Volume 61 1952 > Volume 61, No. 3 + 4 > Te Puea Herangi, C.B.E. - 1884-1952, by Eric Ramsden, p 192-208
TE PUEA HERANGI, C.B.E. 1884-1952
MAORIDOM has always accorded a privileged position to its nobly born women. But the influence of such women has, almost invariably, been confined to their own tribes. It can be claimed for the late Te Puea Herangi, C.B.E., who died at Ngaruawahia on October 12, 1952, that her mana extended far beyond those sections of the Maori people, which, for three-quarters of a century now, have supported the Kiingitanga, or Maori King Movement, people who, in the main, descend from the Tainui canoe. It can also be said of her that no Maori woman has ever been held in higher respect and deeper affection by both races in New Zealand. It should not be forgotten that Te Puea, long recognised as the power behind the Maori throne, belonged to the Taihauauru, the West Coast tribes, people who have always imposed certain bans upon her sex.
Te Puea always acknowledged the supremacy of her male relatives of the kahui ariki 1, and ever, in public, deferred to them. Though she had an excellent command of both Maori and English, it was seldom that she could be induced to stand and speak At one period there was considerable pressure upon her to contest the Western Maori seat. It is even possible that, despite the Ratana Movement's control of that constituency (which was once the perquisite of the Maori King), she might have been elected. However, she was sufficiently wise not to risk defeat. The reason that she gave for not standing was adequate—she was not a man. When she learned that Mrs. Iriaka Ratana, the present member, was determined to break the kawa, Te Puea made the cryptic remark: “If the hen crows, screw its neck!”
Always Te Puea deferred to her cousin, King Koroki—just as she had deferred to his father, King Te Rata, and to his grandfather, King Mahuta. All three leaders she served - 193 with singular devotion and loyalty. Yet everyone knew that, for the past thirty years, she was the dominant figure in the Kiingitanga, that no policy decision was made without her approval. Under Mahuta she served a stern apprenticeship. In Te Rata's day her viewpoint was never questioned. Koroki, only on one occasion—at least to my knowledge—disobeyed her. The incident took place a few weeks after the death of his father in 1933. Without consulting Te Puea, the young King was spirited away by Haunui Tawhiao to visit the late prophet W. T. Ratana. Always, relentlessly, she had opposed inroads by Ratana in Waikato, believing that Ratana ascendency would mean the end of the Kiingitanga. At one period Ratanaism almost split Waikato. Piupiu Te Wherowhero, her first cousin, became an enthusiastic follower of the sect, and Haunui (who then enjoyed considerable prestige as the only surviving son of King Tawhiao), also joined it. That Ratana did not achieve his object in Waikato was due, without doubt, to Te Puea.
Te Puea and the prophet never met.
But on one occasion there was almost a meeting. Te Puea was then travelling with her party of entertainers in the Rangitikei district. When, with her girls, she was dressing for an evening performance, she was informed that Ratana was without and desired to speak to her. At once she ordered the girls to strip, and she discarded her own clothing. Ratana, who was not accustomed to being kept waiting, became impatient: he walked to the door and looked into the room. To gaze upon a woman of Te Puea's rank, under such circumstances, was, of course, unthinkable. Appreciating her point, he turned away. I have heard Te Puea chuckle when relating the story.
I well recall an occasion, years later, when Te Rata left Waahi in the early hours of the morning, and made what could hardly be termed a Royal progress in a milk waggon, to avoid meeting Ratana. The King took refuge at Waiuku with his cousin, Te Puea.
Te Puea was born on November 10, 1884, at Whatiwhatihoe, the year in which her grandfather, King Tawhiao, visited England on a fruitless quest to obtain justice from the British Government for the loss of confiscated lands. - 194 Her mother was Tiahuia, the King's daughter, a high-spirited and independent-minded young woman who, when sixteen years old, fell in love with Te Tahuna Herangi, a half-caste of Ngati Maniapoto, and, thereafter, refused to marry the young Waikato chief, Tuteao, who was intended for her.
