RAKATAURA AND KAHUKEKE
THE TAINUI TOHUNGA, Rakataura, made a poor start on the migration to Aotearoa, then later redeemed himself and became one of the leading figures in our ancestry.
Rakataura was a man with many faults, the most aggravating being his thieving tendencies and an aggressive eye for the ladies. He was also club-footed; a disability which coupled with his other flaws would have made him even more disagreeable to his peers. Yet he must have been an intelligent person because it was no small thing to become a qualified tohunga. It took years of training and feats of incredible mental power. One also had to be well born to train to be a tohunga.
It is no surprise that he was with Hoturoa and his people on the migration, he had every right to be there and a tohunga was a valued member of any tribe. But his liking for other peoples' things soon got him offside with everyone. The people might have endured him helping himself to their stuff, but when he cast his eyes on Kahukeke, Hoturoa's daughter, things took a bad turn.
The first leg of the migration was to Rarotonga where they visited with kinfolk and took on fresh supplies for the final and longest part of the voyage. It was here that Rakataura's behaviour became so intolerable that Hoturoa and the rest conspired to leave him behind and when the Tainui pushed off he found himself stranded on the beach. As he watched the Tainui pull away he cried out, "What am I to do?" Hoturoa's blunt reply was, "Beg to your ancestors for help!"
Being cast off from the tribe would have been soul destroying and it is little wonder Rakataura was so mortified and desperate. But being a tohunga, he summoned up some supernatural help in the form of a giant sea taniwha which carried him to Aotearoa on its back. So speedy was his trip he arrived some time before Hoturoa and was waiting on the shores of Aotearoa, angry and vengeful. It is more likely he either travelled with another migrating canoe or was on the Tainui all the time. One account says he used his powers to turn into a rat and hid under the deck boards, regaining his human form when the canoe made landfall. This might be one way of saying he was allowed to travel with them but was likened to a sneaky rat. Most of the stories about Rakataura say he was in the Auckland region where Otahuhu is now situated when Hoturoa sailed up from Whangaparoa.
For the sake of this article we will run with the traditional account; that Raka somehow arrived at Aotearoa before the Tainui, and from this point on refer heavily to the writings of our ancestor, Arthur Ormsby.
In the 24 March Waipa Post he writes: When Hoturoa arrived in New Zealand he made an attempt to haul Tainui across the Tamaki isthmus, but failed, and as he was intent on cruising down the west coast, he sailed northward and round the North Cape. Rakataura then took up a position at Puketapapa and there erected a 'tuahu' (alter) which he called Karangahape. After turning the North Cape Hoturoa proceeded southward and attempted to enter the Manukau Harbor, but Rakataura called upon the god of the winds which, responding, raised a bar (presumable a sand bar) at the entrance, forcing Hoturoa to keep out and continue on down the coast. At Whaingaroa, now Raglan, he was again prevented from entering by the machinations of Rakataura, who had taken up a position on Karioi, the high hill a few miles away. There he erected another tuahu which he called Tuahupapa. Baffled again, Hoturoa continued his journey southward, and Rakataura, determined apparently to frustrate his every endeavour to affect a landing, journeyed in the same direction, traveling some distance inland. Arriving at Nga-iro, he erected another tuahu, and was successful again in preventing Hoturoa from entering the Aotea and Kawhia Harbours.
From these writings we see that Raka was still miffed at the snub he suffered at Rarotonga and embarked on a campaign to block Hoturoa's every move to make land. How he actually effected this we don't know other than, as the traditional histories say, he erected tuahus and used his priestly powers. However he did it, the result was that Hoturoa was forced to sail all the way south to Taranaki where he encountered the folk from the Tokomaru canoe that had arrived around the same time as the Tainui. The Tokumaru people had made this westernmost place on the North Island their new home.
Hotu and his people were not welcome there so he turned the canoe north again and stopped at Mokau. Here they beached the Tainui and after a while headed overland to Te Ranga, near Kawhia. At Te Ranga he saw footprints on the beach and exclaimed, "Ah, I see he with the deformed foot is here!" The impressions in the sand had the distinctive mark of Rakataura's clubbed foot. He continued his trek to Kawhia.
Rakataura, meanwhile, had set up a camp at Heahea where he built another tuahu which he called Ahurei, a place that became a famous landmark in Tainui history and Kawhia. He later went to Moeatea and there bumped into his old nemesis, Hoturoa.
One might think that a fight would have broken out when they met, especially after so much animosity between the two, but it wasn't so. Somehow they reconciled their differences and joined forces; by this time Raka had a substantial following of his own. Also, it should be remembered that Hoturoa was always inclined to seek peace before war.
As a token of his sincerity, Hoturoa gave his daughter Kahukeke to Rakataura as his wife and from this point on he seems to have turned over a new leaf because he was never again a hindrance to Hotu and his people; on the contrary, he went on to become one of Tainui's greatest benefactors, his name from then on being associated with grand and noble deeds.
