Story: Ngāti Raukawa

How Raukawa got his name

How Raukawa got his name

Raukawa was the child of Tūrongo and Māhinaarangi. He was named after the raukawa plant, which has aromatic leaves. In her courtship with Tūrongo, Māhinaarangi wore a perfume made from its leaves.

The story of the romance of Tūrongo and Māhinaarangi tells how Raukawa got his name:

Tūrongo and Māhinaarangi were the parents of Raukawa. The story of their courtship and marriage is one of the most famous in Māori history and literature.

Tūrongo and his brother Whatihua were the sons of the Tainui chief Tāwhao. They lived at Kāwhia. Because of the circumstances of their birth, the two boys grew to be rivals. Entering adulthood, Tūrongo travelled to Pātea in south Taranaki, and fell in love with Ruapūtahanga, who belonged to the Aotea people.

Ruapūtahanga was famous for her beauty. It is said that she was an urukehu, a person with light-coloured hair and complexion. Following Tūrongo’s courtship of Ruapūtahanga, the family agreed that she should marry him. He returned to Kāwhia to build a house for his future wife.

On hearing of the forthcoming marriage, his brother Whatihua became secretly envious and determined that he should win Ruapūtahanga. While Tūrongo was building his house, his brother arrived to say that perhaps Tūrongo should shorten the ridgepole (thus shortening the house) as such a long pole was not necessary. He also suggested that Tūrongo fill his storehouse with small kūmara only, saying these were the type that Ruapūtahanga preferred. After dispensing this advice Whatihua returned to Aotea to build a magnificent house in the hope of winning Ruapūtahanga.

When Ruapūtahanga arrived with her entourage she was taken aback at how small Tūrongo’s house was, and at the disappointing size of the kūmara that were put before her. Whatihua then arrived to suggest that Ruapūtahanga and her party journey to his house, as they would not be able to fit inside Tūrongo’s.

Tūrongo was deeply embarrassed at not being able to offer hospitality to his guests and, of course, to Ruapūtahanga. He left Kāwhia and travelled to the eastern districts known as Te Tai Rāwhiti. He arrived in the Kahotea district, where the aromatic raukawa plant grew in abundance.

Tūrongo became renowned for his skill in fowling and in splitting timbers for house construction. The local people, including Angiangi and Tūaka, were impressed with him and said to their daughter, Māhinaarangi, that she should consider him as a husband. Māhinaarangi agreed and began to think how she might attract the lauded Tūrongo.

At this time, Tūrongo was helping to construct a house. Each evening he would retire, following a particular path through the forest to the house where he was staying. Māhinaarangi noticed this and decided to wait in the forest for him to pass. Tūrongo encountered her along the way, and after a while they became lovers. However, Māhinaarangi did not say who she was, and their meetings took place after dark. Tūrongo was not able to identify his lover except by her perfume, made from the leaves of the raukawa plant.

At some point, however, Māhinaarangi judged that she should reveal her identity. By this time Tūrongo had fallen in love with her. Everyone, including his father Tāwhao, who was visiting, agreed they should marry. Māhinaarangi became pregnant and Tūrongo returned to Kāwhia with his father to prepare a dwelling for her. He moved to a place called Rangiātea, where he established his house.

Māhinaarangi and her entourage travelled towards Waikato via Wairoa and Rotorua, and coming to Ōkoroire, she gave birth to a son. They named him Raukawa, after the perfume his mother wore during her courtship of Tūrongo.

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How to cite this page:

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Ngāti Raukawa - Early history', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/168/how-raukawa-got-his-name (accessed 19 September 2019)

Story by Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 3 Mar 2017