Volume 71 1962 > Volume 71, No. 4 > Te Waharoa of the Ngatihaua, by L. W. Melvin, p 361-378
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TE WAHAROA, warrior chief of the Ngatihaua tribe of Matamata, at the first coming of the white man to those parts, was the perfect product of his times.

His father was Tangimoana; his mother, Te Kahurangi, was of Arawa descent. 2

The dramatic elements which attended Te Waharoa throughout his lifetime began when, as a small child, his tribe at that time located in the Maungakawa hills between Matamata and Cambridge, were attacked by the Ngatiwhakaue, one of the Arawa tribes of Rotorua. The pa, Te Kaweheitiki, 3 fell, and as the invaders were pouring in, his mother Te Kahurangi quickly gathered up her child and placed him in a flax kit which she hung outside her whare, trusting it would be overlooked. She herself found a place of concealment close by. The kit with Te Waharoa in it remained unobserved until after the heat of battle had subsided, when one of the invading warriors noticed it and discovering the child inside, took it to the leader of the Arawa party, the chief Pango.

With the life of her child endangered, Te Kahurangi came from concealment and presenting herself before Pango, informed him that if he killed the child he would be killing his own relative. Upon Pango demanding an explanation, Te Kahurangi recited her line of descent from Rangiwewehi, a fact which secured immunity for mother and child, 4 although Pango decided that his new-found relatives should accompany him back to Rotorua. Hence it came about that Te Kahurangi and the child—as free people and relatives 5—resided amongst the Ngatiwhakaue for a number of years until, approaching manhood, Te Waharoa returned to his own tribe at Maungakawa. 6 He was then probably aged about seventeen.

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When he rejoined his tribe, Te Waharoa returned lacking the benefits of environment that would normally have accrued to one of his birth, for he was of chieftain descent. The influence of his own tribal orators, craftsmen and experts had been lost to him; of Ngatihaua tribal lore, etiquette, and the trend of current events he knew nothing. Although some of these defects would be remedied in the years immediately following, Te Waharoa nevertheless lacked the spiritual appeal deriving from a normal background. Hence, in an age when tribal warfare was exalted, prowess at arms was the one course left to him to secure a place at the forefront of his people, and one by which he could acquire unto himself in the process a mana peculiarly his own:

“The mana of a chief was integrated with the strength of the tribe. It was not a mysterious, indefinable quality flowing from supernatural sources; it was basically the result of successive and successful human achievements.” 7

With the way clearly defined, it was natural that eventually Te Waharoa's thoughts should turn in the direction of Taranaki, as for generations the Tainui tribes, of which the Ngatihaua was one, had feuded with those of the Taranaki coast; and probably in the mind of the young Te Waharoa one of those earlier encounters now took on fresh importance. About the year 1780 a combined expedition of Ngatihaua and Maniapoto which included the Ngatihaua chief Tiu, 8 sometimes called Taiporutu, an uncle of Te Waharoa, reached Te Kawau pa on the north Taranaki coast. In the ensuing fight Tiu fell; his body was seized by the enemy and taken within the pa and crucified on the main gateway, or waha roa. Te Waharoa was born about the time of this event and was named to commemorate the circumstances of his uncle's death.

Family Tree. Purangataua=Parepaoro 9, Peinga, Tiu (Taiporutu), Tangimoana, Te Waharoa, Waiwhara

As yet, Tiu was unavenged.

Whatever his position in the beginning, approximately the year 1800 saw Te Waharoa accepted as a warrior leader of his tribe for at that date he and Pohepohe are named as the Ngatihaua leaders in a combined Maniapoto-Ngatihaua expedition against Taranaki. 10 During the ensuing thirty-four years the Ngatihaua figured in at least eight similar expeditions against that district, 11 and Te Waharoa appears to have participated in four of them, the last in 1834. By no means were the northern raiders always successful, being at times severely mauled. For Te Waharoa it was a proving ground of strategy, and the successful generalship of opposing chiefs was not lost upon him.

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The contests between the Tainui tribes and those of the Taranaki coast were but part of the tribal warfare in which Te Waharoa and his Ngatihaua were involved. Some of their tribal history between the years 1821 and 1830 is contained in a Native Lands Court Judgement 12 delivered in 1871 upon a claim derived from events during that period. This particular judgement is important for two reasons. Firstly, the evidence on which it is based draws attention to the indifferent account of Ngatihaua history given by Wilson. 13 Secondly, the impartial language of the judgement goes a long way towards bringing the character of Maori warfare into proper perspective. Besides quoting directly, I have drawn heavily upon the judgement in this chapter.

The acquisition of muskets by the Ngapuhi of the Bay of Islands had enabled that people to make such devastating raids down the Hauraki and the Firth of Thames, that at the end of 1821 the Ngatimaru and Ngatipaoa and their sub-tribes, herein called by the collective name of Marutuahu, retreated inland to the Waikato where they were at first made welcome. The willingness of the Waikato tribes to allow a powerful and dangerous people to settle in their territory seems to have sprung from a common fear of Ngapuhi firearms, a fear soon to prove well-founded by the fall of Matakitaki in 1822. With the passage of time, however, the Marutuahu sought to possess the land permanently, directing their efforts toward the Horotiu and Maungatautari districts.

