Matorohanga, recorded by H.T. Whatahoro, and
translated by S. Percy Smith
Kupe was a great chief of Hawaiki
(Tahiti), whose father was from Rarotonga, and whose mother was from Rangiatea
(Ra'iatea), where her father lived. These were the three islands
over which Kupe's mana (power) extended.
One day Kupe's fishermen went out with lines and hooks to their traditional
fishing grounds. After a long time without any bites, the fishermen hauled
up their lines and discovered that the bait had been taken. They put on
fresh bait and lowered their hooks again, but the bait was taken again and
again until all of it gone. They returned to shore and reported their lack
of success to Kupe.
After a time, on another day, the fishermen went out again; the result
was the same; their bait was taken from their hooks, and they returned home
without a single fish. The fishermen reported their ill-luck again, and
much discussion took place as to the cause of it. They finally decided to
lay the matter before the priests (tohunga). The priests said that if the
people planned to go fishing again, the lines and hooks should be blessed.
When morning came, the people decided to go fishing again, so the lines
and hooks were brought to the priests, who said the proper prayers (karakia)
over them. Then the canoes put out to sea. The fishermen now discovered
numerous octopi were taking the bait from their lines; they also saw the
great octopus of Muturangi floating on the surface of the sea. They realized
Muturangi was causing the trouble and fearing him, they all returned to
On arriving they reported what they had seen to
Kupe; so Kupe went to Muturangi, who lived at Kahu-kaka, and told him, "O sir! You are the
cause of our ill luck!"
Muturangi replied, "I know nothing about your problem."
Kupe then said, "Restrain your great octopus; do not let it go to
sea. The canoes plan to go out fishing again tomorrow."
Then Kupe returned to his home at Pakaroa and told his people to prepare
for fishing the next day, as food was getting scarce. The next morning the
fishermen of Pakaroa went out, but the bait was taken again; the great octopus
had not altered its conduct. The fishermen returned and reported that the
octopus of Muturangi was still there. Kupe again went to the priests. He
described the problem and asked the priests what should be done. They replied
that they were not powerful enough to overcome the action of the octopus,
so Kupe should ask Muturangi himself to stop its doings.
Kupe said, "I intend to slay
The priests replied, "Even if you slay
Muturangi, the octopus will
still retain its power; it would be better to kill the octopus
Kupe then went to the house of
Muturangi, and again complained of the
evil conduct of the octopus; "I come to ask you to restrain your pet,
or I will kill it."
Muturangi replied, "I will not allow my pet to be killed. The sea
is its home; the people are wrong in going there to fish."
"If you will not restrain your pet, I intend to kill it."
"You will fail."
"So be it."
Kupe then returned to
Pakaroa, and said to his people, "Prepare
my canoe for sea." So the canoe Matahorua was carefully prepared-the
washboards at the bow were lashed on; two endpieces were put in place, one
at the stern, one at the bow; and two stone anchors were brought from his
grandfather, Ue-tupuke, who had charge of them. One of these anchors was
a tatara-a-punga (coral) from Maungaroa, a mountain in Rarotonga,1 and the
other was a puwai-kura, a reddish stone like kiripaka (flint) or mata-waiapa
(obsidian) from Rangiatea.
After the anchors were placed on board, Kupe went out to slay the octopus.
On arrival at the fishing ground named Whakapuaka, the lines were let down.
They were hauled up before reaching the bottom, and then it was seen the
bait had been eaten. The octopi followed the lines to the surface, where
Kupe and the sixty men of the canoe Matahorua began to slaughter them. They
continued to do so till night fell, while the great octopus of Muturangi
was all the time waiting a little beyond. The body of this octopus was eighteen
feet long, while its feelers were thirty feet long when stretched out. Its
eyes were the size of the papaua-raupara (a thin, flat shellfish, like the
After the slaughter had continued for a very long time,
one of the principal priests said, "Stop killing the octopi; if you
could succeed in killing Muturangi's great octopus, the others would all
disappear, for he brings them here, and Muturangi is inciting them by means
of incantations (tuata) to take your bait from the hooks. The fishermen
therefore ceased slaying the smaller octopi and turned their attention to
Muturangi's octopus. But when the canoes tried to approach the monster,
it made off to the deep sea. It was now night, so Kupe returned to shore,
while Ngake (or Ngahue) followed the great octopus out to sea in his canoe,
Tawhiri-rangi. On arrival ashore Kupe said to his men, "Put plenty
of provisions on board our canoe, for we will follow this monster until
we kill him." The crew did as they were told.
On learning of Kupe's proposal,
Hine-i-te-aparangi, his wife, and her
daughters, urged Kupe to remain and let his men pursue the octopus, lest
he be overtaken by storms at sea and drowned. Kupe was annoyed at this and
said, "Stop your wailing; you have prophesied ill luck to me (waitohutia),
and it will end perhaps in my death. You must all board the canoe, so there
may be one death for us all, and not me alone while you remain lamenting
in safety ashore." So his wife and five children consented to accompany
Kupe and were with him when he discovered Aotearoa.
Matahorua was now launched and the voyagers departed. There were seventy-two
people on board. After a time they reached Tuahiwi-nui-o-Hinemoana,2
Kupe overtook Ngake and asked, "Have you seen the octopus?"
