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Story: Tīkao, Hōne Taare

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Tīkao, Hōne Taare


Ngāi Tahu leader, scholar, politician

This biography, written by Tipene O'Regan, 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 Taare Tīkao told the historian Herries Beattie that he was born on Banks Peninsula in or about 1850, just two years after the Crown purchase of Canterbury from Ngāi Tahu, and within months of the arrival of the first Pākehā settlers in Canterbury. Tīkao claimed descent from 21 Ngāi Tahu hapū but was principally of Ngāi Tūahuriri and Ngāti Irakehu descent. He identified most strongly with Ngāti Irakehu, a hapū which had connections in southern Wairarapa.

The Banks Peninsula region into which he was born had been savaged by musket-armed Ngāti Toa in the late 1820s and shocked by the Elizabeth incident of 1830, in which the leader Tama-i-hara-nui had been kidnapped and subsequently killed. Tīkao's father, Tāmati Tīkao, and his uncle Hōne (John) Tīkao had both been taken to the North Island as captives. After his release Hōne worked as a sailor on a whaling ship and travelled extensively. As John Love he signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Akaroa in 1840, and he was also a signatory to the sale of Canterbury in 1848. Tāmati spent some years at Wairau, where he came into contact with missionary teachings. As well as acquiring literacy, he became a Christian and an advocate of the changes the new religion had brought.

On his eventual return to Banks Peninsula Tāmati settled at Wairewa (Lake Forsyth). He married Rāhera, and Hōne Taare Tīkao (sometimes called Teone Taare Tīkao or John Charles Tīkao) was born there. Tāmati established a Māori school at Wairewa. His brother Hōne settled at Wakaroa (Pigeon Bay). At Wairewa Hōne Taare Tīkao helped his father farm, and worked for Pākehā settlers. He moved away at the time of his first marriage, to Maraea Tīhau (also known as Toitoi), a close relative, at St Peter's Church, Akaroa, on 22 June 1878. They settled at Wainui, where Tīkao lived until he was in his early 30s.

After the death of his wife and the two children of that marriage, he married Martha Hana Toku Horomona (Hannah Solomon-Score) of Koukourarata (Port Levy), and they went to live on her family lands there. They were to have 14 children, six of whom died young. In the mid 1880s he moved his family to Rāpaki so that the children could attend the school established by the Ngāti Kahungunu Wesleyan missionary, Te Koti Te Rato.

At an early age Hōne Taare Tīkao had been consigned by his father to the care of two noted tribal scholars of Ngāi Tahu, Koroko and Tūauau, for nearly 10 years. This laid the foundations of an encyclopaedic knowledge of Ngāi Tahu natural lore and history pertaining to the Canterbury area. (In later life Tīkao disavowed any competence in the traditional history of southern Ngāi Tahu.)

His extensive exposure to two of the most learned men of the tribe, and parental support for learning English and writing skills, were to produce a formidable and well-equipped intellect. He became an informant of James Cowan, J. W. Stack and Herries Beattie, who recorded and published Ngāi Tahu history and traditional information. Tīkao's grasp of English and his generous approach to the sharing of knowledge led him into easy contact with prominent Canterbury Pākehā, and he frequently delivered addresses on Māori tradition and hosted Pākehā groups at Rāpaki or Koukourarata.

Remembering from his youth carved whare at Akaroa and other Ngāi Tahu centres on the peninsula, Tīkao devoted considerable effort to the construction of new tribal buildings. He played a major part in the building of the church at Ōnuku (The Kaik), and led the building projects which established the houses Tūtehuarewa (at Koukourarata) and Te Wheke (at Rāpaki). Tīkao was subsequently to become the leader of the Rāpaki community.

Biculturally competent leaders who were able to manage the relationships with the rapidly expanding Pākehā world were in high demand, and Tīkao's skills marked him for recognition. Ngāi Tahu claims, seeking remedies for the Crown's conduct of the South Island land purchases, had begun in 1849 and were gathering momentum in the period when Tīkao was emerging as a leader. He was involved in the claims alongside older leaders. He was particularly involved in Ngāi Tahu arguments over the reservation of mahinga kai – areas where food had traditionally been produced or gathered. His knowledge of natural lore was invaluable, and he recorded further information from the elders with whom he associated. Tīkao was in demand as a scribe, frequently drafting correspondence with the Crown.

When Ngāi Tahu became involved with Te Kotahitanga, the movement for an independent Māori parliament, Tīkao led Ngāi Tahu representatives at the assembly at Waipatu, Hawke's Bay, in 1892. He was chairman of the Great Council in 1893, and also Speaker for a period. He took a moderate line in the parliament's deliberations, along with Hēnare Tomoana and others. Tīkao became a major figure in the reorganisation of Ngāi Tahu through the Mahunui Māori Council and was, for a period, its adviser.

Through Te Kotahitanga, Tīkao became involved with some of the leading Māori of the day. He also had extended contact with the scholars and scribes Nēpia Pōhuhu and Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury. Te Whatahoro, with whom Tīkao shared his knowledge of Māori custom and tradition, had recorded much of the knowledge of Te Mātorohanga. It may be that Tīkao developed his views about Io as the supreme being through contact with his teaching. Tīkao frequently spoke publicly on a variety of topics. His own marital experience led him to speak out against close intermarriage among Māori, which had been a traditional way of preventing land interests being dispersed. His lively intellect, wide knowledge, and willingness to fuse tradition with the modern world made him an influential figure. He often spoke on the importance of education and general Māori welfare, and was a major intellectual force in Ngāi Tahu development and a staunch advocate of his people's interests. He gave generously of himself and rose above the petty squabbles of runanga and hapū. Above all, he was a source of traditional learning for succeeding generations.

Hana Tīkao died in 1924. Hōne Taare Tīkao died on 11 June 1927 at Rāpaki, survived by five daughters and three sons.

How to cite this page:

Tipene O'Regan. 'Tīkao, Hōne Taare', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2t43/tikao-hone-taare (accessed 25 June 2024)