Māori History of New Zealand
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Kupe

There are many stories of the exploits of Kupe. Each hapu or iwi has different versions with small or large variations, but each version is correct for that hapu or iwi. Kupe is named as the Polynesian discoverer of New Zealand, about the middle of the tenth century.
Legend has it that Kupe was a rangatira, fisherman and great navigator from the island of Raiatea, near Tahiti. Surrounding Kupe’s village were the traditional fishing grounds that Kupe and his people caught their fish. One day Kupe's fishermen went out with lines and hooks to their traditional fishing grounds, after a long time without any bites, the fishermen hauled up their lines and discovered that the bait had been taken. They put on fresh bait and lowered their hooks again, but the bait was taken again and again until all the bait had gone. They returned to shore and reported their lack of success to Kupe.

Kupe called a hui (meeting) where the whole village gathered. It was decided to lay the matter before the tohunga (priests). The priests told the fishermen their hooks and lines needed to be blessed. With the lines blessed, Kupe and the fishermen began fishing the next day, only to have their bait taken again. Kupe noticed a slimy substance covering his hook and recognised it as belonging to an octopus. He knew it would be useless to continue fishing and ordered the others to pull their lines from the water. Once more they headed back to shore empty handed.

That evening Kupe set out to the other side of the island where a chief called Muturangi resided. Kupe knew that Muturangi had a pet octopus renowned for its huge size and influence in the sea world. Kupe described to Muturangi what had been happening at their fishing grounds, stating that it was the work of an octopus. He asked if perhaps Muturangi's pet could possibly know, who was responsible. Muturangi looked at Kupe and laughed, "I don't tell my pet when to eat or what to eat. If it chooses to eat your bait or your fish for that matter, then that's what it does.", Muturangi asked Kupe to leave. "Then I will slay your pet, Te Wheke o Muturangi, and it will never trouble my people again," Kupe stated as he left.

Kupe gathered his people and began to build a canoe, a large ocean going canoe, which he called Matahorua. When the vessel was complete, Kupe stocked it with supplies, readying it for a lengthy sea journey. Kupe's wife, Hine-te-Aparangi, their whanau, and many warriors and fishermen from the tribe boarded the new canoe and set out on their journey. Chasing Te Wheke (the octopus) Kupe caught and confronted the monster, and then a battle ensued. Kupe grasped his mere and slashed at the tentacle, cutting a huge hunk from its flesh. The wheke thrashed its arms in agony but Kupe struck out again. Te Wheke o Muturangi's enormous head emerged from the sea looming over the waka, as the warriors continued to attack the huge tentacle. Kupe pointed his mere at the wheke and chanted a spell, ensuring it would never again be able to dive to the depths of the ocean and hide.
Maori Fishing One of Kupes' fisherman pulling on a fishing line with no success catching anything.
Te Wheke o Muturangi was forced to flee across the surface of the ocean. Kupe ordered his waka and warriors to pursue the octopus, and the chase was on. The pursuit lasted for weeks, across the vast Pacific Ocean. Kupe and the waka was running low on supplies, but Te Wheke o Muturangi maintained a distance between them. As weeks went by Hine-te-Aparangi saw a long cloud in the distance, which to the Polynesians was a sign that land was near. Kupe’s wife Hine-te-Aparangi who on sighting land said “He ao, he aotea, he Aotearoa”, it is a cloud, a white cloud, a long white cloud becoming Aotearoa “Land of the long white cloud”. Hine-te-Aparangi, Kupe, and the crew were amazed by the beauty of the new land that stood before them. Kupe had landed his waka on the east coast of Aotearoa where his people began to survey the new land and replenish their waka with much needed supplies.