For seven years Tiahuia and Te Tahuna lived together before Tawhiao recognised the union. There was a period when Te Tahuna was banished from Waikato. Of the issue of that union, only one daughter, Hera, the eldest child, is now living. Wanakore died not long before Te Puea. Te Ngaehe and Te Atarua died earlier. Te Puea, therefore, was not the eldest born, though such was her character that, even in her teens, she was acknowledged as the outstanding member of the family.
Te Tahuna's father was William N. Searancke, a surveyor who came to this country in the early 'forties. Educated at Eton, he came of a family of clergy and lawyers from St. Albans, England, that had then been in that country for at least four generations. Te Puea always accepted the assertion that she came of German stock, though she knew nothing of the origin of her Pakeha forbears, and bore the opprobrium, during the years of the first world war and later, of being called “the German woman.” Just what was the origin of the Searancke family has not been established to my knowledge. Being called a German never worried her unduly. “Is not the King of England of German descent!” I have heard her ask. Prior to Hariata (Te Puea's grandmother), Searancke had had another Maori wife. But as this woman bore no children, another member of the family, Hariata, was given to him. Such a practice was not unusual in Maori circles at that time. Searancke's association with Hariata and the children she bore him does not reflect any particular credit upon him. When war clouds gathered in Waikato in the early 'sixties, Searancke left his little Maori family on the Waipa River, and does not appear to have had anything more to do with them. Soon after, in the Whangarei district, he married a Pakeha woman, and there was issue also of that union. Information that established the English residence of Searancke's ancestors was given me some years ago in Hamilton by his only surviving daughter. But the legend - 195 that Te Puea was of German extraction, and, indeed, possessed German sympathies, has never entirely died.
Later in life Searancke returned to Waikato as a magistrate. His letters show that he reported regularly to the Government on Maori happenings there. At one time it was feared, particularly when Te Kooti was in the King Country, that there might be another uprising. Searancke can hardly be accused of possessing any Maori sympathies. Te Puea saw him only once. The occasion was a Maori meeting at Mercer, and there was no contact. The Pakeha was merely pointed out to her as her grandfather. The name Herangi that she always used is, of course, the Maori version of Searancke. There are numerous descendants from other children, apart from Te Tahuna, of Searancke and Hariata: some call themselves Searancke, but the majority prefer Herangi. Major Monty Searancke, a Maori descendant, served overseas in the last war with the Maori Battalion, and returned as its adjutant.
Te Puea was only fourteen years old when she lost her mother. Thenceforth, there was no one to correct her. In her teens she entered upon a wild, turbulent, headstrong career that eventually caused much suffering to her uncle, Mahuta, the only person who appears to have exercised any influence upon her. It was a decadent period in Waikato history. The first time that the late Taiporutu Mitchell saw Te Puea she entered the room, carrying a teapot full of whisky, followed by her poi maidens. Over indulgence in liquor was then the general rule in Waikato. Te Puea's marriage to a Pakeha, and her subsequent residence in Auckland for a time, estranged her from Mahuta. However, it can be said that Mahuta was always the dominating influence in her life: she idolised him, and revered his memory until the end. When her first marriage ended unhappily, Te Puea returned to the Waikato tribes. Thereafter, she completely identified herself with the Maori people.
It was fortunate for Te Puea that Tiahuia had insisted upon some schooling at Mangere and Mercer. Furthermore, she had a good grounding in the Bible from her father, Te Tahuna. What Pakeha learning she acquired was eventually to stand her in good stead. Maori was, of course, her mother tongue. With written English she was always self-conscious, though she spoke the language well. The valuable journals - 196 which, in subsequent years, she compiled so methodically night after night, are written in Maori. Hera, her sister, speaks no English at all. The sisters have always provided an extraordinary contrast. While Hera is acknowledged as the leader of the Waiuku community, no one would, for example, think of addressing her as Princess, the title that was observed by many people of both races when speaking to Te Puea. It was one that the latter never liked. More often than not she would say: “Call me Te Puea!” Neither did Wanakore, their brother, make any particular imprint upon Waikato: nevertheless, he was Tawhiao's grandson, a member of the kahui ariki. Incidentally, it was Te Puea who arranged the marriage of his daughter, Te Ata i rangi kaahu, to her cousin, King Koroki.