Ngake replied, "There! You can see him reddening
the ripples of the sea." Kupe looked, and it was so. They tried to
approach the monster, but to no avail; the octopus only went on faster,
directing his course toward this undiscovered island of Aotearoa.
Kupe said to
Ngake, "The octopus is headed for some land apparently;
by following it we shall be led to a strange country."
Not long after this, an island was seen in the far distance, like a cloud
on the horizon, toward which the octopus made straight. As the octopus drew
near to Muri-whenua (the North Cape of North Island), it turned south along
the East Coast. Kupe now said to Ngake, "Follow our fish; I will land
here to rest and then come after you. If the octopus should stop anywhere,
let it remain there until I come."
So Ngake continued on in pursuit, while Kupe went on from the North Cape
to Hokianga and stayed a while. In the course of his wanderings there in
search of food, he came to a place where there was some soft clay (uku-whenua)
into which his feet sank and left holes, as did the feet of his dog Tauaru.
The clay eventually turned into rock, and both Kupe's and his dog's footsteps
are to be seen there to this day. When Kupe and his children departed from
Hokianga, they left the dogs behind because the dogs had wandered off into
the forest to hunt birds. The dogs returned to the beach and howled; Kupe
heard them, but he used a prayer to prevent them following, and they were
at once turned into stone. [Two rocks at the mouth of the Whirinaki river,
Hokianga, are still pointed out as Kupe's dogs. Another account of these
dogs is that Kupe decided to leave them there as guardians for the land,
and he carved out of stone a male and female dog to represent them.]
After a long stay at
Hokianga, Kupe sailed after Ngake and found him
at Rangi-whakaoma (Castle Point), where Ngake was awaiting him. Ngake informed
Kupe that the octopus of Muturangi was there within a cave giving birth
to offspring. Kupe proceeded to the cave and broke it open, which caused
the octopus to flee in the night towards the south. Kupe and Ngake then
gave chase and came to Te Kawakawa (Cape Palliser, the southern point of
North Island). This name was given by Kupe because one of his daughters
here made a wreath of kawakawa leaves, and the name has ever since remained
in memory of it. At this place is a kahawai spring where Kupe kept as provisions
the fish of that name.
Near here the sail of the canoe Matahorua was broken, and
and their friends proceeded to make another for the foremast. Kupe said
to Ngake, "Which is the best kind of sail, yours or mine?" Hine-waihua,
the wife of Ngake, "Ah! Your parent's sail is the best; it can be made
quicker; he has the dexterous hand for that kind of work." So they
set to work and continued on to daylight, all hands helping to make the
sail-Kupe, his elder relatives, and younger brethren. When daylight came,
the sail was to be seen hanging up on the cliff, which caused Ngake to say,
"I am beaten by my friend." [This enignmatic comment can be explained
by the tradition that a competition in sail-making had taken place between
Kupe and Ngake.3]
Near that spot is also a bathing place of Kupe's daughters, one of whom,
Makaro, was menstruating at the time, so the water remains red to this day.
There also is a heap of stone, from the top of which Kupe recited his prayer
to draw fish up for his daughters, among others, the hapuku, which ordinarily
lives in deep water. He was gazing (matakitaki) on the multitude of fish;
then raising his eyes, he saw beyond the sea the mountains of the South
Island, the snows on Tapuae-nuku ("The lookers-on") in the sun.
Hine-uira, one of his daughters, asked Kupe what he was gazing at. He replied,
"I was looking at the shoals of fish coming in; when I lifted up my
eyes, I beheld an island lying there."
Hine-uira said, "Let the name of these stones be Matakitaki"
("Gazing"), which remains to this day.
After this they started in pursuit of the octopus, going on to the mouth
of Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Port Nicholson), on the west side of which their
canoes landed. Here Kupe went for a bath, and afterwards stretched himself
out on a rock to dry himself in the sun, where he scratched himself, hence
that place was ever after called "Te Aroaro o Kupe" (i.e., "Te
Ure-o-Kupe," "The penis of Kupe"-the rock on Barrett's Reef
at the entrance of Wellington Harbor).
From there, after going to Hataitai (Miramar Peninsula) they went on
to Owhariu (Ohariu, west of Wellington, on Cook Strait) where the sails
of Matahorua were hung up to dry, hence the name of that place. (Owhariu
means "to turn aside.")
The two islands in Te
Whanganui-a-Tara, named Matiu (Some's Island) and
Makaro (Ward's Island), were named after two of Kupe's daughters to commemorate
their visit to these islands. (The two islands are in Wellington Harbor.)
Kupe approved of the names. When they arrived at Te Rimu-rapa (Sinclair's
Head), they proceeded to gather paua (Haliotis), shellfish, and other kinds
of seafood, and there dried them, as provisions for their voyage. Then they
got some large seaweed, and made receptacles for these provisions, so that
the food would not be spoiled by dampness. Hence that place was named Rimu-rapa
("seaweed flattened"; bull-kelp is still used as bags for preserving
birds, especially mutton birds.)4
They found Te Rimu-rapa a very disagreeable place because of the wind,
so proceeded north to Porirua Harbor, where Mata-horua was anchored. Here,
on the east side of the harbor, near the mouth, Kupe saw a stone which he
at once desired as an anchor for the canoe; it was a kowhatu-hukatai
(a white stone, probably volcanic). His daughters also had the same wish
because of its excellence.5 The new anchor was named Hukatai (also Hukamoa).
