The wellspring of tears
Concerned about growing European settlement and the increasing demand for land, Ngāti Maniapoto supported the establishment of a Māori king who would oppose any further sale of land.
Maniapoto’s affirmation of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero as the first king was expressed at a meeting at Haurua in 1857, referred to as Te Puna o te Roimata – the wellspring of tears.
Ngāti Maniapoto continued to resist loss of land and of tribal authority. They later supported those fighting the British troops in the Taranaki and Waikato conflicts of the 1860s.
Leading the opposition to the British was Rewi Maniapoto. His name is probably best associated with the defence of Ōrākau in 1864. In the face of overwhelming odds against a numerically superior British force, and despite a call to surrender, the historic reply was given:
E hoa, ka whawhai tonu mātou, Āke! Āke! Āke!
Friend, we will fight on forever, forever and forever!
Nevertheless, lacking food, water and ammunition, Rewi’s forces abandoned the fortification. They retreated across the Pūniu River into Maniapoto territory, along with the now expelled Waikato people and the second Māori king, Tāwhiao.
The King Country
A boundary was established to bar the entry of any European into the district. The King Country or Rohe Pōtae became a de facto state within a state. It was not until 1883, after successful negotiations between the government and such Maniapoto leaders as Wahanui, Rewi and Taonui, that the King Country was made accessible to Europeans. It was also opened to road surveying and the North Island’s main trunk railway.
At the drop of a hat
It is said that the second Māori king, Tāwhiao, threw his hat over a map of the North Island and declared his rule over the area it landed on. Thus the King Country, or Rohe Pōtae (area of the hat), was named.
Prohibition of alcohol
One stipulation of this ‘sacred compact’ made by Wahanui and other Maniapoto leaders was the prohibition of alcohol throughout the district, as they had witnessed its detrimental impact on other tribes. Prohibition lasted until 1953.
The Native Land Court
The leaders were also concerned with curtailing the impact of the Native Land Court and the activity of government land purchase agents in the district. Despite such efforts, Maniapoto’s hold on their traditional lands was quickly weakened by the pressures of increasing European settlement.