Story: Tiakitai

Page 1: Biography



Ngati Kahungunu leader, trader

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

Tiakitai was a Ngati Kahungunu leader of great mana in the Waimarama area of Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay) in the first half of the nineteenth century. Through his father, Te Orihau, he was descended from Te Rangi-ko-ia-anake I and Te Kaihou, daughter of Te Rehunga. One of his great-uncles was Hawea. Through his mother, Hinekona, he was a descendant of Honomokai, Hinepare, Te Upokoiri and Te Whatu-i-apiti. His maternal grandmother was Horonga-i-te-rangi, a sister of Te Uamairangi, the paramount chief of Ngati Te Upokoiri and Ngati Hinemanu during Tiakitai's childhood. The hapu with which Tiakitai was most closely associated was Ngati Kurukuru, descendants of Te Whatu-i-apiti living at Waimarama.

In the early nineteenth century there were a series of clashes in Heretaunga between Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti of Heretaunga and Ngati Te Upokoiri of Heretaunga and inland Patea (the upper Rangitikei district). Tiakitai was related to both sides, and his early involvement seems to have been on behalf of his own community at Waimarama. In retaliation for the death of one of his people he sent a war party which killed a man called Takaha near Otawhao.

About 1823 Tiakitai and Te Pareihe of Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti joined a war party with Nga Puhi leader Te Wera Hauraki and Te Hauwaho of Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti. They occupied Te Roto-a-Tara pa, near Te Aute. Tiakitai then asked Te Wera and Nga Puhi to help him avenge the death of his child Pani, whom he believed to have been killed by witchcraft by the people living south of Porangahau. Wiremu Te Potangaroa, of Te Ika-a-Papauma hapu, living on the coast between Akitio and Castlepoint, was attacked. Tiakitai killed one of Te Potangaroa's daughters, a chief called Pato, and 50 others; another of Te Potangaroa's daughters, Hinerohi, was permitted to escape.

After skirmishes in Northern Wairarapa Tiakitai and his party of Nga Puhi returned to Te Roto-a-Tara, where they heard that Ngati Te Upokoiri and their allies were on their way to attack them. Tiakitai, Te Pareihe, Te Wera and the other leaders took their combined forces to meet the enemy, defeating them in a battle known as Te Whiti-o-Tu, at the Waipawa River, near Tikokino. While this campaign was in progress, some of the prisoners taken in Wairarapa by Nga Puhi escaped from Te Roto-a-Tara. They included two women called Te Matahi and Hine-i-aurua, who fled to Waimarama and were given shelter there by Tiakitai's people. Tiakitai took both of them as wives, but a little later their Wairarapa menfolk came to reclaim them. Tiakitai allowed them to be taken away by canoe, but at Mataikona, Te Matahi escaped and made her way back to Tiakitai. Both she and Hine-i-aurua became permanent wives of Tiakitai. Tiakitai and Te Matahi, later called Ani, had a son, who later took the name Te Teira (Taylor). Tiakitai and Hine-i-aurua had a daughter named Horiana Te Whare.

While Te Pareihe, Tiakitai and Te Wera were at Te Roto-a-Tara, a large force of northern tribes led by Mananui Te Heuheu Tukino II of Taupo besieged the island pa, building a bridge to reach it because the Heretaunga and Nga Puhi defendants had taken all the available canoes to the island. Tiakitai was one of the leaders who drove the besiegers back over their own bridge, killing the Waikato chief Te Arawai.

After this battle Te Pareihe warned the other chiefs that it was no longer safe to remain in Heretaunga, and led many away to Nukutaurua, on the eastern coast of the Mahia peninsula. When Ngati Raukawa, settled at Taupo under pressure from northern war parties, learned that Heretaunga had been abandoned, a large party under Te Whatanui came to take possession. They built a pa at Puketapu, on the banks of the Tutaekuri River. Tiakitai was one of the chiefs who led a war party which succeeded in dislodging Ngati Raukawa.

Tiakitai gathered the remaining people of Heretaunga at Te Pakake pa, on an island inside the harbour at Ahuriri (Napier). Te Wherowhero of Waikato sent a war party to Heretaunga to avenge the defeats of Waikato and their allies, but gave orders that the chiefs of Heretaunga were to be saved alive. Waikato forces, armed with muskets, inflicted a catastrophic defeat on the defenders of Te Pakake. Many were killed, including Te Hauwaho; the chiefs Tiakitai, Te Hapuku, Te Moananui and Tareha were among those captured. On the orders of Te Wherowhero, Tiakitai was released; the others were carried off to captivity in Waikato.