“Before long the country was commanded by not less than twenty Marutuahu fortifications. . . and the fierce and encroaching Marutuahu commenced a series of aggressions on the Waikato people, plundering their villages, driving them from their cultivated lands, and doing everything to provoke war in which the Marutuahu hoped, no doubt, to oust the Waikato tribe from their large and fertile country.
“The Ngatihaua, against whom these aggressions were chiefly made . . . had no name for patience under injuries. Fierce reprisals were commenced; murders, skirmishes, battles, and massacres became ordinary and common events . . . This state of things continued for a length of time without either party having gained any marked ascendancy over the other, until at length the Ngatihaua, by what is stigmatised by their enemies as a treacherous stratagem or kohuru, succeeded in surprising a Marutuahu chief named Takurua in his village and massacring him and nearly all his people, men, women and children, to the number of about two hundred . . . Deceived by the artful pretence of the Ngatihaua and their chief Te Waharoa that they were tired of war and anxious to enter into terms of peace and reconciliation, the Marutuahu chief and his people had relaxed that incessant vigilance which was necessary to the preservation of life. Furious at this loss, and if possible more so by the disgrace, most deeply felt, of having been outdone in deception, the Marutuahu sought revenge by isolated murders, in night attacks, in open battles and skirmishes, by every effort of force and stratagem, and notwithstanding - 364 some reverses, unprejudiced Maori authorities have held that, previous to the final battle of Taumatawiwi, the Marutuahu had balanced the loss and obliterated the disgrace . . .” 14

Yet, these relatively minor encounters could not decide mastery for either side and both began to marshall their forces for one decisive action.

At the battle of Taumatawiwi which followed in 1830, Te Waharoa commanded a force totalling nearly 2,000 15 which comprised besides his own Ngatihaua, contingents of Waikato, Ngatimaniapoto, and Ngaiterangi (of Tauranga). A bitterly-contested day ended with the Marutuahu being dislodged from the formidable natural defences they occupied, and forced to retreat to the shelter of Haowhenua pa. But not before they had inflicted such heavy casualties on Te Waharoa's force as to render his position most unpromising in the event of the

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battle being renewed next day. The Ngatihaua in particular had suffered heavily and a resumption could entail them in such further casualties that although they again emerged the victors, they would cease to be an effective tribal force. The situation of the Marutuahu was no less uncertain. Though safe in the shelter of their pa, much of their ammunition was expended; and for all they knew, Te Waharoa was even then summoning further reinforcements. Beyond this was their peril if, in case of another defeat, they had to attempt a disorganised withdrawal through enemy territory, to their own lands.

The upshot of this mutually dangerous situation was that the Marutuahu agreed to vacate Ngatihaua territory, their safe conduct being guaranteed by the Ngatihaua chief Paharakeke and two women of rank accompanying them as hostages. 16 So ended Te Waharoa's long struggle to rid his hereditary lands of the Marutuahu intruders.

We have seen the contribution to the battle of Taumatawiwi made by the Ngaiterangi of Tauranga, who were old allies of the Ngatihaua, the connection between them reflecting the tangled skein of kinship on the one hand, and the equally tangled skein of blood feuds on the other. The two peoples had mutual foes in the Ngapuhi, Thames gulf, and Arawa tribes. Omokoroa and Te Puna, situated on Tauranga harbour, had long been places to which Te Waharoa and his inland people had been accustomed to go for sea foods.

Wilson 17 is probably correct in his account of the enterprising assistance given by Te Waharoa to the Ngaiterangi against Te Haramiti of Ngapuhi in 1831. The destruction of Te Haramiti's expedition at Motiti Island led to two more Ngapuhi attacks against Tauranga in 1832 and 1833. 18 On the way to the first of these, a portion of the Ngapuhi force had branched off at Thames to make a passing attack on Ngatihaua settlements beyond Te Aroha; and later events confirm that it was the Ngapuhi chief Tareha who attacked the Matamata pa where Te Waharoa was. As soon as these raiders were beaten off, a Ngatihaua contingent crossed the range to give timely assistance to their Tauranga allies at Otumoetai. Whether or not Te Waharoa accompanied them is not known, but in view of the importance he attached to Tauranga, it seems likely that he did.

Up to this point we have had a glimpse of Te Waharoa as the warrior leader of his tribe. His career as a war leader has caught the attention of several European writers. Wilson who was first in the field, while noting his qualities of leadership, sees him overall as the villain of the piece. Gudgeon, 19 whose judgement ignores the state of Maori society into which Te Waharoa was born and flourished, wrote of

“ . . . Te Rauparaha and Te Waharoa, whose chief claim to greatness was their treacherous character and power of dissembling their real intentions, so that they could more easily murder their enemies while pretending friendship.”

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The modern historians Condliffe and Airey, 20 when dealing with the introduction of firearms, bracket Te Waharoa and Te Wherowhero “who disputed with Hongi and with each other the palm for ferocious cunning and cruel warfare”. Apart from the fact that Te Waharoa (and Te Wherowhero also) had achieved prominence in war in pre-European times, and before firearms had any bearing on the matter, little fault can be found with Condliffe and Airey's assessment; particularly as earlier they cogently sum up the position of the pre-European Maori thus:

“Intertribal warfare was not only accepted; it was exalted. It was not merely a last necessity but rather the pinnacle of life.” 21

Hence it becomes important that another side of Te Waharoa's character should be told; that concerns his response to the peacemaking approaches of the pioneer missionaries: and then, very soon afterwards when circumstances had made him their victim, the integrity of his dealings with the missionary body.


