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Te Taitapu (Big River site)

Ngāti Apa have an association with Te Taitapu stretching back several hundred years. For centuries, Ngāti Apa have been born and raised at Te Taitapu. Our links with what is now known as the Heaphy Track are particularly strong, and are associated with tipuna Kehu.

Ngāti Apa intermarried with the people they found in western Te Tauihu (Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri). Occupation areas were set up and maintained by Ngāti Apa around important mahinga kai areas of Te Taitapu, such as the estuarine areas of Paturau, Whanganui and along the coastline. Pahi (seasonal and temporary huts) were also set up in inland areas for hunting, gardening and food gathering.

Pā sites, kāinga, urupā and cultivation areas included Te Awatūroto and Taurangahīoi at Whanganui Inlet. The renowned Ngāti Apa tipuna Te Kōtuku was killed at Te Awaturoto, and his korowai named Te Rarawa was taken. The tipuna Te Whio was also killed at Whanganui Inlet. Tipuna Paihora was killed at Taurangahioi. Other Ngāti Apa chiefs who resided in the area were Matiaha Tumaunga, Aperahama Matimati, Heni Tumanga, Meihana Kereopa and his mother Kerenapu, and Wirihana Maui. Two pā (first occupied by Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri) were located at Pūponga Point.

This area was an important shark fishery and a source of quartzite used for the manufacture of tools. A major iron ore deposit at Parapara provided kōkōwai (red ochre) for local use and trade. Clay containing the necessary silicates was dried and ground, then mixed with fish or whale oil or a substance obtained from pitoko (tītoki) seeds to create ochre of high quality. Ochre was used as personal decoration and to decorate and protect waka and carvings.

Ngāti Apa believe that the spirits of their deceased ancestors travel along the coastline and mountains of Te Taitapu to Te One Tahua (Farewell Spit) on their journey to Hawaiki.