Warmonger becomes peacemaker
By John Robinson
Rewi Maniapoto had been the most active warrior chief in the king movement, joining with Kingi’s rebellion at Waitara in 1860, and driving Government Agent Gorst out of the Waikato in 1863 against the wishes of the ‘king’, Tawhiao, and his family.
But he later recognised that the war was over, that they were defeated and it was time for peace. Warmonger became peacemaker.
Thus when, in May 1878, Governor Grey came to Te Kopua and offered generous terms including the return of all confiscated land that had not been sold, Rewi was delighted – a load had been taken off his mind.
He, like most others, believed that the offer would be accepted, that it was a done deal.
Rewi sets out to heal the wounds
He immediately announced his intention to move to the next and final phase of peacemaking. He would call a great meeting of former foes, to leave behind old quarrels and celebrate friendship and unity, and to take care of what he saw as the one remaining bone of contention, ownership of Waitara.
Rewi set off immediately to travel to Mokau, to proclaim the terms of settlement and procure their concurrence. From Mokau he intended to proceed to Waitara, and meet William King, the leader of the rebels in the Taranaki war.
He hoped that he could be joined there by a number of chiefs from other parts of the North Island, and bury the hatchet on the spot where it was first used.
This, the great meeting of June 1878, was a festival occasion. It was a time of meetings between former enemies, a time to heal old wounds, to enjoy peace and friendship.
A day to remember
Here is the answer to the current call for a day of remembrance of the nineteenth century wars. Some would wish to make the choice of bloody battle. But the fighting is over.
All New Zealanders should come together as one people and choose to celebrate the coming of peace and fellowship among previous enemies. This meeting should be the focus of today’s ceremonial, to recall a time of reconciliation and turn away from an incessant search for grievance.
There was general celebration. The European settlers of New Plymouth intended giving an entertainment of some kind to the Native and European visitors to their district.
Monday June 24 was proclaimed a public holiday, and the gathering was largely attended by the people of New Plymouth, with the whole day to be spent in public rejoicing in honour of the occasion.
Visitors pour into Taranaki
On Thursday June 20, the Steamer Hinemoa left Wellington with most of the official party (including Governor Sir George Grey and the Native Minister), and many chiefs from the Kapiti area and beyond. After arrival at New Plymouth on June 21 the party proceeded in the evening by special train to Waitara.
There were about 5,000 local Maori already there, waiting anxiously for the meeting to take place. All intermingled, greeting old friends and former enemies.
Further Maori visitors from the Southern districts, came out by train from New Plymouth on Sunday June 23, arriving about noon. They and the Maori residents then devoted that afternoon to a formal reception of Rewi and his people.
The greetings included expressions of joy that the fighting was over and they were all meeting in peace. The general feeling was expressed by Hoani of Ngati Ngatimaniapoto when he said “Come to Waitara, where we became a divided people, some going to the Europeans, and some remaining solely with the Maoris; come to Waitara that we may talk together.”
Former foes gather in the spirit of peace
On Monday June 24, the ordinary train arrived shortly before noon, conveying the Native visitors and a very large number of Europeans, who expected that the meeting would take place. But the weather was stormy (“boisterous”) – “Owing to the incessant rain and the flooded state of the country people are obliged to keep in-doors”. The proposed outdoor meeting could not take place.
Again on Tuesday June 25 the meeting was postponed, much to the disappointment of some 200 of the inhabitants of New Plymouth, who arrived by special train in the forenoon.
During those days of waiting, exchanges between Rewi and Grey displayed their pleasure in one another’s company.
Rewi informed the Native Minister that a party of supporters of Te Whiti were coming with over thirty drays laden with food, accompanied by followers of former rebel chieftain Titokowaru, and that Kingi and his followers were not far off on their way to Waitara – but Kingi’s health was poor and he did arrive. Kingi’s opponent in the sale of Waitara, Teira, was there.
Early founders of the king movement, Wi Tako and Matene Te Whiwhi, who had left when support was given to rebels at Waitara, were there. Another early proponent of a king who had turned away when fighting began, Tamihana Te Rauparaha, had died in 1876.
The kingmaker, Wiremu Tamihana, had moved away to the Thames where he spent his remaining years writing defiant letters and a petition to Parliament in an effort to justify his actions, and died in 1866.
Rewi acknowledges Karaitiana’s earlier wisdom
Rewi was particularly eager to meet with his former foe, Karaitiana Takamoana, an early opponent of the king movement who had become a Member of the House of Representatives for Eastern Maori.
Karaitiana had said years before, you take your own course, and die in following it. I will take my course, and die in maintaining the laws of the Government.
Rewi had come to recognise the wisdom of that advice. The words of Karaitiana have come true; we lost all our land and the people. When the Waitara war broke out Karaitiana came here and told Wiremu Kingi not to fight against the Europeans – that the best course for him to follow was to take his case into the Supreme Court, or entrust it to the Governor to settle.
Wiremu Kingi replied: No, I will take my own course.
Karaitiana had said: All right, you will find my words come true, and you will have to think as I do before you can settle your affairs.
When they met Rewi acknowledged Karaitiana. You are the man who gave us good counsel in the days that are past, and brought these things before us. We see the evil of them now. We see the evil of rejecting your advice. If we had acted upon your words we should not have had all the trouble that we passed through.
The response was direct. Welcome to those who are dead and gone, and these in my presence now. It was on account of the words you have referred to that I wished so much to see you now.
Although you did not listen to me in the early days, my tears are shed in meeting you. They are tears of gladness, and not of sorrow. The Waitara was the first cause of the evil of the Waikato people.
The King movement was also another cause of trouble, but that difficulty might have been overcome had the Waitara war not occurred.
Here was a true spirit of honest speech, forgiveness and friendship, not to be readily set aside. The past was faced, then differences were set aside, for a future of greater unity.
The deal is agreed: a cause for great celebration
After those days of delay, the formal proceedings commenced on Thursday June 27. At last there was an improvement in the weather, a fresh breeze blowing, and the sun struggling through the aqueous clouds.
Late in the day, the discussions arrived at the substantive issue of the future of Waitara. Rewi said: I have only one word to explain. I wish Sir George Grey to give me back Waitara. That is the only matter of importance in what I have to say.
Grey asked for an evening to consider the matter, which was agreed.
The reply the following morning was simple and direct. Waitara is now given up to both of us. It belongs to us two. This is the proper spot on which we should loose our hands from one another’s heads and cease struggling. That was considered, and accepted.
One can sense the drama played out that day, and the shared relief that at last the Rubicon was crossed. Here was action, no longer only rhetoric. The Maori participants had reflected on their shared responsibility, instead of remaining mired in grievance.
Previously, clear offers had come from the Government. On this occasion it was Maori taking the lead. Rewi set a clear objective and Grey rose to the occasion with a counter-proposal that Rewi readily accepted.
Two men of goodwill had reached out to one another and found common ground.
But Tawhiao turns down a land offer
Sadly, as described in the previous article, Tawhiao had different intentions.
The following year he turned down the offer that had been so eagerly celebrated at Waitara, to the great astonishment and disappointment of most Maori, and to the considerable detriment of Waikato Maori who thus lost the opportunity to regain much of the land that had been confiscated after the war.