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Te Tuhi, Wiremu Pātara


Waikato leader, newspaper editor, warrior, secretary to the Maori King

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.

Te Tuhi was born in Waikato. He belonged to Ngāti Mahuta. His father was Paratene Te Maioha, a cousin of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, the first Māori King. Te Tuhi was a second cousin of Tāwhiao, Te Wherowhero's successor, and served him as editor, warrior, secretary and adviser.

In his youth Te Tuhi attended mission schools and lived for a time at Kāwhia. He appears to have become a Christian, taking Wiremu Pātara (William Butler) as his baptismal name. In 1856 Iwikau Te Heuheu Tūkino III held a meeting at Pūkawa where it was decided to offer the Māori kingship to Te Wherowhero. Te Tuhi, then known as Taieti, attended as Te Wherowhero's representative.

In 1859 two Waikato Māori, Wiremu Toetoe and Hēmara Te Rerehau, travelled to Austria on the frigate Novara, and were trained in printing techniques at the state printing house in Vienna. As a parting gift, in May 1860 Archduke Maximilian gave them a printing press, which was shipped to Ngāruawāhia. Late in 1861 the press was used to print a newspaper, which carried the proclamations of Tāwhiao, who had succeeded his father Te Wherowhero as King, and news of the King movement to its adherents. Pātara Te Tuhi became the editor and principal writer of the newspaper, which was named Te Hokioi e Rere Atu Nā, after a mythical bird which was flying to spread the news. Through the newspaper he argued for an interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi that would limit the sovereignty of the colonial government over Māori. He argued, for instance, that the presence of a government steamer on the Waikato River, without the permission of the Māori owners of the river, violated the treaty.

Early in 1863 the King movement warned Te Wheoro, a government supporter, not to proceed with the construction of a fortified constabulary station at Te Kohekohe, on the west bank of the Waikato River, south of Meremere. Te Wheoro ignored the warnings, and proceeded to have timber prepared and carpenters brought from Auckland. Supporters of the King, led by Wī Kumete Te Whitiora, threw the timber into the river and made the carpenters flee. The timber was rafted down the Waikato River to the government redoubt at Te Ia (Havelock, near Mercer), at the junction with the Mangatāwhiri River. Pātara Te Tuhi later said that it was he who first proposed sending the timber back to Te Ia, but he had not anticipated the violence that would follow.

In February 1863 the government set up a rival Māori newspaper at Te Awamutu, edited by John Gorst. Te Pīhoihoi Mokemoke i Runga i te Tuanui, taking its name from Psalm 102:7 ('I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house-top'), put forward Governor George Grey's argument that there could not be two governments in authority over one country. The paper's criticism of the King so incensed Ngāti Mahuta and their allies that on 24 March 1863 80 armed warriors, led by Rewi Maniapoto and Āporo Taratutu, entered the town of Te Awamutu. Āporo led them to the office of the government newspaper, where the printing press, paper and copies of the fifth (and last) issue of Te Pīhoihoi were seized. Gorst was ordered to leave Te Awamutu, and was accommodated by Pātara Te Tuhi in the printing house at Ngāruawāhia on his way back to Auckland. The expulsion was a challenge to the authority of Grey. On Pātara's advice, Tāwhiao condemned Rewi's actions, and ordered him to return the press and to leave to the King the question of the presence of the governor's official in Waikato. Two factions developed in the King movement, with Ngāti Maniapoto and some lower Waikato chiefs advocating war, and Ngāti Hauā and Waikato wanting to reduce tensions with the government. Pātara Te Tuhi and others successfully opposed Rewi's plan to take a fleet of canoes down the Waikato River to attack Te Ia.

War began, however, on 12 July 1863, when Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron and British troops crossed the Mangatāwhiri River. Te Hokioi ceased publication and the press was abandoned. (It is now in the Te Awamutu Museum.) Pātara Te Tuhi fought against the British all through the campaign in Waikato, and went into exile with Tāwhiao in 1864. The King and his followers remained in isolation in the King Country for nearly 20 years. In May 1878 Pātara Te Tuhi spoke at a meeting at Hikurangi, near Kāwhia, at which Grey, now premier, was present. He told Grey that the King movement was reluctant to begin negotiations with the government until the confiscation of Waikato lands had been discussed. This issue stalemated negotiations for a number of years. In 1881 Tāwhiao formally submitted to the government at Alexandra (Pirongia), and in January 1882 Pātara Te Tuhi accompanied the King on a tour of the North Island. On their arrival in Auckland Pātara delivered the King's prepared speech to the crowd attending the civic welcome.

In 1884 Pātara Te Tuhi went to England with Tāwhiao, as the King's assistant and secretary. After returning to New Zealand he lived at Māngere, near his brother, Hōnana Te Maioha. His portrait was painted by C. F. Goldie and a number of photographs were taken of him, showing him to be an imposing figure with a fully tattooed face. He represented Tāwhiao at an intertribal conference at Ōrākei in 1889 and was responsible for issuing proclamations for Mahuta, who succeeded Tāwhiao as King in 1894.

Pātara Te Tuhi was admired by both Māori and Pākehā for his shrewdness and his good nature. John Gorst, his rival editor in Waikato, praised his 'wit and ability', and was pleased to meet him again on a visit to New Zealand in 1906. He died at Māngere on 2 July 1910 and was said to be aged 85 or 86. He was buried at Taupiri, near the Waikato River.

How to cite this page:

Steven Oliver. 'Te Tuhi, Wiremu Pātara', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1t78/te-tuhi-wiremu-patara (accessed 22 July 2024)