Story: Te Herekiekie
Ngati Tuwharetoa leader
This biography was written by Steven Oliver and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 1, 1990
Te Herekiekie of Ngati Tuwharetoa belonged to the hapu Ngati Te Aho. He is thought to have been born in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Through his father, Tauteka, leader of Ngati Te Aho, he was descended from the senior Ngati Tuwharetoa line. His mother was Te Kahurangi, who was descended from Puha-o-te-rangi, the ancestor of the Wanganui people. After his father's death he assumed the leadership of Ngati Te Aho, who lived on the southern shore of Lake Taupo. There his authority was largely independent of the tribal leaders bearing the name Te Heuheu.
In his youth Te Herekiekie would have fought in the wars between Ngati Tuwharetoa and their neighbours Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti, and Ngati Hineuru. He was a famous athlete and on a peaceful visit to Waikato defeated their champion jumper. He is reputed to have jumped over a hot pool at Tokaanu some 30 feet wide.
In 1840 he took part in the invasion of Taranaki by Ngati Tuwharetoa. This ended in disaster at Patoka pa, Waitotara, where Tauteka was killed together with many others. Te Herekiekie was spared, as he was descended from Puha-o-te-rangi and so was related to many of the enemy chiefs. He, his sister Rora Turori and other relatives were allowed to return to Taupo. When Edward Jerningham Wakefield met him after his return, in December 1841, he described him as a handsome man of commanding stature, aged about 28.
Tauteka's death was avenged by the killing of Te Manihera Poutama and Kereopa, two Maori preachers from Taranaki, in March 1847 by Te Huiatahi of Ngati Waewae. But Te Herekiekie was against the killings and his brother Hare had warned the preachers not to go to Taupo.
Te Herekiekie first attended church services in 1846. Although there is no record that he was baptised or took a baptismal name, he was friendly with missionaries. When T. S. Grace, of the Church Missionary Society, brought his family to establish the Taupo mission in 1855 at Pukawa, he landed at Matata, at the mouth of the Tarawera River, where Te Herekiekie was an influential leader.
When Mananui Te Heuheu Tukino II, Ngati Tuwharetoa leader, died in a landslide on 7 May 1846, he was succeeded by his brother Iwikau. By birth Te Herekiekie was senior to Iwikau and resented his ascendancy. However, he could not assert his claim to leadership because Herea Te Heuheu Tukino, Mananui and now Iwikau had been chosen by the tribe as a whole. Indeed, it was the senior ariki, Te Whatupounamu, grandfather of Te Herekiekie, who had exercised the right to elevate Herea to the leadership. Nevertheless Te Herekiekie refused to recognise the authority of Iwikau, even though he had not challenged the authority of Mananui.
When Iwikau attempted to place his brother's remains in the crater of Tongariro, enmity developed between the two leaders. Te Herekiekie objected because burial there could have established a claim to the ownership of the mountain by Mananui's descendants. When Iwikau, in 1850, succeeded in placing the remains on Tongariro, Te Herekiekie went to the upper Wanganui River to recruit an armed force. War did not break out, however, and the two were reconciled by Grace in 1853.
Te Herekiekie's wife was Te Papuni. They had two children, a son, Kingi, and a daughter, Taupoki. Kingi Te Herekiekie fought for the King movement and was one of the last to submit to the government, in 1866. But he did not support Pai Marire, and in 1869 he raised a Union Jack at his pa to show his opposition to Te Kooti.
Te Herekiekie died at Tokaanu on 13 June 1861; he was thought to be 48 years of age. He was buried there after a funeral attended by representatives of many tribes. His last injunction to his people was to be friendly towards the Europeans.