Our History

Our History


Waikato te Awa
Ko Taupiri te Maunga
Ko Pootatau Te Wherowhero te Tangata
He piko, He taniwha
He piko, He taniwha!
Waikato Taniwha Rau!

Waikato the River
Taupiri the Mountain
Pootatau Te Wherowhero the Chief
At every bend there is a Chief
Waikato of a hundred chiefs!


The Waikato-Tainui Iwi traces its roots back to the migration of the Tainui waka (canoe), captained by Hoturoa, that voyaged from Hawaiiki across the Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa around 1350AD.

There are four principal tribes that descend from the Tainui waka: Hauraki, Ngaati Maniapoto, Ngaati Raukawa and Waikato-Tainui.

The Kiingitanga – a movement to create a unified Maaori nation under a Maaori king was formed after consultation among tribes from around Aotearoa. Pootatau Te Wherowhero, ariki of Waikato, was chosen to become the first Maaori king in 1858.

Pootatau, like many chiefs of his time, became convinced that unity under the umbrella of the Kiingitanga was the most effective way to protect Maaori ownership of our lands, prevent further loss of land to European settlers, and help protect tribal structures and customs from the impact of Paakeha practices and beliefs.

Pootatau died in 1860 and was succeeded by his son, Matutaera Pootatau Te Wherowhero – more commonly known as Taawhiao. Kiingi Taawhiao’s reign was to last for 34 years and would include the most turbulent era of Maaori-European relations.

Three years into Taawhiao’s reign, the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 was passed, which provided for military settlements to be established on land confiscated from ‘rebels’. Following enactment, British troops crossed the Mangataawhiri Stream and advanced into the Waikato region provoking war. As a result of the invasion, the people of Waikato were unjustly branded as rebels and in 1865, more than 1.2 million acres of Waikato land was confiscated.

This act of confiscation became known to Waikato-Tainui as “Raupatu”.

The war and confiscation of lands caused catastrophic economic, social and cultural damage to Waikato-Tainui – damage that is still visible today in poverty, crime and social deprivation statistics. Taawhiao and his people were rendered virtually landless and forced to retreat into the heartland of Maniapoto. For 20 years Waikato endured their exile and when they finally were able to return to the Waikato, there was a new political and legal order in place.

The search for redress and justice for Raupatu spans more than 125 years, beginning in 1884 with Kiingi Taawhiao leading a deputation to England to seek an audience with Queen Victoria.

In 1995 Waikato-Tainui was the first Iwi to settle grievances with the Crown for what is today known as its Raupatu Claim. The 1995 Raupatu Act provided the foundations upon which the tribe would establish itself to progress the cultural, social and economic advancement of its people.

In 2008 the tribe signed a Deed of Settlement with the Crown for the Waikato River. The ‘2010 Act’ will support work to restore and protect the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for future generations.

Waikato-Tainui still has outstanding claims over the West Coast Harbours, and Wairoa and Maioro land blocks.