Story: Tamarau Waiari

Page 1: Biography

Tamarau Waiari

1835–1904

Tūhoe leader, tohunga

This biography, written by Wharehuia Milroy,  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.

Tamarau Waiari, also known as Te Mākarini Te Wharehuia and Te Mākarini Kaikino, was a chief of high rank in Ngāti Koura, Ngāi Te Riu, Ngāti Muriwai and Ngāti Hinekura, hapū of the Tūhoe tribe. His father was Waiari (also known as Paenoa), and his mother was Hera. He was born in 1835 in the Thames district during a visit by Ngāti Koura to see relatives and to purchase muskets. While returning home to Ruatāhuna the party was attacked by Ngāti Hauā. During the skirmish Tamarau was hidden by his father in a tree. Waiari was killed in the fight and Tamarau was taken care of by his paternal uncle, Te Ahoaho, who led the survivors back to the Thames area. Tamarau's grandmother, Kūmara, the wife of Te Ngahuru, was immortalised in song by Waiari's elder brother, Piki, to commemorate her lineage, traditional land ties, and courage.

Tamarau was about four years old when Ngāti Koura finally left the Thames district to return to Ruatāhuna. He was then sent by Te Ahoaho to Ōpōtiki to attend a mission school. Once literate, he went back to Ruatāhuna and served as a Christian preacher. However, it was not long before he was drawn back to the beliefs of his own people; Te Ahoaho, recognised among Tūhoe as one of the foremost of the learned men of the tribe, became his mentor. Tamarau was taught all the esoteric lore, history and traditions of his people.

Although relatively young, Tamarau began to take a prominent part in tribal politics; he showed determination and resoluteness, he had distinguished himself with oratorical skills, and his lineage was of the senior lines of descent in Tūhoe genealogy. His marriage to Mareta of Ngāti Hinekura of the Waikaremoana district reinforced kinship and military ties with that area as well as providing a buffer zone between Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu to the south-east. They had no children and he later married Hineana (or Pirihira) of Ngāi Te Riu of Ruatāhuna, with whom he had six daughters. Both marriages helped Tamarau to establish greater mana in Waikaremoana and Ruatāhuna, and to become influential in tribal and political matters. Tamarau also had a third wife, Roka, of Ngāi Te Riu.

In 1864 Hineana and Tamarau travelled with Tūhoe forces to participate in the battle against Brigadier General G. J. Carey's British and colonial troops at Ōrākau. Hineana died there and is commemorated in a Tūhoe manawa wera (angry hearts) chant, that gives expression to feelings of anger and sorrow as well as to the futility of such a campaign as Tūhoe had waged in support of Tainui.

Tamarau returned from Ōrākau and lived at Ōtenuku in Rūātoki, Te Purenga in Rūātoki south, Rāroa in Waimana north, Opouriao near Taneatua and Owhakatoro to the west of Taneatua. His having resided in these places had a strong bearing on where his hapū, Ngāti Koura, were to establish land rights through the Urewera land commission sittings in the period 1898–1902.

In 1867 Tamarau, acting on behalf of the Tūhoe people, lodged a claim with the Compensation Court, during its sittings in the Bay of Plenty, for Ōpouriao land confiscated under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863. The claim was dismissed because of Tūhoe involvement at Ōrākau, their alleged participation in the killing of the missionary C. S. Völkner and sheltering of his killer, Kereopa Te Rau, and their illegal possession of firearms. Tamarau then occupied Puketi pā in Ōpouriao together with other Tūhoe leaders and members. Their intention was to prevent further incursions into Tūhoe territory by both the military and settlers. They were taken prisoner and held captive for a period in a cave at Whakatāne, known as Te Ana-o-Muriwai.

On his release Tamarau returned to Waikaremoana where he remained until Te Kooti took refuge in the Urewera hinterland. Tamarau joined forces with Te Kooti but lost favour with him after disagreements about military operations; finally, he refused to assist further when his wife, Mareta, was taken prisoner. He continued to participate in guerilla action against the military until 1870, when he surrendered, together with a number of other Tūhoe chiefs including Te Whenuanui, Paerau and Te Ahikaiata.

Tamarau was a member of the Tūhoe body of chiefs known as Te Whitu Tekau (the seventy), set up mainly to establish an administrative structure and laws for the tribal group independent of government control. In September 1872 he was the only Tūhoe leader in favour of having a road built from Wairoa to Waikaremoana. Despite strong opposition from other prominent Tūhoe leaders, he swayed them with his eloquence and determination.

Tamarau took a very prominent part in the large hui at Wairoa between Ngāti Kahungunu and Tūhoe on 29 October 1875, called to discuss confiscated territory and settle disputes over tribal boundaries. Ngāti Koura, Ngāti Hinekura and Ngāi Te Riu hapū maintained high profiles in tribal politics during the period 1872–1902 when Tamarau's leadership was in the ascendancy.

Tamarau's greatest achievement for his people in later life was to record their traditions and whakapapa for the Urewera land commission. His evidence helped to establish their claim to land and formed a substantial portion of the material for Elsdon Best's book Tūhoe: children of the mist (1925). He gave other material to Best, becoming one of his major informants on Tūhoe history, customs and traditions, as well as supplying the major part of his genealogical data. He possessed a prodigious memory, taking three days to recite the Ngāti Koura whakapapa with all its many branches.

Tamarau Waiari died, probably in 1904, survived by at least one son, Takurua Tamarau, who became head of the Ringatū church in 1928 and was regarded as the paramount chief of Tūhoe.

How to cite this page:

Wharehuia Milroy. 'Tamarau Waiari', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2t6/tamarau-waiari (accessed 25 September 2020)