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Te Rauparaha

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Te Rauparaha
Sketch of Te Rauparaha
Kāwhia, Waikato, Aotearoa
Died27 November 1849 (age 80–81)
Ōtaki, Colony of New Zealand
Rangiātea Church, Ōtaki, probably reinterred on Kapiti Island
AllegianceNgāti Toa
Years of service1819–1848

Te Rauparaha (c.1768 – 27 November 1849)[1][2] was a Māori rangatira, warlord, and chief of the Ngāti Toa iwi. One of the most powerful military leaders of the Musket Wars, Te Rauparaha fought a war of conquest that greatly expanded Ngāti Toa southwards, receiving the epithet "the Napoleon of the South". He remains one of the most prominent and celebrated New Zealand historical figures.

Born in Kāwhia in the 1760s, he participated in land sale and negotiations with the New Zealand Company at the beginning of the colonisation of New Zealand. Te Rauparaha's conquests eventually extended Ngāti Toa authority from Miria-te-kakara at Rangitikei to Wellington, and across Cook Strait to Wairau and Nelson.[3]

An early signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Rauparaha was later central to the Wairau Affray in the Marlborough District, considered by many to be the first of the conflicts in the New Zealand Wars. Before he died he directed the building of Rangiātea Church in Ōtaki, a town north of Wellington conquered by Ngāti Toa.

Te Rauparaha's legacy lies in his transformation of Ngāti Toa from a small regional tribe to one of the richest and most powerful in Aotearoa, permanently changing Māori tribal structures.[4] He was also an accomplished composer of haka, with his most famous work, "Ka Mate", being arguably the most famous haka of all due to its widespread performance in sport,[5] especially by the All Blacks. In 2005, a panel of historians and journalists ranked Te Rauparaha 16th out of the 100 most influential figures in New Zealand history.

Early days


Te Rauparaha's mother was Parekōwhatu (Parekōhatu) of the Ngāti Raukawa iwi and his father was Werawera of Ngāti Toa.[1] He is thought to have been born the late 1760s.[6] He was born in Kāwhia in the Waikato.[7]



In 1822 Ngāti Toa and related tribes were being forced out of their land around Kāwhia after years of fighting with various Waikato tribes often led by Te Wherowhero. Led by Te Rauparaha they began a fighting retreat or migration southwards (this migration was called Te-Heke-Tahu-Tahu-ahi), conquering hapū and iwi as they went south. This campaign ended with Ngāti Toa controlling the southern part of the North Island and particularly the strategically placed Kapiti Island, which became the tribal stronghold for a period.[8] The conquests eventually extended Ngāti Toa authority from Miria-te-kakara at Rangitikei to Wellington, and across Cook Strait to Wairau and Nelson.[3]

In 1824 an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 warriors, making up a coalition of tribes from the East Coast, Whanganui, the Horowhenua, southern Taranaki[9] and Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island), assembled at Waikanae, with the object of taking Kapiti Island. Crossing in a flotilla of war canoes under cover of darkness, they were met as they disembarked by a force of Ngāti Toa fighters led or reinforced by Te Rauparaha. The ensuing Battle of Waiorua, at the northern end of the island, ended with the rout and slaughter of the landing attackers who were disadvantaged by difficult terrain and weather plus divided leadership.[10] This decisive victory left Te Rauparaha and the Ngāti Toa able to dominate Kapiti and the adjacent mainland.[10]

Trade and further conquest


Following the Battle of Waiorua, Te Rauparaha began a series of almost annual campaigns into the South Island with the object in part of seizing the sources of the valuable mineral greenstone. Between 1827 and 1831 he was able to extend the control of Ngati Toa and their allies over the northern part of the Southern Island.[11] His base for these sea-based raids remained Kapiti.

During this period Pākehā whaling stations became established in the region with Te Rauparaha's encouragement and the participation of many Māori. Some Māori women married Pākehā whalers and a lucrative two-way trade of supplies for muskets was established, thereby increasing Te Rauparaha's mana and military strength. By the early 1830s Te Rauparaha had defeated a branch of the Rangitane iwi in the Wairau Valley and gained control over that area.

