Story: Te Kahui Kararehe, Wiremu

Page 1: Biography

Te Kahui Kararehe, Wiremu

1846–1904

Taranaki leader, historian

This biography, written by Ailsa Smith, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.

Te Kahui Kararehe lived at a time when Maori–Pakeha relations in Taranaki were at their most critical. Born on 14 January 1846 at Te Ahoroa pa, Punga-ereere, he was the eldest surviving son of Minarapa Rangihatuake, also known as Taapu Minarapa, of the Taranaki hapu Puketoretore and Ngati Haupoto. His mother was Ripeka Marere-awhe-turi, of Ngati Ruanui and Taranaki descent. Te Kahui received the baptismal name of Wiremu from his father, who had served as Methodist Maori preacher at Te Aro pa in Wellington until 1842, and had then returned to Taranaki to minister to his people at Te Ahoroa.

Te Kahui experienced the losses that many Taranaki Maori suffered before the end of the nineteenth century. Of a family of eight children only he, his sister Rongotuhiata, and three brothers (Mane Tukokiri, 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 Kahui was instructed in Taranaki traditional knowledge by tribal elders, amongst them Arama Karaka Te Raeuaua, Waitere Te Kongutuawa and Minarapa Rangihatuake. Together with other Taranaki kinsmen, and in the company of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, he followed Te Ua Haumene 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 Morere (Sentry Hill).

After the Taranaki wars Te Kahui lived for a time at Te Namu pa, under the tutelage of Arama Karaka Te Raeuaua and Wiremu Kingi Te Matakatea. He found employment with others of his hapu at the Opunake 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 Kahui and his hapu built a road through land granted to them by the Crown at Rahotu, near Parihaka.

Te Kahui was regarded as handsome, 'clever, energetic, and possessing a soft and winning voice and persuasive tongue'. On visits to Parihaka he met Lydia (Riria) Tinirongoa 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 Kahui and his hapu of all their possessions. Shortly afterwards he and his followers and family moved to Rahotu.

During the 1870s Te Kahui 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 Maori 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 Kahui worked within the framework of Pakeha law to help the Maori people in the Taranaki confiscation district. He donated land for a school at Rahotu in 1884. In June 1885 he was appointed an assessor in the Native Land Court, where he worked to recover land for the various hapu in his area of influence, between Waitotara and Mokau. In April 1891 he appeared before the Native Land Laws Commission to argue unsuccessfully for the right of Maori landowners to lease direct to Pakeha, instead of through the public trustee. In September 1896 he wrote to Hone Heke Ngapua, MHR for Northern Maori, 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 Maori; in December 1896 he tried again, against Henare Kaihau.

In the 1890s Te Kahui 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 Kahui's information in his book on Taranaki Maori history. Te Kahui 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 Kahui ran one of several hot water spas in Rahotu during the winter of 1902. In February 1904 he wrote to Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter Buck) asking for the latter's services as doctor, and offering to establish health clinics for him at Rahotu and Okato. Health issues were of especial concern to him and Riria, 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 Kahui adopted the name Poukohatu (memorial stone). A daughter, Te Kaea, died the year after Te Kahui's own death at Rahotu on 7 September 1904. Riria died in January 1931 and was buried beside her husband at Rahotu.

How to cite this page:

Ailsa Smith. 'Te Kahui 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 13 December 2019)