The term “Mati”is said to have originated from a native word “maa-ti”, which means “dries up quickly”. The expression is used in reference to a creek located in the heart of the town and which is known to dry up easily even after a heavy rain. “Mati” later became associated with the whole town, not merely the creek that is still part of the natural feature of the downtown.
Mati as a community settlement was recorded to have been founded by two intrepid and strong political leaders, Prudencio Garcia and Juan Nazareno in 1861. These two leaders from the east coast had also been acknowledged to be the builders of Bagangga and Cateel, two towns facing the Pacific Ocean.
According to historical accounts, the early residents of the locality are the Mandayans, Kalagans and Maranaos whose indigenous culture carries strong traces of Indo-Maley and Arabic influences. In the latter day periods of their historical evolutions, their culture was mixed by a succession of exogenous influences notably Spanish, American and Chinese. With their interaction with the other native cultures notably the Visayans, Tagalogs and Ilocanos, which came in the wake of subsequent migration, the prevailing culture had been diluted and had now assumed a multi-facial characteristics.
A very familiar name among the early settlers is that Don Luis Rabat who married the daughter of a Spanish Officer named Captain Garcia. He was known to be the first head of the politico-military established in this part of Mindanao.
The settlements of Mati became a regular municipality together with Davao, Cateel, Bagangga, and Caraga in October 29, 1903 by virtue of Act No. 189 in 1907 affirmed further the constitution of the municipality and which sixty years later became the capital town of Davao Oriental. Its first appointed mayor was Francisco Rojas. And Mr. Patricio Cunanan was the first Mayor to be elected in 1923.
After almost 104 years after its creation, Mati has achieved its Citihood Status by virtue of R.A.# 9408 approved by operation of law on March 24,2007 and which was ratified thru a Plebiscite on June 18, 2007.