Page 1: Biography
Ngāpuhi; coastal trader, storekeeper, assessor
This biography, written by Steven Oliver, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Hēmi (James) Tautari was born, probably in 1814 or 1815, at Paihia in the Bay of Islands. His father may have been Te Koki, the principal chief of Ngāpuhi at Paihia and brother of Hongi Hika's mother, Tuhikura, of Ngāti Rēhia. Te Koki is known to have had at least three wives, including the sisters Te Mutunga, Nehe and Moerimu. Te Koki and his son Rangituke were among the leaders of the Ngāpuhi raids of the 1820s, including the attack on Mokoia Island, Lake Rotorua, in 1823. While Te Koki was away on that expedition Henry Williams and Samuel Marsden of the Church Missionary Society established a mission at Paihia, at Te Koki's request, on a site given by Ana Hamu. Hēmi Tautari attended the mission school: he may have been the 'highly connected' Hēmi whom Henry Williams baptised on 13 May 1832, and who married Hera on 28 May. A child was baptised on 16 June 1833. Hera died on 7 February 1834, leaving two children.
From the late 1840s Hēmi Tautari owned and captained the coastal trader Napi. He traded between the Bay of Islands and Auckland and was known for his reliability. He was associated with regattas on Auckland harbour in the 1850s. About 1853 he sold the Napi and traded instead in the Herald, a 25-ton schooner. His ships carried a wide variety of cargo including nails, bricks and candles, and took peaches, flour and bacon to Auckland. They also carried passengers. He owned the Herald until 1855 and was the owner of half the shares in the St Kilda from 1857 to 1865. In 1859 Tautari asked that half of his share of the proceeds for land sold to the Crown in the Kawakawa area be returned to him as a Crown grant in sole title rather than paid to him in cash, for which he said he had no desire. That year he became the majority shareholder in the Annie Laurie, and from 1861 to 1865 he was half-owner of the Sea Breeze, which he captained in 1862 when it carried Bishop J. C. Patteson on one of his annual voyages to the missions in Melanesia.
Hēmi's wife, Pane (Fanny), died at Paihia on 5 August 1860 at the age of 34. It is not known when they married, and it appears that they had no children. On 30 August 1861, at Paihia, Hēmi married Mary Perry. She was the daughter of Robert Perry, a trader, and Harieta Haumu, and was born at Māhia. Her date of birth is not known.
From 1865 Hēmi Tautari ceased to own coastal trading ships. He retired from the sea, and by 1869 lived at Taumarere, where he had opened a large store. He later opened another at Russell. In 1874 he was made an assessor to assist in the proceedings of the Native Land Court, and was reappointed in 1880 as assessor for the Kawakawa area. In August 1871 his son Mehaka (or Mita) Hare, who had married an Ōpōtiki woman, had been killed by government forces while fighting for Te Kooti in Poverty Bay.
In 1875 Mary Tautari established a boarding school at Taumarere, alongside their home. The majority of her pupils were Māori girls, ranging from seven to 14 years of age; some boys also attended. By the mid 1870s there were more than 20 pupils, 12 of them boarders. The school enjoyed a high reputation, and children were sent considerable distances to attend. Financial difficulties in 1877 threatened the future of the school at a point when, according to Mary Tautari, 'the girls are now over their first difficulties and promise to be not only well educated but even accomplished and nice girls.'
Mary Tautari and her staff imparted 'an excellent English education', a visitor noted in 1879. Instrumental music and singing were also taught, and public musical performances given in the Taumarere hall. Mary Tautari was a strict disciplinarian, and her pupils were instructed in household tasks 'in order that they may be europeanised as much as possible'.
At the end of 1883 the boarding school was closed, and a subsidy granted to Mary Tautari to open a small day school for boys and girls. The roll grew to 29 pupils in 1901, and the school received good reports from school inspectors for its standard of teaching.
Hēmi and Mary Tautari owned land at Taumarere and claimed a disputed area used as a recreation ground. They were the prime movers behind the building of a Māori church there, and Mary Tautari served as an interpreter and postmistress. Hēmi Tautari's health was poor later in life, and he died on 30 July 1883 at Kawakawa. He was 68 years of age. Mary Tautari continued to conduct the school until her death, at Rāwene, on 2 January 1906. The school at Taumarere was not reopened after her death. Hēmi and Mary Tautari left no children.