Mohua

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Journey of the Ngati Tumatakokiri to the South Island

Journey of the Ngati Tumatakokiri to the South Island

Diary. To Arapaoa

We sailed down the coast, always close enough to see it, but well clear of the reefs and breakers. Where we were going we would should never be out of sight of land.

As we went south, we kept the main land on our left and headed to the gap between the land and the big island they call Kapiti. Past kapiti we could see high land to the south west. That was where we were going.

We kept going until this land was to our west and then turned to it. It wasn’t too far across, but we had been warned to be careful. The water between the main land and Te Tau Ihu could be very dangerous. It was called ‘Te Moana-a-Raukawa’.

It would only take a few hours to cross, but the water could get very rough with a strong current, and the weather could change quickly, taking all land from sight and sweeping us away.

The men said it was a good day to cross, and soon enough we were looking up at steep tree covered hills and along a rocky shoreline. We sailed on for a while along a narrow passage, before seeing a good landing place where we beached the boats.

The men scouted the land while we prepared food.

We unwrapped and dried our Kumara, then carefully re-wrapped it. They still looked good. The weather here is warm, and there is plenty of sheltered north facing land. Soon we will burn some fields and plant the seeds.

We have found that we are on a big island, Arapaoa. The land beyond is very big indeed.

The earliest settlers in the top of the South Island were the Hāwea and Waitaha, and they had their roots in antiquity, counting the ‘fairy people’; Tūtūmaiao, Maeroro, Tūrehu, and Patupaiarehe among their ancestors.

The Ngati Mamoe, another Kurahaupo group left Heretaunga and settled the northern areas of Te Tau Ihu beginning a slow migration drift south for these original peoples. They were displaced by incoming tribes.

First came the Ngāti Wairangi, from the Whanganui district, who lived in western Mōhua. Then came the Kurahaupo people; first the Ngati Mamoe, then Ngai Tara, Ngati Tumatakokiri, and Rangitane. At each new wave of settlement the original tribes were pushed further south.

Tribes from the North Island were attracted to this region because of its minerals such as Argillite, and Pounamu, premium resources for tools and weapons. The area was also rich with local foods; seafood, sea birds, water fowl, eels and up the rivers; moa.

The history of the top of the South Island reveals a continuous series of invasions from tribes from the North.

Not all tribes were completely displaced. The Ngāti Kuia remained and integrated with successive immigrant groups; Ngāti Wairangi, the Ngāti Kopia, the Ngāti Haua, the Ngāi Tawake, the Ngāti Whakamana, the Ngā Te Heiwi and the Ngāti Tumatakokiri.

Diary. Leaving Arapaoa

We have stayed here a long time but must move on. Our cousins the Ngai Tara claim this land is their Rohe, and we are not strong enough to fight them for it. To the east are our other cousins from the Kurahaupo, the Rangitane… so we will go west. There are only a few people there. Some are Ngati Mamoe, also of the Kurahaupo and Heretaunga, and there are some others. The Waitaha have been there longer.

There is plenty of room for us there, and we are many and strong. There is a big bay there called Mohua that has good kai moana, it is warm with a fertile plain behind it and beyond that are big forests full of moa.

In Mohua we will have the fruits of the sea, and good land for our crops. It will be a good place.

Journey of the Ngati Tumatakokiri to Mohua (Golden Bay)

Journey of the Ngati Tumatakokiri to Mohua (Golden Bay)

The Ngai Tara had held some presence in the Marlborough sounds from soon after their arrival in Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington Harbour); it was close, and lay in plain sight of their southern coast.

Over time they asserted their occupation right over the Ngati Tumatakokiri, and this appears to have been resolved without conflict. There is no record of fighting between the Ngati Tumatakokiri and either Ngai Tara or Rangitane; indeed they all acted together against enemies in the Blenheim area.

Our understanding of the timeline for the migration of the Ngati Tumatakokiri is in some respects incomplete. We don’t know exactly when they left the Taupo area, descended the River Road and moved on to the Marlborough sounds. Nor do we know how long they stayed at Arapaoa before moving to Mohua (Golden Bay).