Ngake now said to Kupe it was time they went after their enemy. So they
left and went to Mana Island, where Kupe left his wife and his daughters
for a while. Mohuia, one of Kupe's daughters said, "Let this name,
Mana, be retained for this island, in remembrance of our power and daring
(mana) in crossing the ocean. Kupe gave his consent to this naming, saying,
"Yes! it is well, Mana shall be its name."
After leaving his family there, Kupe and Ngake made a straight course
for Te Wai-pounamu (South Island), and when they drew near it, they saw
the octopus of Muturangi approaching their canoes. The two canoes of Kupe
and Ngake separated to allow the octopus to pass between them, which it
did, the head rushing forward drawing its tentacles behind, which spread
out even beyond the canoes. From head to the end of its tentacles, it was
two hundred and forty feet long, while the body was twenty four feet wide.
Tohirangi stood up in the center of Kupe's canoe with a long spear and lunged
at the monster. He speared it twice, and when it felt the pain, it stretched
out its tentacles to break the spear of Ngake, who was using his spear from
the other canoe. The two spears crossed, and the tentacles of the octopus
seized hold of the gunwale of Ngake's canoe, Tawhiri-kura, from bow to stern,
which so frightened the men on board that the canoe was nearly upset. Then
the tentacles seized hold of Kupe's canoe, and Kupe took his axe named Ranga-tu-whenua
and began chopping off the tentacles; but the octopus would not let go.
Kupe then shouted to Po-heuea, "Throw the bunch of calabashes at the
head of the octopus!" This was done, and the monster, thinking perhaps
that it was a man, let go the canoe, and encircled the calabashes with all
his tentacles. Then with his axe Ranga-tu-whenua, Kupe made a fierce downward
blow (paoa) at the head of the monster and smashed in its eyes. And so died
this great sea creature, the "Wheke-o-Muturangi."
Now from this incident came the name of the South Island Ara-paoa, from
Kupe's paoa, or downward blow, on the head of the octopus. The rocks Nga-whatu
("The Brothers" in Cook Strait) became tapu, for that is the place
where the Wheke-o-Mururangi was laid to rest. An incantation (karakia) was
said to conceal the octopus lest Muturangi should come in search of his
pet and revive it. Immediately after the incantation ended, swirling currents
began around the rocks, so that no canoe could land there. The name of these
rocks, Nga-whatu, refers to the eyes (whatu) of the octopus, and the spot
has remained tapu ever since. When canoes cross the Straits to or from Ara-paoa,
the priests say, "Do not look on Nga-whatu; cover the eyes with a shade,
lest, looking, a gale of wind comes on and the canoes will be capsized."
This is the rule even to this day.
Now the above story explains why Kupe, Ngake, and their companions crossed
the wide ocean and discovered this country of Aotea-roa.6 How great was
the mana (power, ability, prestige, etc.) of Kupe to accomplish this undertaking!
Hence it was that his daughters wished to emphasize this mana by naming
the island on which they stayed Mana, in honor of their father Kupe. The
name of Porirua harbor is derived from the fact that the voyagers left their
old anchor there and replaced it with a new one named Huka-moa (or Huka-tai).
("Pori" refers to the exchange of one anchor for another.)
Now after these events Kupe proceeded to the southern island to determine
its resources, and to see whether or not any people were living there; he
also intended to do the same as regards to the northern sland. He went down
the west coast of the southern island until he reached Arahura River (a
few miles north of Hokitika, a town on the west coast). He gave the river
that name because he went to search out whether any people were to be found
there. [Ara-hura, "the way opened up"].
Kupe was the first man to discover the valuable pounamu, or green stone,
in Aotearoa. The first specimen he saw was that kind called inanga, so named
because it was seen in a river together with many inanga, or white-bait,
which he proceeded to net. When Hine-te-uira-i-waho stretched forth her
hand into the water to get a stone as a sinker for the bottom of the net,
the one she got was quite different from any she had seen before, and so
it was called inanga.7
Kupe's canoes then proceeded farther to the south, and finally reached
the tail-end of the southern island, where Kupe said to Hine-waihua, the
wife of Ngake, "O Hua! Leave your pets here to dwell at this end of
the island, for behold there are no men here." So the seals and the
penguins were left to guard that end of Arapaoa, which is now called "Te
Wai-pounamu." It is well known that the proper salutation to the people
of the South Island is "Welcome ye people of Arapaoa"-and Ngati-Tahu
of the South Island welcomes us by saying, "Welcome ye people of the
sunrise." Nowhere did Kupe or Ngake see any people on either the southern
or northern island.
On Kupe's return to the northern island he went by way of the west coast
to Hokianga. When he was off Whanganui he saw a very fine bay there,8 and
so decided to land to inspect it. On entering the bay, the canoes landed
on the west side and stayed a while. This place at the mouth of Whanganui,
he named Kaihau-o-Kupe ("Kupe's wind-eating"), because it was
very windy while they were there.