Te Rauparaha then hired the brig Elizabeth, captained by John Stewart, to transport himself and approximately 100 warriors to Akaroa Harbour with the aim of attacking the local tribe, Ngāi Tahu.[12] Hidden below deck Te Rauparaha and his men captured the Ngāi Tahu chieftain Tamaiharanui, his wife and daughter when they boarded the brig at Stewart's invitation. Several hundred of the Ngāi Tahu were killed both on the Elizabeth and during a surprise landing the next morning. During the voyage back to Kapiti the chief strangled his own daughter Nga Roimata, to save her from expected abuse.[13] Te Rauparaha was incensed and following their arrival at Kapiti the parents and other prisoners were killed, Tamaiharanui after prolonged torture.[14]

Te Rauparaha Memorial in Ōtaki, commissioned by Te Rauparaha's son Tāmihana

In 1831 he took the major Ngāi Tahu at Kaiapoi after a three-month siege,[15][16] and shortly after took Onawe Pā in the Akaroa harbour, but these and other battles in the south were in the nature of revenge (utu) raids rather than for control of territory. Further conquests to the south were brought to a halt by a severe outbreak of measles and the growing strength of the southern hapu who worked closely with the growing European whaling community in coastal Otago and at Bluff.

A whaling captain John William Dundas Blenkinsop created a fraudulent deed of purchase for the Wairau Valley that was signed in October 1832 by proxy for Te Rauparaha by his brother Mahuranghi.[17] Te Rauaparaha understood the document to be for water and timber from the Wairau for Blenkinsop, for a one-off payment of an 18-pound cannon.[17] After this deed was purchased by the New Zealand Company it led to the Wairau Affray in 1843.[18] When a party from Nelson tried to arrest Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeta (another Ngāti Toa chief) there was some fighting with loss of life. Twenty two of the arresting party were killed, in part because of the death of Te Rongo, Te Rangihaeata's wife. The subsequent government enquiry exonerated Te Rauparaha which angered settlers who began a campaign to have the governor, Robert FitzRoy recalled.[17][18]

European settlement


The last years of Te Rauparaha's life saw the most dramatic changes. On 16 October 1839 the New Zealand Company expedition commanded by Col William Wakefield arrived at Kapiti. They were seeking to buy vast areas of land with a view to forming a permanent European settlement. Te Rauparaha sold them some land in the area that became known later as Nelson and Golden Bay.

Te Rauparaha had requested that Rev. Henry Williams send a missionary and in November 1839 Octavius Hadfield travelled with Henry Williams, and Hadfield established an Anglican mission on the Kapiti Coast.[19]

On 14 May 1840 Te Rauparaha signed a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi, believing that the treaty would guarantee him and his allies the possession of territories gained by conquest over the previous 18 years. On 19 June of that year, he signed another copy of the treaty, when Major Thomas Bunbury insisted that he do so.[1]


Te Rauparaha, contemporary sketch

In May 1846 fighting broke out in the Hutt Valley between settlers and Te Rauparaha's nephew, Te Rangihaeata.[20] Despite his declared neutrality, Te Rauparaha was arrested after the British captured secret letters from Te Rauparaha which showed he was playing a double game. He was charged with supplying weapons to Māori who were in open insurrection. He was captured near a tribal village Taupo Pā in what would later be called Plimmerton, by troops acting for the Governor, George Grey, and held without trial under martial law before being exiled to Auckland where he was held in the ship Calliope.[1]

His son, Tāmihana, was studying Christianity in Auckland and Te Rauparaha gave him a solemn message that their iwi should not take utu against the government. Tāmihana returned to his rohe to stop a planned uprising. Tāmihana sold the Wairau land to the government for 3,000 pounds.[1] Grey spoke to Te Rauparaha and persuaded him to give up all outstanding claims to land in the Wairau valley. Then, realising that Te Rauparaha was old and sick, Grey allowed him to return to his people at Ōtaki in 1848.

Rangiātea Church


In Ōtaki after his release from captivity, Te Rauparaha provided the materials and labour at his pā for the construction of Rangiātea Church, which was completed in 1851. It later became the oldest Māori church in the country. It was known for its unique mix of Māori and English church design.[21] Te Rauparaha did not live to see the church completed.

Death and legacy


Te Rauparaha died on 27 November 1849.

Te Rauparaha composed "Ka Mate" while hiding on Motuopihi Island in Lake Rotoaira as a celebration of life over death after his lucky escape from pursuing enemies.[22][23][24] This haka or challenge, has become the most common performed by the All Blacks and many other New Zealand sports teams before international matches.

