Auckland: The people of the ocean

By William Peters

As Auckland merges to create a supercity, the Herald looks back at how Auckland has changed over the years. Click here to view the full series.

Hotunui, whare tupuna of Ngati Maru and the Marutuahu tribes, resides in the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo / Auckland War Memorial Museum
Hotunui, whare tupuna of Ngati Maru and the Marutuahu tribes, resides in the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo / Auckland War Memorial Museum

Like the other tangata whenua of Auckland, the history of the Marutuahu people is found literally in the earth - in the names imprinted in it and the events, ancestors and traditions those names invoke.

The Marutuahu story for Auckland begins with the arrival of the waka Tainui in the waters of Tikapa Moana (Hauraki Gulf) around the end of the first millennium AD.

At a small island north of Waiheke (Gannet Rock), a poignant episode occurred during tapu rites performed by the tohunga of the waka.

The people heard sounds like sobbing produced by waves entering and emerging from the many crevices on the island. The sound took their thoughts back to their heart-rending farewells to relations in Hawaiki.

They named the island Horuhoru, which means sobbing. The name Tìkapa refers to one particular rock outcrop on this islet.

As the waka navigated the coastline the people stopped to refresh at a small waterfall gushing from the side of a hill.

Their satisfaction was such that the tupuna Te Uika bestowed his name on the hill, calling it Maungauika - Mountain of Uika (North Head).

The people of the waka also called the area Takapuna (falling spring waters).

Later they rested on the nearby island that was to become iconic for both tangata whenua and, centuries later, pakeha settlers. Its name records an incident that occurred when the Arawa waka had followed Tainui into Tamaki.

There was a reacquainting between the people over several days, during which the leader of the Tainui waka, Hoturoa, learned of intimacy between his wife and his counterpart from the Arawa waka, Tamatekapua.

Thus, the full name for Rangitoto is Te rangi i totongia ai te ihu a Tamatekapua (The Day that Tamatekapua's nose was bloodied).

The people of the Marutuahu confederation treasure their centuries-old relationship with Tamaki Makaurau though their rohe (tribal area) is much larger. The closely related and autonomous Marutuahu iwi, comprising Ngati Paoa, Ngati Maru, Ngati Whanaunga and Ngati Tamatera, express their rohe in the pepeha (tribal saying) "mai Matakana ki Matakana" - from Matakana Island (near Tauranga in the south) to Matakana (near Leigh in the north).

As is well known, the Tainui waka journeyed throughout Tamaki and Hauraki. The senior line of descent from the waka came down to Whatihua and from there to Hotunui and his son Marutuahu.

These two ancestors and their progeny were to change the face of the Hauraki and Auckland regions.

Internal tensions led to hostilities that engulfed the region in warfare for five generations.

Emerging successful from these campaigns were tribes formed by the sons of Marutuahu - Te Ngako (who took the name of his father for Ngati Maru), Whanaunga (Ngati Whanaunga), Tamatera (Ngati Tamatera), along with Paoa who married the great-granddaughter of Marutuahu (Ngati Paoa).

The warfare spilled over into Auckland where the Wai o Hua people wished to assist their beleaguered Hauraki kin. They targeted the famed Marutuahu taniwha, Te Ureia, who had accompanied the Tainui waka into Tikapa Moana.

One of his favourite pastimes was to sunbathe and scratch his itches and barnacles on rocks near Erin Point, hence the name Te Rotu o Ureia (the favoured place of Te Ureia).

The Wai o Hua people at Puketutu Island in the Manukau Harbour invited Te Ureia to their island fortress where they murdered and ate him, proclaiming accidental death to the outside world. As part of the subterfuge, they offered compensation to the Marutuahu people and invited them to visit.

A Marutuahu delegation duly attended a hui at Puketutu. While there, they also accepted an offer to visit that section of Wai o Hua at Maungawhau (Mt Eden).

On their return journey from Maungawhau, the Marutuahu delegation was ambushed in the bracken fern on the ridge now known as Meadowbank, at a spot near St Johns College. Two high ranking Ngati Maru chiefs were murdered and the a site was named Patutahi (Killed Together).

With darkness falling, some of the delegation escaped in their prized waka Puhinui, travelling to near Ihumatao to hide the waka before making their way home overland. The Puhinui area in South Auckland takes its name from this event.

Once home the Marutuahu raised a taua (war party) led by Rautao of Ngati Maru, a son and brother of the murdered chiefs, and departed for Tamaki Makaurau.

They sacked Waiheke Island and its surrounds before entering the Tamaki River and destroying pa on the isthmus, including Taurere (Taylor's Hill), Maungarei (Mt Wellington), Otahuhu (Mt Richmond) and Rarotonga (Mt Smart).

Rautao used the Tauoma portage to cross to the Manukau Harbour and, finding the district almost deserted, continued on to retrieve the hidden waka Puhinui, thwarting attempts by the locals to take it for themselves.

The captured enemy, seeking leniency, confessed it was the people of Maungawhau who were responsible for the ambush and murders. The expedition then headed at pace to Maungawhau.

At Maungawhau Rautao avenged his murdered father and brother by ordering that no quarter be given and no prisoners to be taken or consigned to the hangi. Everything was destroyed and burnt to the ground.

So severe was the destruction that Maungawhau was never again occupied.

The Marutuahu expedition then divided into tribal sections and attacked Wai o Hua and their allies throughout Auckland.

Around 50 Pa and villages fell, including the great fortresses as far north as Mahurangi and west to Te Mataa, a rock within Te Waitemataa harbour (The waters of Te Mataa) near Kauri Point, including the great three headed pa Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill).

Some survivors rallied at Mangere Pa to counter attack, but when they learnt Rautao was returning to destroy them they sued for peace and betrothed their most eligible ranking woman to him to preserve the senior whakapapa links between Wai o Hua and the Marutuahu people.

It was these events which secured the place of the Marutuahu people in Tamaki, Mahurangi and the Gulf Islands.

At the coming of the pakeha to Tamaki in the early 19th century, the settlements of Ngati Paoa in the central isthmus were of especial note in the early historical journals. As part of the colonisation of Auckland, the Crown acquired significant areas of land from each of Ngati Paoa, Ngati Maru, Ngati Whanaunga and Ngati Tamatera.

The people of Marutuahu acknowledge their kin who are also tangata whenua of Tamaki, for example Ngai Tai and Te Patukirikiri.

A famous incident involving Te Patukirikiri occurred before the Marutuahu invasions when Kapetaua led an expedition in response to an insult.

He defeated the offenders, a section of the Wai o Hua people at Waiheke Island and Kohimarama, to become the eponymous ancestor of the Patukirikiri people of Hauraki and Tamaki.

After this incident, his name was given to an islet in the Waitemataa: Te Toka a Kapetaua - the Rock of Kapetaua (Bean Rock).

The descendants of Hotunui and Marutuahu continue their relationships with these places and events. They also regularly visit the Auckland Museum which houses their famous whare tupuna (ancestral meeting house) Hotunui, on loan to the Museum, and the stone mauri Marutuahu.

William Peters is a descendant of the four Marutuahu tribes.

- NZ Herald

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