Kupe paddled up the Whanganui River to see if any people lived there;
he went as far as Kau-arapawa, so called by him because his servant tried
to swim the river there to obtain some korau, or wild cabbage, and was drowned,
for the river was in flood. So Pawa was drowned, and his name was applied
to that place. (Kau-arapawa is about fifteen miles above the town of Whanganui.)
Kupe heard some voices there, but as soon as he found these voices were
only from birds (weka, kokako and tiwaiwaka), he returned to the mouth of
the river, and then went on to Patea, where he planted some karaka seed
of the species called oturu.9 While at Patea he tested the soil by
it, and found it to be para-umu-a rich black soil-and sweet-scented.
When Hine-te-ura, Kupe's daughter, arrived at Hokianga, she said to him,
"O Sir! let us take possession of this land," to which both Kupe
and Ngake consented. Then a feast (hakari) was made by his daughters at
a place between Te Kerikeri and Whangaroa. At the end of the feast, Kupe,
Ngake, and all their people proceeded to place the land under tapu ("uruuru
whenua"; usually refers to "placating local gods"), prior
to their return to Rarotonga, Rangiatea and Hawaiki. The stone of
the uruuru-tapu is at the head waters of Hokianga, and is named Tama-haere,
sometimes called Toka-haere; it is still very tapu. The feast was held at
the place usually called Tarata-rotorua, where certain natural pillars of
rock are said to have been the posts that held up the food at the feast.
Hokianga means "Returning" in reference to the place from which
Kupe left the island to return home.
Now, it must be clearly understood there were no people anywhere on these
islands-not a single one. And Kupe left only his two dogs, named Tauaru,
the male, and Hurunui, the female; none of their party remained here; everyone
returned to Rarotonga.
After Kupe and Ngake returned to Rarotonga they went on to Rangiatea
(Ra'iatea) and from thence to Hawaiki (Tahiti, though other sources
say that Hawaiki was the ancient name of Ra'iatea). They reported
their discovery: "There is a distant land, cloud-capped, with plenty
of moisture, and a sweet-scented soil. It is situated at "Tiritiri-o-te
moana" ("The vast space of ocean"?). When the people heard
of the newly discovered lands, they desired to come here because a great
number of quarrels had arisen among themselves in their homeland.
When Kupe reached Rangiatea,
Nga-Toto (or Toto) asked him,
"O Kupe! What does the land you have discovered look like? Is it
land) or tua-rangaranga (undulating?) Is the soil one-tai (sandy), or one-matua
Kupe replied, "In the center part are mountain ranges (tuatua);
the spurs that come down to the sea are sheltered, and plains open out on
both the east and west coasts. On the southern island, the ranges that come
down to the sea on the west coast, have pakihi (flats, usually grassy) opening
out here and there. The east coast is fertile and fine to look on. The soil
is good, it is one-paraumu (rich, black soil); in some places it is
(i.e., subject to land slides), but the growth of plants is healthy and
Other people asked, "O Kupe! What do the seas and the streams
He replied, "There are fish both in the sea and inland; paua (Haliotis),
mussels, and cockles thrive along the shores of the ocean."
Others asked, "What is the course the canoe should steer, O Kupe?"
To which he replied, "Let it be to the right of the setting sun, or
the moon, or Venus. Go during Orongo-nui (summer), in the month of Tatauuru-ora
[November] when food is plenty."10
Turi then asked, "Which is the very best part of the land?"
Kupe replied, "Leave the course in the current of Pareweranui (the
strong south wind); there is a place of much 'fruit of the land' (i.e.,
birds, fish, and so on). (The narrative is obscure here, but we know that
Kupe directed Turi to come to Patea River on the west coast of the north
Others asked, "Did you see any people on the land?" Kupe replied,
"I saw no one; what I did see was a kokako, a tiwaiwaka, and a weka
(i.e., birds), whistling away in the gullies; kokako was ko-ing on the ridges,
and tiwaiwaka was flitting about before my face."11
Now Kupe and Ngake stayed a long time at Rangiatea and then went
on to Hawaiki (Tahiti). They went there at the request of Ruawharo (a son
of Hau, a nephew of Kupe who came to New Zealand in the Takitimu, says the
Scribe). Ruawharo came to ask them to go to Hawaiki in order that the people
living there might hear their account of the new land discovered by them
On leaving Hawaiki they returned to Rangiatea where Kupe found
Turi, who had married Rongorongo, the daughter of Toto (Sometimes called
Nga-Toto). Turi did not sail for the newly discovered island at the time
Kupe returned from his voyage, as is sometimes claimed; Turi was dwelling
at Rangiatea, having fled from Hawaiki because he had committed adultery
with Korahi, the wife of Taurangi-tahi. She was the elder sister of Moana-waiwai,
the second wife of Tomo-whare. (This statement bears out what I learnt in
Tahiti, with this difference, that Turi fled from Hitia'a on the east coast
of Tahiti because of the jealousy of one of his wives; he went to Rai'atea.)
Korahi was a wahine-kahurangi [or ariki], whose husband was Ao-marama.
