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Te Rauparaha - great Māori warrior
Chief of the Ngati-Toa tribe
Known as "The Napoleon of the South "

Born around 1768, died 1849

Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!
Tenei te tangata puhuru huru
Nana nei i tiki mai, Whakawhiti te ra
A upane! ka upane!
A upane! ka upane!
Whiti te ra! Hi!!

I die! I die! I live! I live!
I die! I die! I live! I live!
This is the hairy man
Who has caused the sun to shine again
The Sun shines!!

The Te Rauparaha haka is probably the best known of all hakas. Before each international match the All Blacks, New Zealand's national rugby team, chant the Te Rauparaha haka.

Māori history says that around 1820 some members of the enemy tribes Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato were pursuing Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha made his way to the Taupo area, (North Island) and requested help from the chief Tuwharetoa, who refused.

While skirting around the lakeside of Taupo, Te Rauparaha was almost caught by his enemies, who were lying in wait for him. Fleeing for his life, Te Rauparaha arrived at Motuopuhi, and asked the local chief Te Whareangi for protection. After some hesitation, Te Whareangi permitted Te Rauparaha to hide in his kumara (sweet potato) pit. Te Whareangi's wife, Te Rangikoaea then sat over the kumara pit.

As the pursuing enemies approached chanting incantations, Te Rauparaha, from the depths of the kumara pit, felt sure he was doomed, muttered Kamate Kamate (I die, I die). On not being discovered by his enemies he cried Ka Ora, Ka Ora (I live, I live). The hairy man who caused the sun to shine again! The sun shines!

This hairy man possibly refers to Te Wharerangi, noted for being a hairy man, and who had protected Te Rauparaha. In the literal sense, Upane means terrace, and each Upane possibly refers to each step Te Rauparaha took as he climbed the "terrace steps" out of the kumara pit and into the freedom of sunlight.

Te Rauparaha reportedly performed his Haka of joy before Te Wharerangi and Te Rangikoaea, once out of the kumara pit and into freedom.

"Tangata puhuruhuru" literally means "the hairy man". Although some accounts give "tangata puhuruhuru" as referring to the hairiness of Te Wharerangi, others indicate that this refers to linking the association of hairiness with bravery. An old French proverb says "II n'a pas de poils sur le ventre" (He has no hair = he is a coward). In the Great War, the French had a popular word for a soldier, "poilu".

Te Rauparaha's ancestor Hoturoa, a spiritual elder, was leader of the waka Tainui when it arrived in Aotearoa with one group of the first Polynesians. The Tainui eventually entered the harbour of Kawhia, on the west coast of the North Island, between Manukau and today's Whanganui, where Te Rauparaha's ancestors from the Tainui settled and prospered.

It is generally considered that Te Rauparaha was born in 1768, in Te Taharou near Kawhia, the year before Captain Cook's arrival in New Zealand. Te Rauparaha's father was Werawera, a chief of the Ngati Toarangatira (or Ngati-Toa) tribe. Te Rauparaha's mother was Parekohatu, from the Ngati Ruakawa tribe.

By the time of Te Rauparaha's birth the "Tainui" tribes occupied large areas of land around the Kawhia area. The branch of Te Rauparaha's "Tainui" tribe, Ngati-Toa, and the neighbouring Waikato tribe, became bitter enemies. Many inter-tribal wars took place between the Māori at this time. Tribal land belonged to the tribe as a whole, and as each tribal territory neighboured with that of another tribe, frequent boundary disputes arose.

If one Chief was affronted by the claims of another Chief, revenge (utu) would have to take place, leading to a tribal war. The Ngati-Toa and the Waikato tribes were continually at war with one another.

When Te Rauparaha was a young boy, his father Wera Wera was captured, killed and eaten during one such inter-tribal battle. (In those days, it was customary to eat the flesh of slain enemies, particularly the flesh of warrior chiefs).

Te Rauparaha married Marore when he was in his teens. Marore had been destined for Te Rauparaha from birth, as was the custom with high-ranking families. Te Rauparaha had five wives during his life.

As Te Rauparaha grew, he accompanied sections of the Ngati Toa tribe in battles around Kawhia. Te Rauparaha's first inter-tribal war action was to organise a war party to invade the Waikato county. Visiting tribesmen from this area had, albeit perhaps inadvertently, not shown enough respect toward Te Rauparaha's young wife, and Te Rauparaha wished for reparation. After the successful battle, Te Rauparaha returned to Kawhia with a number of prisoners, including the chief Te Haunga.

From this point, relations between the Ngati-Toa and the Waikato tribes deteriorated further still. The success of this skirmish was just the beginning of Te Rauparaha's destiny as a fierce and clever warrior. His rising qualities attracted the attention of the Ngati-Toa chiefs, and it was not long before Te Rauparaha established himself as a warrior to be reckoned with.