If Te Puea's association with her Pakeha grandfather Searancke was slight, so was that with her Maori grandfather, Tawhiao. Te Puea had only one outstanding memory of him. Once, when playing marbles with other children, she noticed that an observer of the game was wearing boots. Footwear was unusual in Waikato in those days. Glancing up, she saw the tattooed features of the King. Te Puea regarded her grandfather with such awe, that she immediately ran away.
Te Puea first came into real prominence in Kingite circles when a request was made in 1911 by certain Taranaki chiefs that Mahuta should support their young kinsman Maui Pomare as a candidate for the Western Maori seat. Pomare recalled to the King how Te Rauparaha, almost a century before, had saved the life of Te Wherowhero (later the first Maori King), at Okoki. Henare Kaihau, the sitting member, however, wielded considerable influence in Waikato: indeed, some people, who believed him to be Mahuta's evil genius, thought that the latter could not, even if he so desired, break with him. “Return, O son,” replied Mahuta, “in three days for my answer.” The King cast his mantle about Pomare. He then sent for Te Puea. To her was entrusted the task of organising on behalf of Pomare up and down the Waikato River. Mahuta himself took no part in the campaign.
For years, thereafter, Te Puea was a person of considerable importance in Maori politics. But when her own people - 197 declined to support Pei Te Hurinui, her choice for the seat—the tide of Ratanaism was, of course, then too strong—she declined to have anything more to do with politics. That was her attitude until the end.
Te Puea's social work began when her people suffered from a severe outbreak of chicken-pox. Realising their plight (for, at that time, no Waikato would accept hospital treatment), she succoured them, and adopted the orphaned children. Again, during the outbreak of pneumonic influenza in 1918, she acted in the same manner. In all, though she never had a child of her own, she raised more than 40 children but actually, some 100 orphans came under her immediate influence. The tamariki, as she referred to them, subsequently proved to be an important and influential leaven throughout Waikato when she proceeded with the work that led to the establishment of the model Turanga-waewae pa at Ngaruawahia.
Towards the close of the first world war conscription was applied to Waikato-Maniapoto youth, an action that was bitterly resented locally, and widened still further the breach between those tribes and the Government. It was an ill-advised move, one that achieved nothing. Te Rata gave Te Puea the leadership of a passive resistance movement. Waikato held the view that as Tawhiao had said, when he submitted to the Government, there would be no more bloodshed, they could not, in conscience, take up arms. That the police were not attacked when they came to Mangatawhiri, where Te Puea was encamped with her followers, was due entirely to her. The late Teuira Te Heuheu (who was at one time the wife of Taipu, Mahuta's son), once described the scene to me. Te Puea's control over the enraged people, she said, was truly remarkable. Switch in hand, she walked up and down, betraying no emotion though the people moaned in their anguish. Teuira saw the late Te Rauanga-anga, another of Mahuta's sons, carried away. If Te Puea had but raised her finger, she said, the people would have attacked the police. This, incidentally, is a phase of Waikato history that has never received adequate attention. One of the youths then taken away by force was Tumokai Katipa, whom Te Puea subsequently married. He was then but sixteen years old, and, of course, ineligible for military service. That unhappy period, during which the Waikato - 198 tribes suffered much privation, and rendered themselves extremely unpopular, certainly established Te Puea's influence in Kiingitanga circles. Henceforth, her decisions were never challenged seriously.