Turi was followed to Rangiatea by those who wanted to kill him,
but he fled. The reason, however, that he fled to this country (New Zealand)
was the killing of Awe-potiki.12
When Kupe and Turi met, the latter asked, "Where is the best part
of the island according to what you saw?" Kupe replied, "The west
coast. There is my karaka-huarua (i.e., the karaka-oturu, planted by Kupe;
see note 9). It is growing at the mouth of a river opening to the west,
facing the southwest wind (uru o Tahu-makaka-nui). You will see a certain
snow-clad mountain standing near the sea (Taranaki, or Mount Egmont). Direct
your canoe to Tahu-para-wera-nui (to the south of this mountain) and you
will see the best place to settle."
Turi now said to his wife and said, "O Wife! If you had a canoe,
we could go to this unoccupied land and make a home there."
Rongorongo replied, "Who would want to live in a lonely place like
But Turi did not cease to dwell on the idea of migration, constantly
talking about it. At last Rongorongo spoke to her father Toto about it.
Toto replied, "It is well; here is a canoe." And so a canoe was
given to Rongorongo to give to Turi. Toto said to Turi, "When you depart,
and after you have arrived at Tiritiri-o-te-whenua on the ocean-if you find
the land is bountiful, come back and fetch us all together with your brothers-in-law."
Rongorongo was pregnant with her first born at that time. So Turi did
not start for a long time, not until his three children were born-Turanga-i-mua,
Taneroa and Tonga-potiki. When he was ready to go, Turi said to Kupe, "O
Kupe! Let us both go to the land you have told us about." But Kupe
replied, "Kupe will not return."13
It must be clearly understood: Kupe and Turi did not meet at sea or anywhere
else, but only at Rangiatea. The stories of other meetings are false
[i.e., tahora, not told in the Whare-wananga].
Shortly after Kupe returned from Hawaiki to Rangiatea, Rongorongo's
first child was born, and Kupe said, "Let the name of the child be
Turanga-i-mua; to signify my being the first to stand on Aotea-roa."
(Turanga, "standing"; i mua, "ahead"). Now for the first
time the name Aotea-roa given by Kupe to the islands he discovered became
known. Nga-Toto said, "O Turi! Let that also be a name for the canoe
of our daughter." Kupe said, "It is well," and so the name
"Aotea" was given to Rongorongo's canoe, replacing the old
This version of the story of Kupe was published in Journal of the Polynesian
Society, Vol. 4, 1913, pp. 118-133. It is "Part II. Te Kawae-raro,
or 'Things Terrestial'" of The Lore of the Whare-wananga, told
by Te Matorohanga, recorded by H.T. Whatahoro, and translated by S. Percy
Smith. The story begins, "The Sage of the whare-wananga said to the
assembled people in 1861, 'I will commence my narration by starting from
the period of Kupe.' Whare-wananga are houses of sacred learning.
From Smith's Notes: "There is a strong probability that there existed
two men by the name of Kupe. [See Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol.
16, 1907, pp. 155-173 for a discussion.] I do not propose to inflict on
our readers a further series of long genealogical tables, for it is only
to those who are engaged in such studies that have any interest in them-all
important as they are for historical purposes, for without them we could
never arrive at any dates whatever in Polynesian Prehistory, and without
dates history is useless. [Only to Westerners; the Polynesians counted by
generations of people rather than by numbers of years.-D.K.] Suffice it
to say, that with all the number of tables of Kupe's genealogy before me,
I find they group themselves into two divisions:
"One series has a mean of thirty-nine generation, or say, the year
925 A.D.; another of twenty-four generations, or say, the year 1300.
"We will for the moment turn our attention to the approximate date
of 925, and endeavour to learn something of the localities and doings of
the people at that period. From my book Hawaiki, it will be learnt that
this was the period when the second great extension of Polynesian voyages
commenced, the headquarters of the Tonga-hiti branch (which includes Maoris,
Rarotongans, and Tahitians, etc.) was in Fiji, but Tahiti had at that time
already received the first installment of its population. During the two
centuries subsequent to 950, voyages were very frequent to all parts of
the Pacific-from Hawai'i to New Zealand, from Indonesia to Easter Island.
This may be seen at a glance by referring to Hawaiki (3rd edition, p. 171),
where a long list of islands discovered or visited at this time is shown,
as derived from the Rarotonga records. Among these islands is Avaiki-tautau,
which the Rarotongan learned men hold to be New Zealand.
"Whether Kupe was one of this band of navigators, it is impossible
to say with certainty; but probability seems to point to his being identical
with Te Aratanga-nuku, the famous Rarotongan voyager, who flourished, according
to the Rarotongan tables, thirty-seven generations ago, and therefore only
two generations after the date we have assigned to the first Kupe. [For
the story of Te Aratanga-nuku, see the notes to "Tangiia and Tutapu"
in this collection.]
"With regard to the second Kupe, we shall hear a great deal about
him as this narrative progresses; and, as I hold, the two men have frequently
been confused. Twenty-four generations back from the year 1900 will bring
us to the year 1300, or two generations before the great migration of "The
Fleet" sailed from Tahiti for New Zealand, and thus his various conversations
with Turi of the Aotea canoe, who came at the same time as the Fleet will
be explained. What seems to me, however, as a strong proof of there having
been a former Kupe is the fact that Toi-te-huatahi who lived several generations
before the second Kupe, actually made use of Kupe's sailing directions to
find his way to New Zealand.
