Friday, December 2, 2011


Tamatekapua captain of Te Arawa waka

From my book Te Herengawaka... which focuses on the canoe traditions around Aotearoa... from the far north to the bottom of the South Island
A young chief called Tamatekapua captained Te Arawa. Indeed it was Tamatekapua’s actions that led to the hurried departure of Te Arawa in the first place. Tamatekapua lived with his family in Hawaiiki. At that time war raged through the Islands as two brothers, Uenuku and Whena wrestled for dominance. Tama believed Uenuku’s family had eaten his dog and plotted his revenge. One night he and his brother Whakaturia climbed upon their stilts and raided Uenuku’s sacred orchard. This was a huge insult to the great chief Uenuku and unfortunately, his guards saw them. The two brothers ran back to their village knowing full well Uenuku would seek utu
Tama and his family decided to leave Hawaiiki and quickly loaded Te Arawa. News of Uenuku’s army approaching made their departure even more urgent. The canoe was not quite finished but they had no choice, they had to leave. Te Arawa made it safely to Rarotonga where Tamatekapua tricked his cousin Ngatoroirangi into sailing with them. He asked the great priest aboard in order to bless his canoe then simply left and refused to return. Tamatekapua soon clashed with Ngatoro and was accused of coveting the tohunga’s wife. Ngatoro was so angry he called upon the taniwha Parata. It soon appeared as a giant whirlpool that churned violently. Ngatoro instructed Parata to swallow the canoe. Te Arawa drew nearer and nearer to the throat of Parata and as it tilted on the very edge of disaster, 
Tamatekapua appealed to the Ngatoro’s aroha for his wife. At the very last moment Ngatoro relented and the grip of Parata was released. The waters soon settled and again the sea was calm. They all survived, they all arrived and made landfall at Maketu. Te Arawa is the founding waka of many tribes, especially in the central North Island. From Tama there are three generations (Kahu-mata-moemoe, Tawake-moe-tahanga, Uenuku-mai-Rarotonga) down to Rangitihi. He has eight children and they are poetically known as Nga Pumanawa e waru o Te Arawa (the eight beating hearts of Te Arawa). This is the core of Te Arawa whakapapa and oral traditions. 

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