Te Kawerau ā Maki are the mana whenua (people of the land) of West Auckland. The Kawerau ā Maki have been a distinct tribal entity since the early 1600s, when their ancestor Maki conquered and settled the Auckland isthmus and the land as far north as the Kaipara harbour.
Following the establishment of Ngati Whatua in the Kaipara area (1700s), the Kawerau people were pushed southward and subjected to a major invasion - ‘Te Raupatu Tihore’ of ‘the conquest that laid bare’. After the conquest they withdrew to the southern Kaipara.
In the mid 1820s inhabitants of the Waitakere were decimated by Ngapuhi raiding parties armed with muskets. Te Kawerau fought Nga Puhi at Te Henga and Karekare but were overwhelmed by the superior force of the musket. This devastation led to a major depletion in tribal numbers and a period of exile in the Waikato until 1835.
In the mid 1830s, under the protection of the Tainui rangatira Te Wherowhero, Te Kawerau returned to the Manukau coast. Te Kawerau ā Maki re-established themselves in pa and kainga throughout West Auckland. At Te Henga they built a musket pa as further attack from Nga Puhi was a possibility. Other settlements included Ngongetepara (Brighams Creek), Waikotukutuku (near Hobsonville), Te Wai o Pareira (Henderson Creek), Kopupaka and Maanu Te Whau near the mouth of the Henderson Creek, Orukuwai (Te Atatu), Oratia and Pukearuhe (Henderson Valley).
In 1853 and 1854 the Crown purchased most of the Waitakere Ranges. They did not investigate manawhenua but negotiated these purchases with a number of iwi not resident in the area. Throughout the 1860s and 1870s Te Kawerau had regular contact with Europeans. The last two decades of the nineteenth century were, however, a time of population decline for the iwi. The arrival of the railway at Waitakere in 1881 brought an increasing number of settlers, placing greater pressure on Te Kawerau to sell their remaining land. It also facilitated the milling and destruction of the remaining kauri forest, and the desecration of many sacred places.
Today Te Kawerau ā Maki live throughout the west and wider Auckland region and maintain a close relationship with the Waitakere Area. They are re-establishing their physical presence having identified land for a new marae, and have placed a pou at Arataki depicting the ancestors of the Ranges.