"We shall also see that in Toi's time, the original Tangata-whenua,
who are said to have arrived after the discovery of New Zealand by Kupe,
had had time to so increase from the crews of a few canoes that their occupation
of the country extended from Taranaki along the West Coast as far as the
North Cape, and along the East Coast as far as O-potiki in the Bay of Plenty;
and, even allowing for exaggerations, they were very numerous indeed. They
could not have thus become so numerous if the country had heen discovered
by the second Kupe; and must have been here ages before Toi arrived. It
is repeatedly said in the accounts of Kupe's voyages that he found no living
man in these islands, though as the story says, he frequently searched for
signs of human habitation.
"We must bear in mind then, that this narrative (to my mind at least)
has confused the doings of the two Kupes. It has occurred to me that the
second Kupe, while he did come to New Zealand to search for a certain man
named Tuputupu-whenua (as some accounts say), did not do more than sail
along the West Coast of the North Island, and did not explore the South
Island at all. This would agree with some of the narratives. The Sage's
account takes his hero all round both islands.
"I will leave the reader to draw his own conclusions as to the story
of the "Wheke-a-Muturangi"; and merely remind him that it has
been pointed out that the probable inducement to Kupe to undertake the long
voyage from Tahiti to New Zealand, was the flight of the Kohoperoa, or long-tailed
Cuckoo, which an observant people like the Maori, on seeing this bird coming
year after year from the Southwest, and well knowing that it was a land
bird, would immediately conclude that land of considerable size lay in that
[See Elsdon Best, The Maori (1924, pp. 40-56) and Peter Buck, Vikings
of the Sunrise (1938, pp. 277-283) for descriptions of the various migrations
from Hawaiki to Aotearoa. The general sequence of migration dates and events
include the following:
About 40 generations before 1900 (around 900 A.D.), Kupe and Ngake (Ngahue)
discovered large, uninhabited islands to the south and named them Aotearoa.
They returned to Hawaiki with their crews, leaving behind only two dogs.
After this time, other people arrived in three canoes-Kahutara, Taikoria,
and Okoki, having been swept away from their homeland while they were on
a fishing expedition. The canoes made landfall on the Tarananki Coast (west
side of the North Island) and the people stayed there. They are the Tangata-whenua
("people of the land") refered to by Smith above; Best says they
were called Pakiwhara or Mouriuri by the Maori, who settled Aotearoa later.
About 28 generations from 1900 (around 1200 A.D.) a number of canoes
were blown out beyond the sight of land during an offshore canoe race in
Hawaiki. Toi, the grandfather of Whatonga, one of the men lost, went in
search of him in a canoe called Te Paepae-ki-Rarotonga. Toi landed at Samoa
and Rarotonga in search of his grandson. He then made the Chatham Islands
(400 miles east of Aotearoa) and finally landed and settled at Whakatane
on Bay of Plenty (on the east coast of North Island). Meanwhile, Whatonga,
his grandson, had made his way back to Hawaiki and, learning that his grandfather
had gone in search of him, left in search of his grandfather. Whatonga's
canoe was named Kurahaupo ("Lunar halo") since the ariki of Hawaiki
told him to send a lunar halo as a sign of his successful search. Whatonga
stopped in Rarotonga, then made landfall at North Cape on Aotearoa. He travelled
down the west coast, learned that Toi, his grandfather, was at Whakatane,
and finally met up with Toi and settled there.
Around the same time that Whatonga came to Aotearoa in Kurahaupo, Manaia
also arrived in the canoe Tokomaru. He had fought with Nuku in Hawaiki and
had fled after having lost the war. Nuku pursued him in three canoes (Te
Houama, Waimate, and Tangi-apakura) to avenge the death of a brother. Manaia
and Nuku fought a sea battle in Raukawa (Cook Strait); after a stormy night
at sea (the storm was caused by the magic of Manaia), the two parties landed
and made peace. Manaia proceeded to Taranaki on the west coast and settled
there; Nuku returned to Hawaiki.
About 24 generations from 1900 (around 1300 A.D.), more conflicts in
Hawaiki led to the migration of more canoes to Aotearoa. The names of the
chiefs and canoes that came to Aotearoa in the heke ("Great Fleet")
are recorded in tradition:
Hoturoa came in Tainui
Tama-te-kapua came in Arawa
Toroa came in Mataatua
Tamatea came in Takitumu
Porou-rangi came in Horouta
Turi came in Aotea
Peter Buck writes: "The newcomers came in conflict with the first
settlers and with the descendants of Toi. After many wars, the earlier settlers
were absorbed into the more dominant groups of the later comers. The Maori
people are grouped into tribes, which trace their descent and take their
names from ancestors who came in the various canoes of the fourteenth century
migration" (278-9). Buck's mother traced her ancestry to those arriving
on the Tokomaru canoe.]
1. From Smith's Notes: "I don't know of a
Maungaroa in Rarotonga.
Maunganui is a beautifully wooded mountain just behind Tereora school at
the north-west end of Rarotonga island."
