Descending from centuries of guides and storytellers, we like to showcase our vibrant culture through dance and song. Even the architecture at Te Puia has stories to tell, with carvings and structures of deep cultural significance, including the carved entranceway and the Rotowhio marae.
Our fully carved meeting house has witnessed many special occasions as the focal point for cultural interactions. It was built by students and graduates of our own carving school between1967 and 1981. This was a great honour for all involved, as our people consider carving a sacred meeting house as the pinnacle of a carver’s career.
A smaller meeting house by the name of Te Whare Wānanga a Hatupatu sits to the left of Te Aronui-a-Rua. This place of learning was built so that history, stories and whakapapa (genealogical links) could be passed on. It was built in 1901 and was part of the Christchurch Exhibition developed for the Royal Visit in 1906.
One of the most ornate structures within the pā is the pātaka, a small but richly carved storehouse used to safeguard the heirlooms and treasures of chiefs. The pātaka was built for the Christchurch Exhibition in 1906 and for its time period is one of the world’s most intricately carved structures.
Te Puia is named after the pā (fortress), which sat on a hill in the valley. Being surrounded by geothermal activity meant this ancient Māori stronghold was an impenetrable safe haven for villagers, and was never taken in battle. In a modern context Te Puia pā symbolises the protection of Māori culture as identified in the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute Act (1963)
Named after an ancestor who fought to defend his lands, Pikirangi Village will give you a rare glimpse of pre-European Māori society. The model village is based on a traditional Māori settlement and contains houses made from punga trees, pātaka (food storage houses), and a collection of cooking tools including our traditional hangi pit (earth oven) and drying racks.
Our people have been living in this area for almost 700 years, and guiding visitors around the geothermal pools and geysers for the last 140. At Te Puia you will learn about our culture and history, and understand the importance of the connections we share with people and the land.
The history of the Te Arawa people is inextricably linked to the Arawa canoe, one of the great voyaging canoes used in the migrations that settled Aotearoa. The Te Arawa canoe takes its name from the red shark it resembled as it migrated to New Zealand from its homeland, Rangiatea. The captain of the canoe was Tamatekapua, with the legendary Ngatoroirangi its principal tohunga (high priest).
After landing in Maketu, Te Arawa decided to start exploring. The high priest, Ngatoroirangi, took a group with him from Maketu and traveled down through Kawerau and Tarawera and all the way up to Tongariro – where they discovered a winter like they had never experienced before.
Our people have been living in geothermal areas since they first settled in Aotearoa, New Zealand. They used this natural resource in many practical ways such as cooking, preserving food, bathing, laundry, and to develop various paints and dyes.
In our culture, geysers and geothermal activity are regarded as gifts from the gods. The creation of Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley is explained by a local story, in which the goddesses of fire, Te Pupu and Te Hoata, travel through the earth creating geysers, hot pools and volcanoes as they search for their brother Ngātoroirangi, who was stranded on Mount Tongariro.
The tradition of guiding visitors through Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley can be traced back to the late 1800s, when a group of world-renowned local guides were responsible for showing multitudes of visitors around the area. Prior to this, many of our guides showed visitors around Tarawera before the major eruption in 1886.
As many of our guides and staff are direct descendants of the original people who settled in this valley, the stories they tell have been passed on for generations. The special connection our Māori guides have with the land and its history ensures Te Puia tours are unlike any other in New Zealand.
Take a trip back through time while we treat you to a cultural performance like no other. At Te Puia, our concerts are an experience not to be missed. Surrounded by the beautiful carvings of our ancestors, you will hear stories told through song and dance, with plenty of surprises thrown in.
If you come in peace, the pōwhiri (ceremonial welcome) will be an enjoyable experience. This unique custom was used traditionally to challenge a visiting party and find out their intentions. At Te Puia this spine-tingling ceremony is included in the price of admission.
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