Chief of the Popoto tribe, Hokianga.
Samuel Marsden met Te Taonui at Utakura in September 1819 and pronounced him “a very well informed man”. The following March, when the missionary again visited Hokianga, Te Taonui accompanied him back to the Bay of Islands, returning to Hokianga aboard HMS Dromedary. At their first meeting he had asked Marsden to send a missionary to Hokianga; but when Wesleyan missionaries made it their headquarters Te Taonui remained aloof, for it was not European religion that attracted him, but European trade. A shipyard and timber depot had been established at Te Horeke in late 1826 under the protection of Muriwai, Patuone, and Nene. When Muriwai died in early 1828, Te Taonui, who was his younger brother, succeeded to the leadership of the Popoto tribe, and later visited Sydney, possibly working his passage in the brig Governor Macquarie, Captain Kent.
In the next decade Te Taonui was intimately involved in McDonnell's stormy career. In 1836 he abetted, perhaps even inspired, the Additional British Resident's extravagant Kaipara claims and his extensive Hokianga purchases, one of the unwilling sellers claiming in later years that at the time of the purchases Te Taonui had been allpowerful on the Hokianga. By denying Thierry's claim to Utakura in November 1837, Te Taonui was defending McDonnell's interests as well as his own; and the following month he further strengthened McDonnell's hand by thwarting White's plans to deport his rival to Hobart. The former missionary offered him £200 to take the ex-Additional British Resident prisoner; but Te Taonui refused the bribe, no doubt after shrewdly weighing the pros and cons, for he was said to know well the value of money. In 1839 S. McD. Martin described Te Taonui as “a chief of considerable influence, and an extensive dealer in spars and timber, the dimensions of which he can calculate with much precision”.
By their timely arrival and welcoming speeches at the first treaty meeting at Waitangi on 5–6 February 1840, his fellow Hokianga chiefs Nene and Patuone won for themselves the accolade of official favour. Te Taonui's outspokenness at the Hokianga treaty meeting a week later probably cost him a similar place in the sun. He was the first to sign the treaty at Hokianga; but in the day-long discussion which preceded the signing he was openly critical of British intentions.
Throughout the war against Hone Heke Te Taonui and his tribe fought with distinction, his brother Te Huru being killed and his son Aperahama very severely wounded. But when British troops were sent against Heke it was Nene who went to Kororareka to welcome them, Te Taonui being left at Lake Omapere to contain the rebels. And when the first distribution of supplies to the Maori allies was authorised, it was to Nene they were given, although Te Taonui had asked for ammunition to be sent to him and had, at that time, more men in the field than Nene. If the Popoto chief had withdrawn his men from the fighting (as Maning says he threatened to do), this error of judgment in regarding Nene as the overall leader of the Maori allies could have cost the Government dear. In the Ruapekapeka campaign Governor Grey gave Te Taonui an independent command, and he was sent to Hikurangi with a contingent of 400 men in an attempt to prevent Heke from joining forces with Kawiti.
After the war the Popoto chief accused Grey of passing him by, an accusation which, on the evidence available, seems justified. And he kept on insisting that Heke was not to be trusted. It was not until September 1848, six months after the Governor and the rebel leader had met amicably at Waimate, that Te Taonui also met Heke and, one assumes, made peace with him.
By his own people Te Taonui is remembered as Makoare (Macquarie), a name no doubt associated with his visit to Sydney. He died in September 1862, probably in his early seventies. It could as truthfully be said of him, as was later said of Nene on the Government monument erected to his memory, that he was “Te Hoa Tuturu o te Pakeha”. Makoare Taonui was indeed the steadfast friend of the Pakeha; but the friend who is quick to criticise is not always remembered with gratitude.
by Ruth Miriam Ross, School Teacher and Authoress, North Auckland.
- O.L.C. files (MSS), Maori Affairs files (MSS), National Archives
- George Hawke Journal (m/fm), Turnbull Library
- Great Britain Parliamentary Papers 311 (1841), 108 (1845)
- New Zealand's First War, Buick, T. L. (1926)
- Old New Zealand … together with … the War in the North, Maning, F. E. (1948)
- Busby of Waitangi, Ramsden, E. (1942)
- Sir George Grey, Rutherford, J. (1961)
- Reminiscences of an Old Settler, Webster, J. (1908).