The Meaning of Karangahape: Hape - Rakataura


Hape was also apparently known as Rakataura In about 1350, came the great Heke - the migration. There are three versions how Rakataura came to Ao-tea-roa. The first is that, after Tainui left without a tohunga, Rakataura asked the Atua (Gods) for help, and they obliged by sending a big fish ( or whale) named Paneiraira, on the back of which Raka came to Ao-tea-roa.

The second version is that he came in a canoe by himself.

The third and most probable is that he came in “Tainui" commanded by the chief Hoturoa. A suitable tree for the canoe was found near the grave of Hoturoa's wife's father - Tainui - hence the name.

The original tohunga selected for “Tainui" was Ngatoro-i-rangi, but he was kidnapped by Tama-te-kapua, the chief of “Arawa" so “Tainui" had no tohunga and Rakataura Hape was selected in his place.

After the canoe left Whangaparaoa, a woman named Torere jumped overboard and swam ashore at Te Kaha,, to avoid the unwelcome attentions of the tohunga Raka.

Although a search was made, she was not found; she found refuge with the tangata whenua, married, and founded the Ngati-tai tribe.

Raka was at Tamaki with Hoturoa, they quarrelled, and Rakataura went overland to Kawhia and met the canoe on its arrival there.

(Rakataura's son, Hape-ki-tuarangi, is said to have come to Ao-tea-roa riding on a whirl-wind).



Hape - Rakataura, the tohunga (priest) of the Tainui canoe, appears in several traditions.

In one, the Tainui left him behind at Mahia Peninsula. Rakataura dived under the ground and came up again at Kawhia, on the opposite coast, before the canoe arrived.

In another account, he left the canoe in Auckland after his request to marry Kahurere, daughter of the Tainui's captain, Hotura, was refused.

Rakataura went down the west coast of the North Island, lighting fires at the entrances of the Waikato River, Whaingaroa (Raglan), Aotea and Kawhia harbours to stop the canoe from entering.

Eventually Hoturoa and Ratataura made peace. The Tainui Waka landed at Kahurere and Rakataura married.

They travelled throughout the Waikato, climbing the many mountains of the region; Pirongia, Kakepuku, Hakarimata, Pureora, Puke-o-Kahu (where Kahurere died), and Te Aroha in the Kaimai Ranges – where Rakataura also married Hinemarino.



Rakataura's great work, according to Ngati-Maniapoto and Tainui (the late Hone Kaora, of Kawhia, was one of my authorities), was the exploration of the forests of the territory now called the King Country, and the distribution of the sacred emblems of fertility which he had brought from Hawaiki to plant in the new land.

The tohunga had a number of followers, and several of these men he sent out with these stone mascots, with directions where to leave the mauri.

As each was deposited, at the foot of a tree, or in some other secure place, karakia were repeated over it, to hold (pupuri) the fertility of the forests, and to attract multitudes of birds to the pae-tapu-a-Tane (Tane's sacred bird-perch), Tane being the tutelary deity of birds as well as of the forests.

Rakataura's wife Kahurere died at a hill which he named Puke-o-Kahu, in her memory. Then he went eastward across the island and he ascended the lofty wooded mountain now known as Te Aroha.

It was he who gave it that name; he called one peak of the range Aroha-a-uta (Love to the inland parts) and another peak Aroha-a-tai (Love to seaward); these place namings commemorate the old tohunga's affection for his dead wife and for his children, on the western coast, his aroha which came forth in tears and chanted songs of sorrow as he stood there on the misty mountaintop.

And at Te Aroha the priest of Tainui died.