2. From Smith's Notes: "The great ridge of
Hine-moana (Lady of the
Ocean) I take to be an expression for the deep, wide ocean-perhaps midway
of the voyage, where the trade wind is met by the prevailing westerly winds."
3. From Smith's Notes: "There is some
portion of the narrative apparently
left out here by the scribe, for we learn from other sources that it was
a trial of skill between Kupe and Ngake as to who should first complete
a sail-hence Ngake's words."
[The story of this contest is told in "Chapter III. Kupe-the Navigator"
in "The History and Traditions of the Taranaki Coast," Journal
of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 16, 1907; p. 156: "The name of two
triangular patches of light-coloured cliff showing against the green vegetation
a few miles to the west of Cape Palliser is called Nga-ra-o-Kupe,
The sails of Kupe. The story connected with this is that Kupe and his companion
Ngake were camped here on one occassion, when a contention arose as to who
could succeed in first completing a canoe sail (ra). So each started
to work in the evening to make a sail; Kupe finished his a little after
midnight, whilst Ngake did not complete his until dawn. Thus Kupe won. The
sails were then hung up against the cliffs, 'and may be seen there to this
day' says my informant." This account of the tradition of Kupe lists
27 place names associated with him, and explains the significance of each
name. Some of the explanations differ from the explanations given in the
version of the story of Kupe in this collection.]
4. From Smith's Notes: "My informant tells
me that kelp was used
for carrying freshwater on their voyages as well. It was turned inside out
with sticks, and formed waterproof bags of considerable size for carrying
water. At night these bags were trailed overboard with a stone attached
to keep the water deliciously cool."
5. From Smith's Notes: "The anchor brought
from Maungaroa in Rarotonga
was left at Porirua. This stone anchor is now in the Dominion Museum, Wellington."
6. Other versions of the Kupe story give
different reasons for Kupe's
voyage which led to the discovery of Aotearoa. In "Hau and Wairaka:
The Adventures of Kupe and his Relatives" (Journal of the Polynesian
Society, Vol. 36: 1927, p. 264), Elsdon Best writes: "Now Kupe's task
was the pursuit and slaying of Wheke, the octopus. The origin of that striving
of Kupe against Wheke was that Wheke had killed Punaraku, the daughter of
Kupe, who went to bathe at the Wai o Rongo, a place on Rarotonga, when the
subject of Muturangi [i.e., the Wheke] carried her off to Taiwhetuki [the
house of death]. Such was the cause of the anger of Kupe and his relatives,
such was the reason why he engaged in the pursuit. The octopus of Muturangi
perished at Tuahiwi nui o Moko, in the expanse of Raukawa (Cook Strait),
where it was bewitched by Kupe and his nephew, Mahakiroa, as it was going
spouting across the sea."
The story collected by Sir George Grey (Legends of Aotearoa, 1988, originally
published in 1855 as Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History
of the New Zealand Race) says Kupe left Rarotonga after he had stolen the
wife of Hoturapa: "to escape the vengeance of the relations of Hoturapa,
he fled away with her on the ocean in her canoe Matahorua and discovered
the islands of New Zealand; they coasted entirely round the islands without
finding any inhabitants" (129). Kupe encountered a great squid, which
he named "Te Wheke a Muturangi," near Castle Point in Raukawa
and slew it in the Tory Channel.
In the version collected by Grey, as in the version told by Te Matorohanga
and translated by Percy Smith, Kupe returned to Hawaiki and directed Turi
to the newly discovered islands of Aotearoa.
7. From Smith's Notes: "It is sometimes
falsely said that pounamu
can be found on the northern island. It cannot. This pounamu is the whatu-kaiponu
of this land ("the treasured, coveted stone"), and it is so called
as a much desired property for the kahurangi (high-class chieftainess, usually
the first-born daughter of aristocratic parents) and for the high-born chiefs-no
low-born person is entitled to use it."
8. From Smith's Notes: "This agrees with
local tradition, to the
effect that in former times the sea came up to the present town of Whanganui
and formed a deep bay, which has since been filled up by the river."
9. From Smith's Notes: "The karaka-oturu is
described to me as like
the ordinary karaka (Corynocarpus levigata), but with smaller leaves and
berries and fewer of them, with a low growth. There are some trees of the
same species growing at Nuhaka, Hawkes Bay, the seed of which is said to
have been brought here by the Kura-haupo canoe, under Whatonga. If this
karaka at Patea bore a few fruit on the west side of the tree it denoted
a lean year-if on the east, or inland side, it meant a prolific year for
all cultivated foods. The Rev. T. G. Hammond, who knows Patea and its history
better than any man, does not recognize this tree. It is also related of
Turi, who commanded the Aotea canoe, and who settled down at Patea, that
he brought the karaka tree with him."
10. From Smith's Notes: "The sun sets about
S.W. by W. in the end
of November in New Zealand, and that is almost the exact course from Rarotonga,
which was always the starting point for Polynesian migrations to Aotearoa."
