Open daily, 10am–5pm, Free

419 Great King Street Dunedin, New Zealand

Tāngata Whenua


Level 1

Taoka (treasures) of Kāi Tahu and other iwi (tribes) throughout Aotearoa New Zealand

Please do not carry food and drink into this gallery. Some taoka are tapu and carry a spiritual restriction which can be disrespected by the presence of food and drink items.


  • Pou tokomanawa (a carved central interior post of a meeting house) from the Lake Taupō area: depicts Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatūānuku, the earth mother
  • Contemporary gateway made by renowned Māori artist Cliff Whiting and members of Otago rūnaka
  • A mere named Tira and a toki pou tangata blade named Te poho o te ahawa from the local Parata whānau
  • Pair of rei puta, or whale ivory chevron amulets, found at Saint Clair
  • Perforated moa egg found at Waihemo Shag River Mouth


Nau mai haere mai ki ka taoka o te takata whenua.

Tāngata Whenua was designed with the help and guidance of representatives of Kāi Tahu, the local iwi. Ngāi Tahu (Kāi Tahu in the local dialect) were among first people to settle Aotearoa New Zealand's South Island, Te Waipounamu.

The gallery tells the story of Māori arrival, ancestry and achievement. Taoka on display include whakairo, or finely worked objects in wood, rei puta, or whale ivory, and pounamu (greenstone), some of them heirlooms on loan from Kāi Tahu families.

Te Paranihi, a 17-metre waka taua (war canoe), takes centre stage. Purchased by the Museum in 1931, its rauawa or hull was made around 1840 using wood from two native tōtara trees. The pre-1842 prow and stern, thought to be from a Kapiti Coast waka taua, have been attached to the rauawa.

To learn more about te reo Māori, check out 100 Māori words every New Zealander should know. We also recommend Māori Dictionary as a great resource for looking up unfamiliar words.

Facts and figures

  • 464 objects on display