Story: Pohio, Horomona

Page 1 - Biography

Pohio, Horomona

1815–1880

Ngai Tahu leader, missionary, assessor, land protester

This biography was written by Te Maire Tau and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 1, 1990

Horomona Pohio claimed descent from the major lines of Ngai Tahu, Ngati Mamoe and Waitaha. His hapu were Ngai Taoka, Ngati Huirapa, Ngai Te Ruahikihiki, Ngai Te Rakiamoa and Ngai Tuahuriri. His father was Tohu, his mother Tutu.

According to his obituary Pohio was born in 1815 at Wainono, in the Waihao region of South Canterbury, near Te Waimatemate (Waimate). He was given the name Iwikau. He was one of the children who were sent to Murihiku (the southern part of the South Island), to be kept from a possible threat from Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa, with whom Ngai Tahu of Kaiapoi pa were in dispute. His early years were spent at Ruapuke Island, in Foveaux Strait, with his grandfather Te Kahupatiti.

Pohio came in contact with Christianity in the early 1840s, while living at Ruapuke. On 18 June 1843, at Waikouaiti, he was baptised by James Watkin, a Wesleyan missionary, and took the name Horomona (Solomon). As a part of his mission Horomona was to act as pastor of Ruapuke. In the 1840s and 1850s he also assisted the Wesleyan missionaries at Waikouaiti and Moeraki.

Horomona Pohio was a participant in the signing of the Otago purchase deed in 1844. He was also a signatory to the sale of Canterbury in 1848, and the Murihiku purchase in 1853. In 1859 he was made an assessor at Te Waimatemate, a position which carried the duties of a local magistrate, and in the 1860s spent some time in Hawke's Bay. On his return to the South Island he became a follower of Ngai Tahu tohunga Hipa Te Maiharoa, at Te Wai-a-te-ruati, near Arowhenua, and a missionary for the Kaingarara religion, which had similarities with the teachings of Te Ua Haumene in the North Island.

Pohio, as secular leader of Te Maiharoa's community, was concerned with the consequences of Ngai Tahu land sales. The signatories to the Otago purchase had been informed that reserves, known as tenths, were to be set aside for Ngai Tahu, and protested when this did not come about. Ngai Tahu also contested the boundary of the Canterbury purchase. They understood that the purchase applied to the area from Maungatere (Mt Grey, near Kaiapoi) in the north to Maungatua, at the boundary of the Otago block, in the south, and west as far as the foothills of the Southern Alps. The purchasers insisted that the western boundary was the main divide itself. Larger reserves as well as areas where food was produced or gathered were to be set aside for Ngai Tahu and future generations. By 1868 parts of the reserve at Hakataramea, on the Waitaki River, had been sold, and the new owners refused to allow Maori to continue to hunt weka there. In Murihiku the boundary of the purchase was again in dispute. Pohio was one of the principal speakers at a hui held at Tuahiwi, near Kaiapoi, in March 1874, to discuss Ngai Tahu grievances.

In 1877 Te Maiharoa led his followers, including Pohio, to establish a new settlement, Te Ao Marama (Omarama), high in the Waitaki valley, to assert Ngai Tahu rights to the interior of the South Island. In joining Te Maiharoa, Pohio alienated himself from the mainstream leadership of Ngai Tahu, who sympathised with the tohunga but did not approve of his actions. In October 1878 Pohio and his son Tuwhare travelled to Wellington for a meeting with the native minister, John Sheehan. They were courteously received, but Ngai Tahu claims for the return of the interior of the South Island were rejected by Sheehan as illegitimate. Pohio turned down the offer of a commission of investigation, considering that no justice could result from a Pakeha inquiry. Hori Kerei Taiaroa, MHR for Southern Maori, who was present, regarded Te Maiharoa's protest as counterproductive. Pohio returned, bitter, to Te Ao Marama. Tension between local Pakeha runholders and Te Maiharoa's supporters increased, and in the winter of 1879 Te Maiharoa and his followers were forcibly evicted from the Waitaki valley by armed police.

The failure of this protest was followed by an attempt to achieve justice within the Pakeha judicial and political framework. In 1879 and 1880 Pohio gave evidence before the Commission on Middle Island Native Land Purchases (the Smith–Nairn commission), which was set up to inquire into Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe claims, that the Crown had failed to keep its promises. When the commission's interim findings were that Ngai Tahu did have valid grievances, the government cancelled the commission's funding. Pohio returned to live at Te Waimatemate, where he died on 12 March 1880.

Horomona Pohio is known to have had four wives. His first wife was Mauhe, of Murihiku. His second wife was Wikitoria Korako, the daughter of a Ngati Mamoe chief of Ngati Huirapa hapu. They had two children. In Hawke's Bay in the 1860s Horomona married Peti Paihi (or Pae) of Ngati Kahungunu, from Wairoa. They had two children also. Pohio's fourth wife was Hera (or Hira) Tau, daughter of Ngai Tuahuriri chief Paora Tau of Kaiapoi, and Te Raki. They had six children.