Story: Te Āti Awa of Wellington

Page 4. 1830s: settling the land

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Ngāmotu and Ngāti Mutunga links

After their journey from Taranaki, Te Āti Awa people from Ngāmotu settled first at Waikanae. The hapū (sub-tribe) Te Mana of Ngāti Mutunga were living at Pito-one (Petone) just north of Wellington, having arrived in a previous migration from Taranaki. They invited the Ngāmotu chiefs Te Puni, Te Wharepōuri, Te Matangi and his son Te Manihera Te Toru to settle with them there, since they were close kin.

About the same time, the Te Āti Awa leader Wī Tako Ngātata and a war party were returning south. They made their way to Heretaunga (the Hutt Valley) and attacked the Ngāti Kahukura-awhitia settlement called Puniunuku. Their aim was to avenge the death of the Ngāti Mutunga chief, Te Momi. In gratitude Patukawenga of Ngāti Mutunga made Waiwhetū, the area east of the Heretaunga (Hutt) River mouth, tapu (sacred) for the Ngāmotu people.

Patukawenga called this area Te Iwi Tuarā o Tipi (the backbone of Tipi) after his cousin, who had been given in marriage to a Ngāmotu chief. The Te Mana people then made Whiorau (Lowry Bay) tapu for the Ngāmotu people. These gifts gave Te Āti Awa a stake in the Wellington region.

The Paukena migration

Te Puni and Te Wharepōuri took a war party to the Wairarapa, seeking revenge for an incident in which some people had been killed, but they arrived to find the land deserted. They decided to take most of their people to southern Wairarapa, leaving the older ones at Waiwhetū.

While the Ngāmotu people were in the Wairarapa, the situation along the Kāpiti coast had deteriorated because of pressures on land, and old rivalries. Haowhenua, a long-running and inconclusive battle in 1834, saw another Taranaki migration, known as Paukena, arrive from Waitara. These Te Āti Awa people were led by Te Rangitāke (also known as Wiremu Kīngi).

The 1835 transfer

In 1835 Ngāti Mutunga and sections of Ngāti Tama, feeling insecure about the arrival of Ngāti Raukawa on the Kāpiti coast and the breakdown of relationships with Ngāti Toa after the Haowhenua battle, sought to escape the growing pressures. They were aware of the resources of the Chatham Islands and planned to seize a ship, the Rodney, to take them to the Chathams from Matiu (Somes Island) in Wellington Harbour. Before the final voyage in November 1835, at a meeting on Somes Island, Ngāti Mutunga transferred their rights to land around the harbour to Te Āti Awa and other Taranaki chiefs.

The battle called Kūititanga

Fought in October 1839, the battle known as Kūititanga was the last major tribal war over land before the arrival of New Zealand Company settlers at Port Nicholson. Some Ngāti Raukawa people, with the blessing of the Ngāti Toa leader Te Rauparaha, attacked Te Āti Awa at Waikanae. The ostensible reason was the ill treatment by Ngāti Tama of Te Rauparaha’s sister Waitohi. She died just before the battle. However, the real reason for the fighting was competition for land and resources. The people of Ngāti Raukawa expected to win, but had more casualties than Te Āti Awa, who saw this battle as a victory. The battle of Kūititanga clarified issues of land ownership, particularly on the Kāpiti Coast.

How to cite this page:

Morris Love, 'Te Āti Awa of Wellington - 1830s: settling the land', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/te-ati-awa-of-wellington/page-4 (accessed 9 July 2020)

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