After restocking the waka, Kupe began the chase again down the east coast of the North Island to Castle Point, where Te Wheke o Muturangi sought refuge in a cave known as Te Ana o te Wheke o Muturangi. During the night Te Wheke o Muturangi, escaped unseen through the dark water of the night and out into the open sea. Kupe continued the chase, down the east coast until arriving at a huge open harbour, Te Whanganui-ā-Tara (Wellington Harbour). Here the women and children rested, as Kupe and his warriors continued on the wheke's trail.Kupe sailed his vessel into Te Moana o Raukawa (Cook Strait), a tumultuous and hazardous stretch of water separating the North Island and South Island. Knowing the turbulent waters would be an advantage to the wheke, Kupe chased it into the calmer waters of Totaranui (Queen Charlotte and Tory Sounds). Because of the many inlets and islands around these sounds the pursuit continued for many days.

Te Wheke o Muturangi was finally tracked and cornered at the entrance to Te Moana o Raukawa, where the final sea battle began. The wheke lashed out with its huge tentacles at the waka, which Kupe manoeuvred to avoid being overturned. Bracing himself with his legs, Kupe struck at one of the tentacles with his mere, but the giant wheke fought back, smashing another of its tentacles into the side of the canoe, causing a huge gaping hole in the hull. Kupe threw a bundle of gourds overboard to which the wheke mistook for a person, and attacked them. Kupe then jumped from his canoe onto the back of the giant wheke and struck a fatal blow to its head, finally defeating Te Wheke o Muturangi.
Kupe, his wife 'Hine-te-Aparangi' and his warriors aboard the Matahorua waka (ocean going canoe) hunting Te Wheke o Muturangi (Muturangi's pet Giant Octopus)

Kupe is about to strike the final blow to 'Te Wheke o Muturangi.
Kupe and his companions continue on to explore Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud) after defeating Te Wheke o Muturangi before heading back to his homeland.
From this battle came the name of the South Island Ara-paoa, from Kupe's paoa, or downward strike, on the head of the octopus. The rocks Nga-whatu ("The Brothers" in Cook Strait) became tapu, for that is the place where the Wheke-o-Muturangi was laid to rest. An incantation (karakia) was said to conceal the octopus lest Muturangi should come in search of his pet and revive it. Immediately after the incantation ended, swirling currents began around the rocks, so that no canoe could land there. Promptly after the prayer finished, the water started to seethe and whirl around the rocks making it impossible for canoes to land there. Nga-whatu became the name of these rocks which referred to the eyes (whatu) of the octopus. This place has remained tapu since, and when waka cross the strait if the crew look on Nga-whatu a wind will rise and their waka will be overturned.

After these events Kupe proceeded to the South Island to see if any people had populated it and also to check its resources. Kupe also intended to survey the North Island as he was doing to the South Island. He traveled down the west coast of the Southern Island until he reached a river, which he named the Arahura river. Kupe was the first man to discover pounamu (green stone), in Aotearoa. The first specimen of pounamu he called inanga, so named because it was seen in a river with many inanga (white-bait), when he was netting fish.

Kupe's waka then sailed to the south, and finally reached the tail-end of the South Island, where Kupe said to Hine-waihua, the wife of Ngake, "O Hua! Leave your pets here to dwell at this end of the island, for behold there are no men here." So the seals and the penguins were left to guard that end of Ara-paoa, which is now called "Te Wai-pounamu." Nowhere did Kupe and his band see any people on either the South or North Islands.

Kupe and his group then headed up the west coast of Te Ika Maui (North Island), naming places as the journyed up the country. Reaching northland they stopped at Hokianga settling, to prepare for their return voyage to Hawaiiki. Before his departure from Aotearoa he had to make his waka Matahorua seaworthy, and what better place to do it than on the shores of the Hokianga Harbour. On Hokianga harbour Kupe and his dog Tauaru, left footprints in the soft clay while walking around the shoreline. Over a succession of time, the footprints have turned to stone and remain there to this day.

Kupe had cruised the east and west coasts of Aotearoa and had many things to report to the Polynesians at home, when he arrived back at Hawaiiki. This land with the forests fill with bird-life, rivers and coasts alive with fish and mammal life, made Aotearoa the land to come back to. Te Wheke o Muturangi, which was thought of as a bad omen, had lead them to a new land they now called Aotearoa, a land Kupe knew future generations would call home.
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