It is important to know something of the journey undertaken by Ngāti Whātua from our migration to the Kaipara to our presence here - as well as the background to our rangatiratanga.
An Ancient People
Kaipara settlement goes back more than nine centuries, when the ancestors of Ngāti Whātua lived by fishing, hunting and growing crops in an area blessed with rich harvests from the harbour, ocean, rivers, forest and soil. The Kaipara was also a major route for travel to and from the north, to the Waitemata and Manukau Harbours.
Kaipara's bounty attracted visits from the commanders of the great waka fleet of 925AD, including Te Tino o Maruiwi, Kupe and Toi te Huatahi. These men found an area that was already long settled by Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara's earliest known ancestors, descended from Tumutumuwhenua and his wife Kui.
Toi te Huatahi's son Oho Mairangi founded the Ngaoho here in the Kaipara; his people would feature in territorial wars with Ngāti Awa many centuries later - as well as become integrated with Ngāti Whātua when peace returned to the area.
From early settlers ....
Around 1300AD the Māhuhu waka arrived in the Kaipara. Rongomai and many of his crew settled on a promontory of land called Taporapora, just inside the harbour entrance. Their marriage to local women produced a new generation of Kaipara people, forming the nucleus of the Ngāti Whātua. The origin of the tribal name is thought to stem from a great grand-daughter of Rongomai, Te Whātua-kaimārie.
The next major influence on the lives of the Kaipara people occurred around 1450AD, when a party of Ngāti Awa led by Tītahi moved in and settled west of the Kaipara River, where they lived in comparative peace for some 150 years. Territorial disputes eventually lead to war between Ngāti Awa and Ngaoho - Ngāti Whātua became victims of attacks on pā all along the Waitākere coast.
Victories and defeats on the battlefield, and subsequent intermarriage lead to the formation of a new tribe, Kawerau. Returning Ngāti Whātua sought intermarriage with Kawerau, although as more Ngāti Whātua resettled in the fertile South Kaipara there were times of friction leading to skirmishes and eventually war.
Ngāti Whātua enlisted the support of Tainui warrior Kawharu, who proceeded to conquer pā all down the Kaipara - giving rise to the description of the fresh water dune lakes that dot the landscape as 'the footsteps of Kawharu'.
There followed the arrival of Hoemoewārangi who conquered many pā before himself being killed - an event that was eventually avenged by Ngāti Whātua warriors who invaded south Kaipara in the waka Te Pōtae o Wahieroa and Te Whārau. Many of the descendants of these men live here today.
By 1740 the migration of Ngāti Whātua was complete, and the remaining Kawerau and Waiōhua women living in the head waters of the Kaipara River married into the tribe.
The newly settled hapū of Ngāti Whātua were to be called to war again in the mid 1700s, when the chiefs who had led the Te Pōtae o Wahieroa and Te Whārau waka - notably Waha-akiaki, Hukatere, Tuperiri, Atiākura and Waitāheke - repulsed revenge attacks by Kawerau and Waiōhua.
A new threat emerged from 1818 when Ngāpuhi under Hongi Hika attacked with superior musket strength. These raids caused many Ngāti Whātua to retreat from the Kaipara, eventually returning to their Kaipara homelands after Hongi Hika's death.
This was also the time of European contact, and the arrival of Reverand Samuel Marsden.
Arrival of the Europeans
In 1820 Samual Marsden, accompanied by Tuperiri's grandson Te Kawau, travelled to the Kaipara where he was warmly received and with ceremony by prominent Rangatira Murupaenga, Māwete, Te Tinana and Mātohi. Other than this there was actually little European contact in the Kaipara before 1840, when the Māori version of the Treaty of Waitangi was presented to the tribal groups of Ngāti Whātua for signing.
Early crown officials were aware of the military and numerical dominance of Māori meant they could not hope to establish and govern a new colony without the consent and assistance of leading rangatira; nor secure land for settlement unless they had Māori support.
Included in British Government policy was an instruction to Governor Hobson in 1839 to protect Māori in relation to purchasing land - stating that all land dealings with Māori should be conducted on the principles of, "sincerity, justice and good faith".
The Treaty was signed by the leading rangatira who wished to forge a relationship with the crown given the guarantees written into the Treaty. It appeared to be a settlement that would benefit both Ngāti Whātua and settlers, establishing a settler economy while protecting Māori interests, rights, lands and rangatiratanga.