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Volume 37, 1904
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Te Aratawhao.”

Voyage of the “Aratawhao” Canoe to Hawaiki in order to obtain the Kumara.

I will now give a short account of the most important event in the history of the Bay of Plenty tribes—viz., the introduction of the kumara, or sweet-potato, whereby the lot of the aboriginal tribes was much improved. Previous to that important event the natives had but one cultivated plant, the hue, or gourd, which was, however, a very poor article of food, and could only be eaten in the early stages of its growth—i.e., in the kotawa state. The vegetable foods of the aboriginal tribes were principally fern-root, mamaku, berries, various plants used as greens, also the young undeveloped leaves of various Cordyline, and the tap roots of at least one variety of Cordyline. Of these, the principal item was the aruhe, or fern-root, which was the great stand-by of the aborigines. Presumably the first settlers in New Zealand did not bring seed sweet-potatoes with them, although they brought seeds of the gourd, and also introduced dogs of the ruarangi breed.

About twenty generations ago the old-time fort Kapu-te-rangi, whose earthen walls still crown the cliffs of Whakatane, was inhabited by the descendants of Toi, among whom one Tama-ki-hikurangi was probably the most important chief. These people were known by the tribal names of Te Hapu-one-one, Te Tini-o-awa, &c. And it fell upon a certain fine morn that one Kura-whakaata, a daughter of Tama-ki-hikurangi, was walking on the beach, or bank of the river, beneath the pa mentioned, when she espied two strange men lying upon a rock hard by the river-side, and also heard them repeating the following invocation in order to cause the sun to shine brightly, and thereby warm their chilled frames, for they had undergone much hardship from exposure in their long canoe voyage from the isles of Polynesia:—

Upoko! Upoko! Whiti te ra
Tenei to wahine te aitia nei
E te aoao nunui, e te aoao roroa
Tu atu te makariri
Haramai te werawera
Haere mai te mahana

The following being a different version of the same:—

Upane! Kaupane! Whiti te ra
Tenei to wahine te aitia nei
E te ngarara nunui, e te ngarara roroa
Upoko! Upoko! Whiti te ra.

These two men were brothers named Taukata and Hoaki, sons of one Rongoatau of far Hawaiki, and they had made the long

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and adventurous voyage to this land in a canoe named “Nga Tai-a-kupe,” which is said to have been a waka pungapunga (pungapunga canoe), whatever that may have been. I should not think that pumice-stone (pungapunga) would make a very seaworthy vessel.

Now, as Taukata was subsequently slain at Whakatane, and his brother Hoaki returned home to Hawaiki on “Te Aratawhao,” it follows that no genealogy from them is now known; but we have various lines from their sister Kanioro, who, as stated above, married Pou-rangahua of Turanga. The four names given were all children of Rongo-a-tau, a chief of a Polynesian people dwelling at a place named Te Whakao, at Ha-waiki-nui:—

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When the strangers had finished their prayers, Te Kura-whakaata asked, “From whence do you come?” They replied, “We come from Hawaiki, from Mataora.” “So came these voyagers to Kakaho-roa, which was the ancient name of Whakatane, the name our ancestors gave it in times long passed away, long before the canoes arrived which brought hither the new people, the Maori who now dwell in Aotearoa.”