But there was opposition to her when, in 1928, she threw her weight behind the communal farming proposals of Sir Apirana Ngata. Though Te Rata and others of her own family supported her, Te Puea had to accept the bitter epithet of “Mrs. Government.” Between Ngata and Te Puea there was always complete understanding. As a young man the former took the trouble to go to Waikato and study a people who were, obviously, out of step with the other tribes: he wanted to know why they were so opposed to progress. Ngata not only understood the Waikato viewpoint but, as he told me years later, he came to the conclusion that, for sheer intellectual ability, the Waikatos had no superiors in any other tribe. The weakness of Waikato was, however (because of the anti-Government policy, which included non-attendance at State schools), there were few educated leaders. When I first knew Te Puea she would not permit any child to attend school. That was the then accepted Waikato viewpoint. In later years, of course, she changed her attitude.
Ngata also had shown practical sympathy with Te Puea in the days when she was travelling about the country with a concert party, comprising the “children” she had adopted, raising funds for the Ngaruawahia settlement. Learning that Ngata was in Napier on one occasion, Te Puea and her husband went to see him. “No, do not proceed along the East Coast now,” Ngata told her. “Come next year when I give you the word.” Also, he told her to come as King Tawhiao's granddaughter—not as the entrepreneur of a concert party. If disappointed, she accepted his advice. When, later, the Waikatos visited the East Coast, they were received with the respect that tradition demanded for a leader of Te Puea's rank. When the time came to name the first carved house that she built at Turangawaewae to Ngata was given that honour. Mahinarangi, 2 the celebrated - 199 ancestress who, by her marriage with Turongo, had united the Tairawhiti and the Taihauauru, was the name he selected. The next house that she erected was called Turongo.
Undoubtedly, that association between Ngata and Te Puea was the turning point in the latter's life. Though the Waikatos toiled assiduously at Waiuku, clearing gorse and blackberry and bringing land that had been out of use for years into productivity, there were troubles. Owing to resentment over the attitude of a Pakeha supervisor at one stage, Te Puea returned to Ngaruawahia. It is doubtful whether she would have returned to Waiuku for any other person but Ngata. The latter arranged, eventually, that Te Puea should take over another piece of land at Tikitere, on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. To settle Waikatos among their old enemies, Te Arawa, was a radical departure. Yet it succeeded. To this day there are Waikatos still farming in that area.
In 1932 Ngata and his scheme encountered much criticism. Though the success of that phase of his work is now universally recognised, Ngata was eventually forced to leave the Cabinet. “Our poor Native Minister is having a rough time in the House,” Te Puea wrote to me that year. “It is only jealousy. There is no other man like him in Parliament . . . God bless him! May he retain the fighting spirit.” The people were then preparing for Christmas: though in the midst of an economic depression, there was ample food: “Each housewife will be able to get good kai—roast pork, puddings, jam tart . . . Each wife is anxious to compete with her neighbour for the best table . . . This is great fun. What a lovely life! It is a clean life: there is no time for mischief.” In the same letter, she added: apropos of the work at Tikitere: “I have started grubbing gorse. Ngata must think I am very fond of gorse as, on the land we are working, it is as thick as grass . . . Our work has opened the eyes of Te Arawa. In all their lives they have never seen such work.” While she gloried in the open air life times, nevertheless, were difficult. The following February (1933) she wrote: “There has been much sickness among our people—so much that I have had to get a doctor to look after them. Goodness knows when I will be able to pay the bills. They are quite beyond my wages. Those who are not under - 200 the scheme are finding it very difficult even to live. Ngata, of course, is trying to do his best to help. But his colleagues in the House are watching all his movements.” There was also a constant battle against ill-health. “I cannot remember how long I have been in bed,” Te Puea wrote in May, “but I am getting better . . . I think the doctor is making too much fuss over me. All my children are looking very sad. Those at Hakono, after milking time, come here to see me, and sometimes they go back after midnight.” That year she was constantly travelling between the different farms under the scheme. In June she returned from Rotorua to Waahi because of the illness of Te Rata. “I am here also to protect him from any interference from Ratana,” she remarked. “If Rata would only eat, we might pull him through . . . He just managed to whisper your name. I think he meant to send you some kind message . . . Whenever I get tired in body and mind I read your letters. They refresh me, and I am then full of joy and fight . . . I do wish my people occupied their rightful position. All I want to do is to serve them with all my body and my soul . . .” After a lengthy recital of Waikato history in reply to a query, she returned to present-day conditions: “Times are hard. It is difficult to clothe the people. I have made twenty quilts out of sacks. With a cheap cretonne over them they look quite attractive. I have made many pairs of pants for the small boys out of sugar bags: they are very warm. This will be a hard winter for the Maori.”
