A celebrated ancestor of Māori tribes. He was the son of Rongokako, and was the father of Whaene, Kahu-ngunu, Matangi-rau, Koautama, Akiroa, Kahuniu, and Apa.1 Tamatea came to New Zealand in the Takitūmu canoe, and landed at Turanga. He turned his firebrands and his dog into tāniwha, or water-monsters. His wives were Iwirau and Mahakiroa. Three other wives deserted him; their names were Hine-rau-kawa, Hine-rau-haraki, and Te Kohiwai.

Tamatea Pokai-whenua was in search of his runaway wives and arrived where they were at the mouth of the Arahura River, but they had by enchantment been turned into stones. Tamatea, accompanied by his slave Tumuaki, proceeded inland; this slave lighted a fire to cook some birds, but on burning his fingers he thoughtlessly put them in his mouth, which, as he was tapu, was a dreadful act of impiety. The erring servant was instantly turned into a mountain called Tumuaki, after his name. The wives Tamatea was seeking became greenstone, sometimes disfigured by a flaw called tutae-koka (excrement of the birds), from the birds the slave was cooking at the time.2

Later, Tamatea and his thirty companions lost their lives going over the Huka Falls. Their canoe, the Uapiko, was turned into a stone which can still be seen today.

Iwi-pupu is also mentioned as the mother of Kahu-ngunu: probably this is another name for Iwirau.3



  1. White 1887, p. 2:87.
  2. ibid., p. 3:80.
  3. ibid., p. 3:72.


  • Tregear, Edward. (1891). Maori-Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Government Printer, p. 459.
  • White, John. (1887). Ancient History of the Maori. 6 vols. Wellington: G. Didsbury, Government Printer, pp. 3:71-78.