The tribe Ngāi Tahu takes its name from the ancestor Tahupotiki who lived on the East Coast of the North Island and share common ancestry with Ngāti Porou. Whilst their Ngāti Porou cousins remained on the east coast, the Ngāi Tahu ancestors would migrate down through the eastern part of Te Ika a Maui (North Island). The Ngāi Tahu migrants lived in close association with other tribal groupings such as Ngāti Ira and Ngāti Kahungunu who also lived on this eastern side and now share common ancestry with them. They eventually settled in the Wellington area and established themselves in pā at Hataitai and Miramar.
The colonisation of Te Waipounamu initially saw Ngāi Tahu take control of the Kaikōura district and from there they steadily moved south. Control of the eastern coast of Te Waipounamu was secured for Ngāi Tahu by Moki, the son of Tūāhuriri. With the approval of Moki’s elder brother Tūrākautahi, the leading chiefs of this invasion each took control of parts of the new territory. Ruahikihiki took Taumutu, Makō took Wairewa, and Te Rakiwhakaputa took Whakaraupō (Lyttelton Harbour). Tūrākautahi himself planned the Kaiapoi pā which was to secure Ngāi Tahu control over the new territories.
Feuds continued between the Ngāti Māmoe and Ngāi Tahu people over many years. In the second half of the 18th century, a marriage alliance between the leading families of the two contending tribes was agreed upon that would unite the tribes and finally settle their differences. Intermarriage thus drew the tribes together and by the close of the 18th century, the tribal lines were greatly blurred.
Ngāi Tahu became the established name of the tribal mixture. Food and the greatly prized treasure of pounamu increasingly attracted more and more Ngāi Tahu who continued to venture into Te Waipounamu until about 1830.
- Te Maire Tau and Atholl Anderson editors. Ngāi Tahu A Migration History, Bridget William Books, 2008
- Harry C. Evison, The Long Dispute. Māori Land Rights and European Colonisation in Southern New Zealand, Canterbury University Press, 1997