Revising NZ History 8: Tamihana Te Rauparaha

From warrior to squire

By John Robinson

Wiremu Kingi: one of the older generation of Maori leaders

Many important figures who played a part in the story of the meeting of two cultures had come to maturity within traditional Maori society.

These include Te Rauparaha (1768-1849), Te Wherowhero (1770-1860), Tamati Waka Nene (1785-1871), Wiremu Kingi (1795-1882) and Rewi Maniapoto (1807-1894).  Some led the transition while others initially held to the old ways.

Tamihana Te Rauparaha (1820-1876) of Otaki came from a new generation.

He lived in his formative years within the cultural change of the time, as so many Maori turned from the old ways to Christianity – a transformation of Maori society which both preceded and led to the Treaty of Waitangi.

Turning away from warfare and killing

Te Rauparaha one of the most feared of the warrior chiefs

He may still be referred to as a warrior in his youth, as he accompanied his father on murderous raids to the South Island.  Later Tamihana told of the great slaughter of the defeated, along with their women and children, after battle.

But he was not attracted by that life of warfare and killing.

While choosing a different path, he remained in constant contact with his father.  He would have been of considerable importance to Te Rauparaha who had lost several of his children in 1822 when treacherous Muaupoko had killed most of the visiting Ngati Toa, with Te Rauparaha escaping through the back wall of his hut.

In 1839, as a young man of 19, Tamihana was influenced by newly freed Maori who returned to the Kapiti area from the Bay of Islands.  They had been taken there as slaves and later released when their masters became Christian.

Living the Christian life

A key influence on Tamihana: Missionary Octavius Hadfield

Tamihana wanted to learn of the new culture.  Henry Williams has told how he went with his cousin Matene Te Whiwhi “at the hazard of their lives from Te Rauparaha at Otaki to Paihia, Bay of Islands, to request that a missionary might be sent to establish a mission station amongst themselves at Otaki.”

In response to that request, Reverend Octavius Hadfield came in November 1839 to begin his work at Waikanae and Otaki.  Tamihana became a Christian and was baptised in 1841.  He went as a missionary to the South Island the following year.

Historian Bill Oliver had written of the successful peacekeeping efforts of Tamihana and Matene.  In 1843, they “went to the South Island and preached Christianity to their relations there and to Ngai Tahu, their former enemies.  When asked by Ngai Tahu chiefs if his father was going to come to attack them, Tamihana Te Rauparaha would reply, ‘He indeed will not come; for I have indeed come hither to you to bring an end to war-fare, and to bind firmly peace by virtue of the words of the Gospel of the Lord.’  The next year he accompanied Bishop G. A. Selwyn on his first overland trek in the South Island, which began with the first church service in South Canterbury, at Te Wai-a-te-ruati.  In these ways Tamihana helped to bring the fighting to an end, and to bring Christianity to the southern parts of New Zealand.”

When war was threatening in Wellington in 1845, Tamihana was sent by his father to the Hutt Valley in an effort to make sure that Maori left the land which was in dispute with settlers, as Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata had agreed.

At the same time Matene is said to have kept Governor Grey informed about ammunition stores in the Porirua district, and to have passed on rumours of a supposed plan to attack Wellington.

In his later years Te Rauparaha becomes a peacemaker

Tamihana attended St John’s College in Auckland and was there in 1846 when his father was arrested on the orders of Governor Grey.  He visited his father on board the Calliope and quotes his father as saying, “Oh son! both you and Matene, go to your people! and say: repay only with goodness on my account; do not incur ill-will with the Europeans on my account – for only by Goodwill is the salvation of Man, Woman and Child.”

Tamihana took this message to Otaki, where Ngati Raukawa were planning to take revenge for the arrest of Te Rauparaha by joining with Te Rangihaeata to attack Wellington.  They were dissuaded from war by Te Rauparaha’s words.

There is evidence here of a change in the attitude of Te Rauparaha, who was certainly presented with a different path forward by his son, who was throughout a peacemaker, both loyal to the government and a friend to his father.

Te Rauparaha was discharged under a guarantee of good conduct given by Te Wherowhero and Tamati Waka Nene (former enemies who had become friends and supporters of the government).  He lived for six months with Te Wherowhero in the Waikato before returning to spend his last years with his son at Otaki.

Tamihana the country squire

Tamihana Te Rauparaha the country squire

As the leading figure in Ngati Toa at Otaki, Tamihana prospered and lived as a country squire in the lifestyle of an English gentleman as a successful sheep farmer.  He was a man of considerable wealth and was able to travel widely.

On 19 December 1850 Tamihana left for England, on the Wesleyan Missionary Society vessel John Wesley.  On 30 June 1852 Tamihana was presented to Queen Victoria.  He returned impressed with the power and prestige of the British monarchy.

Tamihana was worried that law and order was absent from a number of Maori areas, where feuds raged.  The authority of chiefs was no longer respected and the government left many Maori communities to look after their own affairs.

Supporting the concept of a Maori king

Tamihana sought a solution and became henceforth a strong advocate for a Maori king as a means to unity, law and security among the tribes.  In 1853, Tamihana and Matene undertook a series of journeys in the central North Island, urging upon the tribes the idea of a Maori king.

The movement was controversial with many Maori opposed, but eventually Te Wherowhero, by then an old and ailing man, was chosen as king in the Waikato.  Then in 1860, despite the pacifist wishes of their ‘king’, some followers of the movement went to Taranaki to fight with the rebellion of Wiremu Kingi.

Although they had been among the founders of the king movement, Tamihana and Matene were distressed with what had become of the movement, which they had envisaged as a peaceful effort to bring law and order to Maori communities and as a bastion against further sales of Maori land.

Rejecting the aggression of the king movement

Tawhiao, the second Maori king would not cooperate with the government

They were fearful of the intentions of the king movement following their turn away from the peaceful approach of Te Wherowhero, and they broke with the movement.

At the great Kohimarama meeting of chiefs Tamihana made his feelings clear“I disapprove of this King. … Waikato has set up a King.  They fixed on Te Wherowhero as their King because he had the reputation of being well disposed towards the Pakeha.  My opinion is, now that that King is dead they will turn to evil and make war with the Pakehas.  But, hearken you!  Should I hear that any of my Pakehas have fallen I shall come forward and assist them.

Later that year, during a meeting at Hadfield’s mission in Otaki, Tamihana and Matene strenuously opposed the raising of the King’s flag.  They opposed the influence of the king movement at Otaki and in the Wairarapa, and advocated the recognition of the Wellington area as a peace zone when war broke out.

Tamihana: farmer and government supporter

Tamihana continued as a wealthy farmer and friend of government until his death in 1879.  In 1864 he held the position of senior assessor with an annual income of ₤100 and in 1869 he accompanied Governor Bowen on a tour of the South Island.

A similar pattern was played out in nearby Waikanae, with Wi Parata Te Kakakura (mid 1830s to 1906) playing the part of tribal leader and squire.  His mother, Metapere Waipunahau, was a woman of high status; his grandfather and his great-uncle were leading rangatira amongst the Te Atiawa and Ngati Toa.

After the departure of the Ati Awa contingent led by Wiremu Kingi for Waitara in 1848, Parata became the dominant chief in the Waikanae area.  He was elected to Parliament in 1871, for two terms, and appointed to the Executive Council.  He was the largest landowner in the area, running 1,600 sheep in 1875.

These two examples show that a dominant chief could continue with control of tribal assets and eventually become wealthy in his own right, and influential in the new society.


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