When the Church Missionary Society was actively considering expansion southward from the Bay of Islands in 1833, the Firth of Thames was prominent in their discussions for not only did it carry a large Maori population, but also the Waihou river gave access to the interior on which the Mission also had an eye. With a good deal of the prospective area coming within the sphere of Ngatihaua influence, the missionaries knew that without some measure of co-operation from that tribe and its leader Te Waharoa, their plans might well come to nothing. So in October, 1833, a missionary party headed by Henry Williams left the Bay of Islands to examine the Thames area and to visit Te Waharoa at Matamata.

They met him on 15 November, some miles north of Matamata, Te Waharoa and his chiefs having come to meet the party and conduct them over the last few miles to the pa. The celebrated warrior proved to be of middle height, with well-formed, intelligent features. He had a grey, half-shaven beard, and his hair which was partly grey, was exceedingly neat; while his dress and general deportment marked him out as a superior chief. Quietly spoken, his manners were mild, and the expression of his countenance pleasing. 22 In discussions extending over three days on the possibilities of mission stations being opened in the area, Te Waharoa revealed a penetrating mind and natural good sense. Not only was he willing to talk peace, but he took the initiative by sending through the missionaries, invitations to the Thames tribes to visit the Ngatihaua for discussions; and to the Ngapuhi chief Tareha he sent one of his personal weapons as a token that strife between them should end. 23 So far as the Waikato was concerned, he offered to guide them personally into that district.

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Months later, it fell to William Williams and A. N. Brown to again visit Te Waharoa and to tell him that Matamata could not be included in the Mission plans. They expected surliness to result, but met only graciousness: and in arguing the case for a resident missionary with the Ngatihaua, Te Waharoa confounded them with their own logic. 24 Like Henry Williams before them, the two men were greatly impressed; and William Williams, with eight years' experience to condition his judgement, looked on Te Waharoa as being “one of the finest specimens of a native I had yet seen”. 25 Not surprisingly, then, the matter was reconsidered and a decision made to open a mission station at Matamata, Brown and J. A. Wilson being appointed to the job.

At this point, however, it would be as well to correct an oft-repeated error in Mission history: because of ill-health Wilson never took up his appointment, and the distinction of having founded the station belongs to Brown and his wife alone. 26

Brown was a fortunate choice for the position for in the hands of a lesser man the experiment might have proved wholly negative. In the best traditions of the Church Missionary Society he combined a high competence in pioneering craft with an uncompromising advocacy of the Christian faith. And of great importance now was his ability to treat with Te Waharoa on an equal footing. Brown arrived at Matamata on 9 April, 1835, 27 and from the outset was bedevilled by the natural behaviour of a primitive, turbulent tribe meeting civilization for the first time. By subterfuges and by aggressions, various of the Ngatihaua tried to gain some personal benefit in the way of mission trade goods that were the currency for produce and services. Sometimes there was real hostility, with occasional flashes of violent behaviour as established customs conflicted with the new teachings. With a blend of firmness, patience and good sense Brown resolved many of the situations which arose, appealing to Te Waharoa only on the more important issues. And if, as usually happened in such cases, Brown got his own way, it was in Te Waharoa's own good time. So was preserved a nice balance in relations between the two principals.

As Te Waharoa had literally begged for missionaries to reside with his tribe, his subsequent attitude toward them is important both as a basis on which to judge his motives, and in view of the final outcome. He did not attend a religious service until three months after Brown's arrival, and thereafter his attendance was irregular. Nevertheless, it would seem that he pondered Brown's teachings for on two occasions he sought the latter to discuss with him the question of a favoured youngest child, a girl, attaining the Christian heaven. 28

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In other directions, Te Waharoa's actions provide some evidence of a genuine desire to keep faith. One such concerned Clementson, one of several European flax gatherers living at the pa and who were connected with Tapsell, the Maketu trader. On this particular occasion Clementson had been foolish enough to curse Te Waharoa native fashion, an offence which, having its roots deep in ancient beliefs relating to evil and death, was regarded most seriously. Needless to say, Te Waharoa was not present at the time, but when he learned of it he sought Brown for the purpose of having the latter negotiate a payment in compensation; 29 Brown did so readily for he was of the opinion that otherwise the chief might proceed to extremes. Cupidity had no part in Te Waharoa's make-up and the incident stands as a notable concession to the new order.

Even more significant was Te Waharoa's action in regard to some of his own race. Fortified by their conversion to Christianity, mission natives trespassed on forbidden ground, the tapu arising from the fact of it being a place where Te Waharoa had had his hair cut. Again an ancient and vital belief was involved, but instead of taking the law into his own hands Te Waharoa angrily complained to Brown. 30 That uncompromising crusader declined to deal with the matter because the day was Sunday and requested the chief to return on the morrow. There is no record of him having done so, and inconclusive as the incident may be, the restraint exercised by Te Waharoa at the time is another substantial credit to be entered to his account.

