MANIAPOTO, Rewi Manga
War chief of Ngati Maniapoto and defender of Orakau pa.
A new biography of Maniapoto, Rewi Manga appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Rewi Maniapoto was born about 1815 and was the son of Te Ngohi, a high-born chief of Ngati Maniapoto, and Pareteka. Through his father he claimed descent from Hoturoa. In 1831 Te Ngohi was one of the chiefs of Te Wherowhero's taua (war party) which captured Pukerangiora, and Rewi accompanied his father on this campaign.
In the 1850s Rewi became prominent among the leaders of the “King” movement and, at the meeting at Ngaruawahia in April 1858 when Potatau was installed, he ceremonially hoisted the “King's” flag. On the outbreak of war in Taranaki Rewi led a Ngati Maniapoto taua to Wiremu Kingi's aid. The combined tribes fought with such determination that, on 27 June 1860, they gained a resounding victory over the Imperial troops at Puke-ta-Kauere. On 23 January 1862, however, they were decisively defeated in the attack on the Huirangi (No. 3) Redoubt. Rewi then returned to Kihikihi, where he preached a crusade against the Government. He attracted a good deal of support among the “Kingites”, and his impassioned orations on the subject gradually eclipsed the more moderate counsels of Wiremu Tamihana Te Waharoa. In 1861 Sir George Grey sent John Gorst to Te Awamutu as Magistrate and Civil Commissioner. Although Gorst was treated kindly his authority was not recognised. At the Government's direction Gorst established a trade school and printed a newspaper, Pihoihoi (The sparrow which sitteth alone on the house top) which was intended to counteract the King party's publication Te Hokioi (a mythical bird, never seen but known only by its scream). Gorst's editorial attitude was far from compromising and he incensed the “King” leaders by the vigour of his articles. Rewi raised a war party and, on 23 March 1863, expelled Gorst and his press from the Waikato.
When the Waikato War broke out Rewi took the field as supreme commander of Tawhiao's forces. From the outset he made a determined attempt to take the war into the enemy's territory. His first engagement was fought near Papakura and, afterwards, his forces occupied the densely wooded Hunua Ranges. From this base he carried out a series of raids in the Auckland district. When he was dislodged from the Hunuas, Rewi established his headquarters on Pukekawa Hill at Meremere. There his forces held up General Cameron's advance for three months until newly acquired gunboats enabled the great Meremere pa to be outflanked. Owing to a breach of Maori etiquette by the defenders Rewi did not participate in the defence of Rangiriri pa but occupied a conical hill in the swamp to the south-east. By the time the Imperial troops fought their way to Te Awamutu the “King” tribes had received reinforcements from the Ngati Raukawa and Tuhoe tribes.
Confident of their ability to continue the war, the chiefs insisted upon building a pa at Orakau – about 2 miles east of Kihikihi – where they first met Rewi. Rewi himself had doubts about the strategic value of the Orakau site, but he yielded to their enthusiasm. Early in the morning of 31 March 1864 General Cameron's forces reached Orakau and the siege commenced. By the morning of the second day the Maoris' ammunition was running low, water supplies were exhausted, and the attacking force's siege guns were in action. Early in the afternoon of the third day, because he was impressed by the defenders' courage, Cameron sent William Mair forward with a flag of truce to urge the pa to surrender. Rewi replied, “Kaore e mau te rongo, ake, ake!” (“Peace shall never be made, never, never!”) This was conveyed to Mair by Hauraki Tonganui, a Ngati Tuwharetoa chief who was noted for his stentorian voice, and who had been conversing with Mair while Rewi considered the message. He used Rewi's words which have now passed into legend; and, immediately afterwards, these were also shouted in unison by the defenders. Mair then asked that the women and children be sent out of the pa. While Rewi was considering this, Ahumai Te Paerata, a tall handsome young woman, daughter of the old West Taupo chief Te Paerata, stood up and replied on behalf of the women: “Ki te mate nga tane, me mate ano nga wahine me nga tamariki.” (“If the men die, the women and children must die also.”) Shortly afterwards the battle was renewed, and when Cameron's men captured an outwork flanking the main pa, the survivors made good their escape, hotly pursued by the troops.
After Orakau, Rewi retreated into the King Country, where all pursuit ceased. In later years this forbearance paid dividends, for he became a useful friend in the complicated Maori-Pakeha relations in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1869 Rewi welcomed Sir Donald McLean on his visit to the Waikato. And in the same year, when Te Kooti sought Tawhiao's help, Rewi was sent as an observer to accompany him to Taupo. He remained with Te Kooti until his defeat at Te Porere when he returned to the King Country and advised the “King” against intervention. In 1873 he intervened to save the life of James Mackay, whose investigations into Timothy Sullivan's murder brought him into disfavour with the “Kingites”. In 1879, at the invitation of John Sheehan, the Native Minister, Rewi visited Auckland, where he received a hero's welcome. He returned to the Waikato in the train of Governor Sir Hercules Robinson. In 1883 Rewi supported Wahanui in his campaign to prevent land selling, the sale of liquor, and the spread of immorality in the King Country. In 1889 he was one of the older chiefs who were influenced by Te Mahuki's Messianic prophecies. He visited Auckland for the provincial jubilee celebrations in 1890, and thereafter lived quietly at Kihikihi. In his last years he had indifferent health. Seddon visited him in March 1894. A month later a public monument was unveiled at Kihikihi in Rewi's honour. He died two months later, on 21 June 1894.
Although short and slender in stature, Rewi excelled as a military tactician, and in battle forswore the traditional Maori practices, choosing rather to abide by the Pakeha rules of war. Writing of Rewi in 1888 E. W. Payton said that he was “the most courteous and dignified old gentleman he had ever met of a so called savage tribe”.
by Walter Hugh Ross, Journalist, Taupo and Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- The New Zealand Wars, Cowan, J. (1955)
- The Maori King, Gorst, J. E. (1959)
- New Zealand Herald, 23 Jun 1894 (Obit).