Also known as Mokau (c. 1780–1855).
Chief of Ngati Toa.
A new biography of Te Rangihaeata appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Te Rangihaeata was born about 1780 at Kawhia, the son of Te Rakaherea and Waitohi, a sister of Te Rauparaha. His father, the son of Te Maunu and Kahutaiki, was said to have been killed at Hingakaka fighting against the Waikato tribes. A member of an esoteric school of carving and well-versed in tribal lore and history, Rangihaeata was regarded as one of the fiercest of fighting chiefs. In 1819 he accompanied the Waka Nene – Tuwhare war party on a raiding expedition, via the West Coast and Wellington, as far as Porangahau in the Wairarapa. On their return journey he captured, at Turakina, a Ngati Apa chieftainess named Pikinga. Although he had other wives he subsequently married her.
During Ngati Toa's migration to Kapiti, Rangihaeata was prominent in most of the fighting. In 1832 he started a brisk trade with visiting whalers at Mana Island and, later, took part in the negotiations with Colonel Wakefield for the sale of land on both sides of Cook Strait. In 1841 trouble broke out with the first settlers at Porirua and, although he had signed the Treaty of Waitangi, Rangihaeata began to develop a growing distrust of the Pakeha. When Captain Arthur Wakefield insisted on a survey of the disputed Wairau Plain, Rangihaeata and Rauparaha hastened across Cook Strait to burn the surveyors' huts and so compel them to return to Nelson. A warrant to arrest the chiefs on a charge of arson proved disastrous for the Europeans. Te Rongopamamao, a wife of Rangihaeata, was shot during the affray and the irate chief later ordered the execution of all European prisoners, including Arthur Wakefield himself.
In the Hutt Valley dispute Rangihaeata sided with the rebellious Taringa Kuri, of Ngati Tama. But Sir George Grey's arrival with troops in 1846 brought matters to a head. While Te Rauparaha feigned allegiance to the Governor, Rangihaeata declared open warfare and entrenched himself in a fortified pa at the head of the Pauatahanui arm of the Porirua Harbour. He was eventually forced to retreat into the dense Horokiwi Valley pursued by soldiers, bluejackets, and their Maori allies. Following a series of skirmishes Rangihaeata made a last stand on Pouaha Hill inland from Paekakariki. With the assistance of sympathetic Maoris, allegedly friendly to the Governor, he managed to elude the British and, later, retired to a fortified mound in the swamps of Poroutawhao, where for some years Grey wisely left him alone.
For most of his life Rangihaeata scorned everything that was European, but in the end he saw the futility of trying to stem the tide of Pakeha civilisation. He became subdued in his old age and spent his last years directing the construction of Government-built roads in the neighbourhood of his pa at Poroutawhao. He died at Otaki on 18 November 1855. His only son, Te Kauru, was drowned at an early age in the Mokau River.
by Wattie Carkeek, Journalist, Wellington.
- The New Zealand Wars, Cowan, J., Vol. I (1955)
- An Old New Zealander, Buick, T. Lindsay (1911)
- Maori History and Traditions of the Taranaki Coast, Smith, S. P. (1910).