Writing on October 16, 1933, in one of the most poignant of her letters, Te Puea told of the death of Te Rata:—
“Words cannot express the sorrow that is in my heart. My ariki has gone, never to return. He was my King, my friend, my companion. Poor Te Rata—he was a very sick man. Perhaps this is the best way: at least he is saved from suffering. He is in God's hands. But God! how I miss him! . . . On September 28 I went to see him on my way to Rotorua. Te Rata said: ‘You are a very busy woman. You must not stay.’ I had not the slightest idea that he would die so soon . . .”
Travelling all night from Rotorua Te Puea arrived at Waahi pa to hear the wailing of the women:—
“I was too late. His last word was for me . . . When I think of him waiting for me and calling for me my heart just breaks. I am numb with pain . . . As I walked into the room and stood at his bedside I felt that it was a dream. I asked - 201 him: ‘Te Rata, why are you lying there? I have come at your request. Talk to me! Look at me!’ I did not know what I was saying—not for two hours . . . Then I came to my senses and realised that he was gone, that he could never come back to me.
“Ah! the pain in my heart! He was the only one that I loved and worked for, because he was my King, a King in name only, a King with a broken kingdom, and I was his only support. We were such real friends. There were no secrets between us . . .”
On October 2 Koroki went to Te Puea and begged her not to force him to take his father's place. “He thought he was not a fit person to carry out the wishes of the people,” she wrote. “Besides, said Koroki, the people are so poor. How can they think of appointing another King? Waikato had no land to support a king, no footstool on which he could rest his feet. I was greatly attracted to the boy because of the way he looked at things. I did not think he had such depths in him. I told him he had to observe the law, the custom, the tradition, of the people . . . I think he will be a favourite among the people. He has a strong will of his own. He has always looked to me . . . I warned him to be very careful not to sign anything unless there was someone present whom he could trust, and I explained matters to him as best I could . . . I have dressed the boy from head to foot to fit him for his place . . . I have settled all his father's accounts . . . so that he will have a clean start. I have banked £100 for him. Later I will do my best to fill that (bank) book for him. I think Koroki has had a better start than his father had . . .”
Ngata's resignation from the Government in 1934 was another bitter blow. For a period Te Puea had no friend at court. After the Labour Government came into office in 1935 her relations with its Ministers were extremely friendly, and both the then Prime Minister (Mr. Savage) and his successor (Mr. Fraser) were most sympathetic towards her work. There is a reference in another letter to a meeting at Tikitere between Te Puea and the then Prime Minister, Mr. Forbes. The latter, seated on a butter box in her whare, listened to her complaint. With Ngata out of office she felt bereft. One complaint concerned a refusal to let her girls have the proceeds from the sale of kauri gum which they collected after the land was ploughed. Forbes kept his word that the girls should have the little reward for their extra labour. Every penny then counted. - 202 The money was used communally for the purchase of food and clothing.