With the rift between Raka and Hotu healed, the people set to work establishing their settlement at Kawhia, and as the years went by they spread out along the western coast from the Waikato Heads in the north all the way to Mokau in the south. Raka and Kahu lived at Kawhia and had three children. When the third child was born he and Kahu and a party of relatives and slaves set off on a journey of discovery. He had it mind to move inland where there was empty land that was rich and fertile and blessed with thick forests filled with food sources. He determined to occupy these lands and claim them for the people of Tainui.
The comings and goings of people in the tribe (who were mostly all family) was an integral part of life in those days. The comings were cause for joy and celebration as kinfolk were reunited, but the goings were occasions for heartbreak and sorrow because going away meant being gone for a very long time, if not forever. Little wonder Hoturoa wept at their departure; he might never see his sister again. Tortured by the pain of parting he asked Rakataura (ironically, now his son-in-law), "How shall we know you are thinking of us?" Raka replied, "Let us look up when the night sky is clear and whenever the feather tail of the Milky-way is visible, let us remember each other."
Raka and Kahu's children were grown when their parents set off on their journey. He made it clear to them that they would not be going by dividing his land between them. To his sons he said, "Houmea will remain and occupy Ahurei, Tuhianga is to take Moeatoa, and Kakati will occupy Karioi. To Hoturoa he said, "I will make a covenant between us and I will plant two rocks as a token of the covenant." He planted the first rock by the shore and called it Puna. This rock represented Hoturoa. When he went further inland he planted the second rock and called it Hani, the covenant representation of himself.
After traveling a few days Raka and his people set up camp on the eastern side of the big mountain that separated Kawhia from the inland plains. The group planned to remain there for some time so they set about clearing ground for cultivation. Kahukeke must have been working hard because Raka made fun of the body odour coming from her. Indignant at his remarks, she exclaimed, "Because of the smell of my body let this mountain from here on be called Pirongia-te-aroaro-o-Kahu!'
That the mountain retained this name is no surprise when we know it was common Maori practice to name places and tribes after events, occurrences, and notable people; or something peculiar to them. For example, the tribal name Hikairo means eaten by maggots, obtained from when the body of a drowned chief was found covered in fly spawn. A baby born at the time was named Hikairo to commemorate the event. The baby grew up to be a powerful chief and became the eponomous ancestor of our tribe. This method of naming would ensure the subject would be remembered because of the history behind it, and it would also give authenticity to that subject; especially when it came to land or customary rights. Even people were named in such a way; occasionally more than once in a lifetime. A name given at birth could be later changed to commemorate something important.
After residing on the slopes of Pirongia long enough to establish a claim, they shifted down to the Kopua flats, some distance south of the mountain. It was good land and they busied themselves establishing some large gardens. The menfolk also engaged it bird hunting and found the forests abundant with wood pigeons, kaka and all kinds of other local fish and game. They lived on the Kopua flats for several years and while there Kahu was beset by a health problem that caused internal bleeding. It first came to her attention when she went to bath in a nearby stream. She noticed the water around her began to turn red with blood. Knowing that the blood was coming from her body, and that it represented a serious health condition, she named the river Mangawhero-o-Kahu - the red blood of Kahu.
Eventually they left the Kopua site and moved to the foot of a volcanic cone that stood up out of the plain. It was considerably smaller than Pirongia but nonetheless impressive in its aspect. Their fourth child was born here; they named him Hape-ki-te-Tuaraki.
Kahu's health began to worsen and a tumour caused a pronounced lump on her stomach. It reminded her of the volcanic cone rising from the plains so she named the small mountain Kakepuku - stomach protuberance. After a few years at Kakepuku the tribe shifted to the foot of the next nearest mountain where her bleeding became more constant. This mountain was named Rangitoto - the day of bleeding.
Despite her worsening condition the tribe made a long trek to the next mountain where she took a turn for the worst. Overcome by the tumour and knowing her end was imminent, she said, "Let this mountain be called Te Puke-o-Kahu." She died a short while later and was buried there. This is the place we call Te Puke to this day.
After mourning the death of Kahu, Raka left his people and striking out on his own moved to the top of another mountain a long way to the east. From there he could gaze out over all the lands he and his beloved Kahu had conquered and claimed for Tainui. In his place of solitude high on the mountain he remembered the years of happiness he and Kahu had enjoyed, and in her memory he named it Te Aroha - the love; representing the love they shared for each other. Raka had come full circle; from one who was despised by his people to a man who became a dedicated husband and father, a great explorer, and one who claimed more territory for Tainui than any other individual. To top it off he named a mountain after his wife; in the eyes of every woman surely his most heroic deed of all.
In his old age Raka married Hinemarino and saw out his days at Te Aroha.
Written by David Bell
1. Arthur Sydney Ormsby: King Country Sketches, an article in the Waipa Post, 29 March, 1924.
2. James Cowan: The Coming of Tainui. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, Volume 14, No. 2, June 1905 pages 96-95.
3. George Graham: The Account of Kupe and Tainui. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, Volume 28, No. 110, 1919 pages 111-116.