Te Pareihe of Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti in Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay) began his career as a war leader in the early nineteenth century. He was also known as Pareihe Kai-a-te-kokopu and as Hori. The identity of his parents is not clear; the accounts mention Nga-rangi-kapuahu, Tiaki, and Te Ika-huahua. However, it is recorded that he was the grandson of Tapuhara, the woman after whom his hapu, Ngai Tapuhara, was named, and of Hikawera, a younger son of Te Whatu-i-apiti, the ancestor of the tribe.
Throughout his life Te Pareihe encountered problems with other leaders of his tribe, notably Te Hapuku and Te Kurupo Moananui, who were directly descended from Te Whatu-i-apiti's eldest son, Te Wawahanga, from whom they inherited the mana over the land and people of Heretaunga. Although he was their senior by a generation, they often refused to accept his leadership. This refusal was a shaping factor in his life. An intelligent strategist, a clever diplomatist and a wise and firm leader of vision, Te Pareihe was forced throughout his life to contend with the independence and mana of chiefs higher in rank than himself. It was a measure of his success that after his lifetime his own people regarded him as the saviour of their lives and of their mana over Heretaunga. In claiming land in Heretaunga through the Native Land Court, his descendants and other kin constantly cited his conquests.
Early in the nineteenth century Te Pareihe and his elder brother, Tu-te-iwirau, fought a series of wars against Rangitane in Northern Wairarapa and Southern Hawke's Bay to defend the rights of Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti to the resources in the latter area. He was wounded in the battle of Mangatoetoe and carried off the field by his relatives. In this battle, fought to avenge the death of their chief, Kaiwaru, Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti led by Te Ringanohu were defeated by Ngati Te Upokoiri. This was one of a series of battles between these two peoples, who were rivals in a drawn-out struggle for the control of Heretaunga.
The defeat of Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti at Mangatoetoe was avenged in a battle at Waipukurau called Pukekaihau, in which they were led by Whakarongo and Te Pareihe. After this victory, Te Ringanohu's sister Te Kaihou formally passed the mana over her brother's lands and people to Te Pareihe and Whakarongo. Two years later Ngati Te Upokoiri attacked and over-ran Te Aratipi pa on the coast near Waimarama; in response, Te Pareihe, now a recognised war leader, raised a war party and defeated Ngati Te Upokoiri at Te Matau about 1821.
In the next two years Heretaunga was invaded by large expeditions from the north armed with muskets. Te Hura-kohukohu brought a party of Ngati Awa from the Whakatane area; his defeat and death at Te Pakake, an island pa at Ahuriri (Napier), resulted in two further expeditions to avenge him, under Te Waru and Tupaea. Te Whatanui of Ngati Raukawa brought a small party and built a pa at Puketapu. It became clear that he intended to take possession of the area for Ngati Raukawa, but he was attacked and defeated at Puketapu. Te Pareihe was involved in most of these battles.
In 1823 Te Wera Hauraki of Nga Puhi, who would later become the long-term friend and ally of Te Pareihe, arrived on the East Coast, and established himself at Nukutaurua, on the Mahia peninsula. Te Wera and Te Waikopiro, from Mohaka, led their combined forces south to attack the people of Heretaunga and Wairarapa. From Cape Kidnappers Te Wera observed the fires of Te Pareihe and his people burning at Waimarama. An attack on Te Pareihe was proposed but some of the war party belonging to Ngati Kahungunu from Wairoa objected. They withdrew to Tanenui-a-rangi pa on the south bank of the Ngaruroro River, near Whakatu. At Waimarama Te Pareihe was aware of Te Wera's war party. It is said that the tohunga Ngoi predicted that Te Pareihe would unite with Te Wera; after a discussion peace was made between the two and they became allies.
About this time Ngati Te Upokoiri returned to Heretaunga to avenge earlier defeats. They came with a force led by Mananui Te Heuheu Tukino II of Ngati Tuwharetoa, with whom they had important links through family marriages. Te Pareihe led the combined force of Nga Puhi, Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti and Ngati Kahungunu from Wairoa, which defeated them at the battle of Te Whiti-o-Tu, near Tikokino. They had occupied Te Roto-a-Tara, an island pa in a lake near Te Aute; Te Pareihe reoccupied it after his victory.
While they were there, Mananui returned with a force which besieged Te Roto-a-Tara for two months. The besiegers built a bridge to the island pa as they had no canoes. When the bridge was complete Mananui's party attempted to take the pa by storm but were met outside it by Te Pareihe, Tiakitai and other leaders and put to flight across their own bridge. One of their chiefs, Te Arawai, was killed. Although the enemy then left the district for the time being, the victory was not complete. Mananui took several prisoners, one of whom was Te Pareihe's daughter Patu-kaikino. She was later released.
A short period of peace followed, but Te Pareihe was aware that Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Maru, Ngati Awa and Ngati Tuwharetoa, among other people, still had scores to settle in Heretaunga. At this time the tohunga Ngoi again received a warning for Te Pareihe to flee Heretaunga since Waikato were coming to attack the people. Ngoi also told Te Pareihe to obtain an axe from Te Hauwaho, for it was a special weapon, an instrument of divination. Te Pareihe went to Te Hauwaho, asked for the axe, and told him they had better collect their people and go to Nukutaurua. Te Hauwaho refused both requests. Te Pareihe then said: 'Remain, you will be taken by those who were defeated at Te Whiti-o-Tu'. Te Hauwaho replied that it did not matter; at least he would die on his own land.
Te Pareihe then led away as many of the people of Heretaunga as would go to the safety of Nukutaurua. Here he established himself in a pa called Okurarenga. Not long after he had gone Te Hauwaho was killed, and Te Hapuku, Te Moananui, Tiakitai and others who had refused to go were defeated by Waikato at Te Pakake pa.
