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Story: Paremata Te Wahapiro, Te Kiore

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Paremata Te Wahapiro, Te Kiore

fl. 1822–1845

Ngati Tama leader

This biography, written by Lesley Richardson, 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.

Born in the Ngāti Tama stronghold of Poutama, North Taranaki, early in the nineteenth century, Paremata was the eldest son of Ngāti Tama fighting chief Te Taku, and Kauhoe of Ngāti Hinetuhi, a hapū of Ngāti Mutunga. His paternal grandfather was Whangataki II and he could trace his lineage back to one of the crew of the Tokomaru canoe. Kauhoe's lineage was also distinguished, and her marriage further cemented the ancient alliance of the confederation of Te Āti Awa tribes. Paremata was also tied by kinship to Ngāti Toa, who were linked with Ngāti Tama in a long-standing military alliance.

When Te Taku died in battle in North Taranaki, Kauhoe became the wife of the great fighting chief and tohunga Te Pūoho-o-te-rangi, the elder brother of Te Taku. Paremata therefore became both nephew and stepson to Te Pūoho, and thus began a close relationship which was to span a quarter of a century. In war and in the short intervals of peace, the two were to become inseparable.

At an early age Paremata received the additional name of Te Wahapiro, to commemorate Te Pūoho's cleansing of the infected mouth of his Ngāti Toa ally, Te Rauparaha. Te Wahapiro became Paremata's fighting name, and he was also often referred to as Te Raha (a contraction of Te Rauparaha's name) in memory of this incident. Early in life Te Wahapiro proved his prowess on the battlefields and later gained the further name of Te Kiore, in circumstances which are no longer known. About 1822 Paremata joined Ngāti Tama under Te Pūoho, to escort and assist the migration of Ngāti Toa to the Kapiti area. By 1824 Ngāti Tama had begun to leave their ancestral lands, and there commenced a decade of migrations from the Taranaki region.

By the mid 1820s Paremata had become a seasoned warrior with two canoes under his command. He was credited with the slaying of the chief Tūtepourangi of Ngāti Kuia at Whakapuaka, north of Whakatū (Nelson), during campaigns in Waimea (Tasman Bay). Paremata and Te Pūoho continued to escort migrants south to the southern North Island and the South Island, and were prominent in the fighting that took place. Paremata was present at Kaiapoi pā at the death of Ngāti Toa's hereditary chief, his first cousin, Te Pēhi Kupe, and also took part in the siege of that pā in 1831–32. By the time he took part in the battle of Haowhenua, on the Ōtaki River, between Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Raukawa in 1834, he had married Ngāhopi, of Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Rarua. Ngāhopi was the daughter of Te Pūoho's first cousin, Hihi. By 1836 she and Paremata had four children.

In 1836 Paremata joined Te Pūoho as second in command on his expedition down the West Coast of the South Island and through Tioripātea (Haast Pass), intending to make a surprise attack on the Ngāi Tahu stronghold at Ruapuke Island. Captured at Tūtūrau, where Te Pūoho was killed, he was not taken to Ruapuke with the other prisoners but went with Ngāi Tahu leader Taiaroa to Ōtākou, on the Otago Peninsula, where he was treated as befitted his rank. According to some accounts, Taiaroa owed his life to Te Pūoho, who had allowed him and his contingent to withdraw during the siege of Kaiapoi. He had therefore done his utmost to avoid bloodshed at Tūtūrau. When news of the tragedy reached Te Taitapu (Golden Bay), Kauhoe composed a famous lament, calling for revenge for the death of her husband and her son, whom she also believed to be dead.

In 1839 Paremata returned to his people, who were now in permanent occupation of the coastal district of Whakapuaka. He took his place as leading chief among them. According to some traditions, Paremata had brought with him the preserved head of Te Pūoho, which was eventually sealed within a tapu cave at Whakapuaka. As atonement for the death of Te Pūoho, Taiaroa had provided Paremata with a wife and two greenstone mere, and had marked out two pieces of land at Tūtūrau in his honour, one of which he named Paremata. Paremata's new wife was named Miriama or Hiria, and was known at Whakapuaka as Ngāmīanga. She and Paremata were to have two daughters.

Life at Hawaiki pā at Whakapuaka was pleasant, and seafood abundant. Taro grounds and kūmara gardens were well established, and European trees brought from the north were now bearing fruit. Late in 1841 the advance party of the New Zealand Company arrived in Waimea. At first Paremata was not opposed to European settlement, and welcomed the newcomers. It is reported that he indicated to Captain Arthur Wakefield a site where they might settle. Wakefield had initially considered the Motueka area and had already granted equal gifts to 12 chiefs there. When Whakatū was deemed a more suitable site, Wakefield found he was once more faced with an outlay of gifts, and unwisely chose to grant them to only three of the ten Whakapuaka chiefs. Wakefield claimed that the land had already been purchased from Te Rauparaha and Te Hiko-o-te-rangi two years previously. Paremata and his Ngāti Toa kin immediately held a gathering at Kapiti Island, to clarify the matter and to guarantee the rights of Ngāti Tama.

