The Ngati Toa tribe and its various hapus are the direct descendants of the crew of the "Tainui" that formed one of the fleet of canoes that came from Tahiti in circa 1350. Until the year 1821, this tribe had always occupied Kawhia and the coast south from that harbour, as far as Marokopa river, or perhaps further.
It was not the crew of the Tainui waka however, that gave the name originally to Kawhia, but rathor Turi, captain of the Aotea waka, soon after they landed at Aotea harbour (named after the waka) a few miles north.
On reaching Kawhia they performed the ceremony called awhi, which seems to have been a common one, known under different names, by which all evil influences supposed to pertain to a new land, were removed, and an avoidance of the desecration of the personal tapu of the new-comers secured.
The name is thus, Ka-awhi-a, the last a forming the passive of the verb awhi, and ka the sign of the present and future tense. We may thus translate the name as "the place where all evil influence was removed."
The tuahu, or sacred altar, used by Hoturoa, captain and chief priest of "Tainui," his brother Hotunui, and other priests of that waka was situated not far from the modern town of Kawhia (the Maori name of which is Powewe), and it is very interesting to note that its name was given in remembrance of a district (and, probably, a marae) in their ancient home at Tahiti.
Ahurei is the name of the tuahu; and To Fana-i-Ahurai (To Whanga-i-Ahurai in Maori) is the present name of the district a few miles south-west of Pape-ete, chief town of the French possessions in Oceania, island of Tahiti; from which (as also from Papara, the next district south) the Maoris came in 1350.
The first kumaras, brought in the "Tainui," were planted by Whakaoti-rangi, Hoturoa's wife, at a place which they named Hawaiki; again in remembrance of the general name of their ancient home; for this was the name given to all the islands of the groups round Tahiti.
The Tainui waka arrived after the "Aotea waka," and finding Kawhia unoccupied; the Aotea waka crew having gone on south; the people settled at that harbour, and spread from there all over Waikato and a large part of the west centre of the North Island.
The Ngati Toa tribe, however, remained, settled down near where their ancestors landed. But it was not until some ten or eleven generations ago that their present tribal name was adopted from one of their principal chiefs, named Toa-rangatira. Previous to that they were called Ngati-Mango.
In approx 1820, a united force of inland tribes attacked the Ngati Toa at Kawhia, who at the time was led by the warrior chief "Te Rauparaha", who was undoubtedly responsible for the greatest slaughter of other Maori in the early nineteenth century.
Condidered to be the "Napoleon of the Maori world, Te Rauparaha was the stormy petrel of the Tainui tribes, constantly quarrelling with his neighbours. The tribe was decisively defeated and eventually forced to evacuate their ancestral homeland of Kawhia, where they eventually re-established themselves at Kapiti Island.
Ngati Toa o Kawhia
Approx two hundred years after that great and sad battle, there are still remnants of the Ngati Toa tribe residing in Kawhia, that claim continuous occupation of the harbour for 800 years, at least since the arrival of the Tainui waka...They're from the hapu: ..."Ngati Toa o Kawhia"...