Tainui (canoe)

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For other uses, see Tainui (disambiguation).
Great Māori migration waka
Commander Hoturoa
Landed at Whangaparaoa, Bay of Plenty, Kāwhia

In Māori tradition, Tainui was one of the great ocean-going canoes in which Polynesians migrated to New Zealand approximately 800 years ago. The Tainui waka was named for an infant who did not survive childbirth. At the burial site of this child, at a place in Hawaiki known then as Maungaroa, a great tree grew; this was the tree that was used to build the ocean canoe.


Several Tuamotuan stories tell of canoes named Tainui, Tainuia (captained by Hoturoa) and Tainui-atea (captained by Tahorotakarari), that left the Tuamotus and never returned.

In Māori traditions, the Tainui waka was commanded by the chief Hoturoa. On its voyage the Tainui stopped at many Pacific islands, eventually arriving in New Zealand. Its first landfall was at Whangaparaoa on the east coast of the northern North Island. Tainui continued on to Tauranga, the Coromandel Peninsula and Waitemata Harbour. From the Waitemata on the east coast, the canoe was carried by hand across the Tamaki isthmus (present-day Auckland) to Manukau Harbour on the west coast. From the Manukau, Tainui sailed north to Kaipara, then southwards to the west coast harbours of Whaingaroa (Raglan), Aotea and Kāwhia. It continued further to south of the estuaries of the Mōkau and Mohakatini rivers before returning north to its final resting place at Maketu in Kāwhia harbour.

Crew members disembarked at each landfall site along the way. Descendent groups formed several iwi, many associating under the Tainui confederation of iwi.

See also[edit]


  • Craig, RD (1989). Dictionary of Polynesian Mythology. New York: Greenwood Press. p. 253. 
  • Stimson JF and Marshall S (1964). Dictionary of Some Tuamotuan Dialects of the Polynesian Languages. Salem: Peabody Museum. p. 485. 
  • Taonui, Rāwiri (2006-12-21). "Canoe traditions". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 2007-04-10. 
  • Te Tumu O Tainui. 1986.