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Story: Pouwhare, Te Iki-o-te-rangi

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Pouwhare, Te Iki-o-te-rangi


Tūhoe leader, historian, genealogist

This biography, written by Robert Marunui Iki Pouwhare, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Te Iki-o-te-rangi Pouwhare, regarded as a paramount chief in later life, was an authority on Tūhoe history and traditions, and widely respected as a wise and kindly leader. He was born at Te Houhi in the Rangitāiki River valley, 30 miles south of Whakatāne, probably sometime between 1880 and 1883, the son of Te Pouwhare Te Roau and his wife, Whitiāira Ngāhooro. Brought up in the Rūātoki region, he came under the influence of Numia Kererū Te Ruakariata, then a leading chief of Tūhoe. He had links with the hapū Ngāti Rongo and Ngāti Haka. As well as learning to read and write, he was taught by elders and became an expert on whakapapa and tribal history. He traced his own ancestry back 20 generations to the ancestor of the Bay of Plenty, Toi-kai-rākau. His meeting house at Waiōhau was named after another illustrious ancestor in his whakapapa, Tama-ki-Hikurangi.

As a young man Te Iki Pouwhare lived at Rangitahi marae near Murupara; in the late 1920s he moved back to Waiōhau where he was employed by the Native Department (later the Department of Māori Affairs) as a resident foreman. His knowledge of whakapapa proved important in assisting attempts to resolve conflict over the ownership of Tūhoe land. He and other Tūhoe leaders remained incensed at the injustice of government land confiscations in the 1860s, and continued to petition government for the return of those lands. As he accumulated mana, Te Iki took a lead in legal battles. In 1920 he taxed every working member of his whānau and hapū 2s. 6d. to assist in paying expenses to take a case regarding land at Te Houhi, known as the Waiōhau Fraud, to court. Four years later he collected £1 each from local adult members of Tūhoe to assist in a petition for an investigation of the Crown purchase of the Kaingaroa block, and subsequently he was part of a delegation that presented the petition to government in Wellington. After compensation had been obtained in 1957 for some of the Tūhoe claims, he became a member of the Tūhoe Māori Trust Board and also sat on the Tūhoe Māori Land Advisory Committee.

Among his various official positions, Te Iki served on the marae committee of Rangitahi from 1921, was chairman of the Waiōhau School Committee, a member of the Waiōhau Tribal Committee, and chairman of the executive in the Tūhoe area (which incorporated Murupara and Te Whāti). He also sat on the Mātaatua Māori Council from 1936. He held high office in the Ringatū church and was patron and supporter of many sporting organisations.

Te Iki Pouwhare was renowned for insisting on the use of Māori language and protocol at meetings of tribal significance. When dignitaries visited he would speak in Māori and insist on the presence of an interpreter, his favourite being John Rangihau. His concern to preserve the language led him to forbid his grandchildren to speak English in his presence, or in his house. Yet at the same time he had a strong commitment to Pākehā education, organising gala days to raise funds for Tūhoe students to attend university. When the Māori Education Foundation was established he sent £400 to Wellington to help educate Tūhoe students.

Te Iki was a prolific writer in Māori. He wrote an article for the Journal of the Polynesian Society on Tūhoe genealogies, and among his contributions to the magazine Te Ao Hou, an eloquent tribute in 1959 to the Tūhoe leader Takurua Tamarau following his death reflected his debt to an influential mentor. His many unpublished manuscripts constitute a formidable repository of ancient knowledge.

He continued to pass on much of this information verbally. On many occasions he was consulted by Sir Apirana Ngata, Colonel Arapeta Awatere and other tribal leaders for his understanding of spiritual matters. He was an expert on such issues as prohibitions on taking food from the forest and the rivers; rituals for the hunting and preservation of Kererū (native wood pigeon); building and preparation of whare wānanga (schools of learning); and rituals for the opening of meeting houses.

Te Iki Pouwhare married twice. He had three children with his first wife, Whata of Ngāti Rongo, of Tūhoe. He later married Te Awhimate Marunui of Ngāti Manawa, with whom he had 10 children. Both wives predeceased him. He died at the Whakatāne public hospital on 30 March 1963, and was buried at Waiōhau. Many descendants still live in the Rūātoki, Waiōhau and Murupara areas.

How to cite this page:

Robert Marunui Iki Pouwhare. 'Pouwhare, Te Iki-o-te-rangi', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4p20/pouwhare-te-iki-o-te-rangi (accessed 26 July 2024)