In 1842 migrant ships began to arrive in the new settlement of Nelson. Paremata was aware that the English were a populous race, but did not expect them to arrive in such numbers. The settlers soon outnumbered local Māori, and their propensity for clearing large areas of land gave rise to great alarm. Other matters were also of grave concern to Paremata. The unavenged death of Te Pūoho still weighed heavily on him. The southern expedition had taken place partly because of the refusal of some Ngāti Tama and allied chiefs to accept Te Pūoho's land partitioning policies in Waimea and Te Taitapu, and Paremata therefore considered some of those chiefs indirectly responsible for his uncle's death. The increasing influence of Christianity over many of his people, including his half-brother, Wiremu Kātene Te Pūoho, was a source of bitterness to him. Paremata held the church's influence directly accountable for the erosion of the Māori lifestyle, and for the failure of two war parties to avenge his uncle's death. In September 1842 his growing anger culminated in a quarrel which resulted in an exchange of shots between Paremata and a chief he held responsible. Nelson's police magistrate, the impetuous Henry Augustus Thompson, visited the pā to inquire into the affray. This was seen as an attempt to usurp the chief's authority, and served only to unite the community and fan the embers of Paremata's resentment.

Two months after this event Thompson further exacerbated the tension by handcuffing and belittling a Tākaka chief. The confrontation at Tuamarino, in the Wairau Valley, in June, in which Captain Wakefield, 21 settlers, and at least 4 Māori died, turned mounting distrust into open hostility. At Wairau the Nelson settlers had disastrously failed to acquire the large areas of land necessary for the success of the settlement, so it was inevitable that their attention should turn once more towards Whakapuaka. In July a small group of Ngāti Tama under Paremata tore down a house a settler had built on their lands, but there were no reprisals. The initial reaction of the Nelson settlers to the loss of their leader, Captain Wakefield, had largely been one of shock and fear, followed by the hasty building of fortifications. The mood soon changed to anger, however, when the government pronounced the proceedings at the Wairau to have been illegal and in danger of giving Māori reason to doubt the good faith of the Treaty of Waitangi. Despite the settlers' angry cries for revenge, the company now had to recognise a new proclamation prohibiting any act of ownership over disputed land until claims had been heard by the government's land commissioners. On 1 August the text of this proclamation was read to Paremata at Whakapuaka by Major Mathew Richmond, chief police magistrate for the Southern District of New Zealand. On 12 October Major Richmond once more called on Paremata, this time aboard the naval ship North Star, and found no evidence of the hostile intentions which had been indicated by urgent memoranda from Nelson. The government denied Nelson's requests for resident troops.

In February 1844 Governor Robert FitzRoy assured the chiefs in the Nelson area that they would not be deprived of their pā and cultivations, nor of land not legally sold. Paremata accepted the governor's assurances and in August signed Commissioner William Spain's Deed of Release, relinquishing all claims to Whakatū and other areas. The tribe's concept of its boundaries, however, was in conflict with the straight lines of the New Zealand Company's map. In late 1844 immigrants began to build and to cultivate land at Whakapuaka, and some settlers felled and removed large totara trees from land which Paremata considered to be within the tribal boundary. In the middle of January 1845 Paremata visited sections of the disputed land, warning the occupants that if they did not leave, he would destroy them and their houses. The Nelson police magistrate, Donald Sinclair, and his interpreter, John Tinline, went at once to the Whakapuaka valley where they found Paremata and some 20 warriors encamped. But the time for discussion had passed, and when an enraged Paremata emphasised his previous warnings with gestures of his club, the interview came to a hasty conclusion. Paremata and his men proceeded to destroy a stockyard and burn 3 houses and about 3,000 roofing shingles, intent on destroying all objects constructed from the products of their land.

The repressed and simmering indignation of the Nelson colony erupted in a series of urgent public meetings, and the New Zealand Company's resident agent, William Fox, advocated an advance on the pā. It was decided that the company's principal surveyor, Samuel Stephens, accompanied by an armed volunteer force under Fox's command, should proceed to the disputed area and cut the survey line according to Spain's award. Charles Reay and the Reverend H. F. Butt hastened to the pā by sea, in an attempt to defuse the situation. Paremata, however, was ready for a confrontation: reinforcements had arrived by sea from Motueka, and more were expected from Te Taitapu.

On the morning of 21 January 1845, in defiance of a proclamation by Sinclair forbidding the proceedings, more than 80 armed settlers set out on foot towards Whakapuaka. On arrival in the valley the surveyors immediately began to cut a broad line of demarcation. Having left Butt at the pā, Reay proceeded on foot, in company with three of Paremata's men, to the survey area. Here he found the volunteers determined to proceed to the pā, but he refused to act as guide for an armed party. He described the narrow foot-track to the sea coast, through thickly wooded bush and dense undergrowth, as a difficult journey which could only be threaded in single file. Fearful of ambush, Fox refused to go unarmed, and Reay returned to the pā with a plan of the survey and an ultimatum from Fox. Paremata was told (it is not clear by whom) that Fox's force numbered 1,000 armed men. On 25 January the Hazard arrived with Major Richmond, now superintendent of the Southern Division, on board, and two days later he visited the pā by sea, with Sinclair, the government interpreter T. S. Forsaith, and Fox. After long and impassioned discussions Paremata agreed to send two of his chiefs with the official party to inspect the survey line. After further discussion on their return, Paremata agreed to abide by Spain's award.

Some time later the hapū moved inland to Te Kopi-o-Uenuku, in the Whakapuaka River valley, where they settled within half a mile of the boundary line, in order to establish their occupation of that portion of the land. From now on Paremata's name became associated with pursuits of peace: his cultivations, the building of his raupō whare, Hatana, the planting of peach and apple trees, his weir with its special type of eels reserved for only the most important occasions, and the building of his new canoe.

In the 1850s Paremata undertook to repatriate some slaves to the North Island. He became ill and died at Foxton while visiting relatives. His resting-place is the nearby cemetery at Moutoa.

How to cite this page:

Lesley Richardson. 'Paremata Te Wahapiro, Te Kiore', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1p5/paremata-te-wahapiro-te-kiore (accessed 20 April 2024)