Story: Tauke, Te Hapimana

Page 1: Biography

Tauke, Te Hapimana


Ngati Ruanui leader, mission teacher, historian

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

Tauke, of Te Inu-a-wai hapu of Nga Ruahine, a section of Ngati Ruanui, was born probably in 1810 or 1811, in Waikato, where his mother was being held in captivity. When Tauke was born she thought of killing him to spare him a life of slavery, but a Waikato chief extended his protection to the child and ordered the mother to desist. Tauke was baptised and named Te Hapimana, after Thomas Chapman, the CMS missionary at Rotorua. Released in boyhood, he returned to South Taranaki and was present, in August 1840, at the battle of Patoka pa, Waitotara, where he witnessed the work of the missionary Wiremu Nera Ngatai. He soon had a thorough knowledge of the Bible and became a lay preacher. In 1859 he was listed as the Anglican teacher at Weriweri, in South Taranaki. At the same time he was instructed in ancient lore by his close kin, Rawiri Waimako.

In the 1850s Tauke was a supporter of the move to have a Maori king. He was present at Pukawa, Lake Taupo, when Potatau Te Wherowhero was formally nominated at the end of 1856. At Ngaruawahia, on 2 May 1859, when Te Wherowhero's mana as King was confirmed, Tauke crawled through his thighs (whakahoro hauhau aitu), a symbol of being born again (whanau hou).

He remained a committed Anglican; when Bishop G. A. Selwyn walked through South Taranaki in November 1861 Tauke rebuked the Taranaki people who had forcibly detained Selwyn for a time. Tauke welcomed the bishop to Mawhitiwhiti, and arranged services and the baptism of many children. On reaching home Selwyn sent him a large parcel of books. Shortly after he appears to have joined the Pai Marire movement; he was injured in the hand at the battle of Te Morere (Sentry Hill) in April 1864. In 1868 he was present at Titokowaru's pa Te Ngutu-o-te-manu but took no part in the fighting.

After the wars Tauke became a peacemaker and preacher, and a teacher of traditional lore at Weriweri. His people grew large amounts of cocksfoot seed, some of which was sold to William Williams, a Hawera merchant. On one occasion Williams overpaid them and Tauke returned the money.

In the 1870s Tauke was a follower of the prophet Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, and a friend of Tohu Kakahi. During the Parihaka campaign in 1881, when colonial troops searched the houses looking for arms and destroying Maori property, Tauke wavered in his Christian faith. However, his friendship with the Reverend T. G. Hammond supported him and he provided information for Hammond's The story of Aotea (1924). In 1883 he was one of four trustees named in a Crown grant of a 20 acre block for his hapu, but he refused to take rents for reserve lands leased by the public trustee; he considered the leasing an unwarranted intrusion on Maori rights.

In 1911 the Waikato people agreed to allow the Taranaki tribes to nominate the candidate for the Western Maori constituency. Tauke, who was the living link with the King movement, was influential in securing the nomination of Maui Pomare. At the time Tauke was living at Ketemarae pa, near Normanby.

Te Hapimana Tauke died on 2 June 1915 and was buried at Weriweri. According to his headstone he was aged 104 years. A leading elder of his hapu, he had become the guardian of his people's tribal lore and history.

How to cite this page:

Ian Church. 'Tauke, Te Hapimana', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 7 August 2020)