Story: Te Pikinga

Page 1: Biography

Te Pikinga

fl. 1819–1834

Ngāti Apa woman of mana

This biography, written by Angela Ballara,  was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Te Pikinga was a member of the senior family of Ngāti 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 Ngāpuhi moved south in 1819. The expedition joined Te Rauparaha of Ngāti Toa at Kāwhia and other leaders in Taranaki. Arriving in the Wanganui area, the war party surprised the Wanganui tribes and Ngāti Apa sheltering at Purua pā on the Wanganui River. Crossing the river at night by raft, they defeated the pā's defenders, but those who escaped managed to kill two Ngāpuhi leaders. Consequently, Te Rauparaha marched on to Turakina where he fought a battle against Ngāti Apa in which 200 were killed. Among those captured were Te Pikinga, her brother Te Arapata, and two other women of high rank, Tāngutu and Takaoi.

Te Rauparaha, Tūwhare 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-Rēhunga, on the north side of the Rangitīkei 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 Rātūtonu, the husband of Te Rangitopeora, were sent into the Ngāti Apa pā, Te Awamate, near the Rangitīkei rivermouth, to negotiate on Ngāti Toa's behalf. Ngāti Apa, however, remained suspicious as to Te Rauparaha's power to restrain his fellow leaders. To reassure Ngāti Apa of Ngāti 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 Ngāti Apa by ties of mutual protection. This marriage laid the foundations of future Māori occupation of the west coast of the North Island. Ngāti 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.

Ngāti Toa then took affectionate leave of Ngāti Apa and returned to Kāwhia. But they had laid the groundwork for their return. About 1822 the main migration of Ngāti Toa approached the west coast. Hearing of this, a great debate took place within Ngāti Apa, not all of whom welcomed the intrusion of Ngāti 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 Waitōtara 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 Ngāti Apa pā at Tāwhirihoe.

When the two parties separated, Ngāti Apa warned Ngāti Toa not to molest the Muaūpoko people living south of the Manawatū River. Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata agreed, but two of their kinsmen the same day killed a high-born Muaūpoko woman named Waimai. In revenge Muaūpoko, on the pretext of welcoming Te Rauparaha with a feast of eels at Papaitonga, attacked him and the small party of relatives he was travelling with. Among those killed were Te Rauparaha's eldest son, Te Rangihoungariri, his daughter, Te Uira, and at least one other of his children. Te Rauparaha and Te Rākaherea were the only leaders to escape.

Te Rauparaha and Ngāti 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 Ngāti Apa visited his Rangitāne relatives he was warned to return, as Te Rauparaha was seeking revenge for the deaths of members of his family at Papaitonga. Although Te Maraki was kin to Te Pikinga, he and, according to Ngāti Toa sources, a Rangitāne leader, Tokipoto, were later killed by Te Rauparaha near Waikanae, about 1824.

In spite of these deaths, and in spite of the ensuing relentless Ngāti Toa campaign against Muaūpoko, Te Pikinga's relationship with Te Rangihaeata prevented her people from being enslaved even though they were related to Muaūpoko. Ngāti Toa regarded the three women Te Pikinga, Takaoi and Tāngutu as assurance of their occupation of the land; their own mana was a mana of conquest over the people. When Te Rangihaeata lived at Ōtaki Ngāti 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.

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

About 1824 Ngāti Apa leaders joined Muaūpoko, Rangitāne and other tribes of the lower North Island, and relatives from the South Island, in a surprise attack on Ngāti Toa at Kapiti. Against overwhelming odds Ngāti Toa defeated their attackers at the battle known as Waiorua. One of the many Ngāti Apa captives, Te Rangimairehau, 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 Ngāti Apa leaders Te Rangihaukū and Koupeka at Te Awamate. Six months later Ngāti Toa attacked another pā, Te Poutū; this time Ngāti 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 Ngāti Apa and Ngāti Toa.

In 1834 a great battle was fought between Ngāti Raukawa and Te Āti Awa at Haowhenua, a pā near Ōtaki. The outcome was inconclusive, but Ngāti Raukawa suffered the greater loss. They had been supported in the battle by Ngāti Apa, and afterwards abandoned Ōtaki for a period, moving into Ngāti Apa territory between the Manawatū and Rangitīkei rivers. It was the marriage between Te Pikinga and Te Rangihaeata which inclined the latter's Ngāti 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, Ngāti Apa were able to claim equal rights with Ngāti 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, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1t56/te-pikinga (accessed 30 October 2020)