Te Pareihe of Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti 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-kōkopu and as Hōri. The identity of his parents is not clear; the accounts mention Ngārangikapuahu, Tiaki, and Te Ika-huahua. However, it is recorded that he was the grandson of Tapuhara, the woman after whom his hapū, Ngāi Tapuhara, was named, and of Hikawera, a younger son of Te Whatuiāpiti, the ancestor of the tribe.
Throughout his life Te Pareihe encountered problems with other leaders of his tribe, notably Te Hāpuku and Kurupō Te Moananui, who were directly descended from Te Whatuiāpiti'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, Tūteiwirau, fought a series of wars against Rangitāne in Northern Wairarapa and Southern Hawke's Bay to defend the rights of Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti 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, Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti led by Te Ringanohu were defeated by Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri. 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 Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti 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 Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri attacked and over-ran Te Aratipi pā on the coast near Waimārama; in response, Te Pareihe, now a recognised war leader, raised a war party and defeated Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri 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 Ngāti Awa from the Whakatāne area; his defeat and death at Te Pakake, an island pā at Ahuriri (Napier), resulted in two further expeditions to avenge him, under Te Waru and Tupāea. Te Whatanui of Ngāti Raukawa brought a small party and built a pā at Puketapu. It became clear that he intended to take possession of the area for Ngāti Raukawa, but he was attacked and defeated at Puketapu. Te Pareihe was involved in most of these battles.
In 1823 Te Wera Hauraki of Ngāpuhi, 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 Māhia peninsula. Te Wera and Te Waikōpiro, from Mōhaka, 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 Waimārama. An attack on Te Pareihe was proposed but some of the war party belonging to Ngāti Kahungunu from Wairoa objected. They withdrew to Tānenui-a-rangi pā on the south bank of the Ngaruroro River, near Whakatū. At Waimārama 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 Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri returned to Heretaunga to avenge earlier defeats. They came with a force led by Mananui Te Heuheu Tūkino II of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, with whom they had important links through family marriages. Te Pareihe led the combined force of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti and Ngāti Kahungunu from Wairoa, which defeated them at the battle of Te Whiti-o-Tū, near Tikokino. They had occupied Te Roto-a-Tara, an island pā 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 pā as they had no canoes. When the bridge was complete Mananui's party attempted to take the pā 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 Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa, 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-Tū. 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 pā called Ōkūrārenga. Not long after he had gone Te Hauwaho was killed, and Te Hāpuku, Te Moananui, Tiakitai and others who had refused to go were defeated by Waikato at Te Pakake pā.
A large section of Waikato followed Te Pareihe up the coast and assaulted Ōkūrārenga pā. They were joined by Mananui leading a force of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Whiti and Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri. Because Te Pareihe's Ngāpuhi 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 pā was afterwards changed to Kaiuku (eating clay). The attackers could not take the pā; a peace was arranged, probably by Te Rohu, daughter of Mananui.
American whalers and flax traders appeared at Māhia 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 Ngāi Tai and Te Whakatōhea; he fought with Ngāti Porou against Te Whānau-ā-Apanui. After he returned to the Māhia peninsula the news arrived that a party of Ngāti Raukawa had killed Te Wakaunua of Ngāti Hineuru, a people of Tarawera, inland from Mōhaka. Te Pareihe, with Te Wera and Nuku-pewapewa, a Wairarapa chief now at Māhia, led 1,600 fighters through Mōhaka to Ōmakukura pā, north-west of Taupō. The pā was overthrown and many Ngāti Raukawa captives taken. Te Pareihe then marched against Mananui in his pā at Waitahanui, on the eastern shores of Lake Taupō. Mananui wished to abandon the pā and flee in the night, but was dissuaded by his daughter, Te Rohu.
Te Rohu stood alone outside the pā 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 Ngāti Raukawa who were making another attempt to conquer Heretaunga.
In another account Te Pareihe had already returned to the Māhia peninsula when the news arrived that Te Momo-a-Irawaru had reached Heretaunga with a party of Ngāti Te Koherā, a people of both Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa origin. Te Pareihe and Te Wera Hauraki left Māhia to drive them out. Te Momo-a-Irawaru was living at Kahotea pā, on the eastern side of Te Roto-a-Tara, while his Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri allies under Te Motumotu occupied the pā 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 pā was taken; he was outside collecting food when he was discovered and killed. Then the pā 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 Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri withdrew from Heretaunga, different sections taking refuge at Taupō, Manawatū and Kapiti. They were not to return for two decades. At the same time, in spite of his victories, Te Pareihe led Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti and Ngāti Kahungunu in an almost complete exodus to the Māhia 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 Kūtia, killed in the war; Paeroa was the mother of Kurupō Te Moananui, the highest-ranking chief of Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti. The expedition set out to punish Ngāti Raukawa of Manawatū, but encountering some Rangitāne allies of Ngāti Raukawa on the way, they attacked them instead. Ngāti Mutuahi and Ngāti 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 Māhia and were preaching peace, an end to cannibalism and an end to fighting. The first teachers were from Te Arawa, but Pāora Pōmare of Ngāpuhi 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 Kihitū.
About 1838 Te Pareihe sent chiefs to make peace with Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri and to invite them to return to Heretaunga. This overture may have been to help Te Pareihe in his continuing struggle with Te Hāpuku, 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 Parewanui, 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.