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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




Paramount chief of the South Island.

A new biography of Tuhawaiki, Hone appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Tuhawaiki (ancestral war god) was born about 1805 at Inchclutha, South Otago, the son of Cairo and Kura, and the nephew of Whakataupuka (Taboca), the principal chief of the Murihiku Maoris. The whalers and traders dubbed him “Bloody Jack” because of his fondness for that expletive, but on being converted to Christianity, he learned to be ashamed of his nickname. He first came to prominence in 1831 as the leader of a commando group who ambushed Te Rauparaha near Cape Campbell, the wily Ngati Toa chief being fortunate to escape. In 1835 Taiaroa and Tuhawaiki (now paramount chief of the Ngai Tahu) led a strong party who again inflicted severe losses on the Ngati Toa, and in retaliation Te Puoho led a war party in the summer of 1836 in an amazing journey down the West Coast, over the Haast Pass and through central Otago to Tuturau (near Mataura) where Tuhawaiki overwhelmed them.

On 29 April 1840, in the splendid regalia and uniform of a British aide-de-camp, Tuhawaiki boarded HMS Herald and signed the Treaty of Waitangi. Four years later, having been converted to Christianity, Tuhawaiki sailed his own ship – the Perseverance – to Ruapuke Island with Bishop Selwyn on board as a guest. On his return to Wellington he met the Governor and was made welcome by many of the officials.

Tuhawaiki had already made many smaller land sales in the South Island when, on 26 July 1844, he, with other Otago chiefs, negotiated the sale of the Otago Block to Tuckett, Symonds, and Clarke. The price paid was £2,400 and Tuhawaiki signed the deeds as “Towack, King of the Bluff”. In the spring of the same year Tuhawaiki was drowned off Timaru.

The highly intelligent Tuhawaiki was praised almost to excess by Europeans who came into contact with him. Monro was impressed by the extent of his knowledge and his natural shrewdness. Dr Edward Shortland regarded him as a piece of living evidence of the whalers' civilising work, while Watkin, the missionary, recorded in his diary: “Tuhovaiki has a splendid Captain's uniform and when he appears in it might not be ashamed to stand alongside the first military dandy or he of him. He has got quite a military air”.

by Robert Ritchie Alexander, M.A., DIP.ED.(N.Z.), B.T.(CALCUTTA), PH.D.(MINNESOTA), Teachers' Training College, Christchurch.

  • Pioneering on South Otago, Waite, F. (1948)
  • The History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
  • Southland Times, 4 Dec 1937, “The Tuturau Maori Road”, Beattie, H.


Robert Ritchie Alexander, M.A., DIP.ED.(N.Z.), B.T.(CALCUTTA), PH.D.(MINNESOTA), Teachers' Training College, Christchurch.