One of the few radio speeches made by Te Puea was a tribute to Ngata, following his death, in 1950. Though in failing health herself, she made the journey by motorcar to Waiomatatini for his burial, and also arranged that one of his granddaughters, who had been raised in Waikato and was unknown to her East Coast people, should visit Ngati Porou and make the monetary offering, on Waikato's behalf, that tradition demanded on such an occasion. But Te Puea was too ill to leave her motorcar, and sat in it throughout the tangihanga. Later, she was persuaded to enter an Auckland radio studio by Maharaia Winiata, and, in Maori, spoke thus: “To the islands of Aotearoa and Te Waipounamu, greetings! To the people of the country, greetings—greetings in the spirit of our elder, Ngata, who has fallen on the East Coast! I am deeply grieved. I lament. I am sad. The man who has upheld the treasures of the old Maori world has departed. So, therefore, my elder, depart. The whole world knew you, Maori and Pakeha alike. All knew you. Depart! The old Maori world dies with you. The mana and the tapu of the old world have gone with you. Depart! depart O my friend on your canoe! Return to Hawaiki! Return to your ancestors, who will, doubtless, embrace you! My greetings to you, the people. My greetings to you who are now orphans.”
This record, which is in the possession of the Maori Affairs Department, is perhaps unique. Even if it reveals the difficulty under which she spoke, because of the asthmatic condition from which she was never free towards the last, the speech was delivered with characteristic vehemence.
I recall one summer's night when Te Puea and I sat together at Onehunga, and we spoke of Koroki and the Kiingitanga. The latter was, of course, the motivating force of her life. “Do you know,” she said. “I never cared much for Koroki before he became King. Ngati Koroki, his mother's people, spoilt him.” Te Puea then revealed why she had insisted upon Koroki taking his father's place as the fifth King, and ensuring the succession. One night, she continued, Mahuta came to her in a dream, leading a child - 203 by the hand: “The boy clung to Mahuta, but the latter urged him towards me. I knew what Mahuta meant—Koroki was to be the next King. . .”
Then, she added: “I am very fond of that boy, and he is fond of me. When he appears on the marae he likes me to sit near him. I sit close to his feet, because that gives him greater confidence. We understand each other now.” That faith was maintained until the end of Te Puea's life. To her the Kiingitanga was a sacred trust, Koroki's destiny one that he could not escape. That she lived to restore the King Movement to something approaching its stature in Tawhiao's time, and gained for it an enhanced respect from both races was, perhaps, the achievement that gave her greatest satisfaction. By her selfless devotion to its ideals, Te Puea won much sympathy for the Kiingitanga, even among tribes who had opposed it for several generations. Such were her organising powers, her undoubted charm as a hostess, that it became an honour to be invited to a hui at Ngaruawahia, especially when the guest was accorded the privilege of the King's dining-room. There she entertained on a scale, likewise with a grace, never before known in Maori circles. Those last years were a marked contrast to the days when she had scoured the countryside for food. Te Puea's ability as a hostess won from Lady Buck the comment that she had not tasted better prepared and served food at the Warldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York!
Always essentially practical, there was generally some object behind one of her carefully planned functions. To the last she was concerned with improving the amenities at Turangawaewae. Te Puea did not achieve all upon which she set her heart. But she was enabled to accomplish far more than most people in her life's span. The last project that she established, significantly enough, was a timber mill. But the grandiose scheme for another large house to face the Waikato River did not materialise. No Government, when timber and other materials were in urgent demand for private housing, could have sanctioned it. In most matters, however, when dealing with the Government towards the end of her life, she had her way. The late Peter Fraser, when Prime Minister, once remarked: “Give her what she wants! Only keep her quiet!” From Savage she demanded that a certain Maori Affairs Department officer - 204 should be made a judge of the Maori Land Court. “I do not propose to leave your office,” she told the then Prime Minister, “until you say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’!” The appointment was made in accordance with her wish. Te Puea often succeeded by such methods where it would have been impossible for a man. Like Ngata, she never stood in awe of the holders of high office.
