Story: Te Tuhi, Wiremu Patara

Page 1 - Te Tuhi, Wiremu Patara

Te Tuhi, Wiremu Patara

?–1910

Waikato leader, newspaper editor, warrior, secretary to the Maori King

This biography was written by Steven Oliver and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 1, 1990

Te Tuhi was born in Waikato. He belonged to Ngati Mahuta. His father was Paratene Te Maioha, a cousin of Potatau Te Wherowhero, the first Maori King. Te Tuhi was a second cousin of Tawhiao, Te Wherowhero's successor, and served him as editor, warrior, secretary and adviser.

In his youth Te Tuhi attended mission schools and lived for a time at Kawhia. He appears to have become a Christian, taking Wiremu Patara (William Butler) as his baptismal name. In 1856 Iwikau Te Heuheu Tukino III held a meeting at Pukawa where it was decided to offer the Maori kingship to Te Wherowhero. Te Tuhi, then known as Taieti, attended as Te Wherowhero's representative.

In 1859 two Waikato Maori, Wiremu Toetoe and Hemara Te Rerehau, travelled to Austria on the frigate Novara, and were trained in printing techniques at the state printing house in Vienna. As a parting gift, in May 1860 Archduke Maximilian gave them a printing press, which was shipped to Ngaruawahia. Late in 1861 the press was used to print a newspaper, which carried the proclamations of Tawhiao, who had succeeded his father Te Wherowhero as King, and news of the King movement to its adherents. Patara Te Tuhi became the editor and principal writer of the newspaper, which was named Te Hokioi e Rere Atu Na, after a mythical bird which was flying to spread the news. Through the newspaper he argued for an interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi that would limit the sovereignty of the colonial government over Maori. He argued, for instance, that the presence of a government steamer on the Waikato River, without the permission of the Maori owners of the river, violated the treaty.

Early in 1863 the King movement warned Te Wheoro, a government supporter, not to proceed with the construction of a fortified constabulary station at Te Kohekohe, on the west bank of the Waikato River, south of Meremere. Te Wheoro ignored the warnings, and proceeded to have timber prepared and carpenters brought from Auckland. Supporters of the King, led by Wi Kumete Te Whitiora, threw the timber into the river and made the carpenters flee. The timber was rafted down the Waikato River to the government redoubt at Te Ia (Havelock, near Mercer), at the junction with the Mangatawhiri River. Patara Te Tuhi later said that it was he who first proposed sending the timber back to Te Ia, but he had not anticipated the violence that would follow.

In February 1863 the government set up a rival Maori newspaper at Te Awamutu, edited by John Gorst. Te Pihoihoi Mokemoke i Runga i te Tuanui, taking its name from Psalm 102:7 ('I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house-top'), put forward Governor George Grey's argument that there could not be two governments in authority over one country. The paper's criticism of the King so incensed Ngati Mahuta and their allies that on 24 March 1863 80 armed warriors, led by Rewi Maniapoto and Aporo Taratutu, entered the town of Te Awamutu. Aporo led them to the office of the government newspaper, where the printing press, paper and copies of the fifth (and last) issue of Te Pihoihoi were seized. Gorst was ordered to leave Te Awamutu, and was accommodated by Patara Te Tuhi in the printing house at Ngaruawahia on his way back to Auckland. The expulsion was a challenge to the authority of Grey. On Patara's advice, Tawhiao condemned Rewi's actions, and ordered him to return the press and to leave to the King the question of the presence of the governor's official in Waikato. Two factions developed in the King movement, with Ngati Maniapoto and some lower Waikato chiefs advocating war, and Ngati Haua and Waikato wanting to reduce tensions with the government. Patara Te Tuhi and others successfully opposed Rewi's plan to take a fleet of canoes down the Waikato River to attack Te Ia.

War began, however, on 12 July 1863, when Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron and British troops crossed the Mangatawhiri River. Te Hokioi ceased publication and the press was abandoned. (It is now in the Te Awamutu Museum.) Patara Te Tuhi fought against the British all through the campaign in Waikato, and went into exile with Tawhiao in 1864. The King and his followers remained in isolation in the King Country for nearly 20 years. In May 1878 Patara Te Tuhi spoke at a meeting at Hikurangi, near Kawhia, at which Grey, now premier, was present. He told Grey that the King movement was reluctant to begin negotiations with the government until the confiscation of Waikato lands had been discussed. This issue stalemated negotiations for a number of years. In 1881 Tawhiao formally submitted to the government at Alexandra (Pirongia), and in January 1882 Patara Te Tuhi accompanied the King on a tour of the North Island. On their arrival in Auckland Patara delivered the King's prepared speech to the crowd attending the civic welcome.

In 1884 Patara Te Tuhi went to England with Tawhiao, as the King's assistant and secretary. After returning to New Zealand he lived at Mangere, near his brother, Honana Te Maioha. His portrait was painted by C. F. Goldie and a number of photographs were taken of him, showing him to be an imposing figure with a fully tattooed face. He represented Tawhiao at an intertribal conference at Orakei in 1889 and was responsible for issuing proclamations for Mahuta, who succeeded Tawhiao as King in 1894.

Patara Te Tuhi was admired by both Maori and Pakeha for his shrewdness and his good nature. John Gorst, his rival editor in Waikato, praised his 'wit and ability', and was pleased to meet him again on a visit to New Zealand in 1906. He died at Mangere on 2 July 1910 and was said to be aged 85 or 86. He was buried at Taupiri, near the Waikato River.