Story: Te Whakataupuka

Page 1 - Te Whakataupuka

Te Whakataupuka

fl. 1826–1834

Ngai Tahu leader

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

Te Whakataupuka of Ngai Tahu was born probably in Murihiku (the southern part of the South Island), late in the eighteenth century. His Ngai Tahu grandfather, Te Hau-tapunui-o-Tu, was instrumental in securing peace between Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe in the late eighteenth century. His father, Honekai, was chief at Oue, in the New River estuary, and married Kohuwai, the grand-daughter of Raki-ihia of Ngati Mamoe, and a resident of Murikauhaka, the village at the mouth of the Matau branch of the Clutha River. Te Whakataupuka married Rauaru, and had two sons: Tu-te-raki Pauwa and Koroko (or Golok). Kura, the sister of Te Whakataupuka, was the mother of Tuhawaiki.

Te Whakataupuka came to prominence when he moved to the strategic base of Ruapuke Island, in Foveaux Strait, about 1825, on the death of the previous chief, Tupai, his uncle by marriage. In 1826 he accompanied Edwin Palmer on a sealing expedition to Taieri Mouth. In 1827, during the feud known as Kaihuanga, between Ngai Tahu hapu of the Canterbury Plains area, he took the Murihiku warriors north to join the Otakou chief Taiaroa in support of the people of Taumutu, at the southern end of Waihora (Lake Ellesmere). Among them was Taiaroa's sister Te Parure. Te Whakataupuka commanded the victorious southerners at Akaroa, in a battle at sea.

Te Whakataupuka was known to the sealers of Murihiku as 'Old Wig'. The sealer and diarist John Boultbee, who referred to Te Whakataupuka as Tarbuka or Tarboka, met him on his return from Akaroa in 1827. He estimated Te Whakataupuka to be 34 years of age, and described him as 'the most complete model of strength, activity, and elegance I had seen combined in any man. He was in height 5 feet 10 inches; his muscular well formed arms and handsome falling broad shoulders, well turned limbs, and erect stature, together with his active, lively gait, were such as could not be witnessed by anyone without exciting their notice. His countenance was not exactly handsome, but very prepossessing, and bespoke a quick intelligent mind.' Towards Europeans in Foveaux Strait he was thoughtful, protective and even playful, within the limitations of rank. Boultbee referred to him as 'one of the greatest friends of the white people, and as such they always depended on him.' He ensured the safety of Europeans at Whenuahou (Codfish Island), the first Pakeha settlement in the district, even when his young son, Koroko, died there in 1827.

Towards his own people he acted decisively, sternly and with an uncompromising regard for his mana. On one occasion he killed the wife of a man who abused his hospitality. At Taumutu, about 1833, he was with difficulty dissuaded from killing Ngai Tahu residents, whom he regarded as having survived Te Rauparaha's raids on Kaiapoi pa and Onawe (near Akaroa) at the cost of the lives of many of his own relatives.

It was in this humour that Te Whakataupuka and Taiaroa proceeded further north to the battle against Te Rauparaha known as Oraumoa-nui. At its conclusion early in March the southern warriors attacked the Cloudy Bay whaling stations and plundered the schooner Harlequin. In July 1834 Te Whakataupuka's war party raided Joseph and Edward Weller's whaling station on the Otago Peninsula, and attacked or attempted to board ships at anchor there. In consequence, Te Whakataupuka was described in the Sydney Herald in October as 'one of the worst disposed chiefs, and a horrid cannibal'.

Te Whakataupuka's men were well armed on their northern foray. Muskets had formed part of the payment for Dusky Sound and Preservation Inlet, which Te Whakataupuka had sold to the whaler Peter Williams on 9 November 1832. The deed, signed by Te Whakataupuka with a drawing of his moko, formalised Williams's occupancy of the area since 1829. By December 1835 Te Whakataupuka had died, probably in the measles epidemic which broke out in Murihiku after the arrival of the Sydney Packet. Williams's title was endorsed in December by Tuhawaiki, Te Whakataupuka's successor and nephew.

Te Whakataupuka had been the principal chief of Foveaux Strait during the period when European interest turned from sealing to settlement. Within his domain he acted towards the first settlers in a way which elicited their trust and admiration, while to his own people he was a dependable military leader who acted with the resolution and calculated ferocity expected of a rangatira. Te Whakataupuka laid the foundation of Maori–Pakeha relationships in Foveaux Strait on which Tuhawaiki was to build.