2018 Host Iwi

Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau – Auckland Council has been honoured to partner with a local mana whenua as iwi manaaki (host iwi) to present Matariki Festival for the past two years. This year we look west to Te Kawerau a Maki, who will host the festival across the city. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Tāmaki Makarau through the stories and histories of mana whenua, and to understand what the Matariki season means through their worldview.

Te Kawerau a Maki are the northernmost iwi that affiliate to the Tainui canoe, te kei o te waka tupuna o Tainui. In this programme you can read more about their whakapapa (genealogy), histories and gain glimpses into a people who are proud mana whenua over Te Waonui a Tiriwa, the vast forest of Tiriwa, more commonly known as Waitākere Ranges.  

The creative identity of the festival features an iconic taonga of the host iwi. The pou whenua (land marker) Kowhatukiteuru is this year's featured hero image. He was crafted by Sunnah Thompson and you can read more about his story below.

Te Kawerau a Maki will host the annual Matariki Dawn Karakia to mark the start of the festival programme. This will take place at Arataki Visitor Centre, which features a number of carved figures of their tupuna (ancestors) on the pou at the front of the building, and throughout the centre.  

Matariki ki tua o ngā whetū
Matariki beyond the stars

Iwi Stories

Te Kawerau a Maki: Rohe

2018 Iwi: Rohe story image

The history of Te Kawerau a Maki dates back to the early 1600s, when their ancestor Maki conquered and settled the district. It is through him they get their interests across Tāmaki Makaurau, and through his descendant, Te Au o te Whenua, that they get their mana in Waitākere. 

They established themselves in pā and kāinga throughout West Auckland, the only iwi to occupy the region for 150 years. The iwi lived in peace under the leadership of such rangatira as Haupokia, Te Umu, Manaoairangi and Te Ngerengere. 

In the 1800s Te Kawerau a Maki were subject to a devastating invasion by Ngā Puhi. The battle killed many and those who took refuge in Te Waonui a Tiriwa (Waitākere Ranges) were later exiled to the Waikato. 

Few remained as ahi kaa on their ancestral lands and it wasn’t until a decade later that those in exile returned with Tainui rangatira, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero. He brought stability to the Tāmaki region, establishing himself at Awhitu. Under his protection Te Kawerau a Maki settled in Kakamatua, on the Manukau coast, Waikotukutuku near Hobsonville, Oratia in Henderson Valley and other areas. 

The tribe often invited relatives from Ngāti Whātua, Waiohua and Ngāti Te Ata to their settlements, as well as to the seasonal shark fishing camps.

Unlike many of the related hapū of the Manukau Harbour who were driven from their homes by colonial troops, Te Kawerau a Maki did not suffer raupatu (confiscation) of their lands. They were instead impacted by private land purchases, as early as 1836, where non-owners sold off vast amounts of the tupuna whenua belonging to the iwi. Following the death of their chief Te Utika Te Aroha in 1912, most of those remaining moved to the settlements of their close relatives at Ōrākei, Pūkaki and Ihumātao.

The Māori name for Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau, directly relates back to the tupuna Maki. He was known for his fighting prowess and would have 70 warriors accompany him on his travels throughout the motu. This region, Tāmaki, was wanted by many and was fought over for its fertile harbours and soils. 

However, Tāmaki Makaurau was not the region’s first name. On a trip north from Kāwhia, Maki temporarily settled in Rarotonga (Mt Smart). One afternoon he was abruptly awoken by his Waiohua cousin who threw a calabash at him, drenched in red ochre and containing the heart of Maki’s murdered nephew. Maki knew an attack was imminent. 

The attack came in harvest season, with the hopes Maki and his men would be killed and their kūmara taken as reward. However Maki’s men emerged victorious. The name Te Ipu Kura a Maki – the great sacred red bowl of Maki – was given to the region in commemoration.

As one of only two Auckland iwi who have formally settled with the Crown, Te Kawerau a Maki has recently seen the return of lands as part of their 2015 redress. Of significant importance were the ancestral lands at Riverhead Forest and at Kōpironui, in Woodhill Forest, where their tupuna whom they are named after is buried. 

Today, Te Kawerau a Maki descendants live throughout the west and wider Auckland region, maintaining a close relationship with the Waitākere area. They are rapidly re-establishing their physical presence and are currently the largest private landowners in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Te Kawerau a Maki: Iwi

2018 Iwi: Iwi story image

In 2018 the hosting of Matariki Festival is led by Te Kawerau a Maki. The iwi gets its origins from the tupuna who bore the same name, who was a son of the great rangatira Maki, from Kāwhia. 

Uniquely, the descendants of Te Kawerau a Maki can trace their whakapapa back to every one of Maki’s sons. Their rohe extends from the Manukau Harbour to Muriwai, across to Mahurangi in the north and down to the Waitematā.

