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Story: Pukehika, Hōri

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Pukehika, Hōri


Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi leader, carver

This biography, written by Ian Church, 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.

Hōri Pukehika, a leader of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi of the lower Wanganui River, was a noted carver and one of the last of his people skilled in the old traditions. In later years he was particularly associated with Ngāti Tuera hapū, kin to Ngāti Rangatahi.

Many of the details of his life are uncertain. He was born, probably in the late 1840s or early 1850s, at either Pipiriki or Hiruharama (Jerusalem); 'Pukehika' may have been a nickname. His father was Te Wikirini Te Tua, also known as Wikirini Tetua and Wihirini Warihi, of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi; his mother was Peti Te Oiroa, also known as Peti Tetua, of Ngāti Pāmoana. Pukehika was a relative of Hōri Kīngi Te Ānaua, a leader of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi. As a youth he was present at the battle of Moutoa Island in 1864, and he subsequently served with Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui's force in the central North Island campaign against Te Kooti.

Hōri Pukehika was best known as a carver. He learnt his carving skills from assisting Kawana Moraro and his son, Utiku Mōhuia, with the carvings for Te Paku meeting house at Pūtiki in the 1870s, and assisted with the work on the Poutama meeting house erected at Hikurangi, near Koriniti, in 1888. He also carved panels for the Tawhitinui house opposite Moutoa Island on the bank of the Wanganui River; they are now in the Wanganui Regional Museum along with one of his carved mantelpieces. In 1905, after floods the previous year had destroyed the meeting house at Pungarehu, he and Te Urumingi led a group of carvers in the erection of Maranganui II for the Ngāti Tuera hapū.

Hōri Pukehika's most celebrated work was the main entrance of the model pā erected for the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch in 1906–7. This was, according to James Cowan, 'a fine bit of carving and…fort-building work' constructed after the ancient patterns of kuwaha (mouths of stockaded villages). It was flanked by large figures and carved posts and was complete with drawbridge.

The exhibition's Māori village covered three acres and housed several hundred visiting performers from the Wanganui district, Wairarapa, Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty. Hōri Pukehika and Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hīroa) were in charge of the sanitary arrangements, which were planned to set the standards for participants to take back to their tribal areas. The opportunity was taken to revive crafts which were in danger of disappearing. Pukehika's team erected a circular house in the old Polynesian style. Tīria Hōri, a young woman of Ngāti Tuera, demonstrated the making of fine feather cloaks with ornamental borders (tāniko), and Pukehika explained to Buck the rituals, styles and methods used in weaving cloaks, capes and kilts. His skills were again drawn upon in 1921 when the meeting house Te Waiherehere was restored at Koriniti.

Pukehika, a noted orator, made a speech of welcome to the governor general, Lord Plunket, and his wife at the opening of the exhibition. He referred to 'the works of our ancestors [that had] been gone from us so long. But they stand again.' In 1930 he was chosen to give a farewell speech to the vice regal couple, Sir Charles and Lady Fergusson.

Hōri Pukehika played a leading role in the life of the hapū of the lower Wanganui River. In February 1886 he piloted the pioneer river steamer Tūhua to Rānana, and he assisted the riverboat proprietors to establish regular services. He was a member of the committee that set up the bilingual newspaper The Jubilee. Te Tiupiri in 1898. He was appointed a health inspector under the Māori Councils Act 1900 with the task of persuading his people to erect modern houses and lavatories for healthier living. Because of his assistance to the Wanganui Public Museum he was elected a life member of its board of trustees.

At some time Hōri Pukehika became the guardian of a suit of armour originally given by King William IV to Tītore of Ngāpuhi in 1835. This had descended to Te Ānaua and was housed at the old hilltop pā, Pukehika, opposite Hiruharama. Fearing that Pākehā planned to carry the armour off, Hōri Pukehika buried it nearby sometime in the 1870s. About 20 years later, at the request of Wiremu Hīpango, he recovered it, and in 1908 he and Māui Pōmare placed it in the Dominion Museum.

Hōri Pukehika was married to Pongo or Pango Ngākaari at Rānana on 1 March 1868 by the Reverend Basil Taylor; they had one son, who died in his youth. He later married Tira Rātana (also known as Erita); they were to have seven children. A daughter, Rāwinia Hīpango, was born on 17 March 1902. Another daughter, Ngā Kuari Tukia, won a baby contest at Christchurch during the 1906–7 exhibition. Hōri Pukehika died at Pungarehu on 30 May 1932, said to be aged 85, and was survived by his second wife, three daughters and two sons. His obituary referred to him as the last of a once famous school of wood-carvers.

How to cite this page:

Ian Church. 'Pukehika, Hōri', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3p35/pukehika-hori (accessed 20 May 2024)