We do however know that they were firmly established in Mohua in the Sixteenth century. But they may have been in the region a lot longer.

A drawing by Isaac Gilsemans, on the Zeehaen, shows Maori boats in Golden Bay; one in significant detail. These were double hulled vessels in the Polynesian tradition. Abel Tasman’s journal text records that two of these multi-hull boats hoisted sails.

These are important details. It shows that the Ngati Tumatakokiri still retained Polynesian sailing knowledge, and still used their boats rigged in pairs on the sea.

If the move between Heretaunga and Whanganui had taken longer than a generation, then this knowledge, and the ability to sail these boats, would have been lost at Taupo; there is no need for ocean sailing skills or technology there. It would not have been practised and therefore couldn’t be passed to the next generation. So the journey from Heretaunga to Whanganui must have occurred within a generation. At least one person who knew how to build and sail multi-hull boats must have reached the west coast, because these skills survived into the 17th century in Golden Bay.

Regarding the time spent in the Marlborough sounds there is another indicator. Tumatakokiri (Whatonga’s son) had a grandson called Nukuwaiata, and this name is memorialised as an island between D’urville Island and Arapaoa.

The Ngati Tumatakokiri could have been at the north of the South Island as early as three generations after the arrival of the Kurahaupo.

Mohua bird

The area ‘Mohua’ takes its name from this bird that was abundant in the top of the South Island until the 19th Century.

Diary. Mohua

Here in Mohua we have a good life. The mountains behind the plains are very high, and shelter us from the bad westerly weather. The bay is full of kai moana, and our Kumara grow well here.

The men used to chase moa out of the forest onto Onetahua (farewell spit) where they were trapped, but now they have to go up the rivers to find them.

There is always great feasting when they return.

Our people are spread out a long way now, south, east and west. They are up the valley, out to the ocean side, south to Katawiri and well beyond. The people in the south visit us by boat, or on foot, as there is a way to the west coast through the mountains.

When they come to trade they bring Pounamu… it is a wonder to look on and very hard. It is better than our pakohe for some things. Our pakohe fractures to a very sharp edge, but it is brittle in comparison to Pounamu and difficult to work. Often, just as the tool is nearly finished the stone will fracture the wrong way, and has to be thrown away.

Pounamu is beautiful and a good stone for working wood, but it takes a long time to grind a good edge.

We trade them Pakohe and Kumara for the green stone. They can’t grow Kumara south of this valley.

Working with Pounamu

From Te Papa. Dante Bonica, an expert in stone tools, demonstrates the shaping and polishing of pounamu. Auckland, July 2009 (Click to run the video).

This video shows Pounamu being worked. It includes demonstrations of the tools used for shaping the stone. These are similar to the tools used for cutting and drilling timber. The video also shows a piece of Argillite being fractured to create a cutting edge.

Rohe of the Ngati Tumatakokiri

Rohe of the Ngati Tumatakokiri

In Golden Bay, the Ngati Tumatakokiri flourished. By the time Abel Tasman arrived, the Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri, commanded a huge territory from the north-eastern Tasman Bay, to Cape Farewell, and down the West Coast to beyond Greymouth. Inland their range included the land up the Buller river to Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa and in the south, Lake Brunner.

The Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri were dominant for approximately two hundred years, but around 1810 they eventually fell to attacks from surrounding tribes; Ngāi Tahu from the West Coast, Ngāti Kuia and Rangitāne from the east and Ngāti Apa from the north.

The Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri was finally conquered after battles in the Parapoa Range. The surviving members were either taken into slavery, or dispersed… and with that their oral history was mostly lost.

Glossary:

Onetahua: Farewell Spit, means ‘heaped up sand’.
Te Tau Ihu: The top of the South Island.
Katawiri: Westport.
Pakohe: Argillite, a hard stone that fractures to a sharp edge.
Pounamu: Nephrite jade, also commonly called ‘Greenstone’
Kai moana: Seafood.

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