On Monday November 11, MTG Hawke's Bay (Museum, Theatre, Gallery) welcomed in "Te Arawhiti", the hei tiki of our tipuna Kahungunu.

Te Arawhiti is part of an upcoming exhibition named "Rongonui – Taonga mai ngā tāngata, ngā wāhi, me ngā takahanga: Treasured taonga from people, places and events", which opens on November 30.

That means anything or anybody in the Hawke's Bay Museums Trust's taonga collection that is well known or famous will be on display in the exhibition. Due to the importance of Te Arawhiti, this taonga is the only item borrowed for the exhibition.

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Te Arawhiti was originally brought to Hawke's Bay from Whakatāne by Kahungunu, the eponymous ancestor of Ngāti Kahungunu.

Kahungunu passed Te Arawhiti to his daughter, Tauheikuri, who gifted it as a wedding present to Tūteihonga, the wife of her brother Kahukuranui.

Kahukuranui was the eldest son of Kahungunu and Rongomaiwahine. Kahukuranui and Tu Teihonga had a daughter Hinemanuhiri and a son Rakaipaaka.

Tu Teihonga gave Te Arawhiti to Hinemanuhiri. Hinemanuhiri then gave this hei tiki to her son Tama-te-Rangi, from her marriage to Pakaru, the son of Ruapani. Tama-te-Rangi wore the hei tiki in battle as his kaitiaki, guardian.

Te Arawhiti descended from Tama-te-Rangi, to Tama-te-Hua, to Te Rangiwhakarewa, to Kamihi, to Tira-a-Rangi, to Te Arawhiti, to Te-o-Tane. Te-o-Tane named the hei tiki "Te Arawhiti" after his mother. Prior to this the hei tiki was known as Te Hei Tiki o Kahungunu.

Te-o-Tane also wore the hei tiki in battle as a kaitiaki and credited Te Arawhiti as the reason he never lost a battle.

Te Arawhiti resides under the care of the Whanganui Regional Museum and is on loan to MTG for 12 months. Appropriately, the kaitiaki for Whanganui Regional Museum is Āwhina Twomey, who is Ngāti Kahungunu ki Mōkai Pātea, (Ngāti Hinemanu and Ngāti Paki of Winiata Marae), and from Te Reinga in Te Wairoa, linking her directly to Te Arawhiti.

The other kaitiaki are the descendants of Tama-te-Rangi, Ngai Tama-te-Rangi from the Waiau River, Te Wairoa, and the great-grandson of the kuia who was the last kaitiaki of this most important hei tiki.


The welcoming of Te Arawhiti back to Ngāti Kahungunu and into MTG was supported by Kahungunu Iwi with their kaumatua, Haami Hilton and Bevan Taylor, speaking on behalf of Kahungunu Iwi.

Also attending in support were the local community, schools, the Department of Conservation and representatives from both the Hastings and Napier councils.

Te Arawhiti being the hei tiki of Kahungunu himself, it is the most important artefact in the Rongonui exhibition and to Ngāti Kahungnu iwi.

Kahungunu, also known as Kahu-hunuhunu, was born in Ngā Puhi, the house of Rāhiri, in Tinotino pā Ōrongotea Ngāti Kahu. His great-grandfather was Tamate-Ariki-Nui, the captain of Takitimu waka of the migration to Aotearoa.

Kahungunu was not a warrior, he was a diplomat, an engineer, a producer, a provider and protector. He preferred industrious pursuits, pastoral activities and fishing to warfare.

With these skills, his pacifist spirit and compassionate nature, many women of high rank found him captivating, endearing themselves to him and resulting in him having eight wives from Kaitaia round the East Coast to Māhia. With these marriages, Kahungunu consolidated peace over large areas of land.

Today his iwi of Ngāti Kahungunu spread from the Wharerata Ranges south Turanganui-a-Kiwa, Poverty Bay, to the Rimutaka Ranges, south Wairarapa, and spilling over into Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington.

For anyone wishing to see Te Arawhiti, the Rongonui exhibition will be open to the public on Saturday November 30 from 9.30am.