Te Rauparaha's son Tāmihana was strongly influenced by missionary teaching,[25][26] especially Octavius Hadfield. He left for England in December 1850 and was presented to Queen Victoria in 1852. After his return he was one of the Māori to create the idea of a Māori king. However he broke away from the king movement and later became a harsh critic when the movement became involved with the Taranaki-based anti-government fighter Wiremu Kingi.[1]

Tāmihana wrote biography of Te Rauparaha between 1866 and 1869 that was held in the Sir George Grey Special Collections at Auckland Libraries. This biography was translated by Ross Calman and published by Auckland University Press in 2020 called He pukapuka tātaku i ngā mahi a Te Rauparaha nui / A record of the life of the great Te Rauparaha.[27]

Another biography of Te Rauparaha was one published in the early 20th century. It was written by William Travers and was called the Stirring Times of Te Rauparaha.[28]

A memorial to Te Rauparaha is established in Ōtaki and Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua is named after him.

In 2005, a panel of historians and journalists ranked Te Rauparaha 16th out of the 100 most influential figures in New Zealand history.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Oliver, Steven. "Te Rauparaha – Biography". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Te Rauparaha – New Zealand in History". history-nz.org. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  4. ^ Steven Oliver. 'Te Rauparaha', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1t74/te-rauparaha (accessed 9 April 2024)
  5. ^ Jackson, SJ; Hokowhitu, B (2002). "Sport, Tribes, and Technology: The New Zealand All Blacks Haka and the Politics of Identity". Journal of Sport and Social Issues. 26 (2): 125–139. doi:10.1177/0193723502262002. ISSN 0193-7235. S2CID 144368028.
  6. ^ "Te Rauparaha". my.christchurchcitylibraries.com. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  7. ^ "Taonga". Ngāti Toa Rangatira. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  8. ^ "The Church Missionary Gleaner, December 1851". The Contrast. Adam Matthew Digital. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  9. ^ Chris Maclean, p.110, "Kapiti", ISBN 0-473-06166-X
  10. ^ a b Chris Maclean, p.113, "Kapiti", ISBN 0-473-06166-X
  11. ^ Chris Maclean, p.115 "Kapiti", ISBN 0-473-06166-X
  12. ^ White, John (1890). The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions: Tai-Nui [Vol VI]. Wellington: Government Printer, New Zealand Electronic Text Collection. Archived from the original on 3 April 2019. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  13. ^ Chris Maclean, p.22 "Waikanae", ISBN 978-0-473-16597-0
  14. ^ Chris Maclean, pp. 129–130 "Kapiti", ISBN 0-473-06166-X. The deaths of Tamaiharanui, his kindred and Nga Roimata are narrated in Alistair Campbell's poem Reflections on Some Great Chiefs
  15. ^ "The Kaiapoi Pa" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 June 2010.
  16. ^ "Kaiapoi – Tī Kōuka Whenua – Māori". Archived from the original on 27 September 2006.
  17. ^ a b c "Dirty deeds done dirt cheap! part two". Te Papa’s Blog. 10 July 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  18. ^ a b "The Blenkinsop Indenture: Dirty deeds done dirt cheap!". Te Papa’s Blog. 12 June 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  19. ^ "The Church Missionary Gleaner, March 1842". Remarkable Introduction and Rapid Extension of the Gospel in the Neighbourhood of Cook's Straits. Adam Matthew Digital. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  20. ^ Musket Wars. R.Crosby, p.40 Reed. 1999
  21. ^ "The Building of Rangiātea". National Library of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 9 December 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  22. ^ Pōmare, Mīria (12 February 2014). "Ngāti Toarangatira – Chant composed by Te Rauparaha". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  23. ^ "Haka Ka Mate Attribution Act 2014 Guidelines" (PDF). Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  24. ^ "Motuopihi Island". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 2017. Retrieved 31 October 2023.
  25. ^ Stock, Eugene (1913). "The Story of the New Zealand Mission". Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  26. ^ "The Church Missionary Gleaner, April 1851". New-Zealand Chiefs in Committee Drawing Up a Reply to the Society's Jubilee Letter. Adam Matthew Digital. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  27. ^ Te Rauparaha, Tāmihana (2020). He pukapuka tātaku i ngā mahi a Te Rauparaha nui : A record of the life of the great Te Rauparaha / translated and edited by Ross Calman. Auckland University Press. p. 5. ISBN 9781776710591.
  28. ^ Travers, W.T. Locke (1906). The stirring times of Te Rauparaha (Chief of the Ngatitoa). Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs. Retrieved 19 June 2020.

Media related to Te Rauparaha at Wikimedia Commons