Story: Hipango, Hoani Wiremu

Page 1: Biography

Hipango, Hoani Wiremu


Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi leader, teacher, assessor

This biography, written by Steven Oliver, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.

Hipango was a leader of Ngati Tumango, of Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi. He is thought to have been born about 1820. At his baptism his parent was named as Te Heke. Another source suggests that his father was called Whakakati. His mother's name was Oneone. He had a sister, Tarete, who married Te Mawae of Ngati Ruaka. Hipango married Rawinia Rere on 2 September 1841, at Putiki Wharanui, near the mouth of the Wanganui River. They are known to have had nine children.

Hipango was described by the missionary Richard Taylor as the most influential Wanganui leader in the 1840s–1860s. His mana over tribal lands extended some 70 miles up the Wanganui River. He was one of the first Wanganui Maori to adopt the Christian faith. He was baptised by John Mason at Putiki on 6 June 1841, and took the name Hoani Wiremu (John Williams). He became a teacher of Christianity, and in the late 1850s entered St Stephen's School in Auckland to study for ordination. However, his eyesight deteriorated from reading by candle-light, and he was forced to abandon his desire to enter the ministry.

In 1846 Hipango provided men to defend the township of Wanganui, under threat from hostile Taupo and upper Wanganui Maori, until the arrival of government troops. In April the following year, with five others, he captured six young Maori who had killed members of the family of Wanganui settler J. A. Gilfillan. In recognition of this act he was awarded a pension by Governor George Grey. He was later appointed an assessor, under the Native Circuit Courts Act 1858.

Hipango was chosen by a meeting of Wanganui and Rangitikei leaders to accompany Richard Taylor on a visit to England in 1855. Leaving in January, they travelled via Sydney, where Hipango visited the home of Samuel Marsden at Parramatta. In London he had an audience with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and presented them with gifts from the Wanganui tribes. Taylor records that Hipango was shocked to see open violations of the sabbath in London. While there, he also accompanied Taylor at a Maori service held for a group of Maori sailors. On their return to New Zealand in 1856 Taylor and Hipango tried unsuccessfully to mediate between warring Taranaki tribes.

Hipango was among the Wanganui leaders who opposed the Pai Marire movement in the early 1860s. On 14 May 1864 at Moutoa, an island between Hiruharama (Jerusalem) and Ranana on the Wanganui River, lower Wanganui Maori defeated an upper Wanganui Hauhau force. Hipango led the force which pursued the retreating Hauhau warriors. Fighting continued, and both sides fortified positions near Hiruharama. On several occasions when Hauhau warriors were captured, Hipango instructed that they be released unharmed, for he did not wish to shed the first blood. However, he opposed attempting to negotiate a peace, and gained the leadership of the pro-government Maori by insisting on a military resolution.

In February 1865 Hipango led the attack on Ohoutahi, the main Hauhau pa, below Pipiriki. The pa was captured, but Hipango was fatally wounded. He died two days later, on 25 February, at Putiki; he was thought to be aged about 45. He was accorded full military honours at his funeral on 27 February, and was buried at Korokata hill, overlooking Putiki. A wooden obelisk was erected there to his memory by the provincial government.

How to cite this page:

Steven Oliver. 'Hipango, Hoani Wiremu', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 July 2020)