Origin of the Ngāti Toa name

How the name Ngāti Toa came about:

There are two very important people in the story: Tupahau, the Chief of a section of the Tainui tribe in the Waikato, and Tamure, the Tohunga or High Priest. One day Tupahau had occasion to correct the Tohunga Tamure in the course of priestly rituals. The Tohunga took this as a deadly insult to his prestige and authority and forthwith planned vengeance by means of a raid, the object of which was to destroy Tupahau and his followers.

The raid was timed when many of Tupahau’s warriors were not home. Tamure, the Tohunga, with as many as 2,000 warriors, marched to battle against Tupahau whose available forces numbered only 300 warriors. Tamure, the Tohunga, because of his larger forces marched boldly and scorned the idea that it was necessary to hide his approach from his supposedly weak adversary.

Thus Tupahau received warning that his enemy was coming, and realising the terrible odds against him, decided to divide his warriors into three sections. Two sections were ordered to attack from either side of the enemy and try to lead as many enemy warriors as they could away from the Tohunga. Then at opportune time, Tupahau planned that he would strike at the centre group under Tamure, the Tohunga.

 The plan succeeded so well that the battle had hardly started when the cry was heard that Tupahau had captured the Tohunga. The Maori was a chivalrous warrior and, in battles of this kind, it was usual after either of the leaders was killed or captured for the fighting to cease. So, in the traditions of their fathers, the warriors stopped fighting and gathered around to watch the great Tupahau kill the Tohunga. But when all had assembled, Tupahau put his arms around Tamure, his kinsman, and gently bit his right ear – a token of complete forgiveness and friendship.

Then Tupahau said, “Return home, O great Tohunga, my interference with your priestly functions was the action of an ignorant man.”

Hope, confidence, and life itself showed again in the Tohunga and, in deep gratitude and respect, he said, “Tēnā koe, Tupahau, te Toarangatira”, meaning “Hail Tupahau, the chivalrous warrior”.

A few days after this event, Tupahau’s daughter-in-law presented the Chief with a grandson who was called Toarangatira, and when he reached manhood, Toarangatira, or Toa as he was called became a great warrior and his descendants were known as Ngāti Toa or the “Tribe of Toa”.

The Tribe of Toa extends from Otaki, Wellington, the Hutt Valley, Marlborough, and Nelson but the heart of Ngāti Toa is in this locality.

Many of the descendants of Toa are associated with this school along with their Pākehā brothers and sisters, both as pupils and in parent activities generally. In calling our school “Ngāti Toa” we perpetuate, not only a name which is closely associated with the history of our country and district, but as well symbolise the common interests and nationality of the Māori and Pākehā people whose children are being educated together at this school.

  Hohepa Wineera

Chief of Ngāti Toa

December 1956