Anything which contained a menace to his tribe, however, saw Te Waharoa resume the attitude natural to him. In July, 1835, Peter Dillon, the well known South Seas adventurer, visited Tauranga on a trading voyage. An old hand at the game, Dillon made it known that he had much powder and many muskets to trade for flax, and then sat back and waited. The news penetrated inland as far as the Waikato and nobody was more interested than Te Waharoa. Likewise interested were the Ngatikoroki, a Ngatihaua sub-tribe who were then occupying the land at Maungatautari from which the Hauraki tribes had been ejected five years earlier. To reach Tauranga the Ngatikoroki had to cross Te Waharoa's territory and it was not long before he learned they were on the way with flax for Dillon, something which angered him greatly and which he determined to prevent. Why this was the case is not wholly clear, but the surrounding facts suggest it was because the Ngatihaua had no flax immediately ready, and Te Waharoa had no intention of making the political mistake of allowing a sub-tribe, however closely related, to arm at the expense of his own. Accordingly he sent a messenger to inform the Ngatikoroki that their passage would be resisted, but the latter, then some twelve miles distant, made camp and prepared to fight.

Learning that a clash was probable, Brown obtained Te Waharoa's permission to go out and meet the Ngatikoroki in the forlorn hope of - 369 persuading them to turn back. When he came up with them, the Ngatikoroki proved to comprise about one hundred armed men and the same number of women and children. Their position was an unenviable one for they had no chance of standing successfully against the Ngatihaua. Although received with hostility and suspicion, Brown was able to establish the purity of his motives, and his intervention allowed the Ngatikoroki to withdraw with their honour intact, which they did next morning.

Upon his return to Matamata after seeing the Ngatikoroki off, Brown found that the Ngatihaua had meanwhile decided to deal with the matter according to custom, and that same morning a fighting party under Te Waharoa had gone to meet the Ngatikoroki, but by a different route to that taken by Brown. There is no record of what, if anything, transpired between the two tribes, but as Brown recorded that the Ngatihaua returned the following day in a sullen humour “because they had been deprived of the pleasure of shooting some of their relatives and friends” it is reasonable to conclude that Te Waharoa had not pushed matters unduly.

Te Waharoa's action in taking the field, Brown viewed as treachery, and so we come to his last mention of the matter:

“9 August, 1835. Sunday. Native service morning and evening. At the former Murupara, a ringleader in the late quarrel, was present. Waharoa and Paharakeke came afterwards. I spoke to all of them respecting their treacherous conduct in the affair of the Na te Koroki. They attempted to justify themselves by stating that they felt sure that the Na te Koroki would not listen to me and return home, and therefore they went in pursuit of them.” 31

The simplicity of these replies brings the matter into perspective. Brown was one of the principal men of his period, but in this instance it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he expected overmuch of a people to whom Christian teachings were but a brief four months' experience.

Whatever confusion of minds this episode produced, the effects did not remain long with either of the principals, for a month later Te Waharoa spent a day with Brown dictating letters to the missionaries at Thames and the Bay of Islands, inviting chiefs from both places to visit him and discuss a permanent peace between the three districts. These overtures were immediately successful, a party of chiefs from the Thames area attending a large meeting on September 19th, when peace was made. Throughout the proceedings Te Waharoa was at his gracious best and paid due honour to the visitors.

There was an illuminating aftermath. When, at a later date, a sub-tribe in the neighbourhood began to urge an attack on one of the tribes with whom he had recently made peace, Te Waharoa very effectively disposed of the proposal by threatening to move the Ngatihaua to the Bay of Plenty coast, and leave the would-be aggressors to - 370 their fate. 32 This was in fact no empty threat as Te Waharoa was to hold such a move in contemplation for a long time; on this particular occasion he engaged Brown in a morning-long discussion of the project.

For the next three months life at Matamata continued comparatively calm, though always eventful, as the new way of life competed with the old. Attendances at Brown's services improved until he could record averages of three hundred on Sundays, while the three schools he established for different age groups drew average attendances of fifty each. On the other hand, there were occasions such as the one when a party of bearers, after unsuccessfully demanding a higher rate of pay than had previously been agreed upon, broke open the stores they had brought in from the Puriri station, thereby causing such prolonged uproar that the Sunday services next day became impossible until the evening. But while missionary and chief dealt each in his own way with the happenings of the daily round, a malign fate was shaping an event which was to make Te Waharoa victim of the very circumstances he was striving faithfully to avoid: an event which, before it had run its course, was to see the end of the Matamata mission station and bring to a halt missionary effort at Rotorua and Tauranga as well.


The upset came with the unprovoked killing of Te Waharoa's relative Hunga, at Rotorua on 25th December. In Maori eyes such a thing had no individual reference; it was a tribal concern and must be settled as such. By Sunday 27th the news had reached Matamata pa and when Brown went there he found various groups engaged in serious discussion, but of Te Waharoa there was no sign. The latter was not long, however, in accepting the obligation of an ancient code which rode him harder than did the new-found Christian teachings. And once the decision was made, all the doubts and confusion of mind engendered by an opposing belief were swept aside, and in their place was a resurgence of that political and military ability which earlier had made his name known throughout the land. Emissaries were sent off to the Ngatikoroki and Ngatimaniapoto, while Te Waharoa himself left secretly for Tauranga to woo his Ngaiterangi allies. On his return, he refused Brown permission to go to Rotorua to consult with Chapman, the latter's colleague there, although he had no objection to the missionaries meeting half-way at Maketu. This was one of several incidents which helped to deceive Brown as to Te Waharoa's real objective.

