Story: Kōhere, Hēnare Mōkena

Page 1: Biography

Kōhere, Hēnare Mōkena

1880–1916

Ngāti Porou; farmer, soldier

This biography, written by Henare Kohere Swann,  was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Hēnare Mōkena Kōhere was born on 10 March 1880 at Te Araroa, East Cape. He was the fourth child of Hōne Hiki Kōhere and his wife Henarata Peretō (Bristow) of Ngāti Porou. Hēnare, a grandson of the Ngāti Porou chief Mōkena Kōhere and his wife Marara Hinekukurangi, was of Ngāti Piritai of Ngāi Tūitimatua and Te Whānau-a-Tūwhakairiora.

Hēnare received his education at Kawakawa Native School, Te Araroa, and followed the family tradition by attending Te Aute College, apparently from 1895 to 1898. He studied farming and showed prowess as an army cadet and as a competent haka leader. He was also an accomplished rugby player; he and an elder brother, Poihipi Mōkena, were members of the school's senior team in 1898.

After leaving Te Aute College, Hēnare worked for a short time as a farm cadet on Hēmi Matenga's sheep station at Wakapuaka in the Nelson district. He played rugby for the Nelson provincial side in 1899. He returned to the family farm at Rangiata station, East Cape, working tirelessly and in close collaboration with his sister, Kerenapu Kuata. In 1901 Hēnare was awarded a bronze medal and certificate by the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand for rescuing James Bertie from the wreck of the scow Whakapai.

Hēnare Kōhere and his cousin Terei Ngātai were selected as members of the Māori section of the New Zealand contingent which attended the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. He trained and led the contingent in haka. During his journey he wrote many letters home relating experiences on board ship and at the various ports of call, and detailing the highlights of his time in London. He also gave vivid accounts of the coronation in Westminster Abbey and of a visit to the estate of the duke of Westminster. These letters were published in Te Pīpīwharauroa, the newspaper edited by Hēnare's eldest brother Rēweti Tūhorouta Kōhere. Hēnare and Terei Ngātai also visited France and Belgium and took a trip on the Rhine. This was made possible through a British army officer they had befriended in London.

On his return to New Zealand Hēnare continued working on the family farm. On 12 April 1905 he married Ngārangi Tūrei, the only daughter of the Ngāti Porou leader Mohi Tūrei and his second wife, Kararaina Korimete (Caroline Goldsmith). Ngārangi was a teacher at Rangitukia Native School. They had three children: Huinga Raupani, Ngārangi Putiputi and Hōne Hiki.

On the death in 1910 of Ngārangi, who was buried in the family cemetery in Rangitukia, Hēnare became unsettled for a period. On the outbreak of the First World War he joined the second Ngāti Porou contingent; his younger brother Tāwhaikura Mōkena had joined the first contingent. Hēnare enlisted on 9 June 1915, and became a second lieutenant. His contingent left Wellington on board the troop-ship Waitematā on 19 September.

Following his departure Hēnare's three children were looked after by their grandmother, Kararaina, at Te Rerenga, the family home in Rangitukia. Apirana Ngata, who had very close ties with the Kōhere family, immediately offered support and provided help in educating them. Hēnare's brother Poihipi was to become their next of kin.

Hēnare disembarked at Suez on 26 October 1915. On 16 January 1916 he was posted to El Moascar, and on 11 March was attached to the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion, which embarked for France three days later. In France the men were involved in tree-felling, trench repair and construction, and night raiding. On 14 September, while taking part in one of these raids during the battle of the Somme, Hēnare was wounded.

His conduct was fitting for a leader of mana. As he lay on a stretcher in his dugout, he appeared comfortable and happy. In one hand he held a lighted cigarette; the other had been smashed by a shell. He expected to die and paid his small debts and trifling mess accounts. Peter Buck, a major in the battalion, visited him, asking 'Kei te pēhea koe, Kōhere?' (How are you?) 'Ka nui te kino' (Things are very bad), Kōhere replied. He died of his wounds on 16 September. At his request, the leadership of his platoon passed to his fellow Ngāti Porou lieutenant Pēkama Kaa.

Hēnare Mōkena Kōhere was a man of dignity who was held in high esteem and greatly respected by all ranks of the armed forces. A great tangihanga held by Ngāti Porou mourned his passing. He is honoured by many marae throughout Ngāti Porou. A waiata tangi composed by Ngata for the Māori soldiers of the Pioneer Battalion refers to the East Coast contingent and to Hēnare Kōhere; it became very popular throughout all tribes. Images of Hēnare Mōkena Kōhere and Pēkama Kaa have pride of place in the stained glass windows of St Mary's Anglican Church overlooking Tikitiki, Rangitukia and the Waiapu valley.

How to cite this page:

Henare Kohere Swann. 'Kōhere, Hēnare Mōkena - Kōhere, Hānare Mōkena', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3k17/kohere-henare-mokena (accessed 28 September 2020)