The occupation by Tangiharuru of these lands was achieved through the conquest of the Marangaranga towards the end of the 16th – early 17th century. He was driven by a fierce desire to settle on his own whenua having spent a considerable part of his life on the whenua of others very much at their behest.
His arrival in these parts beginning with his departure from Wharepuhunga in the Waikato is called Te Heke o Tangiharuru which traces his subsequent migration into Hauraki then Tauranga and finally to Matatā amongst Ngāti Awa.
The genesis for the notion of taking the land from Te Marangaranga by force came about at Whakapau Korero where Tangiharuru successfully exhorted his followers to rise up and drive Te Marangaranga out hence the name Whakapau Korero.
The Mana Whenua has been successfully upheld from the time of Tangiharuru down through the ages despite the upheavals, turbulence and ravages associated with having to defend Mana Whenua.
The people of the district are known as Ngāti Manawa who are the descendants of the ancestor, Tangiharuru.
Ngāti Manawa is the ‘kaitiaki’ or guardians of the Tawhiuau Mountain and Rangitāiki river. Rangipo is a highly significant place to Ngāti Manawa, on the Rangitaiki River.
It is the place where Ngāti Manawa farewell the eels as they return to sea in order to spawn. The mana whenua of Ngāti Manawa covers all of the lands between the Kaingaroa plains and the Rangitaiki and Whirinaki valleys.
The pepeha above encapsulates their tribal identity and identifies their main tribal landmarks.
“Ko Tawhiuau te maunga, ko Rangitaiki te awa, ko Ngāti Manawa te iwi, ko Rangipo te wehenga o te tuna”
“The mountain is Tawhiuau, the river is Rangitāiki, the people are Ngāti Manawa, Rangipo is the place where the eels depart”
Ngāti Manawa as it was
The Urewera Mountains rise sheer from the Kaingaroa Plains like the walls of a giant’s castle. Much of the region was characterised by extremes, from the mountainous terrains and valleys being richly cloaked in resources, to barren plains where few florae grew.
The rugged Urewera hills, Ikawhenua ranges were (and still are) densely covered in the virgin forest of tall matai, rimu, miro, tawhai, totara and other trees, and provided a wide source of foods and materials, despite the lands, particularly in the valleys, being relatively unfertile and light.
Forests were teeming with birdlife and other resources such as fern root, berries and numerous plants provided sustenance or medicinal relief. Hills are often steep and valleys narrow, but the catchment area where Ngāti Manawa resided is open with the Rangitāiki and Whirinaki rivers flowing through.