Story: Te Āti Awa of Wellington

Page 2. Migrations of the 1820s

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In the movement southwards to the Cook Strait region, Te Āti Awa joined forces with several other tribes. These included Ngāti Toa of Kāwhia, and the northernmost Taranaki tribes, Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama.

Incentives for migration

The Kāwhia tribes of Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Rārua faced pressure both from their connections in Taranaki and from their aggressive Waikato kin. The introduction of muskets by Europeans had changed the balance of power among tribes, and chiefs used these firearms to settle old scores.

In 1819 the Ngāpuhi tribe from Northland, inspired by the exploits of their leader Hongi Hika, set off on an expedition through the North Island. They were led by chiefs Patuone and Tāmati Wāka Nene, and joined by chiefs and people of Te Āti Awa of Taranaki, Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Mutunga. This combined war party was heavily armed with muskets and moved quickly, killing people but not necessarily conquering and retaining land. Some have seen this as an exploratory expedition for Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Toa, who both wanted to move away from the marauding Waikato tribes.

The drive for migration grew stronger for the Kāwhia tribes, and in the early 1820s they moved south to Taranaki. For Te Āti Awa, the decisive event came when they defeated the Waikato tribes at Motunui in 1822. This only ensured that Waikato would return to seek retribution.

The Tātaramoa migration

The first migration, or heke, from Taranaki included Ngāti Toa, who were already taking refuge in northern Taranaki while building their strength and resources. When they decided they could stay no longer, they were joined by some of Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga and Te Āti Awa, who also saw themselves at risk from the Waikato tribes. The migration of this mixed party to the Kāpiti Coast was known to Māori as Te Heke Tātaramoa.

The Nihoputa migration

Naming the journeys

The first migration was known as Te Heke Tātaramoa – the bramble bush migration. This was because there were so many difficulties that the journey was likened to travelling through bramble bushes. The second migration, Te Heke Nihoputa (the boar’s tusk migration) was no easier. While Te Āti Awa were staying with Ngā Rauru at Waitōtara, Hone Potete of Ngāti Mutunga heard one of the hosts say, ‘Ū, ku[a] mate taku niho puta mō taku manuwhiri’ (My tusked boar has been killed to feed the visitors). This was a signal to attack the visitors, and gave rise to the name of the migration.

The second major migration took place around 1824. Known as Te Heke Nihoputa, it included a large party of Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama of Taranaki. Their chiefs were Te Poki, Te Arahu and others, and the young chief Pōmare (later known as Wī Piti Pōmare). They were accompanied by Ngātata-i-te-rangi of Ngāti Te Whiti, a sub-tribe of Te Āti Awa.

Ngāti Mutunga settled at Waikanae, and Ngāti Tama at Ōhariu. Later, with the encouragement of the Ngāti Toa leader Te Rauparaha, Ngāti Tama settled at Tiakiwai. This was near the northern end of present-day Tinakori Road in central Wellington. Ngāti Mutunga followed, settling at various points on the western side of the harbour from Te Aro to Kaiwharawhara. This marked the first arrival of Taranaki people in the Wellington Harbour area.

How to cite this page:

Morris Love, 'Te Āti Awa of Wellington - Migrations of the 1820s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/te-ati-awa-of-wellington/page-2 (accessed 31 May 2020)

Story by Morris Love, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 1 Mar 2017