Karipa Te Whetu

Ngāti Toa


Margaret Orbell writes that Te Whetu was a member of Ngāti Koata, a sub-tribe of Ngāti Toa. "He lived most of his life in the Taranaki district, but when he was over seventy he went to live with relatives at Croixelles, Nelson, in Tasman Bay. He was well-known as a story-teller, and he wrote down a number of stories that were published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society.... He also told many stories to A.A. Grace, a Pakeha friend, who published some of them in retold form in his collection, Folk-Tales of the Māori (1907). In an introduction to this book, Grace describes Karepa Te Whetu as ‘a man of acute and artistic mind, a lover of tales for their own same, and a humourist of no mean order.’"

Biographical sources

  • Orbell, Margaret. “The Killing of Te Kaiwhakaruaki.” Te Ao Hou 61 (1967/68): 5-8.


  • "Te Haerenga Mai o Kupe i Hawaiki/The Coming of Kupe from Hawaiki to New Zealand." Communicated by Elsdon Best. English trans. and notes by the Journal of the Polynesian Society Editors. Journal of the Polynesian Society 2.2 (June 1893): 147-151.
  • Te Whetu tells of Kupe’s journey around Aotearoa with his children and birds, Rupe and Te Kawau-a-toru. The birds had the task of finding seeds of the forest and determining where the strong currents were located. When neither bird returned to Kupe, Kupe’s daughter, overcome with grief, threw herself into the sea and drowned. As Kupe headed back to Hawaiki he met Turi travelling to Aotearoa but Turi could not persuade Kupe to return with him.
  • "Te Patunga O Ngarara-Huarau/How Ngarara-Huarau was Killed." Collected by Elsdon Best. English trans. T. G. Poutawera. Journal of the Polynesian Society 2 (1893): 211-219. Rpt. as "Te Patunga o Ngarara-Huarau." in Te Ao Hou 4 (1953): 15-20. In Māori and English
  • The story centres around the movement of the Tainui people after their arrival in New Zealand. Their journey was suddenly halted when the Tainui canoe became immovable at the isthmus of Otahuhu and it transpired that Raka was holding the canoe back because of his wife’s adultery. After Raka chanted an invocation the canoe was able to be moved to Manukau and Kawhia. One part of the tribe named Ngaitarapounamu moved to Mimi and later were swept by storms when fishing to Rangitoto where they settled at Greville Harbour. They lived alongside the other inhabitants of the island until one of the women violated tapu and they were overwhelmed by monsters. Remaining members of the tribes living in other areas did not perish and one day a woman came by chance to the cave of Ngarara-Huarau, ‘the monster reptile with the numerous progeny’, and was captured by him. She was ultimately able to trick him into coming back to her home and there he was killed.
  • "Ko Te Patunga O Te Kaiwhakaruaki/The Slaying of Te Kaiwhakaruaki." English trans. Elsdon Best. Journal of the Polynesian Society 3 (1894): 16-19. Rpt. as "The Killing of Te Kaiwhakaruaki/ Ko Te Patunga o Te Kaiwhakaruaki." English trans. and notes by M. Orbell. Te Ao Hou 61 (1967/68): 5-8.
  • Orbell provides explanatory notes of Te Whetu’s story of Te Kaiwhakaruaki the ngarara, (‘a supernatural creature - like a giant lizard’) that killed all who travelled on the road to Motueka and Takaka and those who came near Te Parapara river. Two plans were devised to destroy the ngarara. A famous seal hunter claimed he was able to kill the ngarara singlehandedly while Potoru made a plan that involved making pohutakawa fighting-staffs and arming three hundred men who would simultaneously attack the ngarara from different directions. It was Potoru’s plan that was ultimately successful in destroying the ngarara.
  • "Kame-Tara and his Ogre Wife/Ko Kame-Tara raua ko Te Wahine-Tupua." In Māori by Karipa Te Whetu with English translation and notes. Journal of the Polynesian Society 6 (1897): 97-106. Rpt. as "Kame-Tara and his ogre wife." in Paradise of the Pacific 29.2 (1916): 14-17.
  • In this story Te Whetu describes the activities of Kame-tara’s two wives. The second wife, named the Ogre Wife in this translation, conspired to kill Kame-tara’s senior wife by abandoning her out at sea during a fishing excursion. Through powerful karakia the senior wife managed to land safely at an uninhabited part of the island where she gave birth to two twin sons. Many years later she sent her sons back to her home village, where they sang a special song composed by their mother to their kinsfolk and they in turn came to where the senior wife was living and settled there. The Journal of the Polynesian Society Editors write that this ‘is the Māori version of the Moriori story of Tehu and Rei-apanga, and both are alike in their main features, but coloured by local surroundings. The period is before the migration to New Zealand.’
  • Traditional

  • "Te Tangi A Te Rangi-Mauri Mo Tonga-Awhikau/Lament of Te Rangi-Mauri for Tonga-awhikau." English trans. and notes Hare Hongi. Journal of the Polynesian Society 5 (1896): 112-120.
  • The notes accompanying this lament state that ‘Tonga-awhikau, of the Ara-ukuuku and Okahu tribes, went with a small party, and without consulting the tohunga (or priest), or making any preparations. He was attacked by a war-party of the Taranaki tribe, his companions routed, and himself captured and slain. The poet’s references to the battles of Maikukutea and Te-Uru-o-Manono, are simply to show that, although Taranaki achieved a great feat in getting Tonga-awhikau into their power, his ancestors did greater deeds in far Hawaiki in the actions referred to.’
  • Taylor, C. H. R. A Bibliography of Publications on the New Zealand Māori and the Moriori of the Chatham Islands. Oxford: Clarendon; Oxford UP, 1972. 76, 81.