Even so, the worn-out voyagers were conducted by Te Kura to Ka-pu-te-rangi, the fortress home of her father, Tama-ki-hikurangi, and his people. As Te Kura entered the ancient fort of Toi, she cried, “He manuhiri kei ahau, Te Hapu-oneone, E!” And the people were disturbed in their minds at this announcement, not knowing what this visit of strangers from a far land might portend. But they turned to prepare food for their guests, the foods of the men of old—fern-root, mamaku, and ti (Cordyline), and roots of the raupo, and earthworms. Then was heard the resounding blows of many mallets as the women crushed the fern-root. Taukata asked, “What is the loud sound we hear?” And Tama replied, “It is Haumia-roa.” (Haumia-roa is a sort of emblematical term for fern-root.) When the prepared food was placed before the voyagers they showed no great appreciation of it. Taukata said, “The prized food of Hawaiki has arrived in Aotearoa.” He demanded that a bowl of water be brought, and he then took from his belt (tatua pupara, the pocket of the old-time Maori) some dried kumara, which he pulverised and stirred into the gourd of water, the result being a sort of mush, which he offered to his hosts, who were delighted with the new article of food. They inquired, “How may this food be obtained?” Taukata replied, “By means of a canoe. You must construct a canoe and visit Hawaiki, where you will obtain the kumara.” Now, the original people of New Zealand at that time seem to have given up the making of large sea-going canoes; anyhow, they put the matter into the hands of their visitors, who were asked to build a canoe for the purpose. This would seem to mean that the vessel by which Hoaki and his brother had come to Aotearoa had either been rendered unseaworthy or was too small for the required purpose. Anyhow, the visitors found a fine totara-tree stranded on the river-bank at Opihi, just across the river, and opposite the present Township of Whakatane. Of this they made a large canoe which was named “Te Ara-tawhao,” so called because it was made from drift timber (ta-whaowhao). The vessel was hewn out with stone tools named Te Manokuha, Te Waiheke, Te Whao-tapu-nui-a-tane, and Wa-rawara-tai-o-tane. Taukata said, “You must go far across the seas to obtain the kumara. You must go to Pari-nui-te-ra

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and to Ngaruru-kai-whatiwhati, where you will obtain the best seed, such as the toroa-mahoe.”

While “Te Aratawhao” was being prepared for her long voyage Pou-rangahua seems to have been present at Wha-katane. He said, “Do not let our canoe sail forth until I have visited my child Kahukura, at Kirikino. When the sun rises he puts out his tongue in that direction; hence I believe that in that direction can be found suitable food for his mother—that is, to cause her to give milk freely.” But when Pou returned from his visit home to Turanga he found that the “Aratawhao” had sailed for Hawaiki without him. Hence he took steps to reach Hawaiki on his own account; but we will leave the relation of his weird adventures on that trip for another time, and follow the fortunes of “Te Aratawhao,” the vessel of Te Hapu-oneone, which crossed the wide seas to the distant isles of Polynesia.

Of those who formed the crew of “Te Aratawhao,” I give below such names as have been preserved. Among them was Hoaki, brother of Taukata, one of the voyagers who brought tidings of the kumara to the Hapu-oneone of Whakatane, or, as it was then called, Kakaho-roa.

Crew of “Te Aratawhao” (Portion only).

Tama-ki-lukurangi (chief person on board)

Hoaki (taken as a pilot)




Te Puka

Te Whatu-iria








Te Whatu-potango




Te Whatu-pouri


Taukata remained at Whakatane, possibly on account of his sisters Kanioro and Tuturi-whatu* having settled in New Zealand, but Hoaki went on the “Aratawhao” to act as a guide for her crew to the far-off isles of Polynesia. Taukata and his brother are said to have supervised the building of “Te Aratawhao.” It is probable that the Hapu-oneone had forgotten the art of building sea-going vessels at that time.

When “Te Aratawhao” was ready for sea, and about to leave Whakatane, Puhi-ariki proposed that Tama-ki-hikurangi be left behind, that they should sail without him, lest disaster befall the voyagers. This fear was perhaps caused by Tama's wellknown

[Footnote] * Or Tuturu-whatu.

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powers of magic, for he was a noted tohunga (priest, warlock, magician, shaman), and was high priest of the famous pouahu, or sacred place, at Whakatane. Tama heard of the above project, and declined to be left behind. He also managed to give his fellow-voyagers a fright. He bored a hole in the bottom of the canoe, and when they had lost sight of land pulled out the plug with which he had stopped the hole. The water flowed in until the crew became alarmed, nor could they find the baler until Tama, who had concealed it, produced it. He had also caused the wind and sea to rise by means of his magic rites (ka hikaia te hau, me te kino o te moana).