A large section of Waikato followed Te Pareihe up the coast and assaulted Okurarenga pa. They were joined by Mananui leading a force of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Whiti and Ngati Te Upokoiri. Because Te Pareihe's Nga Puhi allies were as well armed with muskets as the attackers, the siege went on for a long time. The defenders became short of food and were reduced to cooking a greasy clay; for this reason the name of the pa was afterwards changed to Kai-uku (eating clay). The attackers could not take the pa; a peace was arranged, probably by Te Rohu, daughter of Mananui.
American whalers and flax traders appeared at Mahia about this time. Te Pareihe set his people to preparing flax fibre and cultivating surplus crops to trade for muskets and powder with the newcomers. Because he distributed the arms without favour, people flocked to join him, including some who had escaped from Waikato. People from Wairarapa and Heretaunga began joining him in great numbers. Soon his followers were so numerous and so well armed that he commanded an invincible force.
Te Pareihe then took his people on the offensive. He assisted Rongowhakaata in avenging the wrongs committed against them by Ngai Tai and Te Whakatohea; he fought with Ngati Porou against Te Whanau-a-Apanui. After he returned to the Mahia peninsula the news arrived that a party of Ngati Raukawa had killed Te Wakaunua of Ngati Hineuru, a people of Tarawera, inland from Mohaka. Te Pareihe, with Te Wera and Nuku-pewapewa, a Wairarapa chief now at Mahia, led 1,600 fighters through Mohaka to Omakukura pa, north-west of Taupo. The pa was overthrown and many Ngati Raukawa captives taken. Te Pareihe then marched against Mananui in his pa at Waitahanui, on the eastern shores of Lake Taupo. Mananui wished to abandon the pa and flee in the night, but was dissuaded by his daughter, Te Rohu.
Te Rohu stood alone outside the pa as Te Pareihe's men approached, and defied them with her staff. Moved by her courage, Te Pareihe agreed to make peace. In return, Mananui warned him not to make war on Waikato for they were numerous and heavily armed; instead, he should return to Heretaunga and 'put out the fires lit by Te Momo at Rotoatara.' In this way Mananui indicated that he would take no action if Te Pareihe attacked Ngati Raukawa who were making another attempt to conquer Heretaunga.
In another account Te Pareihe had already returned to the Mahia peninsula when the news arrived that Te Momo-a-Irawaru had reached Heretaunga with a party of Ngati Te Kohera, a people of both Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa origin. Te Pareihe and Te Wera Hauraki left Mahia to drive them out. Te Momo-a-Irawaru was living at Kahotea pa, on the eastern side of Te Roto-a-Tara, while his Ngati Te Upokoiri allies under Te Motumotu occupied the pa on the island. Te Pareihe and Te Wera brought their canoes up the Tukituki River and had them dragged across into the lake. Te Momo was the first man killed before either pa was taken; he was outside collecting food when he was discovered and killed. Then the pa in the lake was overthrown; many were killed, and many captured. This battle was known as Te Roto-a-Tara II; afterwards Ahumai, daughter-in-law of Te Momo, composed a lament for him which was at the same time a cursing song directed at Te Pareihe.
After one or two raids for vengeance the remnants of Ngati Te Upokoiri withdrew from Heretaunga, different sections taking refuge at Taupo, Manawatu and Kapiti. They were not to return for two decades. At the same time, in spite of his victories, Te Pareihe led Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti and Ngati Kahungunu in an almost complete exodus to the Mahia peninsula; only a few hundred people remained, living as refugees in the bush.
The peace of abandonment reigned in Heretaunga for several years. Te Pareihe remained at Nukutaurua, breaking his sojourn there only to take part in a war expedition to avenge the deaths of the two women Paeroa and Kutia, killed in the war; Paeroa was the mother of Kurupo Te Moananui, the highest-ranking chief of Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti. The expedition set out to punish Ngati Raukawa of Manawatu, but encountering some Rangitane allies of Ngati Raukawa on the way, they attacked them instead. Ngati Mutuahi and Ngati Pakapaka were defeated in the battle known as Te Ruru. After this battle Te Pareihe returned to Nukutaurua.
By the mid 1830s, Maori teachers of Christianity had arrived at Mahia and were preaching peace, an end to cannibalism and an end to fighting. The first teachers were from Te Arawa, but Paora Pomare of Nga Puhi was the teacher who convinced Te Pareihe of the worth of the new message. But in spite of his interest in Christianity and peace, Te Pareihe was forced to defend his people in a final struggle against Waikato at Kihitu.
About 1838 Te Pareihe sent chiefs to make peace with Ngati Te Upokoiri and to invite them to return to Heretaunga. This overture may have been to help Te Pareihe in his continuing struggle with Te Hapuku, who was believed responsible for the death of one of his children by witchcraft. Other peacemaking negotiations took place and important marriages were arranged to cement them. One of these may have been that of Te Pareihe himself to Te Rohu, daughter of Mananui. Three children are recorded: a son; a daughter who died at the age of eight in 1848 and had been a member of William Colenso's household; and another daughter, Ani Patu-kaikino, who survived him. During the next few years, parties of Heretaunga people returned to their homes under the protection of Te Pareihe. He himself settled at Awapuni, near present day Clive. In 1844, a few months before William Colenso set up his mission station at Waitangi near Awapuni, Te Pareihe died. Ani Patu-kaikino recited a well-known lament for him. In April 1846 his body was exhumed and the bones were placed in a cave at Paretoanui, near Pakipaki. He is remembered with gratitude and pride as the leader whose efforts had driven the invaders out of Heretaunga and retained the land for its people.