After the Waikato party withdrew, Tiakitai, alone in the leadership of the Heretaunga survivors, collected up the refugees and refortified Te Pakake. Some time later a message reached him from Te Wherowhero, inviting him to Waikato to make peace. On his way there Tiakitai found Ngati Te Upokoiri fugitives from the defeats at Te Whiti-o-Tu and Te Roto-a-Tara living on Ngati Tuwharetoa lands at Taupo. He invited them to return to Heretaunga under his protection. He then went on to Waikato where Te Wherowhero made peace with him and released Te Moananui, Te Hapuku and the other chiefs of Heretaunga into his custody. At Taupo on his way home he found that only a small party of Ngati Te Upokoiri were prepared to trust his offer of protection. They included the young chief Kawepo and his sister Erena Mekemeke, who were the children of Te Pakapaka, a cousin of Tiakitai's mother. Both Te Moananui and Te Hapuku wished to take Erena as a wife, but Kawepo and Mananui gave her to Tiakitai. Tiakitai and Erena had a daughter, Haromi Te Ata, who married Karauria, the son of Te Moananui's brother, Te Matenga. Haromi and Karauria were the parents of Airini Donnelly.

After the disaster at Te Pakake, many more Heretaunga people had fled to the protection of Te Pareihe and Te Wera at Nukutaurua. About 1824 or 1825 Ngati Te Kohera, of Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa origin, invaded Heretaunga under the chief Te Momo-a-Irawaru, intending to make a second attempt to establish a home for themselves in this relatively deserted area. They established themselves at Kahotea pa, near Te Roto-a-Tara, and Ngati Te Upokoiri occupied Te Roto-a-Tara pa. When Te Pareihe and Te Wera heard of this, they brought a joint war party, well armed with muskets, up the Tukituki River in canoes. Tiakitai joined them with his party, and Te Momo fought and was killed at Kahotea pa.

Tiakitai sent his brother Tatere to ask Ngati Te Upokoiri to let Kawepo come out of Te Roto-a-Tara before the pa was besieged. His request was refused, and Te Pareihe's force took Te Roto-a-Tara by storm, after dragging their canoes across from the Tukituki River into the lake. Many captives were taken and it was intended to consume parts of their bodies to destroy their mana. Kawepo was placed alive on a fire, but Tatere intervened to save him. Kawepo was then placed under Tiakitai's care and later turned over to Nga Puhi as their captive.

After this victory Te Pareihe's people and Nga Puhi returned to Nukutaurua and Tiakitai remained in Heretaunga. Some of the time he resided at Te Pakake, and at other times at Waimarama. He may also have occupied the pa on Motu-o-Kura (Bare Island). About this time he visited Port Jackson (Sydney) for the first time, travelling in a European vessel sent by Te Wherowhero to give Tiakitai an opportunity to arm his people with muskets and powder.

In the 1830s Tiakitai may have spent periods living with Te Pareihe at Nukutaurua. They took part in campaigns at Taupo, Manawatu and on the East Coast, and Tiakitai developed interests in trading and travel. He was known to the whaling communities of Hawke's Bay as 'Jacky Tie', and acquired his own whaleboat.

In 1839 Tiakitai was at Waimarama when Captain W. B. Rhodes arrived on the coast of Hawke's Bay. Tiakitai sold Rhodes an area of land from Kawakawa, near Cape Turnagain, to Cape Kidnappers, while other chiefs sold land from that point north to Ahuriri. Rhodes's deed, dated 31 December 1839, purported to buy an area totalling 883,000 acres for £393 worth of goods and money. The goods included guns, powder, ropes, tools, clothes and blankets. According to one source Tiakitai's share was a shirt, a pair of trousers, a pot, an axe and many blankets.

In the late 1830s and early 1840s the former inhabitants of Heretaunga and lands further south began to return to their homes. Those who had occupied land from Waimarama to Porangahau now came under the mana of Tiakitai and he assigned areas of land for them to occupy and cultivate. As the only major chief who had not abandoned Heretaunga and fled to Nukutaurua, his mana was recognised by all.

Tiakitai did not take a great interest in the Christianity preached by the missionary William Colenso, who settled in Heretaunga in 1844. He was annoyed at the missionary's interference in his affairs, yet when Colenso was assaulted by the chief Hoani Waikato it was Tiakitai who presided over the gathering to decide on proper compensation, and directed that the women and children of those who had slandered Colenso should submit to Christian instruction.

On 1 September 1847 Tiakitai set out with 21 companions on his whaleboat to visit Wairoa and Mahia and to attend a marriage feast. During the night a heavy sea arose and the boat was lost with all hands. Tiakitai was greatly mourned by his people, and was survived by some of his wives and children, including Te Teira Tiakitai, a son later named Pakiaka, and his daughters, Haromi and Horiana.

How to cite this page:

Angela Ballara. 'Tiakitai', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 October 2019)