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He kōrero mō Tōhe


This ancestor Tōhe lived at Kapowairua in Muriwhenua. A descendant of Pohurihanga of the waka Kurahaupo wrecked at Takapaukura (Tom Bowling Bay), he was a very powerful tohunga and matakite who knew all sacred things. One day he had a vision that his daughter Raninikura was in danger. Raninikura lived at Ounuwhao on the banks of the Wairoa river below Dargaville with her husband Te Kauwhata of Ngati Rangi tribe. A pepeha of that iwi is: “Ko Ngāti Rangi ko te angaanga ito iho i te rangi – Ngati Rangi the head knot plumed from the very heavens”, for indeed that iwi descended from Ranginui.

Calling his slave Ariki to him, Tohe announced his intention of proceeding on such a long journey and ordered that food be prepared for consumption at the end of their journey. Hot food was lifted from the oven and wrapped in kawakawa leaves. Tohe then recited karakia which turned he and Ariki into spirit forms. This was done so that they could accomplish their journey more quickly. In fact, as wairua they hurtled along Ninety Mile Beach which Tohe named Te Oneroa a Tohe (The Long Beach of Tohe).

Upon reaching the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach, at the place known as Scotts Point, he paused to recite a karakia to ensure the safety of Raninikura. At Maunganui Bluff Muriwhenua, then a large sandhill, he conferred the name Maunganui. Looking out to sea , he saw a small island which resembled a fishing canoe and named it Te Waka te haua. Continuing along the beach until he reached a rocky headland jutting out to sea, Tohe called the headland Te Arai, The Obstruction. When he reached the next big hill the tide had just turned forcing him into the rushing seafoam. Hence he named that place Hukatere (Rushing Seafoam).

Passing on he came to a place where water was dripping down the face of a bank so he named that place Waipahihi. It is now known as Waihi. He next saw a man spearing kukupa in a large karaka grove so called that place Karaka. Continuing his journey, he came to an area where men had been drying fish on poles so said that that place should be named Ngapae (The Poles). It is now called the Waipapakauri Turnoff. Arriving at a stream he noticed a bituminous substance floating in the water which was used as chewing gum and placed the name Waimimiha on that stream.

Next he came to Ahipara where he instructed Ariki to stretch out his arms to measure how far the tide had receded since they had left Scotts Point. It was two arms length showing how quickly they had traversed the beach. Hence he gave to Ahipara the name Wharo (to stretch forth) which was its original name. It was at Wharo that nostalgia overcame Tohe and, gazing in the direction of his home at Kapowairua which he knew he would never see again, he sang a touching song expressing his homesickness. This song is called He Tangi a Tohe Mo Tana Kainga - A Lament of Tohe for His Home.

Continuing along the coast he came to the mouth of a harbour where he saw a spear standing upright. The head was fastened to the shaft with a badly tied knot . He enquired of two girls as to ownership of the spear and was told that it belonged to Taunaha, a great great grandchild of Ruanui-o-Tane of the waka Mamari. Tohe then called that place Te Herekino-o-Taunaha (The Badly Tied Spear of Taunaha). Moving on, he arrived at a place where the tangata whenua were soaking karaka berries in water and named that place Whangape (Whakape – To Soften) Karaka. Later he encountered a great river estuary which barred his way. Sending Ariki up river to investigate a possible narrower crossing, his slave reported that the whole river was just as broad hence Whanui (Broad) which name remains on the north bank of the Hokianga Harbour to this day.

At this juncture Tohe summoned the taniwha Arai-te-uru, to transport him and Ariki over the harbour during which he recited a karakia beginning “Ka hau au he whau” instructing Arai-te-uru to lift them up like a float over the water. This she did, safely depositing the party at Omapere, South Hokianga. They then proceeded to ascend the hills later called Te Pikinga O Tohe (The Ascent of Tohe) and Pakia (To Be Overcome) . It was while climbing Pakia that Tohe again became overcome with a powerful nostalgia for his Muriwhenua home – hence the place name. Upon reaching Te Hunoke, which he initially had thought was the crown of Pakia, rather than a separate hil, Tohe commented in terms of his labours that the small hill Te Hunoke actually was a big hill. He did not proceed to Haumaora, the tihi of Te Hunoke where wairuas proceeding to Te Reinga have their last chance to return to the World of Life, but skirted the base of Te Hunoke.

Descending to the Waimamaku valley, Tohe thought that the Waimamaku river resembled a river in Muriwhenua named Waimamakunui-a-Rua and so conferred that name. Rua was a rangatira of Muriwhenua. Following the Waimamaku river to its mouth, he proceeded south along the beach until he came to a stream which was dammed with leaves and so called that stream Wairau (Leaf Water). He next came to a pretty rock-strewn bay where, in climbing over the rocks, he broke the strap of one of his sandals. Upon Ariki weaving a replacement strap, Tohe named that place Kawerua (Two Straps).

Journeying south, he soon saw Maunganui Bluff appear on the horizon which he named Maunganui because of its resemblance to the Maunganui at Muriwhenua. Approaching the north face of the Bluff, he noticed that the sun on the sea produced a dark blue colour much like the colour of the kara stone so named that place Waikara. Upon ascending the steep incline of Maunganui Bluff he became tired, began to pant and had to rest , hence that place was named Kowhiowhiotu. Travelling on he came to a place on the Bluff where grew indigenous passion fruit (kaimanu) and there conferred the place name Kaimanu. Reaching a peak from which he could look back upon Te Oneroa a Tohe, he was totally overwhelmed by homesickness and uncontrollable weeping – and so that place was named Maringinoa (Incessant Weeping).

Descending from Maunganui Bluff, Tohe and Ariki entered the Waihoupai valley where they proceeded to camp on a small hill. Here Ariki unwrapped the warm food intended for the completion of their journey and offered the kai to Tohe. That sacrilegous act destroyed the tapu of their spirit forms and killed them both, the hill thenceforth being known as Whangai-a-Ariki(the Offering of Ariki).

In consequence of the non-appearance of Tohe, Raninikura and her husband sent out a search party which eventually found Tohe’s remains just south of Maunganui Bluff. His eyes had been pecked by seagulls. Thus that place, where his remains still rest, was called Manuwhetai. Reflecting the mana and tapu with which they are so heavily imbued, Manuwhetai and Whangai-a-Ariki remain treasured places throughout Tai Tokerau which Tohe’s uri Te Roroa are honoured to protect. For those sites honour not just the memory of Tohe and his prodigous naming activities but the memory of all his descendants.

Na Gary Hooker


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