The people of the Taranaki tribe were closely related to other tribes in the region through ancestry and proximity. Alliances and disputes between them were a feature of their history both before and after European settlement. Threats from other tribes and the need to protect territory, authority and honour meant that relationships between the Taranaki tribes were continually changing.
Conflict with northern tribes
There was a long history of warfare between Waikato and Taranaki. Tribes from Waikato had raided Taranaki and Whanganui in the late 18th century, and warfare continued until the 1830s.
Meanwhile in the early 19th century, other tribes from the north – Ngāti Whātua, Te Roroa, Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Toa – raided Taranaki, armed with muskets. They defeated the Taranaki tribe and captured slaves skilled in the preparation of flax. The work of these slaves earned income for the northern tribes and enabled them to buy muskets for further expeditions.
The Ngāti Toa tribe of Kāwhia was also under pressure from Waikato tribes, and in about 1822 they decided to migrate to the Kāpiti Coast and Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour). On the way they passed through the Taranaki region and were joined by some people of the Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama tribes. In 1824 more Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama accompanied Ngāti Toa in another migration south. These upheavals and the depopulation of the area altered the balance of power.
Waikato tribes return
The Taranaki tribe and their neighbours continued to suffer raids from Waikato. Between 1834 and 1837 Waikato tribes ventured down the Taranaki coast. The Taranaki tribe, led by the great chief Wiremu Kīngi Te Matakātea, inflicted three defeats on them, first at Ngā Weka, then at Te Namu, and finally at Waimate. A sacred peace known as ‘Hou-hou-rongo’ was then negotiated, and is binding on the tribes to this day.