Te Whānau-ā-Apanui is named after the 17th-century ancestor, Apanui Ringamutu. (He was also known by the Ngāti Awa people as Apanui Te Haua and Apanui Te Kuti.) The tribe was named after him because of his ancestry and prestige.
His father was Tūrīrangi, a direct descendant of Tamatekapua of Te Arawa and the Ngāriki people of the Tauira canoe.
Rongomaihuatahi, Apanui’s mother, was a direct descendant of Porourangi, of Ngāti Porou. As a child Apanui acquired land from both the Ngāti Porou and Ngāriki people.
Te Aotākaia, his uncle on his mother’s side, gave him land extending from Pōtikirua to Puketapu. Apanui’s father gave him land from Taumata-ō-Apanui to the Mōtū River. Later, Apanui won the land between the Mōtū River and Puketapu by conquest.
Apanui Ringamutu had four wives and many children. His second wife, Whaaki of Ngāi Tai, was the mother of seven of his children. Whaaki’s sister, Te Kohepare, was Apanui’s third wife, and bore him five children. Kiritapu, his fourth wife, also had five children with him.
Tūkākī was the son of Apanui Ringamutu and his first wife Kahukuramihiata, of Ngāti Kahungunu. Many lines of descent converged on Tūkākī from Porourangi, Kahungunu, Toroa and Tamatekapua. These are depicted in four tukutuku panels near the corners of the meeting house called Tūkākī, at Te Kaha marae.
Tūkākī married Te Rangiwhakapunea and had a number of children, including:
- Te Ehutu, who had the responsibility to uphold authority over the lands inherited from his father
- Kaiaio, a peaceful man known for his expertise in cultivating kūmara (sweet potatoes)
- Tamahae, remembered as the tribe’s greatest warrior, who fought many battles around the East Coast. He avenged the death of his grandmother, Kahukuramihiata, and travelled as far as Little Barrier Island to defeat the Ngātiwai tribe.