Up until relatively
recently, New Zealand was thought to have been settled by Polynesians
between 950 and 1130 AD, arriving in a number of twin hulled or
outrigger canoes. The first group of canoes was known as “The
Great Fleet”, thought to be the first mass arrival of Polynesian
settlers. The Great Fleet would have been made up of seven canoes
: the "Te Arawa", the "Tainui", the Mataatua",
the Tokomaru", the "Kurahaupo", the "Takitimu"
and the "Aotea".
Historians today question the exactitude not only of the above
time period, but also of The Great Fleet theory itself. (Not being
a historian I will not go further into this subject. I do not possess
enough knowledge on early Polynesian arrival in New Zealand. For
further information, some links
and reference books are listed below.)
also referred to as canoe tradition :
Māori oral, or canoe tradition, tells us of Kupe, one of the
great Polynesian navigators, who set sail from the mythical Māori
homeland Hawaiiki in his
waka (pirogue) "Matawhaorua". He would have arrived in
New Zealand waters, sailing first into the modern Wellington area.
After studying Māori oral tradition, ethnologists in the 19th
and early 20th centuries have estimated that Kupe would have arrived
in New Zealand in the year 925.
of New Zealand English", H.W. Orsman, OUP, Auckland 1998, lists
Aotearoa as being a translation of the Māori name for New Zealand,
although it is also suggested, in earlier accounts, that this name
may have applied uniquely to the North Island. According to Orsman,
the more accurate translation of Aotearoa would be either "Land
of the Long Day", "Land of the Long Dawn" or "Land of the Long Twilight").
The name Aotearoa can also mean "long bright world".
At first there was no Māori name which referred to the whole
of New Zealand. Specific or individual areas, a river or a mountain
had a name for the Māori, but as the first European explorers
noted, no name existed for New Zealand as a whole. The Māori
name "Aotearoa" came into use much later, after the arrival
According to legend, Kupe disturbed
a giant octopus, which eventually led him to discover modern Cook
After spending some time in New Zealand, Kupe would have returned
to Hawaiiki, describing the land he had just discovered as "a distant
land, cloud-capped, with plenty of moisture, and a sweet-scented
soil". He would have left instructions on how to find New Zealand,
after leaving Hokianga with the words "Ka hoki nei au, e kore
au e hoki anganui mai" (I now depart and I shall never return).
On Kupe’s return to Hawaiki, the "Matawhaorua"
needed to undergo repairs, due to damage inflicted from the heavy
seas during the return voyage. Once the repairs were terminated,
the "Matawhaorua" was renamed “Ngatokimatawhaorua”,
as the repair work had been accomplished by adzes – “Nga
Kupe then entrusted the canoe to his nephew Nukutawhiti, who captained
the canoe on its return voyage to Aotearoa. Nukutawhiti anchored
the “Ngatokimatawhaorua” in Hokianga harbour, (in the
far north of New Zealand). It is here, in the region of Northland,
where all the Ngapuhi sub tribes settled.
At approximately the same time as the arrival of the first Polynesians,
people, ancestors of the Māori, (sometimes known as "Tchakat
Moriori" ) were thought to be settling in Rekohu off the coast
of New Zealand, although it appears that this also is the subject
of much debate by historians.
Rekohu is known in english as the Chatham Islands.