Friday, December 2, 2011


Taken from my book Te Herenga Waka... which focuses on the canoe traditions around Aotearoa... from the far north to the bottom of the South Island
Mataatua was the waka in which the crew of Aratawhao returned to Aotearoa. Under the leadership of Hoaki, the Aratawhao canoe traveled to Hawaiiki to collect kumara. While there the Aratawhao was deemed to be un-seaworthy. Thus Mataatua was built to enable that crew, with their precious cargo, to return to their homeland. On that journey, Toroa is generally accepted as captain of the Mataatua. However it did complete its voyage under the command of his brother Puhi. Mataatua was guided across the oceans by two saddlebacks named Mumuhau and Takere-Tou. Toroa’s father foresaw their landing place. 
He told them to look for ‘a waterfall cascading down a cliff, a cave that provides warm shelter and a river mouth that provides safe anchorage’. They found it… at Wairere falls, Te Ana-o-Muriwai and Hinemataroa River. It was at that particular river mouth that Mataatua was moored when they first arrived. The men, including Toroa and Puhi, ventured inland to make contact with the locals. The women were left to tend the camp and watch the canoe. Soon a storm began to brew in the north. The currents were much stronger than expected and the canoe drifted toward dangerous rocks. Just then Toroa’s daughter, Wairaka, came upon the waka and ceased upon the ropes. She fought hard with the currents and pulled on the ropes with all her might. 
At that moment Wairaka uttered her famous words “Kia whakatane ake au i ahau” (Oh that I might be a man). Of course, she was praying for the strength of a man… clearly she didn’t need it. She, along with others, hauled the canoe to safety. From that point on the river was named ‘Whakatane’ to celebrate Wairaka’s words. But not for her efforts, the traditions of Toroa and Puhi would be quite different. Near Whakatane there’s an altar called Makaka, built by Toroa to honour Mataatua’s arrival.  In the north there’s an altar at Takou. It’s acknowledged as the final resting place of Mataatua. 
Both altars are inextricably linked by the mana of Wairaka and both make meaningful contributions to Mataatua’s story. So many tribes have founding traditions based on the arrival of Mataatua including Ngati Awa, Whakatohea, Tuhoe, Nga Puhi and others. 


Unknown said...

Kia ora Warren, Just letting you know I am doing some whakapapa research on Toroa back to the Cook Islands. I did a google search and came up with your link.

Unknown said...

Kia ora bro..too much on this knowledge...I am learning about my iwi is Tuhoe Potiki..i remember my dad telling me that story..