Ngakonui – Te Kāwhiu Pāua


“Did you not observe the clouds of the north-west wind drifting across Kūhāwherahia?”

Ko Kōparehuia ki Mangahānea
Kōparehuia resides at Mangahānea
Ko Ngakonui ki Reporua
Whilst Ngakonui occupies Reporua

NGAKONUI, the principal ancestor of the Ngāti Rangi people of Reporua, was born about 1700AD. The story goes that when his mother Hinetāpora, the great chieftainess of Ngāti Porou, reached maturity, the chief Umuariki (who lived at Tūparoa) approached her to be a wife for  his son Te Rangikaputua. Hinetāpora in response said, “Pēnei au i haere mai koe ki te tono i a au māu tonu; kāore au mā te kāwhiu pāua.” (I thought you had come to ask me to be your wife; but no way am I going to be your pāua diver.)

This was in reference to Umuariki’s wife Uepare who was from Ōkauwharetoa (near Te Araroa) and was an expert at diving for pāua. When Umuariki first set eyes upon Uepare and saw her obvious prowess in gathering pāua, he remarked, “Koianei rawa pea he wahine hei ruku i ngā pāua o toku kāinga o Tokaroa.” (Here perhaps is a woman for me who can gather the pāua of Tokaroa).

Hinetāpora, of course, wasn’t going to have a bar of it. However, Umuariki had actually come to ask her on behalf of his son, Te Rangikaputua. Of course the rest is history and from the marriage of Hinetāpora and Te Rangikaputua was born two sons, Kōparehuia, the mataamua (oldest), and Ngakonui the pōtiki (younger).

Ngakonui was born at Tūpāroa and upon his birth, his uncle, Tīnātoka, the brother of Māriu (Ngakonui’s grandmother), came to fetch him to raise as his grandson. Tīnātoka’s wife at the time (as he had several) was Taupēngārangi. Together they did not have children, hence the acquisition of Ngakonui. They also took as whangai (foster) another child, a female called Hākiri-o-te-rangi, or Hākiu as she was also called. The children were raised together and betrothed to each other from that time. They lived at Kōpūte-rehe, a fortified village located at Wai-o- matatini.

As the children grew, Taupēngārangi could no longer produce milk to feed them. Tīnātoka dispatched a messenger to the Wahineiti people of Reporua to catch “moho”, a type of fish that was prevalent in the waters of Reporua and which had the peculiar properties of promoting lactation in women. The Wahineiti of Reporua, in particular the people of Ngāti Pākura, were incensed by the command. One Tūāwhio remarked, “Kāore koe i titiro ki te ao o te pārera e rere nei i runga o Kūhāwherahia?” (Did you not observe the clouds of the north-west wind drifting across Kūhāwherahia?), meaning that to go to sea in these conditions would be dangerous.

But since when did you challenge the command of a chief? This display of contempt was bound to have repercussions and upon receiving this response, Tinātoka told his messenger, “E hoki ka kī atu, āpōpō koe i a au!”
(Return and tell him, tomorrow you are mine!) Sure enough, Tīnātoka and his warriors attacked and punished Tūāwhio and his people. The survivors of the battle fled and took refuge in the neighbouring pā belonging to a man by the name of Pāhiko.

Ngakonui then became the principal leader of the people of Reporua, known as Ngāti Rangi, whilst his elder brother Kōparehuia controlled the lands in and around Mangahānea near Ruatōrea under the tribal name of Ngati Kōparehuia. Ngakonui had three wives that the people of Reporua recognise, Te Rā-kaao (first wife), Te Rākau- hou-amo (2nd wife) and Ngārongo. Te Rā-ka-ao and Rākau-hou-amo were said to be sisters. Ngakonui, through his father Te Rangikaputua and his grandfather Umuariki, descends from Uepohatu, and through his mother Hinetāpora links back to Tūwhakairiora and thus Porourangi and Paikea.

Through Ngakonui and his wives, many whānau in Te Tairāwhiti have their origins in Reporua.


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