of game.

It meant that they could settle in established communities based on a regular production of staple food and could make adequate provision for defence and for the development and preservation of a dominant culture.

The care of the gardens was traditionally the responsibility of the women of the family and his principal wife Whakaotirangi applied herself to the task in the new land.

She was aggrieved that Hoturoa had taken Maramakeke as a new wife, and no doubt believing that a more favourable matrimonial and horticultural climate could be found over the hill at Aotea, went there with her adult sons to establish a garden.

When the time came for the crops to be blessed and protected against malign influences she sent for Hoturoa to perform the 'pure' ceremony.

It is said that the success of his wife's industry, which demon­strated that his colony would prosper, moved him to tears of joy.

The spirit of exploration however still burned strongly in some of his crew, who had taken more than twenty five young women as wives from among the original inhabitants, the Ngati Hikawai and Ngati Upokotioa people.

One of the Tainui waka crew was Kopuwai and he took to wife Hine-moana-te-wai-wai, probably upon the slaying of her husband, Tamawhare. She was not only fine­looking but also the proud possessor of a greenstone spear tip designed for one of the long spears, often more than six metres in length and used for impaling pigeons. 

Kopuwai was so impressed by this magnificent dowry that he took the name Tarapounamu.

He also sought leave of Hoturoa to take Tainui on further exploration to the south, and that consent was given on the strict understanding that good care be taken of the Tainui canoe.

Tarapounamu and his friends accordingly set off in Tainui and finally put into Mokau where they decided to settle, returning to Kawhia to bring women and children to the new home.

When news reached Hoturoa that the Tainui waka had been hauled ashore at Mokau and left exposed to the elements he sent some of the remainder of his crew to bring the vessel to Kawhia, where he directed that she be drawn ashore into the shelter of a grove of kanuka at Maketu.

She was probably further protected against the elements by being banked with earth. Hoturoa ordered marker stones placed at bow and stern of the Tainui waka and these remain to this day; over twenty­ six metres apart, they demonstrate the length of Tainui, although unfortunately the grove of kanuka has long since vanished.

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