[A more accurate direction would be to the left of the setting sun. The
famous tradition of the best season for sailing to Aotearoa being when the
Pohutukawa trees are in bloom (i.e., November) appears, among other places,
in "The Emigration of Turi" in Sir George Grey's Legends of Aotearoa
(Hamilton, NZ: Silver Fern Books, 1988, originally published in 1855 as
Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand
Race, p. 135). Aside from the fact that in late spring, food would begin
to be available and crops could be planted, Ben Finney gives another important
reason for sailing from east Polynesia to Aotearoa during this season: "there
are periods during the late spring and summer (roughly November to February)
when high pressure systems dominate the approaches to Aotearoa rather than
low pressure ones.bringing warm, easterly winds along their northern flanks"
("Voyaging into Polynesia's Past" in From Sea to Space, Palmerston
North, NZ: Massey University, 1992, p. 38). These are the best winds for
sailing the route; the Polynesian Voyaging Society's canoe Hokule'a
sailed this traditional migration route in 1986 in the right season, late
spring; the Pohutukawa trees were in bloom, prompting Maori Hector Busby,
who is leading a revival of Maori canoe building, sailing, and navigation,
to note that when he was a young boy, his elders told him "when those
flowers [Pohutukawa] bloom is the time our ancestors came here from Hawaiki"
[There are several versions of the directions given by Kupe. In the story
collected by Grey, Kupe deceives Turi by telling him "keep ever steering
to the eastward, where the sun rises" (131); in "Hau and Wairaka:
The Adventures of Kupe and his Relatives," collected by Elsdon Best
(Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 36, 1927), Kupe's directions are
reported as "Let [the vessel's prow] be directed to the left of the
rising sun and until it is well up the heavens, and so continue until the
Pleiades rise above the ocean surge, that you may reach land" (266).
How Turi got to Aotearoa from central Polynesia with these wrong directions
is not clear. Smith argues that the original Kupe came from Samoa or Fiji,
and sailed east to central Polynesia using these directions ("Chapter
III. Kupe-the Navigator" in "The History and Traditions of the
Taranaki Coast," Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 16, 1907;
[In "Te Kauwae-raro" (Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol.
23, 1914) Kupe's directions are given as "Leave the Sun, the Moon,
and Venus on the right hand, a little southwesterly, lay the bows"
(209). This direction is the most accurate (i.e., left of the setting sun
at the southern hemisphere summer solstice, or SW by W; the positions of
the sun, moon, and Venus change over time, so information about seasons
and years of travel is needed for directions using these celestial bodies).
[Another tradition mentions Rehua (which is usually identified as Antares
in the constellation Scorpio) as the guiding star to Aotearoa. ("Chapter
III. Kupe-the Navigator" in "The History and Traditions of the
Taranaki Coast," Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 16, 1907;
p. 164). This star rises and sets in the same general direction as the sun
11. From Smith's Notes: "A question was here
asked of the Sage,
'Some say that Kupe's daughters and others remained here, as also some from
Ngake's canoe.' The Sage replied, 'No one remained here. Kupe and Ngake
returned with all their wives, children and friends.'
"Another question was asked, 'O Sir! how is it then that some of
us descend from Kupe and his children? [i.e., the children left in Aotearoa
by Kupe?]' To this the Sage replied, 'There is no reliance to be placed
on (some) genealogies, because, in different cases they state two, three,
or four generations before the migration took place to Aotea-roa.' (That
is, explains the Scribe, the migration of Toi, who flourished thirty-one
generations ago, and of his grandson Whatonga and others.) At that time
his descendants had all married. His sons had married before he came to
Aotea-roa.' (The sage's answer is so important, and at the same time somewhat
obscure, that I give it in the original. 'Ka mea mai ia, kaore he tikanga
mo nga whakapapa, no te mea; e rua rawa nga whakatipuranga, e toru o etehi,
e wha o etehi, katahi auo ka haere mai te heke nui tonu ki Aotea-roa nei.
Kati, kua moemoe noa atu ona uri i te tane i tena wa; nga mea kane kua moe
wahine i taua wa i mua atu i te haerenga mai o Kupe ki Aotea-roa nei.')
[Smith's note is not clear on this point. The sage seems to be saying that
Kupe's children were all married and had children in Hawaiki before the
migrations to New Zealand began, the first one being by Toi and his followers.-D.K.]
12. From Smith's Notes: "Potikiroroa, a
young relation of Turi's,
was killed by Uenuku, an ariki of Hawaiki, because the little boy fell down
at the doorway of Uenuku's house while delivering Uenuku's share of a burnt-offering
to the gods. The falling was considered an unlucky omen. In retaliation,
Turi killed Uenuku's son Awepotiki (Hawepoitiki), ate the corpse, and baked
the heart and sent it as a food offering to Uenuku, who consumed it. Uenuku
was told what he had eaten and swore revenge, but before Uenuku could take
revenge, Turi fled to Aotearoa."
13. One version of Kupe's answer to Turi's
question is a question: E
hoki Kupe? "Will Kupe return?"; "Kupe will not return"
doesn't have the emotional ambiguity of the question.
14. For a version of the story of Turi's
migration to Aotearoa, see Sir
George Grey's Legends of Aotearoa (Hamilton, NZ: Silver Fern Books, 1988,
originally published in 1855 as Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional
History of the New Zealand Race, pp. 126-137).