As yet, in his early days, Te Rauparaha and the tribes of the Kawhia area had not seen a European. The explorers and whalers were mainly in the Bay of Islands, further north. It was therefore the Northern tribes who found themselves in the favourable position of discovering, and then being able to trade for muskets.

Expeditions and "taua" (war parties) were frequently led by Te Rauparaha against the Waikato tribes. The two tribes were continually avenging each other for massacres, murders, fishing disputes or disputes over land. Te Rauparaha had also, in the meantime, become leader of the Ngati Ruakawa tribe, and as custom obliged, he married his fifth wife Te Akau, being the deceased Ngati Ruakawa chief's widow. The alliance of the Ngati-Toa with the Ngati-Ruakawa tribes served to greatly strengthen Te Rauparaha's force.

It is thought that Te Rauparaha managed to obtain his first firearms approximately around 1810 - 1815 from a related tribe, the Ngati Maru, from the Hauraki area.

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The Southern expedition

During 1819 - 1820 an expedition south was organised, with the combined presence of several Ngapuhi chiefs. The purpose was to avenge the deaths of those warriors killed in battle fighting the Waikato and Taranaki tribes. The Chiefs who led the southern expedition raids with were :

Te Rangihaeata
Te Rako
Te Kakakuru
Puaha Tamaihengia

By this time, they were all well armed with the musket.

The expedition was also to explore land in the south and, for Te Rauparaha's tribe, the search for a new home. Unceasing wars with the Waikato tribes had mounted a point where it was necessary to consider leaving Kawhia for settlement elsewhere in order to avoid a complete annihilation of the Ngati Toa people.

The expedition commenced by moving south to Taranaki and then east to the Ngati Maru tribal area, leading to a battle against the "pa" (fortified village) of Te Kerikeringa. The war party then moved south again through the Ngati Raunui tribal land, and on through the Whanganui area before arriving at Otaki, (bottom of the North Island) where the expedition remained for a while, resting.

The "taua" (war party) was large and strong in number. Armed with the firearm Te Rauparaha and his allies spread fear among enemy tribes. They were victorious in all their battles during the expedition. It was from Otaki that Te Rauparaha saw Kapiti Island, lying near to the entrance of the Raukawa Strait, which separated the North Island from the South Island.

The Māori name for the South Island is Te Wai Pounamu, meaning The Water of Greenstone (jade). Before returning to Kawhia in order to move his tribe south, Te Rauparaha made note of the strategic position of Kapiti Island, from where raids could be made to the South Island and its rich stores of greenstone.

On arrival back at Kawhia, Te Rauparaha discovered that the Waikato tribe had killed his first wife Marore. This led Te Rauparaha to retaliate, by organising the murder of a Waikato chief. This event led to further violent skirmishes with the Waikato before Te Rauparaha and his tribe eventually left Kawhia for the migration south to Otaki, which took place between 1821 - 1822.

Te Rauparaha spoke to his people of the advantages of the land to the south : the abundance of food supplies, the presence of greenstone, the "pakeha" (white man) trading ships, whereby muskets could be obtained.

It was around 1823, once settled in Otaki, that the Ngati-Toa decided to capture Kapiti, which was already inhabited by other tribes. After several unsuccessful attempts, Te Rauparaha finally succeeded in taking the coveted island. At the time, Kapiti was known as Te Warwae Kapiti o Tararaua Ko Rangitane, a name which signified the boundary line between the Rangitane tribe and the Ngati Tara tribe. Captain Cook had baptised Kapiti Island "Entry Island".

By 1828 Te Rauparaha was the master of the entire coast from Wanganui to Wellington, with the South Island within his reach from Kapiti. Europeans of dubious character assisted the Māori in their inter-tribal wars, the end goal being their own interests. In return for a supply of flax, for example, the brig Elizabeth, under the Command of Captain Stewart, willingly transported Te Rauparaha to Akaroa on the east coast of the South Island, so that the Ngati Toa could lead a raid against the unsuspecting Ngai Tahu tribe.

By 1832, after a series of further raids, Te Rauparaha controlled an area of the South Island extending from the Wairau (in the north) to Hokitika (on the west coast) and Akaroa. Te Rauparaha's greatest exploits were during the middle and late 1830's.

In 1839 the young Anglican missionary, Octavius Hadfield, twenty-five years old, arrived in the Kapiti area. Even though Te Rauparaha was never converted to Christianity, a friendship grew between the missionary and the warrior chief. Much later, at the Reverend Hadfield's request, Te Rauparaha helped build the Rangiatea Church in Otaki for the Ngati-Awa people, his former enemies. The church was built with Totara trees from Te Rauparaha's forest at Otaki. Rangiatea means "The Abode of the Absolute".

