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Ngāti Toa Rangatira


Ko Tainui te waka
Tainui is the ancestral waka from Hawaiki
Ko Tokomaru te maunga
Tokomaru (Mt Robertson) is the mountain of spiritual significance
Ko Wairau te awa
Wairau is the river that provided sustenance and resources for the wellbeing of the iwi
Ko Wairau Pā te marae
Wairau Pā is the marae and papakāinga that continues to provide a tūrangawaewae for our iwi
Ko Ngāti Toa te iwi
Ngāti Toa is the tribe

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Descendants of Toa Rangatira migrated from Kāwhia in the early 19th century in a series of migrations collectively known as Te Heke Mai i Raro.

The migrations and consequent conquests, under the leadership of Te Rauparaha, included the allied tribes of Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Raukawa of the Tainui / Waikato region, and Ngāti Mutunga, Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Tama of the Taranaki region. Together they established dominion throughout the Raukawa Moana (Cook Strait) region. Some significant battle sites are located at Te Kōwhai, Te Karaka, Ōpua and Tuamarino.

Ngāti Toa later established settlements in the Wairau district centred on the coastal sections of Karauripē (Cloudy Bay), Wairau Pā along the fertile mouth and banks of the Wairau River and Ōtauira Pā in Waikutakuta (Robin Hood Bay).


The proximity of these settlements to anchorages and resources enhanced the close trade association Ngāti Toa had with early European whalers and settlers.

Cultivations and food gathering areas were located throughout Karauripē and Wairau, particularly at Waikārapi (Vernon Lagoons) and Kaparatehau (Lake Grassmere).


Ngāti Toa traded flax, timber, fresh water, food and labour for munitions, tobacco and new technologies. Land was sometimes leased or gifted, particularly to those who had married into the iwi.

The infamous Blenkinsop Indenture of 1832 whereby Captain John Blenkinsop had negotiated permission to draw sufficient water and timber from the Wairau as required for the simple one-off payment of an 18-pound cannon.

The agreement, signed by Te Rauparaha, Te Rangihaeata, Te Whiti and others, was in fact a deed of sale for the entire Wairau Valley. Enraged by this deceitful ruse, Te Rauparaha tore up the deed. The cannon is now placed outside the Marlborough District Council offices.

On 17 June 1840 Te Tiriti (the Treaty of Waitangi) was brought to Karauripē by Thomas Bunbury aboard the HMS Herald. Nine rangatira signed it including Nohorua, Te Kanae, Te Whāiti, Pūkeko, Te Wī, Eka Hare, Puke and Māui Pū, and Ihaia Kaikōura of Rangitāne, Nohorua had his son-in-law, Joseph Thoms sign it so he would share the blame if his children lost their land because of signing Te Tiriti. Ngāti Toa Rangatira hoped that by signing Te Tiriti the British would halt duplicitous land deals.

The first test of British justice would emerge with the rape and murder of Rangiawa Kuika and her son by a Pākehā named Richard Cook in 1842. Kuika was a niece of Te Rauparaha, and sister to Wairau chiefs Wī Te Kanae, and Rāwiri Puaha. Although Cook's wife was to testify that he was guilty, she was disqualified from giving evidence as she was the accused's spouse. The case ended with the acquittal of Cook due to insufficient evidence. The result of this was that Ngāti Toa lost faith in the British Crown to adjudicate fair outcomes for Māori.

The Blenkinsop deed later re-emerged after Colonel Wakefield of the New Zealand Company (NZ Company) purchased it from Blenkinsop's widow for £300. The NZ Company, now claiming ownership of the Wairau, began surveying the land to sell to immigrants from England.

The surveyors were evicted by Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata as they maintained that the land had not been sold. Ngāti Toa had been prepared to follow due process and twice sent delegations to Nelson to ask that further surveying was delayed until after the decision of Commissioner Spain. Unwilling to heed the advice of Ngāti Toa chiefs, a group of armed settlers from Nelson went to Wairau to arrest Te Rauparaha and after a tense standoff, another Ngāti Toa woman, Te Rongo, wife of Te Rangihaeata, was killed by a stray bullet.

Enraged, Te Rangihaeata demanded utu resulting in the deaths of 22 British settlers. Four Ngāti Toa were killed in the ensuing musket battle. This incident was fought on the banks of the Tuamarino River on 17 June 1843, exactly three years after the signing of Te Tiriti at Karauripē.


Governors Shortland and Fitzroy, investigating the incident, later exonerated Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata, and in 1844 declared that the Wairau had not been sold.

Despite this, in 1846 Governor Grey in an effort to destabilise tribal authority ordered the military to forcefully expel Te Rangihaeata from Ngāti Toa territory, and illegally detained Te Rauparaha, keeping him under house arrest without trial in Auckland.

Ngāti Toa were forced to secure the release of Te Rauparaha by selling the Crown over 600,000 acres of land in Wairau and beyond for £3,000, and about 70,000 acres in the Porirua district for £2,000. Further forced land alienations in the following decades left Ngāti Toa virtually landless. Additional Crown policies severely undermined the rangatiratanga of Ngāti Toa reducing the power and influence of senior chiefs and the ability to determine tribal authority. Combined, these actions and their effects had a profound impact on Ngāti Toa trust in the British regime.

In 2014 Ngāti Toa settled historic Crown breaches of Te Tiriti including land seizures, the illegal detention of Te Rauparaha, and the Crown's part in the events leading up to the Wairau Incident. Ngāti Toa is now in a better position to partner with the Crown, its local body agencies, other various departments, including the Ministry of Education, to reaffirm the rangatiratanga of Ngāti Toa within its rohe (region).

Ngāti Toa are now a key player in local and economic affairs through negotiated Statutory Acknowledgements, Deeds of Recognition and commercial redress. Ngāti Toa Rangatira is now reclaiming its authority in the cultural, social, political, and economic spheres of Wairau and beyond.

Ngāti Toa Rangatira (Ngāti Toa) is descended from an ancestor named Toa Rangatira from the Tainui tribes of Kāwhia. He was named after a dispute his paternal grandfather, Tūpāhau, had with a rival tohunga named Tāmure.

Although heavily outnumbered in battle, Tūpāhau won the battle and made peace with his foe. Tāmure complimented the leniency of Tūpāhau by remarking "Tēnā koe Tūpāhau, te toa rangatira" (Hail Tūpāhau, the chivalrous warrior). A grandson was born to Tūpāhau shortly afterwards and was named Toa Rangatira to commemorate this event.


Toa Rangatira was known as a formidable warrior and enthusiastic gardener. He was famed for his ability to provide protection and sustenance to the people of Kāwhia. He displayed unique skill with the taiaha and possessed unmatched leadership qualities and military prowess. Because of this, his descendants and others coalesced into the Ngāti Toa tribe.

© Copyright 2022 by The iwi of Te Tātoru o Wairau.

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