TE PUNI, Honiana
(? – 1870).
Te Ati Awa chief.
A new biography of Te Puni-kokopu, Honiana appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Honiana Te Puni was a Te Ati Awa chief of high lineage who was descended from Takarangi and Rau-Mahora. His own father was Rerewha-i-te-Rangi, son of Aniwaniwa and Tawhirikura, the originators of the Tawhirikura subtribe of Te Ati Awa. His mother was Te Puku. Te Puni lived at Pukeariki pa, New Plymouth, and took part in the successful defence of Otaka against the Waikato. Later he accompanied the followers of Wharepouri, Rawa-Kitua, and Ngatata, southward in the “heke” Tama te Uaua.
His people settled in the neighbourhood of Cook Strait or Whanganui-a-Tara and, by about 1832, he was fully established at his pa on the beach at “Pito-one”, now known as Petone. In 1840 Te Wharepouri and Te Puni welcomed the first New Zealand Company pioneers to Port Nicholson. Soon after, Te Puni was one of the signatories of the Treaty of Waitangi and the deed of purchase of the land about Wellington. He accepted the portion of payment due to the Maori residents at Petone and effected the construction of a store for Colonel W. Wakefield at his own pa. The leading position which he held is evident from the fact that the toast at the opening of Barrett's Hotel in 1840 was to “Te Puni and the chiefs”. Along with Wi Tako, Te Puni vigorously defended the Europeans when Boulcott's farm was attacked on 16 May 1846. In recognition of his friendly services, Te Puni was presented with a silver cup in 1848 by Alexander Currie, the Chairman of the Directors of the New Zealand Company.
In 1848 Te Puni was appointed an official visitor at the Wellington Hospital, while Governor Grey chose him as one of his esquires on being knighted. In 1850 he returned with Rawa-Kitua to his ancestral lands in Taranaki, where he was to experience during the 1860s racial tensions and physical collisions between European and Maori. Yet, although Te Puni must have been grieved and at times angered towards the European attitude and actions, he left the following words for his people: “… Be kind to my European brothers and sisters, be patient, be tolerant …”
He died on 5 December 1870 and was accorded a State funeral with full military honours. Among his pallbearers were Sir Donald McLean and Sir William Fitzherbert. His name is commemorated today in the Lower Hutt suburb, Epuni.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- Wellington Independent, 6, 8, 10 Dec 1870
- Dominion, 10 Aug 1927
- Evening Post, 26 Oct 1929.