The church was completed in 1851, just two years after Te Rauparaha's death.


Rangiatea Church interior dated April 1995 by Graeme Simpson.

Copyright to Te Roopu Whakahaere o Rangiatea (Vestry)

Interior of the historic Rangiatea Church This image must not be reproduced or copied for sale, publication or promotion without permission from Te Roopu Whakahaere o Rangiatea

My sincere thanks to the Rangiatea Church vestry (Te Roopu Whakahaere o Rangiatea) for allowing me to incorporate this beautiful image within my website.


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The "Wairau affair" - 1843

(Click here for a map (25k) showing the position of the Wairau area)

Te Rauparaha, now established at Kapiti, commenced a flourishing trade with passing ships for guns, with a view to invading Te Wai Pounamu (The South Island). Flax and the cultivation of potatoes were in particular demand by passing traders. Trade was so successful that Ngati Toa soon had a higher ratio of guns than any other tribe south of the Bay of Islands.

The first taua which Te Rauparaha led into Te Wai Pounamu territory was around 1827 - 28. The warriors made their way up the river Awanui and into the Wairau, leading raids on the way. Once at Wairau there was a great battle. Four pa were taken by the Ngati Toa and many opposing warriors killed or captured. The Wairau was Te Rauparaha's first victory in the South Island, and where he established a hold.

It was some years later that Captain Stewart, of the brig "Elizabeth" willingly transported Te Rauparaha to Akaroa, in order to lead a taua against the Ngai Tahu tribe, inhabitants of large areas of the South Island.

By 1832 Te Rauparaha controlled an area of the South Island from the Wairau to Hakaroa on the east coast, and to Hokitika, on the west coast.

Meanwhile, on hearing rumours that the British Government was considering negotiating a Treaty with the Māori in 1839, and which would give the Crown pre-emptive rights over land sales, the New Zealand Company hastily sent it's ship "Tory" towards the Cook Strait area, with surveyors on board, who were to buy and then survey land for settlers. Captain William Wakefield was in charge, sent by his brother Edward Gibbon.

Back in London, the New Zealand Company was selling land which had not yet been bought from Māori chiefs in New Zealand.

Unclear and confused negotiations had been entered into concerning the sale of the Wairau Plain, in the South Island in 1839. Colonel Edward Wakefield, for the "New Zealand Company" - formed without the British Government's official approval - had been purchasing land via his agents in New Zealand before the Treaty of Waitangi had been signed.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield had gained doubtful notoriety in Great Britain by abducting a schoolgirl heiress, aided by his brother Colonel William Wakefield. He had formed his "systematic colonisation" theory while in prison. The basics of the theory were that land should be sold at a "reasonable price" so that labourers not accede to that statute of proprietor too rapidly, and that the proceeds of the sales be used to finance the voyage of "suitable" colonists.

Many future settlers were buying land from the Company, in spite of warnings from the British Government that it could not guarantee legal recognition of land bought from The New Zealand Company. The New Zealand Company determined to continue its operations, independent of the British Government's position.

Land at Port Whakatu had been purchased by The Company via negotiations with Te Rauparaha. However, it soon became evident that more settlers had purchased land than Port Whakatu could provide for. This fact was reported back to Colonel Edward Wakefield, along with the fact that the Wairau Plain, between Cape Farewell and Cape Campbell, would prove sufficient extra land to accommodate the settlers.

The Company declared that the Wairau area had been included in the land sale negotiated with Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha equally insisted that the Wairau area had not been sold, and warned the Company surveyors not to take action.

Not taking any notice of Te Rauparaha's warning, Company contractors left Nelson on 15th April 1843 to survey different parts of the Wairau area. On hearing of the forthcoming survey, tensions arose between the Company and these two mightiest chiefs in the south of the North Island, Te Rauparaha and his nephew Te Rangihaeata.

Wakefield continued to dismiss Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata's grievances, and sent another brother, Captain Arthur Wakefield, to conduct a survey on the land. This was immediately taken as provocation, and Te Rauparaha, accompanied by Te Rangihaeata and another warrior Hiko, made their way to Nelson to speak with Wakefield about the matter. The negotiations did not terminate successfully, Te Rauparaha claiming the Wairau had never been sold, Colonel Wakefield equally convinced that it belonged to The New Zealand Company.

The two chiefs ordered Wakefield to stop the survey. Wakefield refused to listen, and instructed his brother Arthur to continue surveying the Wairau land. In view of this further provocation, Te Rauparaha and his nephew Te Rangihaeta led a small party to interrupt the survey. The surveyors were taken, sent off in boats, and a surveyor's hut was burnt. The burning of the surveyor's hut was taken as an excellent excuse to arrest both Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeta on arson charges.

