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Story: Te Kāhui Kararehe, Wiremu

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Te Kāhui Kararehe, Wiremu


Taranaki leader, historian

This biography, written by Ailsa Smith, 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.

Te Kāhui Kararehe lived at a time when Māori–Pākehā relations in Taranaki were at their most critical. Born on 14 January 1846 at Te Ahoroa pā, Pungaereere, he was the eldest surviving son of Minarapa Rangihatuake, also known as Taapu Minarapa, of the Taranaki hapū Puketoretore and Ngāti Haupoto. His mother was Rīpeka Marereawheturi, of Ngāti Ruanui and Taranaki descent. Te Kāhui received the baptismal name of Wiremu from his father, who had served as Methodist Māori preacher at Te Aro pā in Wellington until 1842, and had then returned to Taranaki to minister to his people at Te Ahoroa.

Te Kāhui experienced the losses that many Taranaki Māori suffered before the end of the nineteenth century. Of a family of eight children only he, his sister Rongotuhiata, and three brothers (Mane Tūkōkiri, Karira Te Kawau Urupa and Taurua Pororaite Minarapa) survived to adulthood. In the 1870s he took the name of Reremoana after a brother who had predeceased him, and subsequently gave this name to his own eldest surviving son.

During his early years Te Kāhui was instructed in Taranaki traditional knowledge by tribal elders, amongst them Arama Karaka Te Raeuaua, Waitere Te Kōngutuawa and Minarapa Rangihatuake. Together with other Taranaki kinsmen, and in the company of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi, he followed Te Ua Haumēne during the wars of the 1860s. He carried Te Ua's flag as a youth of 18 at the battle of Kaitake, and was present the following month at the Hauhau attack on Te Mōrere (Sentry Hill).

After the Taranaki wars Te Kāhui lived for a time at Te Namu pā, under the tutelage of Arama Karaka Te Raeuaua and Wiremu Kīngi Te Matakātea. He found employment with others of his hapū at the Ōpunake flax mill and on public works, and became acquainted with Robert Parris and Percy Smith while engaged in road-making between Umuroa and Waingongoro. Skills learnt during this period were put to good use in 1885, when Te Kāhui and his hapū built a road through land granted to them by the Crown at Rāhotu, near Parihaka.

Te Kāhui was regarded as handsome, 'clever, energetic, and possessing a soft and winning voice and persuasive tongue'. On visits to Parihaka he met Lydia (Rīria) Tinirongoā Holder (known in later life as Te Aomaangi), and they each abandoned an arranged marriage to run away together in 1873. In response to their actions in flouting the wishes of tribal elders, a traditional muru (raiding party) from villages surrounding Te Namu stripped Te Kāhui and his hapū of all their possessions. Shortly afterwards he and his followers and family moved to Rāhotu.

During the 1870s Te Kāhui acted as recorder for the meetings at Parihaka, being especially concerned with disseminating the speeches of the two leaders, Tohu and Te Whiti. Closely involved with political moves in Taranaki, he was present with other Parihaka chiefs at Sir George Grey's meeting with Māori leaders at Waitara in June 1878. On 4 September 1880 he was among a large group of Tohu's followers arrested, under the West Coast Settlement (North Island) Act 1880, for fencing across the road outside Parihaka. Sentenced to two years' hard labour in the South Island, he was returned home ill in January 1881 after serving just four months.

After John Bryce's raid on Parihaka in November 1881, Te Kāhui worked within the framework of Pākehā law to help the Māori people in the Taranaki confiscation district. He donated land for a school at Rāhotu in 1884. In June 1885 he was appointed an assessor in the Native Land Court, where he worked to recover land for the various hapū in his area of influence, between Waitōtara and Mōkau. In April 1891 he appeared before the Native Land Laws Commission to argue unsuccessfully for the right of Māori landowners to lease direct to Pākehā, instead of through the public trustee. In September 1896 he wrote to Hōne Heke Ngāpua, MHR for Northern Māori, concerning a petition by J. J. Elwin and 272 others that land being leased by the public trustee should be administered instead by the region's Land Board. In 1890 he stood unsuccessfully for the parliamentary seat of Western Māori; in December 1896 he tried again, against Hēnare Kaihau.

In the 1890s Te Kāhui devoted much time to recording his considerable knowledge of Taranaki tribal matters. He carried on a voluminous correspondence with Percy Smith, who published some of this material in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, and used Te Kāhui's information in his book on Taranaki Māori history. Te Kāhui had a wide knowledge of Taranaki traditions and of dialectal variation between tribes. Always concerned with the variations in tradition, he exhorted Smith to check his information with others. He resisted Smith's invitation to join the Polynesian Society, but acted as his representative with Te Whiti and Tohu.

Ever mindful of community welfare, Te Kāhui ran one of several hot water spas in Rāhotu during the winter of 1902. In February 1904 he wrote to Te Rangi Hīroa (Peter Buck) asking for the latter's services as doctor, and offering to establish health clinics for him at Rāhotu and Ōkato. Health issues were of especial concern to him and Rīria, for of nine children born to them only three sons (Reremoana, Riki and Tuiau) survived to manhood; four sons and a daughter were lost to epidemic sicknesses, as a consequence of which Te Kāhui adopted the name Poukōhatu (memorial stone). A daughter, Te Kaea, died the year after Te Kāhui's own death at Rāhotu on 7 September 1904. Rīria died in January 1931 and was buried beside her husband at Rāhotu.

How to cite this page:

Ailsa Smith. 'Te Kāhui Kararehe, Wiremu', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3t14/te-kahui-kararehe-wiremu (accessed 29 March 2023)