Following a fruitless trip to Maketu, as Chapman was too ill to travel, Brown set out again some weeks later, this time in company with Henry Williams who had come down from the Bay of Islands. At Te Puna. near Tauranga, they met Te Waharoa and obtained his consent to extend their journey to Rotorua. The missionaries realised now that Te Waharoa was determined on revenge, but until the worst - 371 actually happened, they had to work for a peaceful solution. Throughout the Rotorua district they found no resentment against the threatened Ngatihaua attack, it being regarded as the normal outcome of events. Under missionary prompting some of the Rotorua chiefs were willing to make a substantial payment in compensation to the Ngatihaua if that would avoid war.

To these and other overtures by the missionaries, Te Waharoa remained coolly indifferent. He continued his unhurried comings and goings between Matamata and Tauranga and by an opportune deal in flax at the latter port about 1st February, was able to supplement his stock of muskets.

Enter now, Thomas Scott, a Tauranga trader. Some two years earlier, Scott had tried to establish himself in competition with Tapsell, the Maketu trader, by setting up a trading post under a European agent on Mokoia Island, Rotorua. It was an ill-starred venture, his agent being killed and the store plundered, while Scott who was there at the time, narrowly escaped with his life. Whatever the cause of that affair, Scott had not forgotten it and with a chance to pay off old scores, he now gave Te Waharoa a quantity of muskets and powder for his impending attack. 33

Thus, beginning with Dillon's visit in July-August, 1835, Te Waharoa secured within the space of about seven months, three additions to his stock of firearms.

Toward the end of March 1836, Te Waharoa's well-considered plan of retribution for the affront to his tribe, came to fruition. The Ngatihaua were better equipped with firearms than ever before; war parties contributed by his allies had joined him at Matamata; and his deceptive tactics of the past three months having persuaded the enemy that Rotorua would be the point of attack, he prepared to strike—not where he was expected—but against Maketu, the Arawa seaport on the Bay of Plenty. There, the well-known European Phillip Tapsell had established himself under Arawa protection a few years earlier. Not only was Tapsell an Arawa man, but it was known that he had mounted at his premises a small battery of cannon; though of minor importance, this detail had been duly considered by Te Waharoa.

Te Waharoa's first move was to take more positive action at Matamata, along lines which, more than a hundred years later, Europeans were to designate as ‘security measures’. Whereas he had earlier been content to restrict Brown's movements abroad, 34 he now placed guards on the tracks leading out of Matamata. 35 An advance guard of seventy under the chief Pea had already been despatched to Tauranga to seal off the beach route between that place and Maketu. By Monday, 21 March, this party was in position at Maungamana, which adjoins Mangatawa, the great fortified hill (now being quarried) close by the present-day highway to Mount Maunganui. They were immediately - 372 successful in their purpose, capturing James Farrow, Tapsell's Tauranga agent who was trying to carry word to his employer; and also a party of some fourteen Tapuika, an Arawa sub-tribe, who were returning home. With the exception of two women able to claim kinship, all the Tapuika were killed and made ready for the ovens despite the intercession of J. A. Wilson of the Tauranga mission station, who was assured that the captives were being held only to prevent Maketu being alerted.

The main body left Matamata secretly on 22 March and on arrival at Tauranga, Te Waharoa underwent trial by ordeal, to measure the prospects of the expedition being successful. The test was the digging of a trench within a certain time, a task he successfully performed. 36 When the main body advanced from Tauranga it comprised 200 of the local Ngaiterangi, 200 Ngatihaua, 400 Ngatimaniapoto and Ngatikoroki, and 200 slaves as food bearers. 37 They went into bivouac with the advance party at Maungamana, where the local people had cultivations of maize, potatoes, melons and pumpkins, and what the expedition warriors could not eat, they laid waste, 38 in preservation of their special tapu.

When, on Sunday 27th, the missionaries Wilson and Wade visited Maungamana, they were received with impatience. Wilson's request that they be allowed to accompany Te Waharoa in the role of peacemakers, met with stern refusal. After interceding for the women and children at Maketu, the missionaries had no option but to return home when, in the late afternoon, Te Waharoa gave the signal for the march to be resumed.

The culmination of three months' preparation saw Te Waharoa arrive at Te Tumu, an hour's march from his objective, in command of a disciplined, well-armed force, and the enemy unaware of his presence. There remained but one detail yet to be taken care of: while his force made its final preparations, Te Waharoa ordered Farrow to be released and sent him forward with a message to Tapsell warning the latter not to use his cannon. 39 Although a rough, tough, ex-mate of a whaler, and a resolute man, Tapsell realised from Farrow's news the overwhelming nature of the forces at hand and complied with the demand. This, as much as anything else, saved Tapsell and his Arawa wife, Hine-i-turama.

That day, Tuesday 29th March, 1836, Maketu was soon overwhelmed when Te Waharoa, exploiting his advantage of a large command, launched a two-pronged attack against the lightly-held place, the garrison of some sixty together with the women and children being either killed and eaten or taken as slaves. The Arawa had been deceived completely as to the point of attack and had left Maketu virtually unguarded.

