The most noted of the Ngāti Porou leaders who rose to quell the opposing Hauhau forces and maintain the mana of Ngāti Porou in its homeland were Rāpata Wahawaha, Hōtene Porourangi, Tuta Nihohiho, Hēnare Pōtae and Mōkena Kōhere.
‘Your land is your own’
Through the influence of the military leader Rāpata Wahawaha, the government administrator Donald McLean acknowledged that Ngāti Porou’s conflict with the Hauhau was their own business, not the government’s. In his journals Wahawaha recorded McLean’s statement, ‘The government has no influence over your battle, it is your own. Your land is your own, the government has no business with it.’
At the end of the wars on the East Coast, the government moved to confiscate Ngāti Porou lands because of the tribe’s ‘rebellious’ factions. However, along with Rāpata Wahawaha, Mōkena Kōhere argued that the battle with the Hauhau was an internal Ngāti Porou matter and had nothing to do with the government. Mōkena Kōhere said, ‘Mauria tō moni, nāku tonu taku riri, ehara i a koe i te Pākehā.’ (‘Take your money away, the fight was mine, not yours, the Pākehā.’)
When it heeded their warnings not to confiscate any land, the government was also aware that Ngāti Porou were well armed. The tribe was so well supplied with weapons that their leadership considered taking revenge on Ngāpuhi for the massacres 50 years earlier, but the influence of Christianity prevailed, it is said. 1
Peace and development
From the late 1870s to the 1900s, peace was established among the people. Along the coast enterprises flourished, including trade in produce for the expanding markets in Auckland and Sydney. This resulted in the vigorous pursuit of education to bring literacy to the people.
Sir Āpirana Ngata
From the 1890s onwards, Ngāti Porou’s greatest leader, Āpirana Turupa Ngata, rose to prominence. He was the first Māori to graduate with a degree. He not only set an example for his tribe through political leadership and achievement, but also made a monumental contribution to the young nation through his erudition and fearless stance on Māori development.
His leadership in the revitalisation of the Māori people at a period of the lowest ebb of population and morale brought about far-reaching changes. Ngata instigated farming on land that remained in Māori hands, land administration, cultural revival in the arts and literature, and the promotion of sports (rugby, hockey, tennis) through intertribal competition. The positive impact of these initiatives is still felt today.
Ngata helped to organise Māori participation in both world wars, and he is remembered by the Māori Battalion as ‘the father of the battalion’. Ngāti Porou’s contribution was through the large numbers who fought overseas, many of them paying the ultimate sacrifice. Their war service is commemorated in the memorials built on many Ngāti Porou marae. There is also a sense of pride that the only Victoria Cross of the Māori Battalion was posthumously awarded to one of Ngāti Porou’s sons, 2nd Lieutenant Moana Ngārimu.