Story: Tupaea, Hori Kingi

Page 1: Biography

Tupaea, Hori Kingi


Ngai Te Rangi leader, mission teacher, assessor

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

Tupaea of Te Whanau-a-Tauwhao hapu of Ngai Te Rangi was born probably at Tauranga. He was the son of Te Waru and his wife, Hine Te Oro. He could trace his ancestry to Toroa of the Mataatua canoe, to Tia and Tapuika of Te Arawa canoe and to Tauroa from Kawhia. In the 1830s he succeeded his father as the major leader of Ngai Te Rangi. Tupaea had two or more wives, one of whom was Te Pakowhai. He had three sons and two daughters. Until 1852, when he moved to Motiti Island, he resided mainly at Otumoetai, one of the principal pa of Tauranga.

As a young man Tupaea probably fought against the invading musket-armed Nga Puhi in 1818 and 1820, and against Ngati Maru in 1828. He was almost certainly with Ngai Te Rangi who assisted Te Waharoa of Ngati Haua against Ngati Maru at the battle of Taumatawiwi in Waikato in 1830. When Nga Puhi raids resumed in the early 1830s Ngai Te Rangi were well prepared with a plentiful supply of firearms. In 1831 Tupaea and Te Waharoa won a notable victory at Motiti Island: they destroyed a war party of 150 Nga Puhi and Ngati Kuri warriors led by Te Haramiti.

Ngai Te Rangi had a serious territorial dispute with Te Arawa, from whom they had seized the Bay of Plenty coast around 1700. When Phillip Tapsell began trading at Maketu in 1830 many Te Arawa moved to the coast to prepare cargoes of flax to trade for guns. Since Ngai Te Rangi also wanted to trade, Tupaea, who had sold land at Maketu to Tapsell in return for muskets, gunpowder, lead and tobacco, built a pa nearby, at Te Tumu. Tapsell found Tupaea 'the best friend he had, and the most honorable in his dealings'. But competition for the coast and its resources created serious tensions between local tribal groups.

On Christmas Day 1835 Te Hunga, a kinsman of Te Waharoa, was killed, probably by Haerehuka of Te Arawa. Three months later Te Waharoa led his warriors to Maketu to exact utu: on 28 March 1836 they destroyed Te Arawa's pa and Tapsell's trading station. Tupaea, supporting Te Waharoa, was present and saved Tapsell and his family. Te Arawa then avenged the sack of Maketu by destroying Te Tumu on 5 May 1836. Before the pa fell Hikareia, Tupaea's uncle, sent Tupaea, wounded in the head, with a guard of warriors back to Tauranga, so that Ngai Te Rangi would not be left leaderless. Hikareia and many other Ngai Te Rangi were killed. Although Te Arawa regained their position on the coast, warfare continued until peace was made in the mid 1840s. Maketu and Tauranga were frequently raided, their plantations plundered and their inhabitants killed. In 1842 Tauranga also suffered the destruction of Ongare pa by Taraia of Ngati Maru. Towards the end of the wars Tupaea was described as embittered by the ravages his tribe had sustained and reluctant to make peace with Te Arawa.

Tupaea did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi when it was presented to him in April and again in May 1840. Crown negotiators believed that he refused because of his association with Catholic missionaries, but this has not been proved. On 30 April 1848 he was baptised by the Anglican missionary A. N. Brown, taking the names Hori Kingi (George King), and became a mission teacher for Otumoetai. In April 1851 he led a large party of Ngai Te Rangi to Thames to make peace with Ngati Maru. But war nearly resumed in 1852 in a dispute with Te Arawa over Motiti Island. With Waikato support Tupaea built Karioi pa on the island and peace was maintained. Sometime in the late 1850s Tupaea left Motiti; he was living on the lower Wairoa River, at Tauranga, when he became engaged in a brief war with Ngati Hangarau in 1859–60.

Many Ngai Te Rangi fought for the King during the war in Waikato and at Tauranga in 1863–64, but Tupaea adopted a neutral stance and retired to Patetere. However, after the battle of Gate Pa, on 29 April 1864, he returned to Tauranga and built a pa at Kaimai, at the head of the Wairoa River. Although he was reported to have declared himself a 'rebel', he took no part in the battle of Te Ranga on 21 June 1864. Nevertheless he was soon involved with the Pai Marire movement. He is alleged to have sent letters to Ngai Te Rangi on 23 December 1864, calling on them to go inland before 26 December to be saved from destruction, and saying that before the end of January 1865 the angel Gabriel's prophecy to Te Ua Haumene, the Pai Marire leader, would be fulfilled and all Europeans would leave New Zealand. Over 1,000 Tauranga Maori left for the mountains. When the prophecy proved false most returned, but not Tupaea. With an unarmed party he attempted to join other followers of Pai Marire on the East Coast and was captured near Rotoiti by Ngati Pikiao of Te Arawa. He was kept prisoner for some time in Auckland, but was released after making a declaration of loyalty to the Queen. He denied sending the letters.

When assessors were appointed for Tauranga in 1862 Tupaea was passed over, although he was a major chief. He was later made an assessor to the Native Land Court and received a pension, £20 in 1871–72, and £50 a year thereafter. In 1867 he and other Ngai Te Rangi chiefs signed the sale of the Katikati and Te Puna blocks, a land sale that was resisted by the Pirirakau people. Dissident Ngati Porou attempted to support Pirirakau, but Tupaea's opposition caused them to return to Mataora in November 1867. In 1870, when Te Kooti threatened Tauranga, Tupaea assured the European population that he would fight if the settlement was attacked.

In 1878 Tupaea visited Wellington to consult with the government over tribal problems at Mercury Bay; he was a guest of Sir George Grey, then premier. In his later years he lived at Rangiwaea Island, near Tauranga, where he died on 26 January 1881. His tangi was held there and he was buried on Matakana Island.

Reserved in speech and dignified in manner, Hori Tupaea was respected for his integrity. He ably led his people through years of intertribal struggles and protected their interests as European settlement was established.

How to cite this page:

Alister Matheson and Steven Oliver. 'Tupaea, Hori Kingi', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 January 2020)