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While the sack of Maketu was carried out with implacable ferocity and a full-scale reversion to cannibalism, it also serves to illustrate both Te Waharoa's capacity for clear thinking in the midst of great excitement, and his integrity toward the missionary body. While Maketu was still burning he sent off a runner to Tauranga advising the missionaries there not to unload stores from the schooner Columbine then in harbour, as the returning warriors might prove troublesome and break open the stores. 40

The return of the expedition through Tauranga on 1 April, when they again crossed the mission property, passed off without the station or its residents suffering interference. Te Waharoa had come ahead with a small party and on the approach of the main body he mantled the station with the tapu of his person: this he did by lying across the doorway of one of the cottages. 41


After their return to Matamata, the progress which the Ngatihaua had shown previously under missionary guidance became greatly retarded. Attack from Rotorua was expected daily. One of the Arawa chiefs killed at Maketu had been related to the Ngatimaru and reprisals threatened from that quarter as well. The war gong sounded throughout the nights, 42 while the days were given over to strengthening the fortifications, a work at which Te Waharoa laboured like any slave. 43 So great was the expectation of attack that Ngatata, one of Brown's more regular attenders at school, arrived one morning carrying a loaded gun lest he be surprised in class.

Te Waharoa was under no delusions about the situation of his tribe, or of his enemies. He told Brown the war would last two or three years and advised him to postpone his efforts for that length of time; in any case, he advised sending the women and children to Thames for safety. This latter move was begun after the appearance of the first Arawa raiders on 23 April but it had to be postponed when it was suspected that the Thames track was ambushed.

May 1 saw the moon in eclipse and the Ngatihaua agog in the belief that soon a great chief would die. 44 A few days later news was received that Te Tumu, the coastal pa belonging to their Tauranga allies had fallen to the Arawa, and the Ngaiterangi chiefs Kiharoa and Hikareia killed, together with some two hundred of their followers. 45

This news again put Te Waharoa on the road to Tauranga but whereas he had intended going by a secondary track to avoid the Arawa known to be in the vicinity, on the prophecy of a female matakite that death waited on that route, he changed to the main track. 46 Upon his return from Tauranga, one of his lieutenants, Pohepohe, left on - 374 16 May to again seek the support of Ngatimaniapoto and Waikato for another attack on the Arawa. This support was at once forthcoming, Pohepohe having completed his mission by 28th. Kelly 47 has detailed the Tainui tribes who contributed, and also gives the information that some Ngatipaoa under Puhatu, and some Ngatitamatera under Taraia joined the expedition. But a canoe accident at Kawhia, in which the renowned Ngatimaniapoto chief Pehikorehu was drowned, disorganised and delayed the departure of many. 48 Those who made their way to Matamata in the meantime were entertained by Te Waharoa on 14 June with a grand feast of two hundred baked pigs and immense quantities of potatoes.

About this time Brown was deceived into noting somewhat hopefully:

“Waharoa's allies arrived. I do not think they exceed two hundred and the old man is too much of a general to advance against Rotorua with his present forces. He says more would have joined him but they are ‘believing’ and it seems pretty clear that that is the excuse which many of the Waikato natives have sent for not joining him.” 49
It was almost a month later before Te Waharoa moved off, camping at Patetere until the main contingent of Ngatimaniapoto and Waikato were able to link up, after which the whole force marched for Rotorua under his supreme command.

In the ebb and flow of fighting which took place at Rotorua on 5-6 August, the mission station at Koutu was entered and partly looted by a small section of Te Waharoa's Waikato allies, and the two catechists there at the time, Knight and Pilley, were roughly handled. Later, when the attackers had departed, the Arawa came out and completed the destruction of the station, finally burning it to the ground.

Part of Te Waharoa's tactics had been to lure the Arawa from their pa into the open where they had been ambushed with the loss of sixty, against five on Te Waharoa's side. Wilson 50 has written that due to the faulty handling of the ambush by Pohepohe, he and Te Waharoa quarrelled to the extent that they began to duel until their warriors rushed between them. If the two did quarrel so seriously, a more likely cause was an occurrence on the homeward march.

It will be recalled that when, as a small child, Te Waharoa and his mother were seized by Arawa raiders, their lives were spared because of his mother's descent from Rangiwewehi of Arawa: in this expedition against Rotorua many years later, because of that relationship Te Waharoa had ordered that the Ngati Rangiwewehi tribe should not be molested. Pohepohe, who was in no way related, did not feel obliged to observe this order and branched off near Ngongotaha with the intention of attacking them. This, Te Waharoa prevented, the incident giving rise to a dispute between them. 51

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The situation of the mission at Matamata was now a particularly risky one. While an on-the-spot enquiry had satisfied the missionaries that the first intrusion on the Rotorua premises had been unpremeditated and was an accident of war, the same could not be said of its final destruction by the Arawa. That the latter tribe would make reprisals against Matamata was certain, and furthermore, since Maketu, they had been loud in their threats against the Matamata station which stood some distance outside the pa. Brown's responsibilities had been increased by the arrival of John Morgan and his wife as assistants, while Mrs. Chapman, from Rotorua, had been sheltering at Matamata since the first threat of hostilities.

The outcome of numerous conversations with Te Waharoa was the decision to send the women and children to Thames; and also on Te Waharoa's advice, to place most of the missionary possessions inside the pa for safe keeping. Scarcely had these jobs been completed when missionaries Fairburn and Wilson arrived. It was soon arranged that Brown should accompany them to Rotorua where they would join Chapman for the purpose of assessing the damage done, and to try peacemaking from that end. John Morgan was left in charge at Matamata. All might have gone well had Morgan, an opinionated man, been satisfied to leave well alone.

