The volcano erupted within the historical memory of the local Māori iwi (tribes). Human footprints have been found between layers of Rangitoto volcanic ash on the adjoining Motutapu Island. Ngāi Tai was the iwi living on Motutapu,and considers both islands their ancestral home. Ngāti Paoa also has links with Rangitoto.
A number of Māori myths exist surrounding the island, including that of a ‘tupua‘ couple, children of the Fire Gods.
After quarreling and cursing Mahuika, the fire-goddess, they lost their home on the mainland because it was destroyed by Mataoho, God of Earthquakes and Eruptions, on Mahuika’s behalf. Lake Pupuke on the North Shore was created in the destruction, while Rangitoto rose from the sea. The mists surrounding Rangitoto at certain times are considered the tears of the tupuna for their former home