So the famed “Aratawhao” sailed forth from Whakatane upon the sea of Toi, and headed for the far-away isles of Polynesia. And this was the act which caused such an important change in the lives and domestic economy of the old-time people of New Zealand. For by the acquisition of the kumara they became an agricultural people, and by their voyage to Hawaiki they were the cause of the famous historic fleet of “Te Arawa,” “Tainui,” “Matatua,” “Aotea,” &c., coming to New Zealand. Had these people known that ere long they would lose their old-time power and prestige through the coming of a more energetic class of Polynesians, it is probable that Taukata and Hoaki would have met with a different reception than that accorded them, and that the title of “Wood-eaters” would have been applicable to the descendants of Toi for many more years.

But these old Vikings wot not of the buffetings which fate held in store for them, so sailed they across the great ocean to the home of their visitors. Still does the voyage of “Te Arata-whao” live in song and story among the descendants of Toi, the Wood-eater, and still they recite the tales of daring deeds performed by their ancestors in the days of the long ago.

After the long voyage across the Great Ocean of Kiwa, the “Aratawhao,” battered and worn from her long cruise, arrived at Hawaiki, the home of Rongoatau, father of Taukata and Hoaki, who lived at Te Whakao.

On arriving at Hawaiki, Hoaki visited one Maru-tai-ranga-ranga, a chief of those parts, who greeted him with the following song:—

E hika' E hika!
Ka uea koe i runga te ata ura
Ki runga te ata mea
Maku e ki atu, pikitia e koe
I runga te ngaru nui
I runga te ngaru roa
Waerea e koe i tai
Ka pupuke i runga o te Moana nui a Kiwa
E takoto nei

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Hurihanga a ngaru
Ki waho ki te moana
Turua mai e koe
Ki a Tu-hikitia, ki a Tu-hapainga
Aua mai nuku, aua mai rangi
Rukuhia e koe i te ruku i te kawau
Koia te rangi e tu nei—e—i.

As the people gathered round to greet him, Hoaki said to Maru, “Sir, I have a party with me.” “Who are they?” inquired Maru. “They are the descendants of Toi.” “For what purpose have they come?” “They tasted the dried kumara that we took with us, hence they have come to obtain the seed for planting.”

So the voyagers obtained their seed, which was procured at Pari-nui-te-ra and at Ngaruru-kai-whatiwhati.

Below are given some of the incantations and spells used by the crew of the “Aratawhao”:—

Ka kikaia ko te hau.

Hika atu ra taku ahi
Ki te hau e riri mai nei
E rotu mate, rotu mate aio he
Tawaha ana ra
Te hau e riri mai nei
E rotu mate, rotu mate, aio he
He marangai te hau
E riri mai nei
Haere i tua, haere i a moana nui
Haere i a moana roa
Haere i a moana te takiritia
Ki te whai ao, ki te ao marama.

The above spell is termed a rotu; it is recited in order to calm the angry surges, to calm the boisterous winds. The following is termed a tata; it is repeated while a canoe is being baled out when at sea:—

Pa atu hoki taku tata
Ki te riu tapu nui o te waka
E haere nei
Rei kura, rei ora
Rei ora te mahaki
Ka turuturua, ka poupoua
Ki tawhito o te rangi—e.

The following is the awa of “Te Aratawhao.” The awa is an incantation used in order to render the course of a canoe calm and easy to pursue—to smooth the way for her. The word awa bears the meaning of “channel, course of a vessel”:—

Tu mai awa, tu mai awa
Ko koe kai (kei) takahia noatia e au
Ta peau nuku, ta peau rangi
(or tupe au nuku, tupe au rangi)

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Whati ki runga, whati ki raro
Ma uru marara
Pera hoki ra taku manu nui na Tano
Ka tatau atu ki roto nuku ngaere
Mai a whiwhia, mai a rawea
Mai a whakatakaia
Ka taka te huki rawea
Koro i runga, koro i raro
Koro i Tawhirimatea
Ki kona hoki koe tu mai ai
Ka hura te tamatea nunui
Ka hura te tamatea roroa
Te kauwaka nuku, te kauwaka rangi
Te ai a nuku, te ai a rangi
Te kura mai hukihuki
Te kaweau tetere
Kawea a nuku, kawea a tai
Oi! Tumatakokiritia
Hoatu waka ki uta
Hoatu waka ki waho
Ngaru hinga atu, ngaru hinga mai
I runga te tama-wahine
I raro te tama-tane
Huki nawenawe
Tenei te awa ka whakairi
Ko irirangi te waka
Ko irirangi te tangata.

