Page 1: Biography
Te Tai Hakuene, Īhaka
Ngāpuhi leader, lay reader, politician
This biography, written by Steven Oliver, 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.
Īhaka Te Tai Hakuene was born at Rāwhiti in the Bay of Islands, probably in the late 1830s or early 1840s; he is known to have been a child during the northern war of 1845–46. He was the second son of Whai Hakuene, who probably signed the Treaty of Waitangi as Te Tai, and Tirokai, later known as Ākinihi (Agnes), both of Ngāi Tāwake of Ngāpuhi. He was also connected to Te Rarawa.
Īhaka Te Tai married Āhenata Takurua, the daughter of Te Kēmara Tāreha of Waitangi, when he was a young man. His wife's delicate health prevented him from going to Auckland to study for the Anglican ministry, and he became a lay reader instead. In 1874 he was nearly killed when his whaling boat was caught in a south-easterly gale. When he was about 25 his father died leaving him as his nominated successor. Īhaka Te Tai and Āhenata Takurua had a number of children, of whom the eldest son was Mita Te Tai. After Āhenata died in 1880, Īhaka Te Tai married Ruiha Kerei (Louisa Grey) at Russell on 25 March 1885; she was the daughter of Mātene Te Whiwhi of Ōtaki and widow of Hōri Kerei of Rāwhiti.
On 14 April 1875 a son of Īhaka Te Tai's married a niece of Hira Te Āwhā of Kaikohe. The wedding was held at Waitangi and the banquet attended by 500 Māori, 100 Europeans and 100 children. A hall was built to house the event; its site was Te Tii marae, where Māori groups attending the treaty signing in 1840 had camped. The hall was named Te Tiriti o Waitangi to affirm Ngāpuhi allegiance to the treaty and was to become a meeting place for tribal discussions. Īhaka Te Tai became treasurer of a committee which placed a commemorative stone bearing the text of the treaty in Māori and in English on Te Tii marae, where it still stands.
In March 1881 Īhaka Te Tai took part in a meeting of 3,000 Māori at Waitangi which asked for a Māori parliament with the power of veto over all questions affecting Māori people. The proposal had been drawn up by Āperahama Taonui, one of the original signatories to the treaty; the movement to make the treaty central to Māori politics was to culminate in the Māori parliaments of the 1890s.
Īhaka Te Tai became MHR for Northern Māori in 1884. His speeches in Parliament indicate some of the concerns of the Māori members. He first spoke on the need to fence the war graves at Ōhaeawai; it was done the following year. He asked several times about delays in opening schools for Māori children in areas where Māori land had been set aside for the purpose, and was advised by Robert Stout that the delays were due to local disputes. He expressed concern over the dog tax and asked if the government had considered giving effect to the recommendation of the Native Affairs Committee that the tax operate only in towns; he was advised that the government might exempt certain districts by proclamation but would not amend the Dog Registration Act 1880. Īhaka Te Tai supported a bill to introduce Bible reading to schools. In 1885 he asked what the government would do about a dispute caused by Pākehā taking oysters from Māori land at Mangonui. The government's reply was that the Māori were claiming the oysters under the Treaty of Waitangi and the issue would probably have to be decided by the Supreme Court, but the matter went no further at the time.
The major issue on which Īhaka Te Tai spoke in Parliament was that of the control of Māori land. He favoured the sharing of power between the government and the native committees established in 1883. In reply to Ngāti Maniapoto leader Wahanui Huatare, who advocated that all power be given to the native committees, he said that this would lead to the abuse of power. He supported the bill that became the Native Land Administration Act 1886 as he thought it would give the owners of the land control over its disposal and would strengthen chiefly authority. The act gave a role to committees elected by the owners of blocks of land, but also gave people the right to withdraw an area under a committee's control and have the land partitioned. Īhaka Te Tai thought this would bring greater publicity to transactions and prevent the secret sale of land without the knowledge of all the owners.
Īhaka Te Tai Hakuene died suddenly at his home in Russell on 6 April 1887 after returning from the Anglican diocesan synod in Auckland where he had contracted food poisoning. His funeral was held at Waitangi. His career was notable for his efforts to translate the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi into practical politics.