The Migratory Waka – Aotea Store

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The Migratory Waka

New Zealand was first populated between the 10th and 13th century AD. Overpopulation and competition for land and food in Hawaiki, the fabled ancestral home of Māori in Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean) drove tribal leaders to lead their people in search of a new home aboard waka hourua (twin-hulled oceangoing sail canoes). Those who settled in New Zealand became the Māori people of New Zealand.
There is a great body of mātauranga (Māori knowledge) about these waka. Māori iwi throughout Aotearoa trace their whakapapa back to the waka on which their tūpuna or ancestors came to New Zealand. There is also significant independent scientific inquiry into the historical accuracies. 
In New Zealand folklore, Kupe is recognised as the first Māori navigator and explorer to visit New Zealand. When his wife Kuramārōtini sighted the North Island, she is said to have cried, “ao! ao! ao tea! ao tea roa!” for she saw a long (“roa”), white (“tea”) cloud (“ao”) hanging above the land. His waka was called Matawhaorua.
Efforts to tell the story of the Māori settlement of New Zealand are sometimes simplified. Seven waka named Tainui, Tokomaru, Te Arawa, Mātaatua, Kurahaupō, Aotea, and Horouta are sometimes recognised as the Great Fleet of Te Hekenga Nui. In reality, there were many more. Another very prominent one was Tākitimu. 
Tainui was captained by a man named Hoturoa. He came to the Bay of Plenty first, then sailed up the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula and came into Tīkapa Moana, the Hauraki Gulf. His crew dragged the canoe from the shores of the Waitematā across the isthmus to the Manukau Harbour, and sailed south, settling in Kāwhia, and Whaingaroa (Raglan). Eventually the Tainui iwi spread over the King Country, and the Waikato to the Hauraki Plains.
Te Arawa was captained by a relative of Hoturoa, named Tama te Kapua. Te Arawa beached at a beach called Maketū in the Bay of Plenty and the people headed inland to the lakes region of Rotorua. The Te Arawa rohe is delineated by the whakataukī “Mai Maketū ki Tongariro, ko Te Arawa te waka."
Ngāti Tuwharetoa of the Tongariro-Taupō rohe draw their lineage back to the navigator tohunga of Te Arawa waka, Ngātoro-i-rangi, who fell out with Tama te Kapua (he had meant to leave Hawaiki onboard Tainui and was kidnapped by Tama te Kapua as he was performing the final rituals that would make their waka ready for open water), and headed as far south as Tongariro, delineating their rohe.
Tākitimu was captained by the chief Tamatea-Ariki-Nui. He settled in the East Cape region, and the waka continued on to the South Island, under the command of Tahu Pōtiki, who founded the Ngāi Tahu iwi, the largest iwi in Te Waipounamu.
Toi was another famous ancestor from Hawaiki. He is especially important for iwi of the Bay of Plenty. He lived in a pā called Kaputerangi above Whakatāne, with a commanding view of Te Moana o Toi. He came on a canoe searching for his grandson, who had been blown out to sea in a storm. Ngā tini o Toi are his descendants. 
Mātaatua is a waka of East Coast iwi and was captained by Toroa. His brother Puhi may have sailed the waka northward to the Bay of Islands, which all agree is the waka’s final resting place. Ngā Puhi can trace their origins to this settlement.

Mātaatua Māori include the tribes of Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Te Whakatōhea, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Pūkenga.
Kurahaupō is a waka referenced by Taranaki tribal tradition, which probably had numerous different captains, and was famously known as the canoe that broke at sea, Te Waka Pakaru ki te Moana.

Horouta is a waka of iwi of the East Cape, such as Ngāti Kahungunu. According to Kahungunu tradition, Pawa captained Horouta and Kiwa was the tohunga. The final resting place of Horouta was in Tūranganui a Kiwa (Gisborne). 
Aotea is a waka of iwi of Taranaki-Whanganui region, mentioned in the tribal histories of tribal groups such as Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāruahine and Ngā Rauru. Its captain killed the son of the chief Uenuku of Hawaiki, and had to flee Hawaiki. (A conflict with the same chief Uenuku was also a cause of Tama te Kapua’s departure from Hawaiki.)
This is just the tip of the iceberg with these traditions, and there are far more traditions that we cannot touch upon in one post than traditions we have touched upon. All traditions have special relevance for the iwi and hapū which descend from these ancestors.