The issue of this charge was unwarranted as Te Rauparaha, although on Te Wai Pounamu land which had been taken in battle, and was, strictly speaking, not his to sell, had not included this land in the sale with the Wakefields.

However, the objective of the New Zealand Company was to remove Te Rauparaha in order to claim the Wairau. An armed posse of Europeans, including Chief Constable H. Thompson, set out to arrest Te Rauparaha. On arriving at Te Rauparaha's pa Thompson tried to handcuff the Warrior. Te Rangihaeta became infuriated, insisting that he was on his own land, saying the Māori did not go to England to take "pakeha" land. Fighting broke out, and nine Europeans and seven Māori were killed. Wakefield's men had to surrender.

During a discussion about the fate of the captives, Te Rauparaha may have been inclined to spare their lives. Te Rangihaeta, on the other hand, demanded "utu" (revenge) for the killing of his wife Te Rongo during the fighting. As "utu" was the Māori custom, Te Rauparaha ceded to his nephew's request. The thirteen European prisoners were therefore killed, including Arthur Wakefield. Te Rangihaeta killed most of the captives with his "mere" (club). This violence could have been averted had the decision by the Europeans to handcuff one of the country's mightiest warriors over a doubtful land sale not taken place.

The news of this outbreak of violence spread with shock throughout the colony, yet the official Governmental view was that the Māori had been provoked by Wakefield's reckless actions in continuing the land survey.

This event became known in New Zealand history as "The Wairau Affair".

Eventually, the Governor General of New Zealand, Governor Grey, captured Te Rauparaha. The dispute was over the Hutt area of land, in the Wellington area.

On 2 April 1846 a Ngati Rangatahi chief murdered two settlers. Te Rauparaha informed Grey by letter that the Ngati-Toa were not involved in this killing. Further raids took place by warriors against the settlers in this area. Te Rauparaha's nephew Te Rangihaeta was involved in the actions.

The Māori excelled as usual in their guerrilla type attacks, of which the European was totally unused to. Although Te Rauparaha did not take part in these raids, Wakefield, of "The New Zealand" company, made it constantly clear to Governor Grey that Te Rauparaha was untrustworthy. The complaint was that Te Rauparaha was making no move to stop his nephew's actions.

"The New Zealand Company" was still seeking to obtain the Wairau Plain area. On 23 July 1846 Grey, swayed by the unfounded reports from "The New Zealand Company", sent 200 men to capture Te Rauparaha. Although Te Rauparaha was one of the neutral chiefs in the wars with the Europeans, the excuse for his arrest was his secret support of Te Rangihaeta.

The British had been unable to capture Te Rangihaeta, so by taking the unwitting Te Rauparaha, famous and mighty chief, the Government probably hoped to renew the settler's confidence, and at the same time discourage support for Te Rangihaeta and his raids.

Te Rauparaha, by now aged and unwell, was not anticipating an arrest by Governor Grey. He was taken by surprise in his "pa", overcome, and taken by the Inspector of Police and his men. At no time did Te Rauparaha nor his warriors attempt to resist the capture. Te Rauparaha gave instructions to his son Tamihana, a converted Christian, that the tribes should not act in retaliation for his imprisonment.

Te Rauparaha was held for some time, without trial or charges. He was never brought to trial, but Grey eventually issued charges - vague and unfounded - aimed mainly at satisfying The New Zealand Company. According to the clergyman the Reverend Henry Williams, who visited Te Rauparaha during his confinement, Te Rauparaha and the Ngati Toa people never fully understood the reason for the warrior chief's arrest.

In January 1848 Grey finally released Te Rauparaha, after 18 months of imprisonment. Te Rauparaha returned to his Ngati-Toa tribe, who had been awaiting his return. At the time of his release, Te Rauparaha did not know that the sale of Ngati Toa land at Wairau had been a condition of his being freed.

Grey had bought the land which Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata had never sold. The New Zealand Company had been involved. It was Tamihana, Puaha and Matene Te Whiwhi who had signed over the Wairau to Grey. They had been informed that only the sale of the Wairau would ensure Te Rauparaha's freedom.

Te Rauparaha died on 27th November 1849.

Main source for research :
"Te Rauparaha - a new perspective" - Patricia Burns
"An Old New Zealander" - T.L. Buick
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Related Links
The official website of the historic Rangiatea Church
The Dictionary of New Zealand biography Extensive database of New Zealand biographies
Early Māori place names
Glossary of Māori words



 Please be aware that this website is a personal homepage. It would therefore be wise to cross check information which I have presented here. A list of many official New Zealand history sites may be found within my Links section.