Pre-European Tataraimaka: of fishing, gods, great waka and musket wars

Tataraimaka first became home territory to the Honeyfields close to 170 years ago when William Honeyfield purchased a farm there in 1852. William joined his cousins, John and William Morgan, who made their first purchase in Tataraimaka in 1851. While William and his wife Sarah sold up to farm the Barrett Reserve land in New Plymouth, there has been a permanent Honeyfield presence at Tataraimaka for 150 years, since James and Caroline purchased their farm in January 1869.

Of course, for centuries before the Europeans arrived at Tataraimaka that land had been the home of the tangata whenua. The following captures a little of that story,

(The following is an extract from ‘If walls could talk … Succession’ written by Kevin Honeyfield as part of the Honeyfield 150 celebration)

According to an ancient Maori story, Tataraimaka was a giant who fished with an enormous black net. His black net was magic and had been woven from flax.

One day, a mother said to her little fishes, “Now listen carefully, dear children, be sure you keep close in to the rocks. Do not venture out into the open sea. Today Tataraimaka goes fishing”.

Tataraimaka fishing


On this day however the sea was smooth, the sun was at its brightest. Rainbow colours danced about the little fishes as they played their games. They were having so much fun they forgot their mother’s words.

Without warning disaster struck. The big black net of Tataraimaka hit the water and all seven fishes were caught. They cried, making the sea salty with their tears.

Tane the God of forest and light heard their cries and felt sorry for them. He took the net away from Tataraimaka and hauled it up into the high heavens.

There the seven little fishes were turned into stars. Look to the west, you can see them in the evening above the horizon. Six of the stars have names – but one star remains nameless.

The constellation known as Matariki to the Maori, is known as Pleiades to the Greeks on the other side of the world. 
Maori used this group of stars to help navigate their way to Aotearoa (New Zealand)

It has been left for all the children of the world. Just before going to bed, you may put your name on this star, and in this way you will be among your friends as you sleep.

Possible reasons why our home farms are called Tataraimaka include:

  • Did it come from Tataraimaka, the Giant fisherman in the ancient Maori story?
  • Was it the name used by “The people of the land” the tangata whenua as suggested by Roy Komene at the Tataraimaka Hall Jubilee in 1994? Roy spoke of the people that resided in Tataraimaka years before the Maori arrived, the Kahui-maunga.
  • Its been recorded in many publications that Tataraimaka means “to toss the garment”. Is this simply the feeling given to Tataraimaka after the northern tribes conquered Nga Mahanga?
  • Twenty years before his death Alan Fisher informed Kevin Honeyfield that many years ago some elder Maori had claimed the full name of Tataraimaka was in fact Tataraimaka-moana. Loosely translated meaning a “Beautiful place by the Sea”.

Today, in the year 2019, the families that live in Tataraimaka are less concerned about the meaning of the name. There is more concern about retaining the name and the depth of heritage that Tataraimaka offers.

‘The Broken Canoe’

Laden with people and stores, a fleet of waka that had woven sails set off from Tahiti to make Aotearoa their new home. Three hundred years earlier, Kupe had told his people about his discovery of a vast new land in the South west Pacific, until now only a small number of waka had tried to make this journey.

One of the wakas was the Kura-haupo, this is the canoe that the Maori who later lived at Tataraimaka set sail on. Te Moungaroa was the leader of this waka that had a 5000 km journey to make.

The fleet got separated in the great ocean but three of the waka met at Rangi-tahapa Island, just 1000 km away from Aotearoa. Here the waka Kura-haupo was smashed by the big surf. Te Moungaroa and some friends joined the other two waka, leaving others behind to try and fix the broken canoe.

Te Moungaroa and his followers reached Aotearoa and eventually settled at a beach they called Oakura. They landed by the mouth of the Wairau Stream where the surf club is today.

Here they made their new home, amalgamating with the Kahui-maunga people. These were the people living in Aotearoa before the fleet of waka arrived.

Five hundred years later, some Taranaki Maori still referred to the Kura-haupo as the “Broken Canoe, the canoe that Nga Mahanga from the Taranaki iwi originated from, but a canoe that never arrived in Taranaki.

Another canoe from the fleet, Tokomaru, settled a little further north, forming the Te Atiawa iwi. This is the main blood line that Rawinia, wife of Dicky Barrett, ancestors that the Honeyfields are descended from.

Nga Mahanga

With good land and plenty of food the Taranaki iwi flourished. Two hundred years and seven generations after the landing at Oakura of Te Moungaroa and his friends around 1350, twin boys were born and they named their sub hapu Nga Mahanga, the name for twins. They lived in a pa called Matai-whetu and this was not far from the main Tataraimaka Pa site.

The twins were great warriors and had the following saying which refers to their courage and likens them to the mussels that adhered to the rocks, for they could not be removed from their pa by their enemies.

E Turi’ a Tai! E Hotua Tai! Mara a Tai! Te toka i tauria e te kukwpara, araio mimingo. Kit tu matou ko aku tama, he whetu kau;

Nga Mahanga become the dominant hapu in the Tataraimaka and surrounding area. Sometimes friction arose between them and the iwi to the north, Te Atiawa.

This friction continued for many generations although there were also peaceful times with marriages between them, especially around the Ngamotu area.

Nga Mahanga rohe at Tataraimaka

The Northern Invasion, Summer of 1818

For many generations the hapu of Nga Mahanga flourished at Tataraimaka, with fresh water from the mountain streams, an abundance of sea food and kind forgiving land to grow kumara and taro.

Little did they know, a large war party had come by waka from Kaipara and Tamaki and were resting north of Waitara, hosted by their allies Ngati Tama, who were foe of Nga Mahanga.

Muru-paenga was one of the most feared chiefs of this, the ‘Musket war’ years. He was an ally of Te Rauparaha but an avid enemy of the infamous Honi Hiki.

Overland the war party marched on to Tataraimaka. Nga Mahanga had not encountered the musket before. The hostile northern maori, led by Muru-paenga, advanced towards the Tataraimaka Pa in a wedge shape formation. Some Te Atiawa also accompanied the attackers, pointing out Nga Mahunga chiefs, making them the first casualties to fall to Muru-paenga’s muskets.

If Te Atiawa had not helped Muru-paenga they could of been his next meal, and this is exactly what happened to many of Nga Mahanga.

Great slaughter followed with the spoils of war being flesh, kumara, woven garments and slaves going to the northern attackers.

The surviving Nga Mahanga left Tataraimaka, never to return as residents.

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