Historical Background

"Mai i Ngā Kuri A Whārei Ki Tihirau"

This poetical proverb is an ancient quotation that was uttered by the great ancestress Muriwai, the daughter of Irakewa and Wekanui-a-Ruakapanga. She was the sister of Toroa, the commander of the Mataatua canoe, Puhi, the founder of the Ngāpuhi tribe in the north, Huriwainuku, Rahiriterangi, Taneatua, the priestly expert of Mataatua and Tamawhiro, the founding ancestor of Ngai Tamawhiro, of Omeheu. From these ancestors came the people of Mataatua.

The Mataatua canoe made landfall at Rekohu then to Repanga. It was at this location that the Mataatua canoe was guided inland by the guardian birds of Mataatua called Takeretou and Mumuhou. The Mataatua canoe landed at Pārengarenga in the north, then to Whangaparoa just outside the boundaries of the present day Auckland township. Mataatua then headed towards the east coast and landed at Whangaparaoa under the summit of Tihirau mountain. From the east coast, Mataatua sailed to Tauranga. At Tauranga the ancestor Whārei and his pet dogs disembarked the canoe Mataatua and settled at Bowentown. Whārei observed that the rocks at Bowentown had similar features to his pet dogs, hence the proverb: "Mai i Ngā Kuri-a-Whārei."

The Mataatua canoe then sailed along the coastline of the Bay of Plenty naming various places and landmarks which included mountains, rivers, streams, hills, creeks, beaches and other land features, breathing life into the tribal boundaries, securing mana whenua, mana atua, mana tupuna and mana tangata for Mataatua tangata whenua and their future generations. Mataatua made landfall at Tauranga and then sailed to Pukehina passing Maketu. Mataatua then journeyed to Otamarākau then to Te Kaokaoroa and made landfall at Pikowai. Then Mataatua canoe continued its journey and landed at the river mouth of Tarawera. This area in Matata is referenced as Te Awa o Te Atua. From here the Mataatua canoe sailed onwards to Whakatāne passing the Rangitaiki river and the Orini river. Mataatua made landfall at the river mouth of Ohinemataroa, the present Whakatāne river.

It was Muriwai who uttered the proverbial saying; "Mai i Ngā Kuri-a-Whārei ki Tihirau." She quoted this proverb because her twin children drowned in the Pacific Ocean during the voyage of Mataatua from Hawaikinui to Aotearoa. For many generations, Muriwai placed a prohibition along the entire coastline from Bowentown in the Tauranga region to Cape Runaway. For such a rāhui to be established and remembered to this day is a statement about the priestly powers and mana of Muriwai.

Tihirau was named by an ancestor, Paikea. He came to Aotearoa on the back of a whale and likened the mountain at Cape Runaway to the ancestral mountain Tihirau in Hawaiki. Because Paikea had travelled a great distance from his homeland in Hawaiki, he named this mountain at Cape Runaway, "Tihirau-mai-Tawhiti."

These tribal boundaries incorporate all the various tribes, whānau, hapū, iwi and waka that live within this tribal estate. It is also recognised that there are other Tangata Whenua, hapū /iwi/ waka, who reside within the wider Pacific Health Region.


Click onto the image below to view video


Kōiwi/Ngati Awa Ancestor

During excavation of the car park at Whakatāne Hospital a Kōiwi / Ngati Awa Ancestor was uncovered. This was a significant event for Ngati Awa, the Whakatāne community and Whakatāne Hospital employees. Ngati Awa Senior Cultural Advisor Pouroto Ngaropo, in conjunction with our Regional Māori Health Services worked with local iwi to ensure cultural safety was maintained for all involved.  On 19 June at 12.30pm, Pouroto Ngaropo and hospital staff under Regional Māori Health Services laid to rest the skeleton, determined by an archaeologist to be a 500-year-old woman. The Kōiwi/ Ngati Awa ancestor was buried at the Ohuirehe cemetery on the outskirts of Whakatāne.



Click here to view the Māori TV video of laying the 500 year old skeleton to rest.


The Main ancestral canoes that have mana whenua:

Ngā Iwi o Mataatua; Mai Te Awa o Te Atua ki Tihirau, Mai Otamarākau ki Tihirau, ki Maungapohatu, ki Putauaki, ki Tawhiuau, ki Te Awa o Te Atua ki Whakatāne.

Eastern Bay of Plenty Tribes:
Ngāti Awa (Whakatāne, Rangitaiki, Tarawera, Matata)
Tuhoe (Waimana, Ruātoki, Rūatāhuna, Te Patuheuheu and Ngāti Haka)
Ngai Tai ki Torerenui
Te Whānau-a-Apanui
Ngāti Whare
Ngāti Manawa
Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau
Ngāti Rangitihi (Tarawera, Matata)

Ngāti Ranginui

Ngai Te Rangi
Ngāti Pukenga

Te Arawa:
Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketu
Ngāti Whakahemo ki Pukehina
Ngāti Mākino ki Otamarākau

Ngai Tai ki Torere.

Last updated: March 26, 2019