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Story: Ngātata-i-te-rangi

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Te Āti Awa leader

This biography, written by Angela Ballara, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Ngātata-i-te-rangi was born in the late eighteenth century in Taranaki; he was the son of Te Rangiwhētiki. Through his mother, Pakanga, he was an influential chief in Ngāti Te Whiti hapū of Te Āti Awa. He was junior to his cousins and contemporaries, Hōniana Te Puni-Kōkopu, Matangi and Te Wharepōuri. Ngātata was closely related to Wī Piti Pōmare, also known as Pōmare Ngātata, the leader of the migration of Ngāti Mutunga to the Chatham Islands.

When a young man, Ngātata was one of the defenders of Rewarewa pā, near present day New Plymouth, in which Ngāti Tāwhirikura, closely related to Ngāti Te Whiti, were attacked by Taranaki in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Taranaki was responding to Te Āti Awa's attack on Koru pā by the Ōākura River. Some important chiefs were killed but Te Puni and Rauakitua escaped together with Ngātata.

Ngātata was among those Te Āti Awa living north of the Waitara River who helped Peehi Tūkorehu of Ngāti Maniapoto and his war party to escape to Pukerangiora pā, on the Waitara River, about 1820. Te Rauparaha had persuaded southern Te Āti Awa hapū to help him in attacking Tūkorehu. However, when a huge war party of Waikato and other peoples led by Te Wherowhero invaded Taranaki to assist Tūkorehu, his Te Āti Awa allies, including Ngātata, seem to have regarded this as the greater threat, and joined Te Rauparaha in defeating Te Wherowhero at Motunui about 1822. Ngātata was one of a number of Te Āti Awa who accompanied the second stage of Te Rauparaha's migration to Waikanae and Kapiti, known as Te Heke Tātaramoa; he then returned to Taranaki.

About 1824 news arrived in Taranaki that Waikato were planning to avenge their defeats at Motunui and Pukerangiora. Many of those who had assisted Te Rauparaha to establish himself in the south now decided to migrate themselves. Ngāti Mutunga provided an important contingent for this migration, as did Ngāti Tama and various Te Āti Awa hapū. Ngātata was among the chiefs travelling with Ngāti Mutunga led by his nephew Wi Piti Pōmare. On its way to Waikanae this migration, known as Te Heke Niho-puta, was attacked at Te Ihupuku pā by Ngā Rauru.

The Niho-puta migrants settled at Waikanae for a year or so and then moved on to Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour). They settled at Kumutoto, Pipitea, Ngauranga and places in present day Hutt Valley; after a period of uneasy co-operation Ngāti Ira, who already lived there, were driven away. Some Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama moved on to settle parts of the Wairarapa valley; Ngātata may have been among them.

In 1826 the young Te Āti Awa chief Te Karawa was killed by Ngāti Ruanui while on a visit with Te Wharepōuri and Ngātata to Pūtake pā, near Hāwera. His uncle, Rauakitua, a senior chief of the hapū at Ngāmotu, at present day New Plymouth, together with Ngātata, decided to enlist the aid of Waikato in avenging the mutilation of Te Karawa's body by Ngāti Ruanui. Ngātata visited Te Wherowhero and Te Kanawa at Mōtepoho, and then went on to interview his old ally Tūkorehu of Ngāti Maniapoto at Mangatoatoa. He enlisted the aid of these people by performing a chant which urged the war parties to go forth and avenge the forgotten victims of war. Waikato put together a huge war party which was joined in Taranaki by more Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama. Two defeats were inflicted on the Taranaki people, at Kīkīwhenua and at Maru, on the slopes of Mt Taranaki, in revenge for the death of Te Karawa.

About 1828 Ngātata and other fighting chiefs of Te Āti Awa assembled a war party of Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Raukawa to avenge the losses suffered by Te Heke Niho-Puta at the hands of Ngā Rauru. In 1831 Ngātata may have been with those Ngāti Mutunga allies who accompanied Te Rauparaha to Kaiapoi pā in the South Island to avenge the death of Te Pēhi Kupe. They were away on this expedition when Pukerangiora pā in Taranaki fell to Waikato forces in 1831. Ngātata had returned to Taranaki by 1832, for he was present when Te Wharepōuri, Te Puni and others led the defence of Ōtaka pā, Ngāmotu, against a Waikato siege which lasted three weeks.

Although this defence was successful, as was a further attack on Waikato forces in the Mōkau area, large numbers belonging to remaining Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga and Te Āti Awa hapū decided to join the earlier migrants at Waikanae and Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Ngātata, his son Wī Tako, Te Puni and Te Wharepōuri all accompanied the migration known as Tama-te-uaua which travelled overland in 1832. Ngātata, on account of his relationship with Ngāti Mutunga, was invited to join them at Te Whanganui-a-Tara. Pōmare and Ngātata settled at Kumutoto pā and had houses and cultivations at other places around the harbour.

There is no evidence to suggest that Ngātata accompanied his son Wi Tako, Te Puni and Te Wharepōuri on their expeditions into Wairarapa. When they returned from there in late 1835 they found him living at Ngauranga, at one of the places where Ngāti Mutunga had been settled until their departure for the Chatham Islands a month earlier. It was Ngātata who had permitted the Taranaki hapū, Ngāti Haumia, to settle at Te Aro and had fixed a boundary there between them and Ngāti Ruanui. When Ngāti Mutunga formally handed over their lands to the custody of those who were remaining, they did so to Matangi at Petone and to Ngātata at Ngauranga and present day Thorndon. Ngātata gave Ngāti Haumia permission to use the potato cultivations abandoned by Ngāti Mutunga at Ngauranga. This occupation was short-lived; when Te Wharepōuri brought his people back from Wairarapa to Matiu (Somes Island) and then to Petone, Waiwhetu and Ngauranga, he forcibly dispossessed Ngāti Haumia.

It was, perhaps, this act which led to the decline of Ngātata's authority. He was by this time an old man, and the sudden arrival of his senior cousin, Te Puni, the fighting chief Te Wharepōuri, and his own confident and aggressive son, Wī Tako, pushed him into relative obscurity. Nevertheless, at the arrival of Colonel William Wakefield and the New Zealand Company officials on the Tory in 1839, Ngātata was recognised as the chief of Kumutoto and Pipitea pā, even though his son Wī Tako carried on the negotiations and received the payment for the land in his name. Ngātata's name appears on the Treaty of Waitangi, as having signed on 29 April 1840 in the presence of Henry Williams and Thomas Clayton.

Ngātata (sometimes known as Makoare or Makoere Ngātata) seems to have resigned his authority into the hands of his son early in the 1840s and lived in retirement at Kumutoto pā. He had two wives. Whetowheto of Ngāti Ruanui was the mother of Kararaina, Wī Tako (father of Hōhipine Love), Te Raro, Wī Tana Ngātata and Ngāpei. The two latter children lived in Taranaki. He and his second wife had a daughter, Meri Haratua. Five of his children survived him.

Ngātata died in Otago in 1854 while visiting his eldest daughter Kararaina Te Piki, who married Taiaroa of Ngāi Tahu. A memorial to him was erected there by the government. His portrait was painted by George French Angas.

How to cite this page:

Angela Ballara. 'Ngātata-i-te-rangi', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1n11/ngatata-i-te-rangi (accessed 13 June 2024)