The Arawa people, who initially established themselves in the Bay of Plenty, moved into the Waikato region and settled the area including Te Aroha.
The naming of Mount Te Aroha is said to have originated from Kahumata Mamoe, the son of an Arawa Chief, who was lost in the wetlands of the Waihou Valley. Te Mamoe climbed to the top of the mountain, and from the summit he was able to identify his home at Maketu. He then declared that the mountain would be called ‘The Love of Kahumata Mamoe’.
Between 1600 and 1650 the Tainui people moved into the Waikato region, but the Arawa people were allowed to keep their land in Te Aroha under the protection of the Marutuahu. The Marutuahu people left the area in 1815 as a result of a raid by Ngapuhi, but a remnant of Te Aroha people remained, taking refuge on the mountain and in the extensive swampland.
Early Māori already knew of the healing properties of the Te Aroha hot springs. They became an even more vital resource during the Waikato land wars, when wounded Māori would retreat to the springs.
The Crown was concerned that the Te Aroha lands should be legally defined, and in 1869 the Te Aroha land went before the Native Land Court at Thames. In 1871 the court decision awarded the land to the Marutuahu Confederation, which included Ngāti-Tamatera. In 1877 a letter appeared in the Thames Advertiser stating Ngāti Tumutumu of Te Aroha were the original owners of the land and that the best claims to the land were those of Ngāti Maru and the Ngāti Tumutumu. A petition was presented to Parliament in August 1877 by Reha Aperahama and 47 others to assert those claims.
Land Court negotiations continued and in August 1878 the balance of the payment due on the Te Aroha block of ₤3,000 was paid to Ngāti Tumutumu, and the land known today as the Te Aroha Hot Springs Reserve was made a public reserve under the Public Domains Act on December 1882. The consent of local Māori and in particular the Morgan family to Government plans for the establishment of such a reserve was of critical importance and it was through their generosity in giving up the land that the Domain became what it is today.