The People in History
Compiled from manuscripts by D.R. Simmons
Only fragments of the history of the people who settled Tāmaki are known to us today. The Auckland isthmus has always been a main highway and mixing place for many different groups. The tribes living in Auckland at various times emphasised different lines of ancestry, depending on the various pressures from powerful tribes at their borders. The changing population made the preservation of traditional knowledge difficult.
The earliest named peoples were Ngā Oho, Ngā Iwi and Ngā Riki who later became known as Waiohua. It is thought that these groups could have been branches of the tribe.
Ngā Oho lived mainly on the North Shore, Ngā Riki (Waiohua) lived around Papakura and Ngā Iwi occupied the area from there to the Waitemata.In ancient times Awataha was a village occupied by the Kawerau a Maki people, who were closely related to Waiohua, a later tribe in the area.
These people lived more to the west around the Kaipara, across to Mahurangi and down to the Manukau. They owned all the offshore islands and the coast from Takapuna (North Head) as far as Mahurangi. Many of their pa and villages can still be seen in the Waitakere ranges. Some say the Kawerau a Maki descended from the itinerant warrior Maki who aided the Ngāti Whātua to conquer the Kaipara, but according to their own account given by Potene, Kawerau a Maki recognised the Tainui canoe, but really claimed descent from the Rangimata canoe under Marupuku. Anonther canoes that Kawerau a Maki takes some origin is the Wakatuwhenua, the leprosy canoe that landed in Kawau.This is also the region of people who lived further north at Te Arai, the Ngāi Tahuhu.
Ngāi Tahuhu were a branch of Kawerau a Maki and like them were closely related to Ngāti Awa who traditionally said to have migrated from Northland to have established themselves in Taranaki and the Bay of Plenty. After 1650, Kawerau a Maki territory was reduced by Ngāti Whātua conquest.
The Kawerau a Maki were left in occupation at Long Bay, Torbay and other areas of the coast, even though they owed homage to Ngāti Whātua.
In the late 18th century, raiders of the Ngāti Paoa of Hauraki Gulf took over the offshore islands and ventured between Rangitoto and the coast using Awanui a Peretu, now known as Rangitoto Channel, to attack the Kawerau a Maki along the coast.
The last chief of Kawerau a Maki was Te Rangikaketu whose grandson laid claim to the whole of the Auckland area. The boundaries of Rangikaketu’s land were from Takapuna, Waiwharariki, Wairau, Rahopara, Taiaonui, Taiaoiti, Waipapa, Ohau, Omangaia, Te Taroa, Awaruaika, Okura, Te Weiti, Whangaparoa, Orewa to Te Tahuna. From 1841-1854 the Mahurangi block from Takapuna to Te Arai was purchased by the Crown. The sellers were the chiefs and people of the tribes among whom were; Pariahoro, Tawhitu, Rameka, Mirou, Ngakoti o Kawerau, Watene Tautari, Te Rewiti, Paora Tuhaere of Ngati Paoa, Ngati Whanaunga and the Marutuahu tribes of Hauraki.
These last two groups of tribes were the more recent conquerers of the area. Some descendants of Kawerau a Maki still live in the East Coast Bays where their earliest ancestors settled about a thousand years ago.
In a splendid sheath
of polished wood and glass
with shiny appurtenances
lay he fitly blue-knuckled
hurry rain and trail him
to the bottom of the grave
Flowers beyond budding
will not soften the gavel’s
beat of solemn words
and hard sod thudding:
hurry rain and trail him
to the bottom of the grave
Through a broken window
inanely looks he up;
his face glass-gouged and bloodless
his mouth engorging clay
for all the world uncaring…
Cover him quickly earth!
Let the inexorable seep of rain
finger his greening bones, deftly.
This poem was written by Hone Tuwhare of Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Korokoro, Ngāti Tautahi, Te Potopoto, and Te Puriohau descent.
He wrote the following:
“My poem details the aftermath when we hauled Puhata from the womb of the earth in a kind of Caesarean operation. My poem, which finally emerged about twenty years after the event (the disinterment) and was first published in 1960, is in essence a poem of extreme repugnance for the insensitivities of Pakeha institution in heaping that kind of indignity Waikato: for nothing came of it, after all, and no tanks (oil) were ever sited there”.
He is referring to the land on which the urupa was sited, (which is part of the Awataha Village and close to where the Awataha Marae site is) when various tribal families were asked by the Public Works and Health Department to remove the bones of their relatives from the burial site as it was “required for war purposes”, i.e. storage tanks for fuel oil. Princess Te Puea led a “removalist” party from Tainui. This took place in 1942 during the early part of the war years (Second World War).
Hone Tuwhare said “the whole incident became a burden which weighed heavily on me for many years. It was like an albatross on my back”. The Māori people were angry and upset at having the burial place of their ancestors desecrated and, to add insult to injury, were forced to keep the whole thing a secret.