There were times when Ngata wondered whether Turangawaewae, following Te Puea's death, would not suffer the same fate as Parihaka, to which, in Te Whiti's time, thousands of Maoris had flocked. Parihaka is now a practically deserted village. Te Puea and her husband, however, took over a farm near the marae, improved it, paid off the mortgage, and, it is believed this land will eventually provide sustenance for the upkeep of Turangawaewae. While intended as a home for the homeless, it was also her aim that the pa should provide a worthy setting for the Maori King. Indeed, it has become more than that: the village is a source of inspiration to every Maori who has visited it. While she lived Te Puea ruled Turangawaewae with an iron rod. Particularly strict was her ban against taking liquor there. Members of her own family were at times made an example of for infringing the rule, and were fined.
Te Puea not only placed the Kiingitanga on a substantial footing, ensured its continuation for many years to come, and enhanced its mana among all tribes, but she did more than any other person to restore Waikato's pride in its heritage. But for her the rivercraft, for which her people were once renowned, would have died. Te Puea also restored carving in Waikato. In the early period at Turangawaewae, though the art is a male one, she took chisel in hand and carved certain work—just as, later, she learnt to drive a tractor with the idea of encouraging her people.
In Maori circles she has a reputation as a poet, a sage, a seer. Many of the songs now familiar enough in many parts of the country were her compositions. Indeed, she acquired such mana that, at times, Maoris pressed near her just to touch her clothes. This woman, who was much malinged, often misunderstood and criticised in ignorance, was deeply spiritual. It was Te Puea who was responsible for reopening the door in Waikato to the established religions. - 205 Though she always refused Christian baptism, preferring the Hauhau ritual, she was an essentially religious woman. Karakia was always conducted in her presence twice daily—at 7 in the morning and at the same hour in the evening. The boys and girls working in the cow-bails or in the fields, would know that its owner had transgressed in some way, invariably sit near the door. There was a psychological reason for that action. Every person had to pass her on leaving the room. If there was the flicker of an eyelid she would know that its owner had trespassed in some way. That person would be detained for a quiet talk, which always ended in a confession. Te Puea was also responsible for the return of the Hauhau form of worship to Waikato.
Towards all religions she was tolerant in the extreme.
On a Sunday at Turangawaewae it was not unusual for three or four services, all conducted by different denominations, to take place in the pa. When she lay in death on the mahau of Mahinarangi a Roman Catholic priest, only a few feet from her body, celebrated mass. But at the same time the bell was ringing to call the Hauhau followers to morning prayers in another part of the pa.
Where Tawhiao and his successors failed Te Puea succeeded—she secured from the Government compensation for the long outstanding raupatu, or land confiscation, grievance. If that was her most signal material accomplishment—it meant the payment of £6,000 for 50 years, and, after that, £5,000 for all time—it was not the financial settlement that gratified her as much as the tacit admission that her people had been unjustly treated in the past. The full repercussions of that settlement have not yet been appreciated. A new generation of educated leaders has yet to arise who will, it is hoped, take advantage, through the Tainui Trust Board, of the latter's financial resources now available for education and other measures. By the removal of this ancient grievance, which had remained open like a festering wound, Te Puea did more than anything else to bring her people into step with other tribes. Ngata, in a letter written to myself on April 29, 1946, commented as follows:—
“The Waikato settlement, virtually agreed to in 1935, and confirmed by Savage at Ngaruawahia in 1936, has overborne the die-hards like Marae Edwards. The only criticism one can offer is that Waikato should have pressed for a lump payment - 206 for the £50,000 deemed to have accumulated since 1936, instead of spreading it over 50 years. When talking to Te Puea over the 'phone last Friday she was about to sign the settlement, had the personnel of the Trust Board then ready, and seemed satisfied that the matter was finalised in her lifetime . . .”
In her wisdom, appreciating the fact that a substantial half-loaf was better than no bread at all, Te Puea, by accepting, left her people better off economically than at any period within living memory. There is still an element, of course, that calls for the return of Waikato's old boundaries, something that no Government, at this late stage, could give. It is probably true, as has been suggested, that hitherto the time was not ripe for a settlement. As Ngata has stated—another Government prepared the way, though it is to the credit of the Fraser Administration that it effected a settlement. Yet if there had been no Te Puea, the probability is there would have been no final agreement for some years.
