The Bay of Islands was settled by Maori in voyaging canoes almost a thousand years ago. Russell, known by its original name Kororareka, was one of a number of small coastal settlements, whose numbers increased seasonally as inland Maori came to the coast to fish.
Originally occupied by Ngare Raumati and later Ngapuhi, the settlement had a sheltered anchorage. Its name Kororareka, sweet penguin, came from a legend of a wounded chief calling for soup made from the boiled flesh of the Little Blue Penguin. “Ka reka te korora”, he said (how sweet is the penguin).
This section of the museum pays tribute to the foundational Maori heritage of the town. There is a small family waka and stone anchors, traditional weapons like taiaha and tewhatewha, stone adzes, fishing lures and Maori weaving – cloaks, and kete.
One case contains fine pounamu (greenstone), adzes, heitiki (neck ornaments) and mere (clubs). A patu paraoa (whalebone club) is an example from one of the earliest bicultural families whose descendants still live in the area today.