NGAPORA, Tamati, or Manuhiri
A new biography of Ngapora, Tamati appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Ngapora was a chief of very high rank in the Ngati Mahuta branch of the Waikato tribe and was a younger brother (or half-brother) of Te Wherowhero. As a very young man he assisted in the defence of Matakitaki pa during Hongi Hika's invasion. He also took part in the Taranaki expeditions of 1829 and 1830. When the first missions were opened among the Waikatos, Ngapora and his family embraced Christianity and, for many years, he acted as a native teacher. In the early 1850s he led his people in raising the funds necessary to construct a stone church in his village.
When Te Wherowhero accepted Grey's invitation to settle at Mangere, Ngapora accompanied him. Grey appointed him Native Assessor and, in this connection, it is recorded that he was especially zealous in the temperance cause. On 3 April 1848 he addressed an important letter to Sir George Grey on the state of the Maoris. In this he complained that traditional Maori tribal authority was decaying and that, as no British institutions were coming in to take their place, there was imminent danger of anarchy. Grey referred Ngapora's letter to the Colonial Office with an assurance that the situation would be met adequately by the provisions of his Resident Magistrates' Ordinance. At the Colonial Office Earl Grey was most impressed by Ngapora's “affecting letter” and, in a long dispatch, urged the Governor to do his utmost to uphold the authority of the chiefs. But Grey had other ideas and dispatch was discreetly set aside.
The Maori “King” movement, which arose out of events in these and subsequent years, was an attempt by the Maoris to remedy this situation. When the growing influence of the movement obliged Te Wherowhero to withdraw from Mangere, he deputed Ngapora to remain there to keep in touch with the Government. In 1858, after the “King” movement was launched, Ngapora reported the proceedings to Governor Gore Brown. At this time he personally favoured Te Wherowhero as paramount chief of the Waikato, but not as king. Later in the same year Te Wherowhero designated Ngapora to be his successor in the kingship; however, Wiremu Tamehana Te Waharoa later secured Tawhiao's succession. In making this change, Tamehana was probably influenced by Ngapora's speech at the Ngaruawahia meeting in May 1860 when, as the spokesman of Te Wherowhero, he had spoken against the idea of separate Maori nationality and suggested that differences between the races should be settled by arbitration. To this he added an opinion to the effect that Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitaki ought to give up Waitara because the Governor had paid for it.
Shortly after Grey's return to New Zealand, Ngapora had a private interview with him and received assurances of his peaceful intentions towards the Waikato tribes. He then went to Ngaruawahia, where he endeavoured to persuade the chiefs to send a deputation to the Governor. Tamihana and the Waikatos favoured the idea, but Rewi and the Maniapotos refused to cooperate unless the Maori King's independence was recognised formally. Ngapora duly led the deputation to Auckland, but all his efforts to reconcile Grey and the “King” tribes were foiled by Rewi's intransigence. All the Governor could do, in effect, was to express general disapproval of their sentiments while he assured them of his peaceful intentions.
In July 1863, after Gorst's expulsion from the Waikato, Kukutai and Ngapora warned Grey that war parties were forming to attack Auckland. As a result of this, the Domett Government issued a proclamation calling upon the Maoris living in the district to surrender their arms and sign an oath of allegiance to the Queen. All who failed to obey were required to retire beyond the Mangatawhiri Stream – the then border of the “King Country” (q.v.). Ngapora, who considered the proclamation an affront to his loyalty, refused to sign the oath and his people followed his example. In the weeks which followed, the proclamation was haphazardly applied and harshly enforced. The colonial troops appeared to be out of control at times and looted Maori settlements indiscriminately. It was this treatment, more than anything else, that embittered Ngapora and turned him against any compromise with the Europeans.
After the outbreak of war Ngapora took no part in the hostilities. As his daughter was Tawhiao's principal wife, this, together with his education and intelligence, gave him enormous prestige among the King's counsellors. When the Waikatos evacuated their territories to the north, Ngapora took up his residence at Tokangamutu (Te Kuiti). He was a greatly disillusioned man and, for a time, leaned towards Hauhauism. It was at this period that he changed his name to Manuhiri – “the guest”. In the late 1860s a strange rivalry developed between Rewi and Ngapora. Each had undergone a complete change of attitude and Rewi now wished to live in harmony with the Europeans while Ngapora had become the intransigent. In 1869 Ngapora opposed Te Kooti's appeal for Tawhiao's help and, three years later, he equally strongly reproved Ruru for his attack on James Mackay.
Because he believed Grey to be the author of their misfortunes, Ngapora cherished bitter feelings against the Governor and opposed his proposals at Te Kopua (January 1878) and at Hikurangi (May 1878). Shortly after the latter, Grey induced Cabinet to offer Ngapora an annual pension of £210, since he was too old to be called to the Legislative Council. Although he declined this, his grandson, Tu Tawhiao, persuaded him to accept a sum of money which was also offered. At the Te Kopua meeting in May 1879, Ngapora demanded that the Government should relinquish the lands confiscated in 1863 and withdraw all the Europeans then in occupation. From the whole tenor of the meeting it was apparent that he had the Waikato tribe behind him when he made these demands.
In 1880 W. G. Mair persuaded Ngapora to accept the Hall Government's offer of a small pension. Although this ended his passive opposition to the New Zealand Government, the old chief did not leave the King Country again. Nor did he accompany Tawhiao on his subsequent state visit to Auckland. Ngapora died at Whatiwhatihoe on 4 August 1885.
Lady Martin records that Ngapora was a very different type of man from Te Wherowhero – being short and thickset and fully tattooed. She says: “he was an exceptionally cautious man, a born diplomatist. He would ask any number of questions but would never commit himself to an expression of an opinion”.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- Our Maoris, Martin, Lady (1884)
- Crown Colony Government in New Zealand, McLintock, A. H. (1958)
- Sir George Grey, Rutherford, J. (1961)
- The Maori King, Gorst, J. E. (1959).