Story: Te Pikinga

Page 1: Biography

Te Pikinga

fl. 1819–1834

Ngati Apa woman of mana

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

Te Pikinga was a member of the senior family of Ngati Apa. She was the younger sister of Te Arapata Hiria. Her homes were at Whangaehu and Turakina, south of Wanganui. She was born probably about 1800, for she was a young woman of marriageable age when the expedition of northern tribes led by Nga Puhi moved south in 1819. The expedition joined Te Rauparaha of Ngati Toa at Kawhia and other leaders in Taranaki. Arriving in the Wanganui area, the war party surprised the Wanganui tribes and Ngati Apa sheltering at Purua pa on the Wanganui River. Crossing the river at night by raft, they defeated the pa's defenders, but those who escaped managed to kill two Nga Puhi leaders. Consequently, Te Rauparaha marched on to Turakina where he fought a battle against Ngati Apa in which 200 were killed. Among those captured were Te Pikinga, her brother Te Arapata, and two other women of high rank, Tangutu and Takaoi.

Te Rauparaha, Tuwhare and their party passed on to Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) and Wairarapa, taking their captives with them. After several months they returned by sea, landing at Te Pou-a-te-Rehunga, on the north side of the Rangitikei River. Te Rauparaha wished to avoid further fighting on his return overland to the Wanganui area. At the suggestion of his nephew Te Rangihaeata, Te Arapata and Te Ra-tu-tonu, the husband of Te Rangitopeora, were sent into the Ngati Apa pa, Te Awamate, near the Rangitikei rivermouth, to negotiate on Ngati Toa's behalf. Ngati Apa, however, remained suspicious as to Te Rauparaha's power to restrain his fellow leaders. To reassure Ngati Apa of Ngati Toa's peaceful intentions, Te Rangihaeata then announced that he would take Te Pikinga in a chiefly marriage alliance. By this action Te Rangihaeata was bound to Ngati Apa by ties of mutual protection. This marriage laid the foundations of future Maori occupation of the west coast of the North Island. Ngati Apa leaders Te Hanea and Te Pouhu responded to Te Rangihaeata's gesture by presenting Te Pikinga with a slab of greenstone called Te Whakahiamoe, which was made into adzes.

Ngati Toa then took affectionate leave of Ngati Apa and returned to Kawhia. But they had laid the groundwork for their return. About 1822 the main migration of Ngati Toa approached the west coast. Hearing of this, a great debate took place within Ngati Apa, not all of whom welcomed the intrusion of Ngati Toa into their territory. Part of the tribe decided to hold to the peace treaty effected by the marriage of Te Pikinga and Te Rangihaeata, and the young leaders Te Maraki and Mokomoko travelled to Waitotara to greet their kinswoman Te Pikinga. Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata were relieved to see that the pact had held. The two parties lived together at Matahiwi for two months, and at Te Awamate for another month. They then moved on to another Ngati Apa pa at Tawhirihoe.

When the two parties separated, Ngati Apa warned Ngati Toa not to molest the Muaupoko people living south of the Manawatu River. Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata agreed, but two of their kinsmen the same day killed a high-born Muaupoko woman named Waimai. In revenge Muaupoko, on the pretext of welcoming Te Rauparaha with a feast of eels at Papa-i-tonga, attacked him and the small party of relatives he was travelling with. Among those killed were Te Rauparaha's eldest son, Te Rangi-hounga-riri, his daughter, Te Uira, and at least one other of his children. Te Rauparaha and Te Ra-ka-herea were the only leaders to escape.

Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa then established themselves on Kapiti Island. This move further contributed to a souring of relations with the local tribes; Kapiti was not a prize lightly relinquished. When Te Maraki of Ngati Apa visited his Rangitane relatives he was warned to return, as Te Rauparaha was seeking revenge for the deaths of members of his family at Papa-i-tonga. Although Te Maraki was kin to Te Pikinga, he and, according to Ngati Toa sources, a Rangitane leader, Tokipoto, were later killed by Te Rauparaha near Waikanae, about 1824.

In spite of these deaths, and in spite of the ensuing relentless Ngati Toa campaign against Muaupoko, Te Pikinga's relationship with Te Rangihaeata prevented her people from being enslaved even though they were related to Muaupoko. Ngati Toa regarded the three women Te Pikinga, Takaoi and Tangutu as assurance of their occupation of the land; their own mana was a mana of conquest over the people. When Te Rangihaeata lived at Otaki Ngati Apa visited Te Pikinga there as honoured guests; at times they brought her gifts of food. Te Rangihaeata formally designated Te Pikinga as 'he pou rohe', a connecting link between their tribes.

Ngati Apa had been left in quiet possession of their lands in the vicinity of the Rangitikei River, but not all were reconciled to the loss of Kapiti and part of Manawatu. Some joined Rangitane in rebuilding a pa at Hotuiti, in northern Manawatu. Te Pikinga was sent into the pa to negotiate the withdrawal of Ngati Apa. They refused to leave, and in the ensuing battle many were killed.

About 1824 Ngati Apa leaders joined Muaupoko, Rangitane and other tribes of the lower North Island, and relatives from the South Island, in a surprise attack on Ngati Toa at Kapiti. Against overwhelming odds Ngati Toa defeated their attackers at the battle known as Waiorua. One of the many Ngati Apa captives, Te Rangi-mairehau, begged for mercy on the grounds of his relationship to Te Rangihaeata through Te Pikinga, but the alliance had reached its lowest point, and the supplicant was put to death. After Waiorua, Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata killed Ngati Apa leaders Te Rangihauku and Koupeka at Te Awamate. Six months later Ngati Toa attacked another pa, Te Poutu; this time Ngati Apa were the victors. After this disaster Te Rangihaeata sent Te Pikinga to her people to make peace. By the end of the 1820s peace had been restored between Ngati Apa and Ngati Toa.

In 1834 a great battle was fought between Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa at Haowhenua, a pa near Otaki. The outcome was inconclusive, but Ngati Raukawa suffered the greater loss. They had been supported in the battle by Ngati Apa, and afterwards abandoned Otaki for a period, moving into Ngati Apa territory between the Manawatu and Rangitikei rivers. It was the marriage between Te Pikinga and Te Rangihaeata which inclined the latter's Ngati Raukawa relatives to treat their hosts with consideration; some skirmishes were fought, but on the whole relations were peaceful. In 1868, by which time both Te Rangihaeata and Te Pikinga had died, Ngati Apa were able to claim equal rights with Ngati Raukawa to the territory they shared. It was the status of Te Pikinga in her marriage that had preserved the lands of her people.

How to cite this page:

Angela Ballara. 'Te Pikinga', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 5 August 2020)