Story: Te Heuheu Tukino IV, Horonuku

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Te Heuheu Tukino IV, Horonuku


Ngati Tuwharetoa leader, carver

This biography, written by Steven Oliver, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993, and updated in June, 2018.

Horonuku was born probably in the 1820s at Te Rapa, near Tokaanu, on the south-western side of Lake Taupo, the son of Mananui Te Heuheu Tukino II and his wife, Te Mare. In his youth and early manhood he was known as Patatai. His father was paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa and leader of Ngati Turumakina. His mother was a grand-daughter of Te Rangitua-matotoru, who had been leader of Ngati Tuwharetoa before Herea Te Heuheu, Mananui's father. Patatai had family connections with Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato and spent much of his early life among them.

About 1845 he went to Pamotumotu, near Wharepuhunga, to the home of his grandmother, Rangiaho. While he was there his father's pa at Te Rapa was destroyed by an enormous avalanche of mud that swept down Kakaramea mountain after heavy rain on the night of 7 May 1846. His father, mother, elder half-brother Te Waaka and many other members of his family and his father's household were killed. Patatai returned to Taupo and took the name Horonuku (which means landslide) in memory of the death of his father. Iwikau, his father's brother, became the next paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa.

Iwikau supported the formation of the Maori King movement in the 1850s, and in its support he and Horonuku went to the pa of Te Ati Awa leader Wi Tako Ngatata at Te Taitai (Taita) in the Hutt Valley, where Horonuku took part in the carving of the storehouse Nuku Tewhatewha, erected as one of the symbolic pillars of the King movement. Horonuku also took part in carving Hinana, Iwikau's ornamental storehouse at Pukawa, and he was involved in the carving of other storehouses built in support of the King movement. Iwikau died in October 1862 and was succeeded by Horonuku, who became Te Heuheu Tukino IV. He was by this time married to Tahuri Te Uaki; they were to have five children.

Despite his support of the King movement Iwikau had kept Ngati Tuwharetoa out of the war in Taranaki in 1860. However, he had told the missionary Thomas Grace that if Waikato Maori were attacked he would be compelled to go to their aid. When in July 1863 Governor George Grey ordered the invasion of Waikato territory on the grounds that the King movement was planning to attack Auckland, Horonuku kept his uncle's promise. About September he led some 200 warriors across Lake Taupo by canoe and down the Waikato River to join the fighting. He arrived too late for the battle of Rangiriri on 20 November, and his part in later fighting is not recorded until 31 March 1864, when he is said to have led an attempt to reinforce the besieged pa of Orakau. The attempt to break the British cordon was unsuccessful and Horonuku and his warriors returned home. In 1866 he was reported to be in favour of joining the fighting against government forces in South Taranaki. However, a large tribal meeting held at Poutu was predominantly against taking up arms unless Ngati Tuwharetoa territory was invaded.

War came to the Taupo region in 1869 when Te Kooti and his followers left the Urewera mountains. A Taupo chief who may have represented Horonuku went to Waioeka and invited Te Kooti to Taupo. On 8 June Te Kooti's advance guard killed nine government volunteer soldiers at Opepe, 15 miles from Lake Taupo. Te Kooti was joined by Horonuku, and together they went to visit Tawhiao, the Maori King, at Tokangamutu (Te Kuiti). Te Kooti sought the military support of the King movement, and in response Rewi Maniapoto and other leaders returned to Taupo with him and Horonuku. However, when Te Kooti's small army was defeated at Te Ponanga saddle in September 1869 his King movement allies realised he had no chance of winning against the government, and withdrew their support. Horonuku remained with Te Kooti and was at his pa at Te Porere on 4 October 1869 when it was attacked by government forces. Te Kooti was defeated and withdrew into the King Country. Horonuku and those Ngati Tuwharetoa who had supported him were also overwhelmed and forced to withdraw. They surrendered a few days later. Some Ngati Tuwharetoa chiefs had fought on the government side. Horonuku reproached them for having abandoned him, leaving him no option but to follow Te Kooti. He and his family were sent to Napier and later stayed for a time at Pakowhai with Karaitiana Takamoana. He returned to Taupo in 1870.

In the 1880s Horonuku represented Ngati Tuwharetoa in the Native Land Court as their title to land in the Taupo region came under investigation. In 1882 and 1883 Ngati Tuwharetoa had agreed to place much of their land within the Rohe Potae (King Country) land block with that of other tribes who supported the King movement, but in 1885 they withdrew and asked the Native Land Court to investigate the titles of all land. Boundary disputes led to the concession of land in the west to Ngati Maniapoto and further claims on Taupo land were made by tribes who had fought for the government against Te Kooti. Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui, who had fought against Te Kooti at Te Porere, claimed southern Taupo by right of conquest. He told the court that he had lit fires of occupation in the area. It is said that Horonuku demanded to know where the fires were, denied there were any, and pointing out the window of the court to the smoking peak of Tongariro said, 'There is my fire.' The great land block of Taupo-nui-a-Tia was awarded to Ngati Tuwharetoa in 1886 in a decision that excluded other tribes.

During the land court hearings Horonuku had decided that in order to preserve the sacred nature of the mountains to the south of Lake Taupo he would offer them in partnership to the Crown so that Ngati Tuwharetoa would never lose their association with them. Despite opposition from other Ngati Tuwharetoa leaders the peaks of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu were the subject of a deed of settlement with the Crown in September 1887. Horonuku Te Heuheu died at Waihi, near Tokaanu, probably in late July 1888. He was said to be 62 years of age. He was succeeded as paramount leader of Ngati Tuwharetoa by his son, Tureiti.

How to cite this page:

Steven Oliver. 'Te Heuheu Tukino IV, Horonuku', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993, updated June, 2018. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 2 April 2020)