Story: Te Rangi Paetahi, Mete Kīngi

Page 1: Biography

Te Rangi Paetahi, Mete Kīngi

?–1883

Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi leader, soldier, assessor, politician, farmer

This biography, written by Steven Oliver,  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.

Mete Kīngi Te Rangi Paetahi was of Ngā Poutama and Ngāti Tūmango of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi. He also had ties with Ngāti Apa. He was the son of Paetahi, a Wanganui leader, who fought against Ngāti Toa at the battle of Waiorua, Kapiti Island, about 1824; his mother's name was Utaora. He succeeded Hōri Kīngi Te Ānaua in 1868 as the highest-ranking leader among the lower Wanganui tribes. Mete Kīngi's wife was Rōra Awheuru, daughter of Takarangiatua. They are known to have had four sons, Hoani, Hēnare Takarangi, Pehira and Hōhipere, and a daughter, Mary.

In the 1850s Mete Kīngi was involved in attempts to bring an end to tribal warfare, arising over the issue of land sales, in several parts of the North Island. He intervened among Te Arawa in Rotorua, and in 1854 in Taranaki. When hostilities broke out in 1857 in Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay) among Ngāti Kahungunu, he went there with the native secretary, Donald McLean, and assisted in persuading Te Hāpuku to return to his ancestral lands. In this period he attended King movement meetings, including the great meeting at Pūkawa in November 1856, and spoke against the movement. He pledged the allegiance of his people to the Queen at the Kohimarama conference in 1860. In 1858 he had been appointed an assessor under the Native Circuit Courts Act 1858 and in 1865 was made a Native Land Court assessor.

Mete Kīngi opposed the Pai Mārire movement in the 1860s and played a prominent part in the government's military campaigns. In 1864, when upper Wanganui Māori adopted the Pai Mārire faith and, led by Mātene Te Rangitauira of Taumarunui, attempted to pass down the Wanganui River to attack the town of Wanganui, Mete Kīngi was with the army of pro-government lower Wanganui Māori who refused them passage. At the battle at Moutoa, an island on the Wanganui River, on 14 May he commanded the reserve and played a decisive part in the defeat of the Hauhau force. He took part in their subsequent defeat at Ōhoutahi pā, below Pipiriki, in February 1865.

In January 1865 Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron marched north from Wanganui to recover the Waitōtara block from the Hauhau forces. Mete Kīngi was among the Wanganui leaders who appealed to Governor George Grey to negotiate a surrender of Weraroa pā, on the Waitōtara River, which Cameron had bypassed as too strong and of little strategic importance. When negotiations broke down, Mete Kīngi advised Grey against a frontal attack. Instead, on Mete Kīngi's advice, the Māori contingent and other units captured Āreiahi village to the rear of the pā, cutting off the food supply to Weraroa. The pā had been abandoned by its defenders. It was around this time that Mete Kīngi became popularly known as 'General Mete Kīngi'.

Mete Kīngi's troops had remained anxious about a Hauhau descent on the lower Wanganui. He returned there after the fall of Weraroa, and on 25 July 1865 embarked upriver on the steamer Gundagai as part of the relief force sent to Pipiriki. However, the Hauhau forces dispersed before it arrived. Mete Kīngi then took part in burning the deserted village of Ōhinemutu, near Pātea, previously a Hauhau base. On his return to Wanganui he proposed to Grey that he and his troops should avenge the killing of the missionary C. S. Völkner at Ōpōtiki in March 1865. The expedition arrived at Ōpōtiki in September, and Mete Kīngi took part in the capture of six pā in the district. Four hundred Hauhau warriors surrendered to government forces. Returning to Wanganui, he joined Major General Trevor Chute's expedition into South Taranaki in January–February 1866, and led the Māori contingent throughout the campaign.

Mete Kīngi entered the House of Representatives as the first member for Western Māori in May 1868, and held the seat until December 1870. After an interlude of peace, war had resumed on the west coast of the North Island in June 1868 when land confiscation forced Ngāti Ruanui into armed resistance. Mete Kīngi spoke in Parliament against a negotiated peace with Ngāti Ruanui leader Tītokowaru, and charged that Parliament underestimated the depredations of Tītokowaru's forces in the Wanganui region: after defeating government forces at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu and Moturoa in September and November 1868, Tītokowaru had devastated the countryside surrounding Wanganui. The troops defending the town included 500 members of the Māori contingent. Hostilities ceased in the Wanganui area in early 1869, after Tītokowaru abandoned his stronghold at Taurangaika, 15 miles north of Wanganui. In Parliament Mete Kīngi also seconded a motion calling for a commission on Māori affairs in July 1869, and urged that laws relating to the Māori be published in Māori.

Mete Kīngi was one of three Māori leaders, along with Tāmihana Te Rauparaha and Wī Tako Ngātata, who accompanied Governor G. F. Bowen on a vice-regal visit to Christchurch in January 1869. In the 1870s he turned his attention to sheepfarming; in 1877 he was given 2,000 sheep by Rēnata Kawepō of Napier. He also participated in intertribal meetings to discuss issues of land and political representation. In 1876 he attended an important meeting at Tūhua, on the upper Wanganui River, called over a dispute between Te Mamaku of Ngāti Hāua-te-rangi and the Waikato people after Te Mamaku offered to sell land. In general, Mete Kīngi was in favour of the sale of land, so long as enough was retained to provide for Māori welfare. He organised conferences at Te Aomārama, Pūtiki and Taumarunui. In 1878, after a meeting held in April at his own meeting house, Te Paku-o-te-rangi, he and Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui took to the government a proposal that land titles should be investigated by a Māori committee with legal standing. In March 1881, with Kāwana Paipai of Ngāti Ruaka, he attended a meeting at Waitangi, Bay of Islands, which discussed the Treaty of Waitangi.

Mete Kīngi's last official act was to assist in dispersing the followers of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai III from Parihaka in 1881. He appealed to the Wanganui people at Parihaka to follow him home; when this was rejected he withdrew, saying that they had hardened their hearts. A young chief accompanying Mete Kīngi, named Utiku Pōtaka, then separated out the Wanganui women and children and they were returned to their home.

Several photographs of Mete Kīngi, taken during his visit to Christchurch in 1869, survive. They show a large, bearded man, with no tattooing. He died at Pūtiki on 22 September 1883, believed to be about 70 years of age. He was accorded a military funeral, on 1 October, with a firing party of 200 volunteers. Several thousand people attended. He is buried in the mission cemetery at Pūtiki.

How to cite this page:

Steven Oliver. 'Te Rangi Paetahi, Mete Kīngi', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1t62/te-rangi-paetahi-mete-kingi (accessed 5 December 2020)