TE RANGITAKE, Wiremu Kingi
Te Atiawa chief.
A new biography of Te Rangitake, Wiremu Kingi appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Te Rangitake was born about 1795 at the Te Atiawa settlement at Manukorihi on the north bank of the Waitara River and was one of the three sons of Reretawhangawhanga and Te Kehu. About 1833 he joined the main Taranaki Poukena heke or migrating groups in their journey to Whanganui-a-Tara or Port Nicholson. As this involved him in skirmishes, near Foxton and Otaki, with Te Rauparaha and the Ngati Raukawa, Te Rangitake decided to settle his tribe at Waikanae – about 30 miles north of Wellington. When Hadfield opened his mission at Otaki, Te Rangitake became one of his first converts; and, on being baptised, took the names Wiremu Kingi (William King). For some years after he had embraced Christianity, Kingi showed a friendly disposition towards Europeans.
When Colonel William Wakefield arrived in 1839, Wiremu Kingi was one of the first Te Atiawa chiefs to sign the Queen Charlotte Sound deed. By this document Wakefield endeavoured to persuade the tribes to renounce their rights to lands in Taranaki. From his general attitude towards land selling at this time, it would appear doubtful whether Kingi really understood what was involved. Throughout the unsettled years which followed the Wairau Affray, he supported Hadfield against the warlike proclivities of Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata. It is said that the peacemaking efforts of Hadfield and Kingi eventually influenced Tamihana Te Rauparaha, and Matene Te Whiwhi – the two chiefs who founded the Maori “King” movement.
In 1847, while accompanying Grey in the Inflexible on his visit to Taranaki, Wiremu Kingi firmly declined to abandon his land claims at Waitara and, later in that year, was so disturbed and suspicious of European intentions that he evacuated his lands at Waikanae and led 500 of his people back to their Taranaki ancestral lands. On his return he found the old cultivations on the north bank of the river at Manukorihi were occupied by a Maori party from Waikato. In view of this he settled on the south bank. During the following summer of 1849 to 1850 he erected a strong pa at the mouth of the river. By 1854 it was evident that the Maori people in general were becoming concerned about European penetration in the form of settlement expansion and greater land demands for farming. During the following five years a serious dispute arose over the land that Wiremu Kingi occupied. His nephew, Te Teira, suddenly, for no reason whatever, laid claim to this land and agreed to sell it to the New Zealand Government. In the presence of Governor Browne at New Plymouth, on 7 March 1859, Wiremu Kingi declared his determination to oppose this sale by Teira. During the months that followed, Wiremu Kingi, as leader of his people, remained firm. He could do nothing to change the “ture” or law of the Maori. With regard to land, Wiremu Kingi said “that no Maori owned land, the land was owned by all the people to be used communally and individually and not to be possessed. Under Maori custom no land could be sold without the consent of all the people. As leader he must make a decision in accordance with the people's demands”.
In December 1859 Wiremu Kingi refused to accept the Maori King's flag. The sale of the land was completed in early 1860 without the consent of the people and, soon after, surveyors entered into the block. Wiremu Kingi and his people promptly resisted by obstruction, and ignored the order from the Government to stop removing survey pegs and to cooperate. With this refusal, Government troops were sent to Waitara on 5 March 1860, actual fighting breaking out on 17 March 1860, though it died away by 8 April. This was the prelude to the Taranaki War. With the issue still undecided, Wiremu Kingi retired inland to the Ngati Maru district, where he lived in seclusion for the next 12 years in close association with the Maori King. Wiremu Kingi's stand at Waitara had far-reaching effects throughout Maoridom. He set the standard to follow, and Maoris everywhere gained strength in their anti-land-selling movement that had gradually been the main weapon in their resistance to European settlement and penetration since 1840.
Between 1867 and 1868 Wiremu Kingi lived for 18 months with the Taranaki tribe at Warea. He visited Titokowaru but rejected an invitation to join this warrior in his guerilla warfare. Later Wiremu Kingi lived for nearly five years at Parihaka with Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohukakahi. These famed prophets during the 1870s and 1880s were begining their “passive” resistance work. Though he was never again on terms of cordiality with the Europeans, Kingi had business relations with them and did not interfere with the settlers. Parris, on behalf of the New Zealand Government, recommended in 1869 that Wiremu Kingi's people should receive grants of land. It was significant that the New Zealand Government eventually recognised the need to grant compensation for land confiscated in Taranaki. In 1926 Government granted £5,000 annually in perpetuity to the Taranaki peoples, which today is administered by the Taranaki Trust Board.
In his later years Wiremu Kingi preferred seclusion and followed a purely “native life”. For some time he lived at Manutangi and, later, he moved to Kaingaru, where he died on 13 January 1882. The Government's treatment of him over the Waitara Block is a controversial incident in New Zealand history. Sir George Grey was anxious to remedy what he considered an injustice, and both Sir William Martin and Bishop Selwyn warmly championed the chief whose arms in early days had so often protected the English settlers.
by Ihakara Porutu Puketapu, B.A., Administration Officer, Department of Maori Affairs, Wellington.
- New Zealand Herald, 23 Mar 1901
- Taranaki Herald, 18 Jan 1882 (Obit).