History of Ngati Kuta

It should be remembered that there are many versions of our history. This is but one. These layers of history have been discussed at hui in the past and continue to provide a platform in which we can discuss our ancestors and their lives which will hopefully guide us into the future.

The arrival of Captain James Cook 29 Nov-5 Dec 1769

Sydney_Parkinson_SketchThe inhabitants of this Bay are far more numerous than at any other place we have yet been in and seem to live in friendship with one another although it doth not att all appear that they are untied under one head. They inhabited both the Islands and the main and have a number of Heppa’s [pa] or strongholds”. (*1)

Sydney Parkinson, Cook’s official artist on his First Voyage, sketched a portrait of the son of the chief of Rakaumangamanga. Parkinson called him ‘O te Goowgoow’, which probably translates as Te Kuukuu. The pen and wash portrait shows a unique form of facial moko sometimes called puhoro. The rei puta he wears around his neck is claimed to be in the British Museum in London and also the Hancock Museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The greenstone pendant in his ear includes human teeth, probably those of his parents and/or grandparents, and is currently in the British Museum in London. He would later be injured during a run-in between Cook and his men and some of the local Maori. (*2)

Anne Salmond in her book Two Worlds. First meetings between Maori and Europeans 1642-1772 maintains that Te Rawhiti was occupied by Ngati Wai at this time, “a tribal grouping that included Ngare Raumati” (p.220). She described how they all “were vying with each other for access to the rich resources of the bay and for political control” (p.220).

The Declaration of Independence 1835

Our tupuna Tenana signed the Declaration of Independence on 28 October 1835 at Waitangi. It is an international declaration that recognises the sovereignty of the Independent Tribes of Aotearoa, New Zealand and was witnessed by the Crown Resident. This was the forerunner of the Treaty of Waitangi. It has a flag to symbolise tribal rights to trade as independent nations, but has not been ratified into New Zealand law.

The Treaty of Waitangi / Te Tiriti o Waitangi 1840

Rewiti Irikohe signed the Treaty on behalf of Ngati Kuta on 9-10 February 1840 at Waimate North.

Ngare Raumati and the Raupatu

Ngare Raumati were the original inhabitants of Te Rawhiti. The chiefs and brothers Korokoro and Tui accompanied Hongi Hika and Ruatara to Sydney in 1815, along with Te Nana II. One of the primary goals of the journey was to acquire muskets. Their return voyage was captained by Captain Thomas Hansen (Uncle Walter Mountain’s great-great-grandfather) and brought over Rev. Samuel Marsden.

The most important written source is Nga Puriri o Taiamai. A political history of Nga Puhi in the inland Bay of Islands written by Jeffrey Sissons, Wiremu Wi Hongi and Pat Hohepa. One of the major sources of the book were the manuscripts written by Uncle Henare Te Nana (Clendon) which are now in the Library at Auckland Museum (ask for ms 895).

From c1770 to 1826, hapu around Kaikohe began moving out extending to Te Rawhiti. This was achieved in three phases:

  1. c1770: Ngati Miru and Te Wahineiti were defeated at Te Waimate and Kerikeri.
  2. c1800: Ngare Raumati were attacked at Te Rawhiti by Auha’s son and Hongi Hika’s father, Te Hotete.
  3. 1826: final defeat of Ngare Raumati at Te Rawhiti using muskets.

Different accounts are reproduced in Puriri Trees. One is from Horiana Ikanui of Ngare Raumati, whose grandfather was Korokoro’s uncle, Kaipo. His memories of past events would undoubtedly differ from those of the conqueror’s, Te Waaka Hakuene of Ngai Tawake. Both accounts were written down during a Land Court hearing in 1898 to determine the ownership of the islands of Moturua, Waewaetorea and Okahu.

This history is very layered and has many different versions. There are several untapped resources which need to be researched, including oral tapes of Uncle Arthur Hakaraia and Uncle Walter Mountain from the 1970s, as well as archival research at Auckland Museum and other places. Any Waitangi Tribunal claim would have to look into this as part of the history.