Such was the awa of “Te Aratawhao,” which smoothed her path across the great waters, and sped her on her way.

Here followeth the ruruku of the “Aratawhao,” which is a spell recited in order to “bind” a vessel, to keep her seaworthy, &c.:—

Ka timata te ruruku o te waka, ka rukutia te kei o te waka, me te ihu.

Rukutia te waka c haere nei
Rukutia te kei matapupum
Rukutia te ihu mata pupum o Tane
Hukutia i te kowhao tapu nui o Tane
Rukutia i te mata tapu nui o Tana
Rukutia i te rauawa tapu nm o Tane
O te waka e haere nei
Rei kura, rei ora
Rei ora te mahaki—e
Ka turuturua, ka poupoua
Ki tawhito o te rangi—e
E manawa mai ao—e
Hoatu waka ki uta.

In regard to the return of these voyagers from the shores of Hawaiki, native authorities of the Whakatane district are unanimous in stating that the “Aratawhao” never returned to New Zealand, but that she was abandoned or left at Hawaiki

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with Hoaki. But her crew returned here on the “Matatua” canoe, and, so say some, also on the “Takitumu,” which latter is doubtful. If the “Takitumu” canoe was contemporary with “Horouta,” then she obtained some six generations or so before the time of Tama-ki-hikurangi and “Te Aratawhao.” Ngatiawa state that on the arrival of “Te Aratawhao” at Hawaiki the people there were attracted by the accounts of New Zealand, hence many of them migrated hither, bringing with them the crew of the “Aratawhao.” This migration was the historic one of “Te Arawa,” “Tainui,” “Aotea,” “Matatua,” and other vessels, and took place about the fourteenth century. Some assert that the crew of the “Aratawhao” made a prolonged stay at Hawaiki prior to returning to Whakatane. If Irakewa visited New Zealand before “Matatua” arrived, then he must have come after Taukata arrived, for it was the latter's visit here that caused the excitement about the kumara. The “Matatua” canoe was constructed expressly for the purpose of bringing a number of Polynesian migrants to New Zealand, as also the “Aratawhao” crew. It also brought seed kumara to Whakatane, and this was the undoing of our old friend Taukata; for when the men of Whakatane obtained the seed kumara at the hands of their Hawaikian friends, the latter said to them, “When you arrive home be careful in the storing of your seed, and when it is placed in the store, then conduct our friend Taukata into the storehouse, and there slay him, even that his blood be spilt within, and do you also sprinkle his blood upon the door, kei hoki mai te kura ki Hawaiki, lest the mauri of the kumara return to Hawaiki.” Even so was Taukata, the bold Polynesian voyager, slain as a sacred human sacrifice to the gods of the Maori. And for many years after the skull of Taukata was brought from the cave in which it was kept, in the planting season, and deposited on the edge of the cultivation, and in each eye-socket was placed a seed kumara, while the officiating priest performed certain rites in order to cause the crop to be a plentiful one, and to prevent the mauri—that is to say, the vitality, or vital essence, or fertility—of the kumara from returning to Hawaiki.

Tama-ki hikurangi acted as pilot for the “Matatua” canoe on the voyage from Hawaiki to Whakatane.

Toroa, the commandant of “Matatua,” is said to have married a granddaughter of Rongoatau at Hawaiki, but found another wife when he came to Whakatane.



Iri-a-rangi = Toroa = Te Paerere-i-waho.

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But other authorities give—

Now, if, as is stated, Awa-morehurehu was a member of the crew of “Te Aratawhao,” and the above is correct, then that crew must have remained at Hawaiki long enough for Awa to marry and raise children to man's estate. But of the “Matatua” canoe and its story we have but little now to do, and will leave it for a future paper. Sufficient is it for this paper to place on record a most remarkable voyage made by the original people of New Zealand, members of a race of bold sea-rovers who were making voyages of thousands of miles across the Pacific at a time when our forefathers dared not lose sight of land.