A new biography of Te Pahi appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
In the generation before Marsden's arrival in New Zealand, Te Pahi was a powerful chief of Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands. He was a close relative to Hongi Hika. The stories told by Maoris who had visited Norfolk Island so impressed Te Pahi with the advantages of regular intercourse with Europeans that he decided to make the journey himself should an opportunity offer. About 1805 the New South Wales Government vessel, Lady Nelson, was driven to shelter in Bay of Islands waters. Learning that the ship was bound for Norfolk Island, Te Pahi requested that he and his four sons might be taken there to meet Governor King. Although King had left the island, they were well received by his successor. While they were there, news arrived that King had become Governor of New South Wales and Te Pahi asked to be taken to Sydney to meet him. The party sailed in the Buffalo and, after touching at Tasmania, reached Sydney on 27 November 1805. King made much of Te Pahi and had him as a guest at Government House throughout his visit. When he found Te Pahi was interested in European industries, he showed him everything that might prove of value to him. King was impressed by the chief's determination to learn everything which might be useful to his people and reported that there “were few things of utility which did not engross his attention”. Te Pahi visited Captain Macarthur at Parramatta and had long discussions with Marsden. As a result Marsden, who found Te Pahi possessed of a “clear, strong and competent mind”, determined to extend missionary activities to New Zealand. In the meantime Te Pahi arranged to send a number of Maoris to New South Wales for training as shepherds. Because of the uncertainties of sea travel, King sent his guests back to New Zealand in the Lady Nelson. The party sailed from Sydney on 24 February 1806. Among many other gifts, Te Pahi brought home fruit trees, pigs, goods, fowls, and a small house in frame (prefabricated). This later was erected at the Bay of Islands for the use of Europeans visiting the district.
In 1809, shortly after the Boyd massacre, a party of whalers raided Te Pahi's village and killed him in revenge. The massacre had been perpetrated by Te Puhi, of Whangaroa, but the whalers confused the names and suspected Te Pahi, of Rangihoua. Te Pahi's death delayed Marsden's missionary plans for New Zealand and it was not until Hongi and Ruatara promised the protection which Marsden had hoped to receive from Te Pahi that the way was clear for the mission to be established. In later years Marsden went to great pains to clear Te Pahi's name of complicity in the Boyd affair.
Te Pahi's son, Matara, visited England in 1809 and was presented to George III. Another son, Taua, spent some months at Parramatta with Marsden at the time of Ruatara's visit.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- Marsden Letters and Journals, Elder, J. R. ed. (1932).