Tūhoe descend from the tipuna Tūhoe or Pōtiki who, in turn, descended from both Toroa, the principal chief of the Mātaatua waka and from the ancient peoples of Te Urewera , Te Tini ō Toi and Ngā Pōtiki.
Pōtiki the founding ancestor of Ngā Pōtiki was the result of a union between Hinepūkohurangi, the mist woman, and Te Maunga, the mountain man, giving rise to the description of Tūhoe as ngā tamariki o te kohu (children of the mist).
From the ancient peoples came the land of Te Urewera, and from the struggles of Tūhoe and his descendants came the authority over that land; origins that are remembered in the pepeha;
Na Toi raua ko Pōtiki te whenua
Na Tūhoe te mana me te rangātiratanga
The land comes from Toi and Pōtiki
The power and prestige comes from Tūhoe
Every Tūhoe is born representative of their whānau, marae, hapū and iwi. You are bound by its customs and values, its protocols, and you learn to behave in a certain manner. You have a unique reo, and tikangā being the grassroots of your Tūhoetanga. Tūhoetanga is the people, the land, the assets; these things give form to longevity and force – ihi, mauri and mana to whānau, hapū, Iwi. It is the language, the culture, the identity that Tūhoe reaffirms through wānanga, hui, reunions, whaikōrero, kapa haka and the Tūhoe Ahurei .
Tūhoe is a very conservative Iwi, and reluctuant to make changes, but it’s here, Tūhoe strength lies. Tūhoe have a reputation for their continual strong adherence to Māori Identity and for their unbroken use of the te reo Māori and significantly draws attention to itself and its kind.
There are privileges and rewards from being Tūhoe, yet these can only be rightfully claimed through meeting your obligations and tasks as a Tūhoe. It is the duty of whānau, hapū to teach Tūhoe values, Tūhoe beliefs and principles, customs, traditions and language to the next generation. The iwi has responsibilities as well to provide access to such information.
Cultural identity is at risk through globalisation, colonisation and urbanisation. Tūhoe recognises the threat to their 'Being Tūhoe' and continues to be interested in finding ways to accentuate and activate the Tūhoetanga of its people.
From the 1930’s most Tūhoe left Te Urewera in search of employment and other opportunities.
Today around 85% of Tūhoe live outside of Te Urewera. Those Tūhoe who remain within Te Urewera have struggled to make a living due to various restrictions placed on the land and resources. Unemployment is more than four times greater than for New Zealand as a whole.
Tūhoe is the seventh largest Iwi. At the 2013 Census 34,890 people identified as Tūhoe, an increase of 6.8% from the previous census in 2006. Tūhoe has a young population with just under half (48%) under the age of 19 years. The largest proportion of Tūhoe live in the Bay of Plenty (31%) followed by Auckland (17%), Wellington (11%), Waikato (10%) and the Hawkes Bay (7%) regions.
The Tūhoe Crown Negotiated Treaty Settlement to be legislated in July 2014, it promises a new era for Tūhoe and its future generations.