In Māori, Te Aupouri means "The Dark Cloud". According to legend, the Te Aupōuri came into conflict with the Te Rarawa iwi. The battle between the two eventually caused two other chieftains, Te Ikanui and Wheru, to become besieged in their pā in Pawarenga on Whangape Harbour. To mask their escape, they burnt their possessions and escaped under the cover of the smoke, hence the reference to the "Dark Cloud".
According to the traditions of the Aotea, Horouta and Māmari ancestral canoes, kiore (Polynesian rats) were passengers on their voyages from Hawaiki to New Zealand. Carvings on a window frame of Te Ōhākī marae at Ahipara depict the story of Ruanui's rat, Ruanui being the captain of the Māmari canoe. On arriving in Hokianga Harbour, he released his rats onto an island now called Motukiore "rat island".