Marukaitātea (Maru)

Maru (son of Pūraho) and brother of Makō was the senior Ngāti Kurī chief residing in Kaikōura at Takahanga marae. By all accounts Maru was a very big man, heavily built and at seven feet tall he was a formidable warrior.

During this time Ngāti Kurī and Ngāti Māmoe peoples lived in the many pā dotted along the coast often with the neighbouring pā being occupied by the other tribal group. It was a period of infiltration as the Ngāti Kurī chiefs gradually extended their dominance in the Kaikōura region.

Following the battle at Waipapa (the last battle north of Kaikōura), the Ngāi Kurī warriors moved on to Kaikōura and the big fortified pā there called Takahanga.

Kaikōura was a place with a wealth of food resources from the seas and forests there. An emblem of this wealth was the sacred pōhā (kelp bag) named Tohuraumati which contained preserved foods of various kinds including fish, birds and human flesh.

Each year the contents were added to but went untouched. It was believed that only someone with great prestige and mana could touch and eat from the food stored there, otherwise they would die. The pōhā was an emblem of control over the Kaikōura region and whoever could eat from the sacred pōhā and live would hold title to the land.

Whereupon, Maru opened the kelp bag and ate from it thus proving that he had the mana to overcome the tapu of the sacred bag.

Maru chose to stay in Kaikōura when other Ngāti Kurī and Ngāi Tūhaitara chiefs moved further south. His descendants still live in Kaikoura based at the ancient pā of Takahanga where they continue to harvest from the seas the food wealth of their ancestors.


  • Te Maire Tau and Atholl Anderson editors. Ngāi Tahu A Migration History. Bridget William Books, 2008
  • Told by Teone Taare Tikao to Herries Beattie. Tikao Talks. Cadsonbury Publications Christchurch, 2004
Print this page