TE HEUHEU TUKINO I (Herea)
(c. 1750–c. 1820).
Ngati Tuwharetoa chief.
A new biography of Te Heuheu Tukino I, Herea appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Herea was born about the middle of the eighteenth century and was the son of Tukino, chief of the Ngati Turumakina branch of Ngati Tuwharetoa, by his wife, Parewairere. Through his mother he was closely related to the powerful chiefs of the Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato tribes. He distinguished himself in the wars against the Tuhoe in the latter part of the century and, shortly after these, when Te Rangituamatotoru died, Herea became one of the three contenders for the paramount chieftaincy of the tribe. It was the custom with Ngati Tuwharetoa to select the paramount chief and war leader from a panel of the high-born men of the tribe. The post was not usually hereditary, but was conferred on the most suitable man irrespective of seniority. At this time the Ngati Tuwharetoa chiefs had to face a special problem. In addition to maintaining the existing friendly relations with their northern and western neighbours – the Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Maniapoto, and Waikato tribes – they realised that Ngati Tuwharetoa was beginning to resolve itself into two divisions, those branches living to the east and west of Lake Taupo. The logical choice to prevent this split developing further appeared to be Te Wakaiti, the chief of Ngati Manunui sub-branch. Te Wakaiti, however, was an arrogant man who considered that the paramountcy was his as of right and he chose to act accordingly. In order to emphasise his power, he decided to kill the senior hereditary ariki of the tribe when the latter attended the installation ceremonies. When news of this plot reached the ariki, the chiefs immediately offered the leadership to Herea.
Herea knew that, according to tribal custom, he would be challenged by Te Wakaiti before he could assume the paramountcy. As his adversary was widely renowned for his skill with the pouwhenua – a sharp-pointed wooden weapon – Herea did not accept the honour until after he had studied this weapon under a celebrated Maniapoto exponent. On his return to Taupo he met and defeated Te Wakaiti in an exciting combat which has passed into tribal folklore. Herea's victory confirmed him as paramount chief, but his power was by no means undisputed because several hapus, who were closely related to the Ngati Raukawa, distrusted his Ngati Maniapoto lineage and loyalties.
For many years Herea ruled wisely over the Ngati Tuwharetoa. He lived at Waitahanui, the fortified pa at the mouth of the Tongariro River. The precise date of his death is not recorded. John Grace says that it was about the time when the Ngapuhis “had heard of the exploits of Napoleon and Wellington and were obsessed with the idea of planning war on a large scale”. This would put it about 1820, following Hongi's return from England.
For a short time after Herea's death the various hapus of Ngati Tuwharetoa sought to rule themselves independently. This soon led to a similar situation to that which had existed after the death of Te Rangituamatotoru. This time, however, Herea's son, Te Heuheu Mananui, the one outstanding Tuwharetoa chief of his day, was selected to succeed his father as paramount chief.
The family name Te Heuheu derives from an incident which happened in Herea's time. It is recorded that when Herea was once on a journey to collect a relative's remains for burial in Tuwharetoa territory, his party found their previous burial place so overgrown with maheuheu, a small shrub, that they had great difficulty in recovering them. In memory of this incident, Herea's wife called her son Te Heuheu. After his elevation to the paramount chieftainship, Herea himself became widely known as Rangi-maheuheu. Since then the name, Te Heuheu, has been borne by every member of his family who has ruled the Ngati Tuwharetoa. Because of the confusion thus caused, other tribes and some historians have used roman numerals to distinguish among them. In this system Herea is known as Te Heuheu Tukino I.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- Tuwharetoa, Grace, J. te H. (1959).