Events delayed Brown at Rotorua for nearly a month, and meanwhile Te Waharoa and most of the Ngatihaua departed to Tauranga on one of their periodic visits, leaving a sub-tribe to garrison the pa. The latter were a turbulent lot who had remained unresponsive to missionary influence. It was in those circumstances that Morgan decided to take the mission property from the pa and send it to Thames. It was an ill-judged step made worse by the fact that he sent the goods off in the custody of one of Clementson's companions, 52 a sailor, for such Europeans never commanded the respect given the missionaries. The removal of the mission property from premises protected by tapu was a temptation the garrison could not resist; when the first consignment was beyond the confines of the pa, they swooped and plundered the lot.

The subsequent efforts at recovery were only partly successful and eventually the missionaries had no option but to adopt a positive attitude. It was determined that all the stolen property not distributed among distant tribes had to be returned, and a small piece of land given by the offenders as compensation, otherwise the mission would be withdrawn. These proposals had Te Waharoa's approval and although he was present at the meeting at which they were presented, the offenders were boldly defiant, so the missionaries decided to withdraw, this action being completed on 24 October, 1836. 53 Te Waharoa made no effort to dissuade them. To him the mission was now of secondary importance.

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The Arawa attack, three hundred strong, was made in late November or early December, 54 but the vigilance of the Ngatihaua and the strength of their defences proved adequate and the attack petered out. However, a group of Brown's followers had built themselves a combined meeting-house, school and church outside the pa defences, and at the time of the attack were sleeping in this building. When the alarm sounded at dawn, nine of them ran out, four being killed and five wounded. These were the only Ngatihaua casualties. The Arawa, concluding that all in the building had run from it, passed on without making a search, thus enabling the remainder to escape.

The guerilla raids which had been going on since the sack of Maketu, between parties from Rotorua on the one hand, and from Tauranga or Matamata on the other, now became a permanent feature. On occasions each side operated right up to the other's defences but the preference was to lurk near trails and plantations, and a foray was regarded as a success if it could claim a single victim. But it was the kind of fighting which settled nothing. Te Waharoa sought to strike a crushing blow against the numerous Arawa, so again his emissaries went into the Waikato, while as before, he set out personally to organise the Tauranga end. By January, 1937, his plans for one of the greatest expeditions of his career were beginning to take shape: early in that month there was boasting in Tauranga of a war party that would be two thousand strong. 55 And, as prior to his first attack on Rotorua, Te Waharoa was preparing another grand feast for his allies when they gathered at Matamata; the Ngatihaua had collected for that purpose 8 large albatrosses, 19 calabashes of shark oil, several tons of fish, upwards of 20,000 dried eels, a great quantity of hogs, and baskets of potatoes without number. 56

It was a heroic gesture from a great warrior chief to other warriors, but it was a gesture made in vain, for circumstances began to combine against Te Waharoa's offensive getting under way. At the beginning of January, 1837, his Waikato allies were fighting amongst themselves, due, it was reported, to the belief that a daughter of Te Wherowhero had died as the result of witchcraft; 57 a serious epidemic of influenza, first noted at Thames in December, 1836, 58 raged inland and along the Bay of Plenty; his sons had become interested in Christianity and were beginning to question the wisdom of their father's course; 59 a Waikato girl visiting Maungatapu, Tauranga, was accidentally shot, and with the possibility of having to defend his own pa in the event of the girl's relatives seeking retribution, the Tauranga chief Nuka temporarily lost his enthusiasm for Te Waharoa's cause. 60

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Although these things added up to a recurring frustration of Te Waharoa's intention, he conceded nothing to the forces working against him. In January and February of 1838 he paid a lengthy visit to the Waikato, including a call on his old companion of the Taranaki raids, Te Wherowhero. On his return, Matamata and Tauranga again buzzed over the prospect of a great attack upon the Arawa. Maketu, which the latter had reoccupied, was freely mentioned as the objective, for Te Waharoa now intended to take that place for the future location of his tribe. Whether or not he would have succeeded is a question which must remain unanswered; but given the opportunity it is certain he would have tried. The opportunity however, did not arise.

In mid-July, 1838, a sickness 61 of which they had had no previous experience appeared amongst the Ngatihaua at Matamata and spread so rapidly that Tarapipipi sent runners to Tauranga to fetch Brown and his medicine chest. The symptoms were beyond Brown too, but after doing his best with a hundred patients in four days, his medicines became exhausted and he returned home.

Te Waharoa and his senior wife, with the disease strongly upon them, went to Omokoroa, near Tauranga. There, on 2nd August, Brown and Wilson found Te Waharoa lying seriously ill; one hand was swollen in an extraordinary manner and gangrened. The dead body of his wife was laid out beside him. The tribes had begun to assemble and as Brown noted at the time, “amidst the severity of the old man's suffering he seemed to derive some gratification from the honour paid him in the assemblage of so many”.

Brown's next visit on Sunday 5th is notable for the fact that because Te Waharoa was too ill to feed himself, and his person being so highly tapu that none of those present could be persuaded to do so, Brown himself fed the old warrior. 62 The next day, at the direction of a tohunga, Te Waharoa was carried back to Matamata where he died about 20th September, 1838. 63

Te Waharoa died as he had lived, conforming to the manners and customs of his day. His responsibilities toward his tribe were mandatory and Maori society approved the manner in which he fulfilled them.

