Story: Te Rei Hanataua

Page 1: Biography

Te Rei Hanataua


Ngati Ruanui leader

This biography, written by Ian Church,  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 Rei Hanataua was the leading chief of Tangahoe hapu of Ngati Ruanui. He was the son of Wakataparuru and Hineao; his ancestry extends back to Turi and Rongorongo. He was born probably early in the nineteenth century, and brought up in the main Ngati Ruanui pa, Putake, a terraced pa on the Tangahoe Stream.

He led the Ngati Ruanui contingent which went to Te Rauparaha's assistance when the lower North Island tribes assaulted Kapiti Island about 1824. Te Rei Hanataua returned home after Te Rauparaha routed his opponents. He was implicated in the killing of Te Karawa, of Te Ati Awa, at Putake, in 1826. A party of Te Ati Awa, with Taranaki and Waikato allies, sought revenge but failed to find Te Rei Hanataua.

When the migration of Te Ati Awa known as Tama-te-uaua passed through South Taranaki in 1832, Te Rei Hanataua allowed them to stay a month at Ketemarae, near present day Normanby. He led a force, said to be 2,000-strong, to their assistance when they were attacked at Wanganui by local tribes and Ngati Tuwharetoa. He joined them at Kokohuia on the lower Wanganui River, but when it was decided not to attack Pukenamu (in present day Wanganui) he took his men home.

For the next few years Te Rei Hanataua was with Ngati Ruanui in the Otaki district, at a time when relationships with Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Toa worsened. The Taranaki people had suffered at the hands of these tribes at Pakakutu and Haowhenua, on the Otaki River. Te Rei Hanataua laid siege to Te Rauparaha's pa at Rangiuru and after his peace emissary, Turaukawa, was killed, occupied this pa, which then became known as Te Pa-a-Te Hanataua. But Te Rauparaha was reinforced by Ngati Raukawa from the north and retook the pa by storm. The Taranaki tribes were allowed to return home after acknowledging Ngati Toa rights to the land.

About 1834–36 Waikato, still smarting from their failure to capture Te Rei Hanataua in 1826, advanced on Te Ruaki, another terraced pa on the Tangahoe Stream, where he was then living. Failing to take it by storm they surrounded it with a palisade and after three months starved its inhabitants into submission. Either then or after a chase to Patea, Te Rei Hanataua was captured. However, following the defeat of Waikato by Ngati Ruanui and Taranaki at Waimate pa, he and his people escaped.

Afterwards Te Rei Hanataua lived at Ohangai, a massive pa near Hawera, which was surrounded by karaka groves and later fortified with ramparts, trenches and palisades. S. P. Smith visited Ohangai in 1858, and described it as 'beautifully clean and neat'. Both Wesleyan and Anglican missionaries visited Ohangai in the 1840s and 1850s. By 1852 its people were growing wheat and building substantial houses. On appropriate occasions Te Rei Hanataua wore European dress.

His son, Piripi, became the principal Anglican teacher at Waokena, near Hawera, after the killing of their teacher, Te Manihera, and a fellow teacher, Kereopa, near Tokaanu in 1847. In March 1849 Piripi visited Taupo with the Reverend Richard Taylor to make peace with the tribes responsible for the murder. In June 1850 Te Rei Hanataua's former enemy, Topine Te Mamaku of Ngati Haua-te-rangi, was brought to him at Waitotara by Taylor to make a formal peace.

By this time Te Rei Hanataua and his people felt threatened by the advance of European settlement. In October 1851 he protested at the erection of a new flagstaff at New Plymouth which was seen as a claim to land. However he was not a participant in the Manawapou meeting to secure Ngati Ruanui, Taranaki and Nga Rauru tribal boundaries in May 1854. In March 1855 he responded to Te Waitere Katatore's request for assistance in the Puketapu feud in North Taranaki and his people took part in some minor clashes. In May of that year Te Rei Hanataua assisted Katatore in his attack on Ninia pa, an action which brought European troops to New Plymouth. To secure the northern boundary of the Taranaki tribes against Pakeha settlement, Te Rei Hanataua led 100 armed men to Tapuae, south-west of New Plymouth, in January 1856.

Fighting resumed in April 1856 when his son, Piripi, led 40 warriors of Tangahoe hapu to support Katatore at his pa, Kaipakopako. Piripi was killed there on 16 April. Tangahoe were incensed. Te Rei Hanataua, at the head of 300 people, camped outside Kaipakopako, slaughtered all animals in the vicinity and prepared to take vengeance on either faction within Puketapu. Only the intervention of Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitake prevented fighting and Robert Parris, the district land purchase commissioner, persuaded them not to erect a pa which would be seen as provocation. After attacking Ihaia Te Kirikumara's pa, Ikamoana, Tangahoe warriors returned home and took no further part in the feud. In 1857, when Katatore offered to sell the Whakangerengere block, adjacent to New Plymouth and adjoining the boundary of Ngati Ruanui, Te Rei Hanataua joined other chiefs in warning Parris of the consequences.

When fighting broke out in March 1860, Te Rei Hanataua led 130 Tangahoe and Nga Ruahine warriors to join Taranaki forces at Kaipopo pa, Waireka. The combined force of 400 men, including elderly warriors and boys, fired on Omata stockade and then engaged colonial troops at John Jury's farm. Caught in the cross-fire from men of the Niger, their losses included 17 chiefs, among them Te Rei Hanataua.

Te Rei Hanataua's first wife was Mata Hinewai, to whom he was married by Richard Taylor on 12 February 1849. His second wife was Hitaringa. He had at least five children: Taiteariki, Piripi Wiremu, Te Ua Tito, Pita and Tamaohungia. Watikini Hanataua may have been a son or a grandson.

How to cite this page:

Ian Church. 'Te Rei Hanataua', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 September 2020)