No good cause in any part of the country appealed in vain to her. Te Puea's interests were in no sense parochial. To the end she waged a war, unsuccessfully, for the retention of Orakei pa for the Maori people in Auckland. Always interested in her fellow Polynesians, for some years, with the same lack of success, she fought the battle of a litigant who had appealed to her from Aitutaki, though she had not then seen the man. In recent years she was actively concerned with the Maori Women's League, of which she was patron.
No review of Te Puea's life would be complete without reference to her husband, Tumokai Katipa. “I do not love him as a husband,” she once told me. “I love him as a god!” Te Puea was then 56 years old, and, as she observed, was “too old for love.” “He has been a wonderful husband and friend to me,” she declared. The relationship, in Pakeha eyes, might have appeared a curious one. When he was selected to be her spouse, Tumokai was only in his teens. Previously, Te Puea had been married to a member of the Te Heuheu family, of Taupo. The union was childless. Waikato was anxious that she should bear a child—as, indeed, was her own wish. Disparity in ages made no difference: the marriage with Tumokai was a singularly happy one. If there was no issue from it, children were adopted from time to time, and it was fruitful in other ways. - 207 Nothing ever gave Te Puea greater satisfaction than when Ngata, on the floor of the House, paid tribute to Tumokai's outstanding competence as a farmer.
During the most important, certainly the most constructive, years of her life, Tumokai was her champion, a faithful servant, ever solidly behind her in her work for the people. Both at Waiuku and at Tikitere, on the development projects, he worked with her, and later he undertook the successful management of her farm at Ngaruawahia. More than once Te Puea offered to provide him with another wife, a gesture that was characteristically rangatira, so that he might have a child of his own. Yet she was sufficiently a woman to remark: “Of course, it was my intention to have gone away for a time.” Nevertheless, she wanted to mother the issue of such union. Tumokai refused her proposals. To the last he was her devoted companion: he never forgot her superior rank, and the path of a Prince Consort, even in Maori society, is often beset with difficulties. During those last days and nights on the marae of Turangawaewae he sat beside her coffin, and, with the many others who had served Te Puea so faithfully, he accompanied her on the final journey along the Waikato River to the resting place of the kahui ariki on the brow of Taupiri's sacred mount.
There her body was received with the cry that was heard when her grandfather, Tawhiao, was buried at Taupiri:—
Lie lonely before me:
Weep long for the lost one,
It is known, of course, that Tawhiao's burial did not take place following his tangihanga in 1894 at Taupiri. There was a fear that it might be interfered with because of his elaborately tattooed moko. But the remains were eventually taken from hiding, and placed with the bodies of other members of his family, for whom, in accordance with the wish expressed by Tawhiao, there can never be any headstones. In death, declared the King, all are equal. Therefore, it can be taken for granted that there will be no memorial to Te Puea at Taupiri. Because of the opposition of his strong-willed wife, Te Marae, Mahuta was not buried - 208 at Taupiri, but at Waahi. However, Te Puea saw to it that the body was eventually taken to the resting place of the kahui ariki. Also, on one occasion she travelled to Taupo and argued all night for the return of the small son, called Potatau after his father, the first Maori king. The child had been carried to Taupo on the back of a slave following Waikato's defeat at Matakitaki, and died there. Te Puea interred his bones more than a century later at Taupiri . . .
Well might Waikato wail, for they would never again see her like, that rain-swept October day when she, too, was placed at Taupiri to rest:—
Where is our lady?
Lo she stands there above you
At the shrine of her fathers . . .
Like rain our tears fall fast.
We weep for the lady.
1 Term used to describe Waikato's highest chiefly family.
2 A recently discovered letter from Ngata to Sir Peter Buck has revealed that Te Puea wanted to call the house Potatau, but Ngata reminded her of her financial obligation to his own people, and they decided upon Mahinarangi.