KEPA, Te Rangihiwinui (Major Kemp)
A new biography of Te Rangihiwinui, Te Keepa appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Te Rangihiwinui Kepa was a chief of Putiki, Wanganui, and the son of Rere-o-Maki and Tunguru. Before the outbreak of the Maori Wars on the west coast (1864–69), he served in the Police Force and later acted as mail courier between Wanganui and Wellington. In 1864 he was appointed native assessor to the Rotorua district Maori Land Court. When war broke out in the same year, Kepa received a commission as ensign in the native contingent. He was present at the Moutoa Island battle in 1864, with Sir George Grey at Weraroa (1865), and at Pipiriki. In 1865 he took part in the operations around Opotiki after Volkner's murder. In 1867–68 he served under Colonel McDonnell in Taranaki, and in 1869 distinguished himself on the west coast with Whitmore.
One of Kepa's outstanding actions was at Moturoa on 7 November 1868 when, at the head of a small force of warriors from his tribe, he covered a flank of the retreat and assisted in the removal of the wounded, although exposed to a very heavy fire at short range. In the following year he again displayed great gallantry in conducting the pursuit of Titokowaru's followers after their defeat at Otautu on 13 March 1869, hanging on their rear, and constantly harrassing them during several days in dense bush. His force on that occasion – so states the official report – “was composed entirely of volunteers, several officers and many men of the Armed Constabulary having volunteered to follow this distinguished chief, besides the members of his own tribe”.
For these deeds Kepa was awarded the New Zealand Cross on 20 September 1876. He was also a recipient of one of Queen Victoria's Swords of Honour. Kepa served in the campaign against Te Kooti and was present at the Tapapa engagement, where he captured all Te Kooti's horses, and at Porere. After the war Kepa was Government Land Purchase Officer at Wanganui but he soon lost favour with the ministry when he and Kawana Hunia, to a certain extent trading on Kepa's war record, laid claim to a portion of the Horowhenua Block.
Kepa died on 15 April 1898.
Te Rangihiwinui Kepa is not to be confused with Constable Henare Kepa Te Ahururu, of the Armed Constabulary, who also won the New Zealand Cross for a magnificent deed of valour at Moturoa Pa.
by Walter Hugh Ross, Journalist, Taupo.
- Roll of the New Zealand Cross (MS), Turnbull Library
- New Zealand Wars (2 vols.), Cowan, J. (1955)
- Defenders of New Zealand, Gudgeon, T. W. (1887).