Page 1: Biography
Ngāi Tahu leader, warrior
This biography, written by Tipene O'Regan, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Pāora Taki belonged to Ngāi Te Rakiāmoa hapū of Ngāi Tahu. He was born probably in the early nineteenth century. His father, Rakiāmoa, and his mother, Kere, claimed further descent from Te Ātawhiua hapū of Canterbury and Ngāti Kurī hapū of Kaikōura.
Pāora Taki served his apprenticeship as a warrior fighting alongside Tama-i-hara-nui, a leader of Ngāi Tahu, in the Kaihuanga feud between various Ngāi Tahu hapū of Canterbury in the 1820s. The internecine warfare had barely ceased when the tribe suffered a series of major raids in 1828 by musket-armed Ngāti Toa under Te Rauparaha. Ngāti Toa first attacked Kaikōura, and then went south to Kaiapoi where Te Pēhi Kupe and other Ngāti Toa chiefs were killed after entering the pā to trade for greenstone. Pāora Taki fought against Ngāti Toa on the basis of obligation to his Ngāti Kurī kin who had been slaughtered at Kaikōura. He took part in the futile response to the Ngāti Toa surprise attack in the brig Elizabeth at Akaroa in 1830. Tama-i-hara-nui was captured with his wife and daughter at Akaroa, taken to Kapiti Island and killed.
Taki, now a seasoned warrior, played a leading part in Ngāi Tahu retaliatory expeditions against Ngāti Toa. He travelled north in the war party, led by Tūtehounuku, Tangata Hara and Mākere Te Wharanawhana, which nearly captured Te Rauparaha at Kapara-te-hau (Lake Grassmere) about 1833. He also took part in the subsequent expeditions in 1834, 1838 and 1839, earning great distinction as a warrior. In the course of this fighting he became a trusted compatriot of all leading Ngāi Tahu of his time, including Tūhawaiki, Taiaroa, Karetai, Haereroa and Makere Te Wharanawhana.
In old age Taki dictated an extensive account of the battles with Ngāti Toa to a daughter of Hōne Taare Tīkao. It is the only surviving account by an actual participant – another, by Tāmihana Te Rauparaha of Ngāti Toa, being largely hearsay. The Pāora Taki manuscript is remarkable for its wealth of detail of those events, including the names and actions of people on both Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Toa sides, and for its analysis of the motives and rationale behind particular events in the narrative. It provides a remarkable insight into traditional Māori thinking about customary warfare despite the presence of modern weapons in the battles.
Pāora Taki married Te Kohuwai. They had one child, Wikitōria Ngā Roimata, who died childless. In later life Taki lived at Rāpaki in the care of his great-niece, Wikitōria Mokiho.
Pāora Taki served as an assessor for the Native Department from 1865 to about 1875. Wearing a bell-topper hat and carrying his taiaha, he often sat in court with his friend William Donald, resident magistrate at Lyttelton. He took no active part in Ngāi Tahu life beyond the Rāpaki rūnanga and its affairs. He cleared all tapu from Rāpaki so that the community could prosper; he also asked that the burial grounds be respected and not used for the production or cooking of food. In 1884 J. W. Stack and W. B. D. Mantell signed a testimonial describing him as a 'survivor of the rangatira class', a 'warrior of some distinction' and a person of 'conspicuous bravery'. Pāora Taki is said to have died at Rāpaki on 7 December 1897.