As the northern-most tribe of Tainui, Te Kawerau a Maki are uri of Hape, the senior tohunga of the waka captained by Hoturoa. Hape, also known as Rakataura, had clubbed feet – one story says this deformity meant he couldn’t travel with the waka on the great migration and was left behind on the sands of Hawaiki. 

He was an ariki moana who could command taniwha from the sea, so called upon Kaiwhare and the pair made their migration with the wind, Te Hau Marangai (there are differing accounts as to whether Kaiwhare was a whale or a stingray). Oral histories say the taniwha beat down the waves in front of the Tainui canoe to give it a perfect journey and when they got closer to Tāmaki he increased speed, granting Hape arrival before the waka. 

Hape had mana over the whole area of Tāmaki Makaurau and is the ancestor that many iwi in Tāmaki take common descent from. 

Te Kawerau a Maki kōrero highlights that the new year is not heralded by the Matariki star cluster, but instead by the rising of Puanga (Rigel in Orion). 

Puanga rises earlier than the Matariki hapū of whetū and from the shores of the Manukau Harbour its brightness makes it clearer to see during twilight. While all stars have significance at different times of the year, in this rohe it is Puanga that indicates the beginning of a new cycle on the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar). 

Iwi history sees this season steeped in ritual and karakia, as a time to remember and mihi to those loved ones who have passed. 

In old times, karakia would begin at 2am where the sounds of deep chanting echoed throughout homes. Some families would not leave the house, believing this to be the time taniwha would roam. Others would shoot muskets and light fires. 

With such fertile volcanic soils across the rohe, kūmara was an abundant crop. The whetū of Māori new year gave an indication to the success of the season ahead; clear bright stars were a good omen and hazy stars predicted a cold, harsh winter. 

During Matariki families would prepare their kūmara pits by digging a hole – to almost the height of a man – and the inside was burnt out. The old sweet potato was very different to varieties seen today, being long, squiggly and white. When kūmara were ready to harvest they would be stored in these pits and covered in bracken fern, to help keep them fresh. 

In 2017 the hosting of the festival was led by Ngāti Manuhiri, following on from Ngāti Paoa in 2016. It is intended that each mana whenua iwi will take up the host role year on year, with all Tāmaki Makaurau mana whenua having the opportunity to share their stories about this special time. 

Te Kawerau a Maki: Pou Whenua

2018 Iwi: Pou whenua story image

Kowhatukiteuru, located at Lake Wainamu, is the featured pou whenua for this year’s Matariki Festival.  The Te Kawerau a Maki tupuna is the son of rangatira Te Au o te Whenua and great-great-grandson of Maki. He was a famed architect and pā builder.

Commemorating Pā Kōwhatu, one of the few remaining stone pā in the region, Kowhatukiteuru is just one of the pou located throughout Waitākere. Each represent tupuna of the area and events significant to the history of the iwi.   

Carved in 2008 by Sunnah Thompson, this is the second of his pou representing the tupuna. “The first time I carved Kowhatukiteuru was about 15 years ago,” he remembers. “That pou is located at Te Kākā Whakaara, known today as Watchman’s Rock in Karekare. That one took me a month to complete and was a turning point in my career – my mentor had moved away and this was my opportunity to prove I could do it on my own.” 

Sunnah first picked up his chisels at age 15, under the tutelage of Jock McEwan at Upper Hutt College. 

Moving back to Auckland to be closer to his whānau and marae, he continued at Whai Ora ki Ōtara with Mita Murray, before being taken in by John Collins and Te Kawerau a Maki. By age 22 he had received his first commissioned carving job. 

“I have now done more than 50 carvings across Tāmaki,” he shares. “Every time I install a pou it is an opportunity to share the stories and whakapapa of our mana whenua here.” 

As a descendant of Te Waiohua, Te Kawerau a Maki, Ngāti Mahanga and Ngā Puhi, he has a profound knowledge of Tāmaki Makaurau history. 

Although he has a considerable body of work, Sunnah’s favourite carving is one he had little involvement creating, the 12-metre-high pou at the entrance to Arataki Visitor Centre. 

The original was carved by a number of men, including Sunnah’s brother Kevin and uncle Jack Ewe (Ihumātao), as well as Bernard Makoare (Ngāti Whātua), John Collins, John Collins Jr and Rewi Spraggon (Te Kawerau a Maki). He favours it for its groundbreaking nature, being one of the largest pieces ever erected. 

Close to 18 years after the original was installed, Sunnah was able to put his stamp on the carving by helping with its restoration.   

After more than 20 years of etching the whakapapa of Tāmaki Makaurau into wooden sculpture, Sunnah hopes his legacy will keep the region’s important stories alive for generations to come. “My journey with carving has brought me closer to my tupuna and has given me a deeper understanding of myself and my whakapapa,” he shares. 

“This Matariki, I encourage people to visit pou in their local area to learn more about where they live and the great stories of those tupuna who walked that land before them.”