Page 1: Biography
Ngai Tahu leader, warrior
This biography, written by Tipene O'Regan, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Paora Taki belonged to Ngai Te Rakiamoa hapu of Ngai Tahu. He was born probably in the early nineteenth century. His father, Rakiamoa, and his mother, Kere, claimed further descent from Te Atawhiua hapu of Canterbury and Ngati Kuri hapu of Kaikoura.
Paora Taki served his apprenticeship as a warrior fighting alongside Tama-i-hara-nui, a leader of Ngai Tahu, in the Kaihuanga feud between various Ngai Tahu hapu 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 Ngati Toa under Te Rauparaha. Ngati Toa first attacked Kaikoura, and then went south to Kaiapoi where Te Pehi Kupe and other Ngati Toa chiefs were killed after entering the pa to trade for greenstone. Paora Taki fought against Ngati Toa on the basis of obligation to his Ngati Kuri kin who had been slaughtered at Kaikoura. He took part in the futile response to the Ngati 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 Ngai Tahu retaliatory expeditions against Ngati Toa. He travelled north in the war party, led by Tu-te-hounuku, Tangata Hara and Makere 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 Ngai Tahu of his time, including Tuhawaiki, Taiaroa, Karetai, Haereroa and Makere Te Wharanawhana.
In old age Taki dictated an extensive account of the battles with Ngati Toa to a daughter of Hone Taare Tikao. It is the only surviving account by an actual participant – another, by Tamihana Te Rauparaha of Ngati Toa, being largely hearsay. The Paora Taki manuscript is remarkable for its wealth of detail of those events, including the names and actions of people on both Ngai Tahu and Ngati Toa sides, and for its analysis of the motives and rationale behind particular events in the narrative. It provides a remarkable insight into traditional Maori thinking about customary warfare despite the presence of modern weapons in the battles.
Paora Taki married Te Kohuwai. They had one child, Wikitoria Nga Roimata, who died childless. In later life Taki lived at Rapaki in the care of his great-niece, Wikitoria Mokiho.
Paora 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 Ngai Tahu life beyond the Rapaki runanga and its affairs. He cleared all tapu from Rapaki 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'. Paora Taki is said to have died at Rapaki on 7 December 1897.