TE PUOHO, Ki te Rangi
Fighting chief and priest of the Ngati Tama.
A new biography of Te Puoho-o-te-rangi appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Te Puoho was born at Poutama, near Kawhia, the son of Parehaoko and Turangapeke. Through his parents he was descended from a crew member of Tokomaru canoe. He was distantly related to Te Rangihaeata, and Te Rauparaha. He was the father of Wi Katene and grandfather of Huria Matenga. In 1818 he campaigned against the Wanganui chief Takarangi, whose son had married, and later insulted, Te Puoho's daughter. He joined the Tatamaroa heke to the Cook Strait district in 1822 but, later, returned to Kawhia where he supported the Ngati Toa against the Waikato and Maniapoto tribes. In the early 1820s Te Puoho took part in the battles around Kawhia, distinguishing himself at the final engagement at Te Kakara, where he is said to have possessed the only musket on his side.
Te Puoho's military experience and status as a priest gave him great influence with Te Rauparaha and, when the latter emigrated to Kapiti, the Ngati Tama were assigned territories in the adjacent portions of the nearby South Island. During his first few years in the district, Te Puoho played a leading part in the destruction of the Rangitane tribe. In 1831 he led a small taua to assist the Te Atiawa besieged at Pukerangiora, but was unable to raise the siege. Later in the year he went south and besieged Kaiapohia (Kaiapoi). In 1833 he brought his people south and established them in the Golden Bay and Taitapu areas. He visited Ohariu, near Wellington, in 1834, where he became involved in the attempt to exterminate the Muaupoko tribe.
Shortly after this Te Puoho turned his attention towards the conquest of the Ngai Tahu. In spite of a warning from Te Rauparaha that he must not expect the people of Murihiku to be sitting in trees with their breasts open like pigeons facing the sun, Te Puoho persisted with his plan. In the summer of 1836 he led a small force of Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa – about 70 warriors in all – by canoe down the west coast to the mouth of the Awarua (Haast) River. They then made their way – a miracle of endurance – over Haast Pass to Lake Wanaka, where they disposed of a few of the Ngai Tahu. From Wanaka the taua went up the Cardrona Valley, over the Crown Range, and across the Kawarau River until at length they reached the Mataura Valley. They continued through the hills west of Gore, crossed the Mataura River and sacked Tuturau pa. Meanwhile news of their presence had reached Tuhawaiki, at Ruapuke Island, and he lost no time in bringing a large war party to the scene. The Ngai Tahu taua, under Tuhawaiki and Taiaroa, encountered the invaders at Tuturau where Te Puoho and most of his party were killed.
Although famed as a priest and fighting chief, Te Puoho was an impulsive man and prone to act rashly. This disastrous raid was the last act of Maori warfare in the South Island.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- The History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
- King Potatau, Jones, P. te H. (1959)
- Legends of the Maori, Pomare, M. (1930).