Story: History and historians

Carved pou of Tītokowaru

Carved pou of Tītokowaru

In traditional Māori society history was not written down but recalled in waiata (songs), whaikōrero (speeches) and in the carvings in meeting houses across the country. This pou (carved post) is in a modern meeting house at Te Herenga Waka marae at Victoria University of Wellington. It tells about the Ngāti Ruanui leader Tītokowaru in a way that is typical of the stories carved in wood on many older marae. The stylised figure representing Tītokowaru is holding a musket, which immediately conveys his ability as a military leader. There are two heads at his feet. The one on the left represents George Bowen, who was governor when George Whitmore, commandant of the New Zealand Constabulary Force, put a price of £1,000 on Tītokowaru’s head and £5 for every ‘rebel’ captured alive. In response, Tītokowaru placed two shillings and sixpence on Bowen’s head. The head on the right is Major Gustavus von Tempsky, who was killed by Tītokowaru’s forces at the battle of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu in 1868.

Using this item

Te Tumu Herenga Waka Marae, Victoria University of Wellington

All rights to images of this marae are held by Te Tumu Herenga Waka Marae, Victoria University of Wellington

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How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'History and historians - Recording history before 1900', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 April 2024)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 22 Oct 2014