Te Ao-kapurangi - The courageous
Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Tapuika
Te Ao-kapurangi was born into Ngāti Rangiwewehi and Tapuika lineage. When she was just a girl, she was captured by Hauraki, a Ngā Puhi leader and forced to marry him. Hauraki took her back to the Bay of Islands where she lived among them in the north.
Years later Ngā Puhi returned to the Bay of Plenty and found themselves at war with the people of Tūhourangi and Ngāti Whakaue.
Hearing that Ngā Puhi were coming to fight them, some of the Arawa people fled to Mokoia Island in search of safety. Although Te Ao-kapurangi was now married to a Ngā Puhi chief she was still connected to her Te Arawa whānau and was worried for them. She reminded Ngā Puhi that the people they were now at war with, were not Ngāti Rangiwewehi or Tapuika people (Te Ao-kapurangi’s relatives), but they too lived in the area and would probably be caught up in the battle.
The leaders listened to her and agreed that she could go ahead to the island and warn her whānau to go to a safe place before the battle began. When she grew close to the island she was able to call out to one of her relatives named Hikairo but he replied that he would not abandon his Te Arawa whānau and would stay where he was.
Te Ao-kapurangi was still desperate to save her relatives so she begged the Ngā Puhi leader Hongi Hika to show them mercy. He said that he would only save the people who could pass between Te Ao-kapurangi’s thighs at the time of the battle.
Now, Te Ao-kapurangi was a clever and brave woman and when the time came for the battle to begin, she jumped ashore and ran to Tamatekapua, the whare of her whānau. She climbed up onto the roof of the building and sat with her legs on either side of the ridgepole. She shouted out as strongly as she could for everyone to run inside the building so that they might be saved. Many people flocked inside. Ngā Puhi warriors were at a loss as they had to let them enter because of the agreement Te Ao-kapurangi had made with Hongi Hika.
Te Ao-kapurangi saved many lives that day and she is remembered for her courage and resourcefulness even to this day.
This is a well known Te Arawa whakataukī that refers Te Ao-kapurangi's act of courage, and is often used when there is a large gathering in our wharenui (meeting house):
"Anō ko te whare whawhao a Te Ao-kapurangi" (Like the crowded house o Te Ao-kapurangi).
Qualities: humility, wellbeing, diligence, innovation
Here’s a tip:
Did you know?
Te Ao-kapurangi’s story was the inspiration for a movement and performance stage show called Mana Wahine, created by Movement of the Human Performance Design Company in 2014.
More to watch:
More to read:
Te Arawa: A History of the Arawa People (D. M. Stafford)