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Te Heuheu Tukino II, Mananui


Ngati Tuwharetoa leader

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

Mananui was the second of the Te Heuheu line to assume the leadership of Ngati Tuwharetoa. He was born late in the eighteenth century at Pamotumotu, near the Mangatutu Stream, the eldest son of Herea Te Heuheu Tukino I and his first wife, Rangiaho, of Ngati Maniapoto. Mananui could trace his ancestry to Tama-te-kapua, commander of Te Arawa canoe, and to its priest, Ngatoro-i-rangi; he was distantly related to both Potatau Te Wherowhero of Waikato and Te Rauparaha of Ngati Toa. He belonged to Ngati Pehi (now Ngati Turumakina), Ngati Hukere and Ngati Hinewai hapu, and in his youth lived at Pamotumotu. During this time his people were at war with Ngati Maru, Ngati Haua, Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Whakatere; his first wife, Titi, was of Ngati Whakatere, but she was sent back to her people because she did not bear a son.

For a time after the death of Mananui's father, Herea, probably in the early 1820s, Ngati Tuwharetoa lacked an acknowledged war leader. However, Mananui was respected by the elders and chiefs for his outstanding military capacity and his forceful personality. He was closely connected through his mother with Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato tribes, and with the hapu living on the western and northern shores of Lake Taupo. Further, by marrying two grand-daughters of Te Rangitua-matotoru, the predecessor of Herea, he united the eastern and western branches of Ngati Tuwharetoa. His senior wife was Nohopapa, and the other Te Mare.

With his natural ability to rally and lead, Mananui assumed the leadership of his tribe during the 1820s, when Ngati Tuwharetoa were under great pressure from the northern tribes newly armed with muskets. He took steps to acquire the new weapons: a large quantity of flax was gathered and taken to Maketu in the Bay of Plenty, where Mananui exchanged it for guns and ammunition with the trader Phillip Tapsell.

The name Mananui, 'great mana', became his when his uncle, the tohunga Taipahau, transferred his sacred wisdom and magical powers to him on his deathbed, by the ceremony known as ngau taringa. In this ceremony the younger man, who is to be the successor, bites the ear of the older. The spirit of Taipahau became guardian and guide of Mananui, and all the wisdom of the tohunga passed to him.

The reputation of Mananui as a fighting leader was enhanced through many campaigns against Ngati Kahungunu, and through the expeditions to the Cook Strait area that he undertook during the 1820s. He travelled with a war party as far as Kapiti in 1825, but declined to join forces with Te Rauparaha on this occasion. Nearly 10 years later, in response to a request from Te Rauparaha for help in settling his disputes with Te Ati Awa, he led a party of 800 men south. In the fighting that followed, Mananui's brother Papaka was killed, but Te Ati Awa were defeated at Pakutu. A boundary was set at the Kukutauaki River, near Waikanae. Te Ati Awa were to remain south of the river and Ngati Raukawa to the north.

Although Mananui asked for a missionary to be sent to him when Bishop G. A. Selwyn visited Ngati Tuwharetoa in 1843, he had no high opinion either of missionaries or of the British Crown. He scornfully declined missionary invitations to become a Christian, and also their suggestion that he should sign the Treaty of Waitangi. When his brother Iwikau did sign, Mananui repudiated his action. Strong in the remote interior of the country, Mananui pursued tribal interests. In 1841 and 1844 he led war parties to the west coast but was persuaded not to fight. He remained resolutely opposed to British sovereignty and defended the stand by Hone Heke in the north. In 1845 he told Donald McLean, sub-protector of aborigines in Taranaki, that he believed Heke was 'in the right; that he was asserting his freedom and that of his country…that the British Government intended to deprive the New Zealanders of their lands, their liberty, and their rights as chieftains…. The English were an insatiable people, desirous of conquering all nations…Napoleon Bonaparte would have been a match for them, had he not been taken by stratagem'. The same year he told the missionary A. N. Brown that 'the Queen was not going to take this Island as she had done Port Jackson [Sydney] and other places'. Blocked from the north by other tribes, Mananui could do little for Heke. As a gesture of defiance, however, he strongly opposed any Pakeha's settling among the tribe, except traders who did not require land.

When Mananui became leader of Ngati Tuwharetoa, the tribe's principal pa, Waitahanui, was abandoned, and a new centre established at Te Rapa, on the south-west side of the lake. This was a strong, palisaded pa, where Mananui built a carved house; there he lived with his eight wives. With Nohopapa, his favourite wife, he had three sons and a daughter.

On 7 May 1846 Mananui was killed by a landslide which swept down Kakaramea mountain after heavy rain and overwhelmed Te Rapa. Several members of his family – his second son, Te Waaka, and all his wives – and 54 others died. The only one to escape was Mananui's half-brother, Tokena Te Kerehi. His brother Iwikau was living at Waihi, at the southern end of Lake Taupo, at the time, and his son Horonuku (the son of Te Mare), also known as Patatai, was away in Waikato. The body of Nohopapa was found with Mananui's mere, Pahikaure, in her hands.

The bodies of Mananui and Nohopapa were placed in a vault at Pukawa. Mananui's body was later taken to a burial cave on Tongariro. In 1910 his remains were brought back to Waihi by his grandson, Wi Tamaiwhana, and are buried in the mausoleum on the hill at the southern end of Waihi village. Within a few days Wi Tamaiwhana was killed by another landslide at the very place where Mananui had died. It is said that he had violated a tapu by touching the body of Mananui and then passing by a hangi (on the site of the earlier landslide) which still had scraps of food about it.

Mananui was the most influential leader in the central North Island, and one of the most distinguished Maori of his time. He led his tribe wisely; he forbade the practice of cannibalism; he was respected by his enemies. He was a man of great physical stature, as well as great mana. The artist George French Angas described him in the early 1840s as 'a fine old man with an imposing appearance and dignified carriage; he stands nearly seven feet high and is very corpulent. His hair is silvery white and his people compare it to the snowy head of the sacred Tongariro, there being no object, except this tapu mountain, of equal sanctity to permit of its being mentioned in connection with the head of this chief.'

Mananui is remembered for many sayings and songs. When he was asked why he was so successful in war he replied: 'If you seize a tree by its trunk you cannot move it, but if you seize it by the branches you can shake it, right down to the roots.' The lament he composed on the death of his father, Herea, is one of the sacred songs of Ngati Tuwharetoa. The first verse of this lament is sung only for direct descendants in the Te Heuheu line.

How to cite this page:

Elizabeth Hura. 'Te Heuheu Tukino II, Mananui', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 July 2019)