A chief of Hawaiki who arrived in New Zealand in search of Tupu-tupu-whenua. The tradition of Nuku-tawhiti bears trace of great age. This Nuku-tawhiti, whose name is of interest etymologically, is almost certainly the Nu'u of the Hawaiian deluge legend, the Polynesian Noah (see also Deluge). Tupu-tupu-whenua was also called Kui, or had a wife named Kui, and they went down under the ground. Kui is now incarnate as a little insect.

On the arrival of Nuku-tawhiti with his brother-in-law Ruanui at Hokianga, Kui is said to have tunnelled under the land at the West Coast, and appeared on the surface at Kerikeri (keri, to dig), near the Bay of Islands; while the Moriori of the Chatham Islands relate that Nunuku (probably Nuku-tawhiti) also tunnelled underground, and that the tunnel of Moreroa came out at Kerikeri-one.

The canoe Mamari, in which Nuku-tawhiti, with Ruanui, arrived, remained at Hokianga, converted into stone. There also is the (stone) baler; and at Onoke is a stone called "the dog of Nuku-tawhiti." A rock in the Narrows of the Hokianga River is the buoy of the Mamari. It is highly probable that Ruanui and Nuku are the same person, called Ruanuku elsewhere in Polynesia. The Moriori genealogy gives Ruanuku as the son of Kāhukura and father of Motuariki, being the twenty-third in genealogical succession.

From Nuku-tawhiti the celebrated Ngā-puhi tribe is descended, through Puhi-moana-ariki. Nuku-tawhiti is the father of Papa-tahuri-iho, and grandfather of Papa-tahuri-ake. The name of the house built by him in New Zealand was Whatupungapunga.

In repeating the Ngā-puhi genealogy, the part from Nuku-tawhiti to Puhi-moana-ariki is held to be the tapu or sacred portion (popoarengarenga). After that come the names of common mortals (tuatangata). The popoarengarenga runs as follows: Nuku-tawhiti, Papatahuriiho, Papatahuriake, Mouriuri, Morakerake, Morakitu, Whiro, Toi, Apa, Rauru, Kanea (a sea god), Te Toko-o-te-rangi, Te-rangi-tau-mumuhu, Te-rangi-tau-wananga, Hekana, Poupa, Maroro, Te-ika-taui-rangi, Awa, Awa, Awanui, Rakei, Tama-te-ra, Puhi-moana-ariki.



  • Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, pp. 180, 559, 618.
  • White, John. (1885). "Maori Customs and Superstitions." In T. W. Gudgeon, History and Doings of the Maoris from 1820 to 1840. Auckland: Brett, pp. 97-225, p. 107.

This article incorporates text from Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary (1891) by Edward Tregear, which is in the public domain.