Te Rawhiti Native School (1906 – 1964)


The land and buildings of the Patu Keha Marae and Camping Ground in Kaingahoa Bay once held Te Rawhiti Native School. The Te Rawhiti community petitioned for 17 years to have a school established at Te Rawhiti. The Government agreed in the end to do so on very severe conditions – severe for a poor, rural community. The community had to provide timber, builders and labour, half the Teacher’s salary, and half the school equipment to establish the school and to keep it going. This policy was only applied to Native Schools in New Zealand at the time yet legally education was free and compulsory for everyone in the 1877 Education Act. Maori communities agreed to this blatant inequality because they wanted their children to be educated and to improve their standing in the world.

A number of Patu Keha whanau gifted the land to the Education Department so that a school could be built for the Te Rawhiti community. The flat land at Hauai was offered but the Department wanted the Kaingahoa site. Hakuene Te Tai gifted the timber and all the Te Rawhiti men helped with the building. There were always fundraisers to maintain teachers salaries and school equipment. The school opened in 1906. When communities could not pay their half of the salaries, land was given to the Teachers instead of money. That is how some Hauai land passed in to European title as Hauai played its part in fulfilling the unfair Education Department requirements. Such land transfers are the subject of Waitangi Tribunal claims here, and all over New Zealand.

There are a couple of letters on file to the Department complaining that the girls were not learning enough academic work and seemed to be learning home skills which they mostly, already knew. Nevertheless, the School was loved and was central to the community. When it closed in 1964, the school land was legally returned to the community. A camping ground was established by the whole Te Rawhiti community to provide maintenance funds for Te Rawhiti Marae. This was continued for some years. Patu Keha whanau at Te Rawhiti then successfully reclaimed the land, and the Camping ground buildings on the land were gifted to them by the community. Kaingahoa Marae Camping Ground is now run by, and for, Patu Keha hapu.

Community Developments

In the period of the 1920’s to 1940’s, small dairy farms and large gardens gave some income to large families. There was no road and deliveries were made daily on the Fuller’s “Cream Trip,” which also picked up milk, cream and mail around the Bay of Islands. Special trips were made by horse or foot to the road to visit towns and neighbouring settlements for Church services, tangi, hui and celebrations. Access to medical help meant that traditional medicine and home remedies were used first. It was a time that was economically difficult, but socially vibrant.

The 1950’s and 60’s saw a huge change in our community. Dairy farm subsidies reduced; industry was encouraged so jobs were available in the towns and cities; children grew up, were educated and moved to employment opportunities. Whanau came and went often at Te Rawhiti. Mostly only Kuia and Kaumatua stayed permanently with their moko, though people returned for hui. By 1964, only 8 children were at school. During the holidays, large numbers of whanau returned to enjoy the natural beauty and benefits of hau kainga. These holidays were at great cost as there was still no road.

After 35 years of letter writing by the Te Rawhiti Tribal Committee to local and national government, and the requests by Pakeha land owners, particularly Otto Sommervel, the Kokinga owner, the road began. He paid for the road to go past his place and down to Omakiwi, so he had access there, and despite requests to have the road go around the back of the School with the entry past the Hakaraia property at Whiorau, Sommervel’s money was most persuasive.

The road, established in 1970, and the Marae renovation, completed in 1974, began the return of whanau to Te Rawhiti.

The social, economic and historical environment of these earlier times provided a social and emotional imprint on the present community.

If you have any interesting historical pieces to add to this History of Ngati Kuta, please contactNgarino Ellis or Matutaera Clendon. Thank you.

*1: Cook in J. C. Beaglehole (ed.), The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discoveru: Vol. I. The Voyage of the Endeavour 1768-1771 (1968), pp. 218-9
*2: Salmond, A. Two Worlds. First meetings between Maori and Europeans 1642-1772 p.224

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *