NGATATA, Wiremu Tako (also known as Te Teoteo)
Ngati Awa chief and member of the Legislative Council.
A new biography of Ngatata, Wiremu Tako appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Wi Tako Ngatata was born in Taranaki during the time of the Waikato intertribal wars, and was the son of MakoreNgatata-i-te Rangi. He was also a very near relative of Dicky Barrett's wife. There is some doubt about the precise date of his birth because some authorities have found difficulty in disentangling the early careers of father and son. He came to the Wellington district either with the Nihoputa heke (1824) or the Uaua heke in 1830 and settled at the Kumutoto kainga. On 27 September 1840 he received from Colonel Wakefield a share of the payment for the purchase of Wellington and signed the deed of sale on his father's behalf. About 1842 he succeeded to the chieftainship of the Ngati Awa tribe and, a year later, was involved in a newspaper dispute with E. J. Wakefield over the latter's report of a conversation with Te Rauparaha. On the outbreak of hostilities in the Hutt Valley, Wi Tako took the field with a force of friendly Maoris and succeeded in driving Te Rangihaeata from Taita to Pouwha, a place about 2 miles beyond Paekakariki. After peace was restored, Wi Tako was appointed Native Assessor and, in this capacity, materially aided McLean to purchase several large land blocks, principally in the Hawke's Bay district.
During the 1850s Wi Tako remained aloof from the growing “King” movement but found his loyalty severely tried by the Government's handling of the Waitara dispute. On this issue he supported his relative, Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitake, in the belief that Teira had no right to sell the Waitara lands. In 1860 he paid a visit to Ngaruawahia, where he conferred with Tawhiao, Wiremu Tamihana Te Waharoa, and other “Kingite” leaders. For a while he inclined towards joining the “King” movement and he did not hesitate to tell Sir George Grey when he interviewed him on 9 October 1862 that his reason for this inclination was “the crookedness of the Pakeha”. Some time after the Waikato War broke out, he made his peace with Fox. When he did so he made it conditional that his men be permitted to retain their arms. About this time he helped Featherston to persuade Wairarapa Kingite chiefs from taking up arms against the Europeans. In the mid-sixties, as a staunch Roman Catholic, Wi Tako deprecated the spread of Hauhauism. After Volkner's murder, he accompanied Samuel Williams to the Bay of Plenty district where, by his oratory and personal prestige, he did much to neutralise the work of Patara and Kereopa.
On 11 October 1872 Wi Tako was called to the Legislative Council. His appointment was one of the prerequisites for the formation of the Waterhouse Ministry and he thus became the first Maori to hold a seat in the New Zealand Upper House. At this time he also became a member of the Board of Native Trustees and continued in both posts until his death. He was present at the unofficial meeting with Tapihana and Tu Tawhiao, which led to McLean's visit to the King Country in 1875 which, in turn, paved the way for the final peace with the King tribes in 1881. Wi Tako died in Wellington on 8 November 1887.
Wi Tako was twice married and had eight children, of whom only one survived him. This was Hokepine (Josephine), the wife of Daniel Love and grandmother of Lieutenant-Colonel Love.
Wi Tako Ngatata was considered by many of his European contemporaries to have been the most astute Maori chief of his generation. It was also thought that his continued loyalty during the Maori Wars had been the deciding factor between victory and defeat for the colonists of the time.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- N.Z.P.D. Vol. 58, 10 Nov 1887, l.c. 9 (Obit)
- Sir Donald McLean, Cowan, J. (1940)
- Adventure in New Zealand, Wakefield, E. J. (1955)
- Evening Post, 10 Nov 1887 (Obit)
- Otago Daily Times, 21 Nov 1887 (Obit).