The Ngāti Awa chief Tamatearehe was speaking about his own tribe when he commented:
Kei runga te kōrero, kei raro te rahurahu.
Soothing words above, but meddling below.
He meant that pleasant talk is sometimes used to cover treacherous intentions. The saying would still be relevant 200 years later, when the Europeans arrived.
Initial interaction between Ngāti Awa and European settlers was largely successful, if limited. However, the settlers’ demand for land and the tribe’s desire to guard their sovereignty meant that Ngāti Awa and the colonial government were on a collision course. In 1866, on the pretext of punishment for ‘rebellion’ and the death of James Fulloon (a part-Ngāti Awa and Tūhoe agent of the British Crown), Ngāti Awa and their neighbouring Mataatua relations had their land confiscated. In 1999 the Waitangi Tribunal acknowledged the injustice of the loss of over 100,000 hectares of tribal lands and resources.
The effect of this confiscation was described by Hāmiora Tumutara Pio, a paramount chief and tohunga of Ngāti Awa:
Koia tēnei; ko te toroa noho au,
E tangi ana ki tōna kainga, e mihi ana.
This is a fact; I live like the albatross,
Crying out to its nesting place, and greeting you [in sorrow].
A number of important Ngāti Awa members made history in the 19th century. Apanui Te Hāmaiwaho was a chief and also renowned as a carver. He taught the craft to his son Wēpiha Apanui, who went on to become one of the tribe’s educated élite, playing a significant role in tribal events.
Te Rangitūkehu Hātua was the chief of Te Pāhipoto, a central tribe of the Ngāti Awa people. His daughter Maata Te Taiawatea was brought up as a puhi (ceremonial virgin) until she married Te Hāroto Whakataka Riini Mānuera, the son of a chief. Later in life she took over many of her father’s responsibilities, spending long hours in the Native Land Court as an advocate for tribal lands.
Te Hura Te Taiwhakaripi was the chief of Ngāi Te Rangihouhiri, once a powerful sub-tribe of Ngāti Awa. Hāmiora Tumutara Pio was a paramount chief, as well as a historian and expert in traditional lore.
In the early 20th century the tribe’s leading figure was Te Hurinui Apanui, the grandson of Apanui Te Hāmaiwaho. Dying in 1924, he was the last of the direct male line of the house of Apanui.