The earliest accounts associated with Taranaki iwi ancestors precede the coming of Taranaki to the western seaboard. They were known as the Kāhui Ao, Kāhui Rangi, Kāhui Pō and Kāhui Atua, collectively called Te Kāhui Maunga. They occupied Mimi Maunganui (the mountain preceding Taranaki), Ruatupua (Pouakai), and Ruatawhito (Kaitake) ranges. Their principle village was Karakatonga, situated high up in the heart of the Waiwhakaiho river valley. When the new mountain surfaced the people temporarily evacuated the site with many also perishing.
The journey of Taranaki from the central plateau has been recounted for centuries. It is an account that describes cataclysmic volcanic activity.
Taranaki was formerly known as Pukeonaki and Pukehaupapa and stood in the area around Lake Rotoaira near Tūrangi, with Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Pihanga.
Taranaki was formerly known as Pukeonaki and Pukehaupapa and stood in the area around Lake Rotoaira near Tūrangi, with Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Pihanga. Pukeonaki and Tongariro both loved Pihanga and fought over her. Following the conflict Pukeonaki, bearing the scars of battle, withdrew underground and down the Whanganui River valley. Led by his companions Te Ra-uhiuhi, Wheoi and the guide stone Rauhoto they entered the sea. When Taranaki surfaced he saw Pouakai Mountain standing inland. Pukeonaki then followed Rauhoto up the Hangatahua River and resurfaced beside Pouakai. Rauhoto continued her flight on the North eastern side of Pouakai where she then turned westward at the gap between Pouakai and Kaitake. Her flight path went through the sweeping saddle between Kaitake and Pouākai and ended near the mouth of the Hangatahua River by the sea. Pukeonaki remained there with Pouakai and their offspring became the trees, plants, birds and rivers that flow from their slopes.
From this story arises the Taranaki saying:—
Tū kē Tongariro
Motu kē a Taranaki
He riri kia Pihanga
Waiho i muri nei
Te Uri ko au ee!