Ngāti Tūwharetoa

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Ngāti Tūwharetoa
Iwi of New Zealand
Eastern Lake Taupo, Turangi to Taupo
Rohe (location) Central North Island
Waka (canoe) Arawa
Population 29,301
"United Tribes" number 46

Ngāti Tūwharetoa is an iwi (Māori tribe) descended from Ngātoro-i-rangi, the priest who navigated the Arawa canoe to New Zealand. The Tūwharetoa region extends from Te Awa o te Atua (Tarawera River) at Matata across the central plateau of the North Island to the lands around Mount Tongariro and Lake Taupo.

Tūwharetoa is the sixth largest iwi in Aotearoa with a population of 30,000 (NZ Census 2001) comprising a number of hapu (subtribes) represented by 33 marae. This collective is bound together by the legacy of Ngātoro-i-rangi as epitomised in the Ariki (Paramount Chief). 40% of Ngāti Tūwharetoa are under the age of 15.


Ngāti Tūwharetoa are descendants of the eponymous male warrior Tūwharetoa i te Aupouri. He was born in Onepu (Kawerau). The main Tribal areas of his people are based from Te Awa o te Atua in Matata to Tongariro. He gains his mana from the powerful tohunga and navigator, Ngātoro-i-rangi who piloted the great waka Te Arawa from Hawaiki to Aotearoa. Ngātoro-i-rangi was tricked onto the Te Arawa waka by the chief Tama-te-kapua as it was considered good luck to have him aboard. He was originally destined to travel aboard the Tainui waka. This greatly angered Ngātoro-i-rangi and his disdain and animosity of the Te Arawa chief led to his leaving the group soon after arrival.

In Aotearoa they made landfall at Te Awa o Te Atua, and Ngātoro-i-rangi departed heading inland to Te Takanga i o Apa (Kawerau area), thence to Ruawahia where he encountered the monstrous Tama o Hoi and eventually reaching Taupo district where he climbed Mount Tauhara.

From Tauhara, Ngātoro-i-rangi made his way to Tongariro with the intention of standing on its summit and thus claiming the district as his own. While climbing the mountain a powerful southerly wind whipped his face, icy gales chiselled the warmth from his body while the frozen volcano cut painfully into his feet eventually bringing him to his knees with cold. As Ngātoro-i-rangi lay dying he called to his sisters Kuiwai and Haungaroa in Hawaikii, to send fire to warm him, "Kuiwai e! Haungaroa e! Ka riro au i te tonga! Tukuna mai he ahi! (Oh Kuiwai! Oh Haungaroa! I am seized by the cold south wind! Send fire to me!)

Ketetahi Springs
Western Taupo Steam and Hot Springs
Western Taupo looking north

Heeding his call, they sent fire in the form of two taniwha (daemons), Te Pupu and Te Hoata. As they travelled underground the flames first erupted at White Island, then Rotorua and Taupo, finally bursting at the feet of Ngātoro-i-rangi, welling up from the large vent in the volcano’s summit, warming the tohunga and thus allowing him to achieve his goal.

On the summit of Tongariro Ngātoro-i-rangi gave thanks and established 'Te Wharetoa o Tūmatauenga' The Warrior House of - the legacy of Tūwharetoa.

Ngātoro-i-rangi did not remain at Tongariro, instead returning to the coast to live out his life at Motiti Island. His descendants settled at Te Awa o Te Atua inland to Kawerau increasing over the generations until the time of Mawake Taupo, 8th generation descendant of Ngātoro-i-rangi. Mawake Taupo took as wife a woman of the Hapuoneone named Hahuru and their son Manaia would eventually take the name Tuwharetoa

19th Century[edit]

Te Heu Heu, chief of Tuwharetoa, sided with the rebels in the 1863 rebellion against the government. He was one of the instigators of the King Movement. At the 1861 Kohimaramara Peace conference before the war, called by Governor Grey in an effort to cement peace, he was the most belligerent tribal leader of all the kingites. Not all Tuwharetoa supported Te Heu heu's position. Wharerahi of Tuwharetoa said that the trouble was caused by Taranaki tribes selling their land to the government and then wanting it back again.[1] Tuwharetoa did not take part in any of the early 1863 raids and battles in Auckland. Their first effort to join the kingites in battle was at the end of the Waikato Campaign at the Battle Of Orakau. Tuwharetoa warriors was prevented from entering the rebel stronghold by the early arrival of government troops, who quickly formed a ring around the stronghold to prevent reinforcement. Tuwharetoa warriors were left to watch from a hillside 900 metres away where they were intermittently bombarded by Armstrong cannons. They could only encourage the hapless defenders with haka from a safe distance.[2] Later in 1869 Tuwharetoa joined with the escaped renegade Te Kooti and his Hau Hau supporters. Te Kooti had challenged the Maori King Tawhaio at Te Kuiti for his position but been rebuffed. However the Kingitanga kept a close eye on Te Kooti as he fought with the government and settlers and loyal Maori. Tuwharetoa joined with Te Kooti's Hau Hau at Te Porere Redoubt that was styled after a European fort. The result of the battle was a decisive defeat for Tuwharetoa and Te Kooti. Women taken prisoner at Te Porere by the government soldiers indicated that Tuwharetoa were reluctant to fight. Te Kooti had kept the Tuwharetoa women under Hau Hau guard to ensure the Tuwahretoa men would fight. Donald McLean the native minister realised that confiscating Tuwharetoa land was not a realistic option . Instead Tuwharetoa were allowed to give some land -Mount Tongariro to the crown.[3]

Ngāti Tūwharetoa structure[edit]

The sons of Tūwharetoa moved from Kawerau across Waiariki and eventually into the district around Taupo and by skill at arms, strategy and might eventually established the rohe of Tūwharetoa settling in three divisions at Kawerau, Waiariki and Tongariro.

Mai Te Awa o Te Atua Ki Tongariro, Tūwharetoa Ki Kawerau, Tūwharetoa Ki Waiariki, Tūwharetoa Ki te Tonga (From Te Awa-o-te-Atua to Tongariro, Tūwharetoa at Kawerau, Tūwharetoa at Waiariki, Tūwharetoa at Tongariro)

This pepeha (tribal saying) describes the tribal boundaries of Ngāti Tūwharetoa extending from Te Awa o Te Atua (a confluence of rivers at Matata) south to Tongariro

Lists of paramount chiefs[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NZETC. Kohimaramara Conference .30th July. 1860.
  2. ^ Forest Rangers. R Stowers.
  3. ^ Redemption Songs.J. Binney. p 178-190. Auckland University Press. 1996.

External links[edit]