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Story: Pāpāhia, Hone Tana

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Pāpāhia, Hone Tana


Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi; Anglican clergyman, missionary

This biography, written by Wiritai Toi, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Hōne Tana Pāpāhia was born probably sometime between 1856 and 1859 at Ōrongotea, on the north-west shoreline of the Hokianga Harbour. His father was Wiremu Tana Pāpāhia; his mother's name is not known. Pāpāhia was baptised Hōne Wēpiha (John Webster) after an early nineteenth century European settler, but 'Wēpiha' was later replaced by the family name 'Tana' and he became known as Hōne Tana Pāpāhia. His descent lines were through Te Horohuhare and Ngāti Haua hapū of Te Rarawa of north Hokianga. He was also kin to Ngāpuhi through his descent from Tūpoto. Both his father and his paternal grandfather, Pāpāhia, were signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi at Mangungu mission station in 1840.

Pāpāhia attended the Native Teachers' Institute at the Kaitaia mission station, then in 1884 enrolled at the Church Missionary Society's theological centre for Māori students, Te Rau College, at Gisborne. Under the tutelage of Archdeacon W. L. Williams and his nephew, the Reverend A. O. Williams, he received instruction on Scripture, church history and doctrine, liturgy and general subjects.

On Sunday 27 March 1887 in St George's Church at Thames, Pāpāhia was admitted to deacon's orders by the bishop of Auckland, W. G. Cowie. At 3 p.m. that day he preached his first sermon at the Holy Trinity Church, Pārāwai. In May 1888 Pāpāhia and the Reverend Wiki Te Paa conducted a mission in the Waikato to examine the extent of Hauhauism among the people following the wars of the 1860s. Areas visited were Tāpapa, Waotū, Pārāwera, Ōtorohanga, Te Kūiti, Taupiri and Pukekawa. They found the people receptive to their overtures, resulting in a recommendation that Waotū and Ōtorohanga be established as bases for ministry in Waikato.

On Sunday 10 January 1892, Pāpāhia was admitted to the priesthood by Bishop Cowie at St Mary's Cathedral, Parnell, Auckland. He was to be based at Waipārera, his home parish, and his stipend rose from £50 to £60 annually. In 1903 he acted as bishop's chaplain at the consecration of the new bishop of Auckland, Dr M. R. Neligan, at St Mary's Cathedral. Pāpāhia was appointed assistant superintendent of the Māori mission under Archdeacon H. A. Hawkins in 1905. Around this time stipends of the Māori clergy rose to £70 per annum.

Pāpāhia and Hawkins travelled to the Melanesian islands in 1907, to examine the feasibility of Māori clergy becoming teachers for the Melanesian mission. Pāpāhia was the second known Māori clergyman to visit Melanesia, after Hēnare Wiremu Taratoa, who accompanied Bishop G. A. Selwyn in 1852. The two missionaries recommended that the Reef Islets in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) be established as the base for future Māori missions, after deciding that the islands met adequate standards of health, food, language and 'friendliness'. A permanent Māori mission was never established, but Māori clergy have continued to visit the islands.

At the invitation of the bishop of Christchurch, Churchill Julius, in December 1911, Pāpāhia conducted a mission among the Māori people of the Christchurch diocese. Details of his movements are not known, although it is reported that his visit proved to be very productive.

On his return to Waipārera, Pāpāhia became ill; he died on 9 February 1912 and was buried on 14 February. There is no evidence that he married. Many tributes extolling his life's work in the church began to appear. St Barnabas' Church at Pēria, Northland, was dedicated to his memory, as were memorial stones at Te Kao and Gisborne. In 1914 a stained glass window dedicated to his memory was placed in St Mary's Cathedral, Auckland. Standing just inside the gateway to the Rīpeka Tapu Church and cemetery at Waipārera is an imposing four-metre-tall monument, comprising an obelisk of brown-flecked marble supporting a white marble angel. The east-facing side contains Pāpāhia's epitaph, the north depicts his church career. Pāpāhia's epitaph, in poetic Māori, eulogises his standing as spiritual leader and churchman in his own Māori community. Bishop Cowie wrote of Pāpāhia in 1892: 'He is most humble, is a man of stainless life and of entire devotion to his calling.'

How to cite this page:

Wiritai Toi. 'Pāpāhia, Hone Tana - Pāpāhia, Hōne Tana', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2p3/papahia-hone-tana (accessed 7 December 2023)