Revising New Zealand History 11: Cultural Change among Maori Chiefs, Part 2

Rewi Maniapoto: warrior chief

By John Robinson

Wiremu Kingi: a key figure in causing war in Taranaki

Rewi Maniapoto (1807-1894) came from the upper Waikato and to the west of Lake Taupo, far from early contact with Europeans.

When Kingi started war at Waitara, Rewi was at first cautious, and attempted, without success, to convince his tribesmen to return from Taranaki.

However, after further tribal debate he felt differently and he requested Te Wherowhero and his council to consent to a war-party of Ngati Maniapoto marching to Taranaki in order to assist Te Atiawa.

When that fighting was over, Waikato, Ngati Maniapoto and Ngati Ruanui refused to join in the 1861 peace agreement between Taranaki and the Crown.

Leading the aggressive Ngati Maniapoto

Efforts at that time to reconcile Governor Grey and the kingites were foiled by Rewi’s intransigence.

Although Grey explained that a king and a queen, as authorities, could not coexist, Rewi wanted a formal acceptance of their king.  

He continued to be aggressive.  In 1862 when Nera decided to build a road in his tribal region, from Raglan towards the Waipa River, Rewi and his men began to arm, the kingite soldiers were assembled, and war-meetings were held at various places on the Waikato before that conflict was settled in negotiations.

During 1863 Rewi acted contrary to instructions from the kingite leaders, who had little control over the movement that they had created.  With a war-party of Ngati Maniapoto, numbering eighty, he invaded Te Awamutu and forced Government Agent Gorst from the Waikato.

Such acts of open rebellion, together with threats on Auckland (soon followed by killing of settlers and troops) took the country into war, and Ngati Maniapoto under Rewi were heavily involved in the subsequent fighting against British troops.

Rewi vascillates between aggression and peace

Second Maori”king” Tawhiao

There is evidence of continuing warlike intentions even after they had retreated into the King country.

The king movement was clearly of two minds, not prepared to accept defeat and ready to take again to war in support of other rebels if an opportunity arose. 

For example, a 1866 Hauhau attack on Napier (with fighting at Omarunui) received the sanction of Rewi Maniapoto and other kingite leaders.

Rewi was starting to recognise defeat and move towards peace.  When the 1867 visit of the Duke of Edinburgh provided an opportunity to confirm peace, Rewi was in favour of going to the proposed meeting, but the principal adviser to Tawhiao, Ngapora, and the family decided against

On 3 Feb 1869, kingite forces intervened on behalf of Titokowaru at Pukearuhe, killing the occupants of the small military settlement post, including civilians.  Rewi’s attitude remained uncertain, and when Te Kooti came later that year, asking for assistance, Rewi accompanied him back to Taupo, intending – if conditions were propitious – to join in the campaign.

Rewi makes peace and accepts the reality of white settlement

Rewi was a man of peace in his later years

The defeat of Te Kooti at Te Pononga convinced Rewi that the Government forces were likely to come out victors in the proposed campaign, so he withdrew and renounced all intention of assisting Te Kooti.

Rewi was clearly of two minds.  His attitude was that of a warrior, willing to fight when success was possible, but well able to recognise defeat and the need to then negotiate conditions for peace.

He was a man of action and a realist, unhappy with the situation of drift and uncertainty, with Waikato camped in Maniapoto territory, the King Country.

When in 1878, Governor Grey offered a generous settlement including the return of confiscated land, Rewi acted with resolution and organised a great meeting of celebration (described in “Celebration of peace; Rewi at Waitara”).

He was thereafter feted by the settlers as an ally and man of peace.

Tamihana Te Rauparaha: from warrior to missionary

As summarised in a previous article (“Tamihana Te Rauparaha, from warrior to squire”), the son of the fierce warrior Te Rauparaha was a Christian and peacemaker.

Tamihana Te Rauparaha (1820-1876) came of a new generation.  He may still be referred to as a warrior in his youth, as he accompanied his father on murderous raids to the South Island, and 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.

In 1839, as a young man of 19, he was influenced by newly freed Maori who had been taken as slaves to the Bay of Islands, and released when their masters became Christian.

Henry Williams has told how Tamihana and his cousin Matene Te Whiwhi, went that year “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.”

Thus he was part of the cultural change of the time – preceding and leading to the Treaty of Waitangi – when so many Maori turned from the old ways to Christianity.  He remained in contact with his father while choosing a different path.

