Te Raekaumoana

In: Stories, Traditional stories

Te Raekaumoana lived in the 1600s and was such an important person that the hapü of the Maungaraki Ranges still retain him as their eponymous ancestor, Ngāti Raekaumoana. He was known as both a chief and a tohunga, a person who possessed great spiritual powers and could perform magical feats. He had as his main dwelling a pa called Okahu that had been built near the opening of the Kourarau Stream by the Ruamahanga River. Te Raekaumoana is mentioned here because it was through his heroic deeds that many places in the north Wairarapa were named by him.

During Te Raekaumoana’s lifetime the people who were to become known as Ngāti Kahungunu had established themselves in many places throughout the southern and central Wairarapa. The descendants of Rangitaane and Kahungunu were living beside each other without trouble but then an unknown assailant killed a Ngāti Kahungunu man called Te Aoturuki. The chief Rakairangi, who was to become the ancestor of the Rakairangi hapū, heard that the people of Te Raekaumoana were behind this deed and so set about to gain revenge on his fallen whanaunga. The taua (war party) of Rakairangi moved up the Wairarapa Valley disposing of several pa and numerous people along the way.

The taua eventually arrived at Okahu Pa and besieged it before breaking through the defences. They thought they would find Te Raekaumoana inside but instead found lesser chiefs who they killed along with many of the other inhabitants. Raekaumoana had received a vision of the impending doom and warned his people that it would be better to see another day rather then fight a futile battle. The younger chiefs remarked “we would prefer to drink from our own streams, rather than ones we do not know”, indicating that they would stay and fight. Raekaumoana left knowing that all that stayed were sealing their own fate.

After killing most of the people of Okahu, Rakairangi ordered that the pa be burnt before they moved on satisfied that they had now gained vengeance. Actually they hadn’t because Raekaumoana and his people had wrongfully been blamed. Anyway Rakairangi did find this out and soon found the real culprits and dealt to them a dose of brutal justice. But anyhow as the pa was engulfed by flame Raekaumoana sat atop of a hill in the distance watching the destruction. The place he was at was called Parinui-a-kuaka near Gladstone; the ridge he was on was to become Uhimanuka (shade made from Manuka) on account of the shade he made for his eyes from Manuka branches.

As he sat watching he grieved for his people and determined that he would gain his own revenge for this callous deed. But first he would have to move far away to gain strength. He then called upon his guardian the eagle called Rongomai. Answering his call Rongomai swept down to his companion where upon the chief climbed upon the giant bird’s back. Now they ascended into the skies where Raekaumoana pointed north. Although a powerful creature Rongomai was not used to carrying the extra weight of a grown man and so needed to rest. Rongomai wriggled and so this place was named Te Keunga o te Atua o Raekaumoana (the wriggling of the spiritual power of Raekaumoana). He then needed to land, where his feet touched the ground became known as Nga Tahora o te Atua o Raekaumoana (the clearings of the spiritual power of Raekaumoana), this was near Masterton. Once ready, they set off again but near the mouth of the Mangapakihi Stream on the Kopuaranga River Rongomai required another rest. This place was called Nga Tahora o te Atua o Raekaumoana (the place where the spiritual power of Raekaumoana lay on the ground). After one more stop they arrived at Pahiatua (the resting-place of the spiritual power). While Raekaumoana carried on north Rongomai went to the cave that we know as Te Ana o Rongomai which he made his home (see Konini).

Raekaumoana sought the people of Hāmua at Tamaki Nui a Rua near Dannevirke. He knew that his safety was ensured as his daughter Hinerangi had married Tamahau, son of the main chief of the area Rangiwhakaewa. The marriage of Tamahau and Hinerangi had sealed the dual lines of descent for proceeding generations. The couple had by this time already moved to the Wairarapa but the people of Rangiwhakaewa recognised Raekaumoana. After describing the events that had displaced himself and his people, the people of Tamaki Nui a Rua raised a taua. This group travelled back to the Wairarapa enlisting allies along their path. A further series of battles were fought with Rakairangi’s people. The result being that Raekaumoana came out on top in this instance meaning that an equilibrium was re-established amongst the people of Rangitaane and Ngāti Kahungunu.

It is important to note that during the taking of Okahu, Rakairangi had spared the life of one Turangatahi by placing his own cloak upon the shoulders of the older man. Turangatahi was grateful for this act of kindness, as were his remaining people. While he was taken as a prisoner he was eventually exchanged for land. The victories of Raekaumoana and his allies later on meant that they received lands from Rakairangi, which created a balance in terms of exchange and mana.