On the other hand, there was nothing compulsory about his arrangement with the missionaries. Yet, Brown, the uncompromising evangelical, could temper his final judgment on Te Waharoa with the declaration that he was the friend of the mission. 64

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  • BROWN, Alfred N., to Church Missionary Society, journal.
  • MORGAN, John, to Church Missionary Society, letters and journal; typescript.
  • WADE, William R., to Church Missionary Society, letters and journal extracts; typescript.
  • WILSON, John A., to Church Missionary Society, letters and journal; typescript.
  • BUCK, Sir Peter, 1949. The Coming of the Maori. Wellington, Maori Purposes Fund Board, Whitcombe & Tombs.
  • CONDLIFFE, J. B., and W. T. G. AIREY, 1953. A Short History of New Zealand. Auckland, Whitcombe & Tombs.
  • FENTON, F. D., 1879. Important Judgements delivered in the Compensation Court and Native Land Court 1866-1879. Published under the direction of the Chief Judge, Native Land Court.
  • GUDGEON, W. E., 1895. “The Maori Tribes of the East Coast of New Zealand.” Journal of the Polynesian Society, IV:30.
  • KELLY, Leslie, 1949. Tainui. Wellington. Polynesian Society Memoir No. 25.
  • ROGERS, Lawrence M., 1961. The Early Journals of Henry Williams. Christ-church, Pegasus Press.
  • SMITH, S. Percy, 1910. History and Traditions of the Taranaki Coast. Wellington, Memoirs of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 1.
  • WELCH, W., 1910. “The Waterloo of the Waikato.” Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, 42:114.
  • WILLIAMS, William, The Right Rev., 1867. Christianity Among the New Zealanders. London, Seeley, Jackson & Halliday.
  • WILSON, John Alexander [Judge], 1907. The Story of Te Waharoa. Christ-church, Whitcombe & Tombs.
1   Where no authority indicated for statements relative to the Ngatihaua after 9/4/1835, the author relies on his main source, the journal of the Rev. A. N. Brown.
2   The late Leslie Kelly, personal communication.
3   Subsequent to the publication of Tainui, investigations by the late Leslie Kelly established this as the correct spelling although it has become corrupted to Kawehitiki. Personal communication.
4   The late Leslie Kelly, personal communication.
5   ibid. Correcting Judge J. A. Wilson's statement which has been copied many times, that Te Waharoa was taken as a slave.
6   ibid.
7   Buck 1949:346.
8   The late Leslie Kelly, personal communication.
9   ibid.
10   Smith 1910:258.
11   vide Smith 1910.
12   Fenton 1879. Aroha Judgement (F. Maning and H. A. H. Monro).
13   1907.
14   Fenton 1879. Aroha Judgement.
15   Kelly 1949:384. Neither Kelly nor the Aroha Judgement support Welch's account which omits Te Waharoa's Ngati-maniapoto and Waikato allies altogether. Further, Welch's proposition that Te Waharoa was prepared to risk his small tribe against superior forces, is at variance with his generalship in later contests against the Arawa.
16   Fenton 1879. Aroha Judgement.
17   Wilson 1907:40.
18   Rogers 1961:230 and 279. The expedition of 1832 is notable for the assistance given the Ngapuhi at Tauranga by the European trader Tapsell.
19   J.P.S., IV:30.
20   Condliffe and Airey 1953:32.
21   ibid.:12.
22   A composite picture from missionary sources.
23   Rogers 1961:349 and 359.
24   See Williams 1867:196 and 197.
25   ibid.:195.
26   Brown journal, 31 August and 7 October, 1835; Wilson to C.M.S., 29 October, 1835. Wilson remained at Thames (Puriri), transferring to Tauranga on 5 January, 1836.
27   Brown journal.
28   Brown journal: 25 and 26 May, 1836.
29   ibid.: 12 June, 1835.
30   ibid.: 9 August, 1835.
31   ibid.: 9 August, 1835.
32   ibid.: 26 October, 1835.
33   ibid.: 9 April, 1836.
34   ibid.: 11 January, 1836.
35   ibid.: 22 March, 1836.
36   Kelly 1949:409. It is believed that this incident took place at Opureora, Matakana Island.
37   Wade journal: 25 March, 1836.
38   ibid.: 27 March, 1836.
39   ibid.: 29 March, 1836.
40   Brown journal: 30 March, 1836.
41   ibid.: 1 April, 1836.
42   ibid.: 12 April, 1836.
43   ibid.: 12 April, 1836.
44   ibid.: 1 May, 1836.
45   ibid.: 7 May, 1836.
46   ibid.: 9 May, 1836.
47   1949:417.
48   Brown journal: 27 and 28 May, 1836.
49   ibid., 18 June, 1836.
50   1907:113.
51   The late Leslie Kelly, personal communication.
52   Morgan and Knight to C.M.S., 14 September, 1836.
53   Brown journal.
54   ibid.: 16 December, 1936, and 20 January, 1837.
55   ibid.: 11 January, 1837.
56   ibid.: 18 January, 1837.
57   ibid.: 4 January, 1837.
58   ibid.: 14 December, 1836.
59   ibid.: 2 January, 1837.
60   ibid.: 3 January, 1837.
61   Later diagnosed as erysipelas.
62   Brown journal.
63   ibid.: 17-22 September, 1838.
64   ibid.