His request was answered when Otavius Hadfield came later that year to begin his work at Waikanae and Otaki, and Tamihana was baptised in 1841 before going to the South Island as missionary and peacemaker.

Te Wherowhero: the elderly first “king”

Would a Maori king bring law and order?

Tamihana was distressed by the lawlessness in many Maori communities and the failure of the colonial government to act.

After a visit to England in 1851-52, when he met the Queen, he thought of a monarchy as a means to unity, law and security among the tribes and became an advocate for a Maori king.

The intention was to live in harmony with the settlers and government (as the principal chief at Otaki and a wealthy farmer), and when Kingi started war in 1860 Tamihana left the movement.

At Kohimarama, in July-August of that year, he spoke strongly in opposition – “now that the king (Te Wherowhero) is dead they will turn to evil and make war on the Pakehas”. 

Titokowaru: changing attitudes


While Tamihana remained constantly working for peace, warrior chief Titokowaru (1823-1888) vacillated.  War completely dominated his early years.  Then in 1842 came the first of his three 3 conversions to peace when he became Christian.

While Tamihana remained constantly working for peace, warrior chief Titokowaru (1823-1888) vacillated.  War completely dominated his early years.  Then in 1842 came the first of his three 3 conversions to peace when he became Christian.

In the 1850s Titokowaru turned away from pacifism and fought against Taranaki Maori who wished to sell land, when Ngati Ruanui intervened in Te Atiawa land feuds.  Titokowaru then joined the rebels in the 1860-1861 Taranaki war and continued fighting in South Taranaki in 1865-1866.

He moved away from Christianity, adopted hauhau ceremonies and took up Te Ua’s Pai Marire mantle in 1866.

In 1867 Titokowaru was talking of peace, and he organised five large peace meetings in this “year of the lamb”.  Yet even then his warrior groups were heavily armed, and ‘passive resistance’ included muru, the widespread theft of property.

Titokawaru’s south Taranaki war

Governme troops in action against Titokowaru in South Taranaki

Then on 3 June 1868, he went to war again when three military settlers were killed on his orders.  Titokowaru was resolved to drive the ‘settler forces’ out of his rohe and attacked the Turuturumokai military redoubt on 12 July 1868, killing 16 of the 23-man garrison.

During the attack he chanted “Kill them, eat them!  Let them not escape!”   The following round of bloody fighting has become known as Titokowaru’s war.

He was eventually defeated; the 3 Feb 1869 kingite action on his behalf at Pukearuhe came too late

When the war was lost Titokowaru occupied old territories and from 1879 was active in ‘non-violent’ resistance, being closely associated with Te Whiti at Parihaka.  In 1885-1886 he was claiming “I will shower peace upon the people until the end of time”.

Belich got it wrong

Titokowaru’s 1886 occupation of a farm near Manaia has been popularised as being peaceful by Belich, in his book on the war I Shall Not Die.  But it was not peace for the farmer whose land was invaded, whose belongings were taken.

When four policemen came to arrest the leaders, there was a tussle and a constable was injured.

The Maori occupiers brought in between 200 and 300 others, dug up a paddock and began building a whare.  Scores of settler volunteers then came and after a struggle (‘The Battle of Hastie’s Farm’) nine men, including Titokowaru, were taken off under arrest.

‘Non-violent’ resistance is moral blackmail.  Breaking the law and preventing others from going about their lives can only be peaceful if the authorities take no action, so that bullying behaviour wins the day.

It must not be forgotten that Titokowaru was a renowned warrior who had broken the peace several times previously.

 The wise course for action to uphold the law was that taken at Parihaka (where there was a substantial cache of arms) in November 1881 – to apply overwhelming force and prevent any scuffle from degenerating into violence.

Complex history does not belong in the courts

In conclusion, we have noted here a great diversity of desires, views and actions among Maori.

Many changed their beliefs – in varying ways, between aspects of the old and the new cultures. 

An inappropriate place to make judgements on history

The British and New Zealand authorities were often unsure what to expect, whether they faced genuine change, deceit or simply uncertainty.

There were similar differences of opinion and policy among the colonial authorities, so that frequently Maori were suspicious of their true intentions.

The story is complicated and all the more human for that.

Unfortunately, modern history has become judgemental, with the Waitangi Tribunal ruling what should be accepted.  This must be resisted.  History does not belong in a court of law.



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