Story: Waikato tribes

Page 3 – Ancestors

Kahu

The journey of the ancestress Kahu is an important settlement narrative of the Tainui and Waikato peoples. Kahu, sometimes called Kahukeke or Kahupeka, walked inland from Kāwhia while grieving for her husband Uenga, who had recently died. Her first destination was a mountain that became known as Pirongia, shortened from Te Pirongia-o-Te Aroaro-ō-Kahu (the scented pathway of Kahu). Here she named a stream Te Manga-Wāero-o-Te Aroaro-ō-Kahu (the stream in which Kahu’s dogskin cloak was washed). Nearby she named another summit Te Kakepuku-ō-Kahu (the hill over which Kahu climbed) and further south, the peak Te Kāwa-ō-Kahu (where Kahu slept in a garden). Following this she went to Hauraki and gave the name Te Aroha-ō-Kahu (the yearning of Kahu) to a mountain, in memory of her husband.

She travelled south and named a mountain range Te Whakamaru-ō-Kahu (the place where Kahu took shelter). Another locality to the south was called Te Whakakākaho-ō-Kahu, for a shelter she made out of kākaho reeds. She travelled west of Lake Taupō and named the mountain ranges Te Rangitoto-ō-Kahu (the black lava of Kahu) and Te Hurakia-ō-Kahu (the discovery of Kahu). At another peak, her food ran out and so she called it Maunga Pau-ō-Kahu (the barren mountain of Kahu). After suffering from illness and performing rites to aid her recovery, she named another mountain Te Pureora-ō-Kahu (the life-giving ritual of Kahu). Finally, Kahu arrived at Te Puke-ō-Kahu (the sacred mountain of Kahu), where she passed away.

Tūheitia and his son Māhanga

Tūheitia and Māhanga are important ancestors of the Waikato people. Tūheitia was a renowned warrior whose home was never attacked by enemies. This is commemorated in the saying,

Haere mai ki ahau
Ki Te Papa-o-Rotu
Ki te au tē rena,
Ki te urunga tē taka,
Ki te moenga tē whakaarahia.
Ahakoa iti taku iti
He rei kei roto.
Come to me
To Te Papa-o-Rotu
To the unstirred current
To the pillow that falls not
And the undisturbed sleep.
Although I am small
I have teeth.

Tūheitia was eventually killed at sea, but was transformed into a taniwha , a spiritual creature who came to live in the Waipā River.

His son Māhanga travelled widely, marrying numerous women, having children and engaging in various conflicts and battles. He became the ancestor of the Ngāti Māhanga people, a major tribe within the Waikato confederation. Māhanga’s deeds are commemorated in the saying,

Māhanga whakarere kai, whakarere waka.
Māhanga who abandons food and canoes.

This refers to his constant travels to engage in warfare, and his refusal to settle permanently with a tribe or family.

Ōmaero and Te Kaharoa

Ōmaero and Te Kaharoa are two marae of the Ngāti Māhanga people. Ōmaero is near Whatawhata, and Te Kaharoa in the Aramiro valley near Raglan. The places after which these marae are named are referred to in a statement by Māhanga. Aggrieved at the death of his son Tonganui, he cried,

Kia whakatupu te tangata i tana tamaiti rangatira hei takitaki i te mate o Tonga-nui! Whakamau! whakamau ki Manuaitu, ki Puke-rengarenga! Tuutuu kau nga puuruu kahikatea e tuu ki Oomaero! Oraora kau nga kaakaho o Te Kaharoa!
Let the people raise young chiefs to avenge the death of Tonganui. Remember, remember Manuaitu and Pukerengarenga! The close-growing kahikatea stand erect at Ōmaero! The reeds of Te Kaharoa rustle and stir! 1
Footnotes:
  1. Pei Te Hurinui Jones and Bruce Biggs, Nga iwi o Tainui. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1995, pp. 130–131. › Back
How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal. 'Waikato tribes - Ancestors', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 22-Sep-12
URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/waikato-tribes/page-3