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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



(1808 ?–88).

Maori chief.

A new biography of Kawepo, Renata Tama-ki-Hikurangi appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Renata Kawepo was born about 1808 in the Ngatiteupokoire hapu of the Kahungunu Tribe of southern Hawke's Bay. He was present at the head of his warriors at the actions at Omarunui, Wairoa (Hawke's Bay), Turanganui (Gisborne), Patutahi, Te Karetu, Ngatapa, and Te Porere. This last engagement was under Colonel McDonnell against Te Kooti on the plain north-east of Mount Tongariro. Here he had an eye gouged out by the wife of a Hauhau with whom he was in personal combat, and he is famed for his refusal to allow his followers to kill her in revenge. Although Kawepo furnished 300 warriors to aid the Government in the Te Kooti campaign, no payment was made – even for the rations his men consumed. For this reason Kawepo and his tribesmen were forced to sell land to the Pakeha to pay the expenses of protecting them.

Despite his consistent support of Pakeha law and order, this dignified chief of the old school refused Government pay, the proffered rank of Major, and even a seat in the House of Representatives and, later, in the Legislative Council – because, as he claimed, his position as a high chief was sufficient rank in itself. The only reward he would accept for his services was the Queen's Sword of Honour.

by Walter Hugh Ross, Journalist, Taupo.

  • Defenders of New Zealand, Gudgeon, T. W. (1887)
  • Reminiscences of the War in New Zealand, Gudgeon, T. W. (1879)
  • Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. 65, No. 3 (1956), Sorrenson, M. P. K.


Walter Hugh Ross, Journalist, Taupo.