Story: Parore Te Awha

Page 1 - Biography

Parore Te Awha

?–1887

Nga Puhi and Te Roroa leader

This biography was written by Garry Hooker and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 2, 1993

Parore Te Awha, of the hapu Te Kuihi, was born at Mangakahia, probably sometime in the 1790s. Through his father, Toretumua Te Awha, he was descended from the high chief Toa of Te Roroa, kin of Ngati Whatua, whose grandson Taramainuku adopted the hapu name Te Kuihi, and from the renowned Nga Puhi chief Te Ponaharakeke of Ngati Ruangaio. His mother, Pehirangi, was a grand-daughter of Te Whakaaria, a famous Nga Puhi leader of Ngai Tawake and Ngati Tautahi and close kin of Hongi Hika.

As a child Parore was taken by his parents to Kaihu. Here he lived until his mother's cousin Pokaia, having determined to attack Te Roroa, took Pehirangi and her children to Kaikohe for safety. Parore probably spent his formative years there. By 1821 he was living at Whangarei with his principal wife, Tawera, the daughter of Te Kuihi warrior chief Kukupa. This was an important alliance, for Tawera was also the half-sister of the chiefs Te Tirarau and Te Ihi.

In the early 1820s attacks against Nga Puhi by Ngati Maru led Parore, Tawera and Kukupa to take up residence in the isolated Waipoua valley. Their presence there was not welcomed by Te Roroa, living to the south at Maunganui Bluff and Opanake in the Kaihu valley. In late 1824 or early 1825 Parore, warned of the impending arrival of a Nga Puhi war party under Hongi Hika, went to Te Kopuru. Nga Puhi and Te Roroa gathered together, and the former were dissuaded from invading Te Roroa territory. Parore later participated in Pomare I's ill-fated invasion of Waikato. However, he never achieved fame as a warrior.

In 1831 the trader J. S. Polack visited Parore's pa, Te Kauri, at Waipoua, where he found Parore 'in the prime of life, possessing a countenance remarkably pleasing; his stature was tall and commanding, and, although not outwardly distinguished from his companions by any peculiarities of dress, yet he had an air at once noble and dignified, from the habitual exercise of authority.' Polack also met Parore's senior wife, whom he described as 'a personification of health, mirth, and kindness.' Parore revealed to the trader a keen desire to reap the economic benefits of Pakeha settlement in his area. He expressed his concern over a letter, possibly written by Thomas McDonnell of Horeke, threatening to take the trade of flax and spars into his own hands. Parore was at this time already engaged in trading flax at Kaihu, and in the spar trade at Hokianga.

About 1836, following fighting with Te Roroa at Waipoua, Parore left the area and settled for some time at Kaipara Harbour. With the sale of some land to a Cornishman, George Hawke, he commenced a pattern of settling Pakeha on tribal lands. In 1838 he was residing at Te Houhanga (Hoanga), where he sought to take advantage of trading opportunities. He agreed to sell 1,000 acres in the Kaihu valley to Richard Day acting on behalf of Irish settlers. Parore embraced both the religion and farming practices of the Pakeha. He was visited at Kaihu in 1838 by the CMS missionary William Wade, who recorded both a chapel and a wheat field at Parore's settlement. Later a missionary cottage, used by the Wesleyan James Buller, was added.

It was probably through the influence of his Ngai Tawake relatives at the Bay of Islands that Parore was invited to sign the 1835 Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand, which he did on 25 June 1837. He was one of only two chiefs invited from the area from the Bay of Islands to Auckland, the other being his brother-in-law, Te Tirarau. In 1840 he probably deputed his son, Te Ahu Parore, to sign the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February. During the northern war Parore was credited with preventing an attack on Auckland by Kawiti's forces. His mana as a leading northern chief was further recognised in 1860 when he was sent copies of the papers of the Kohimarama conference of Maori leaders called by the governor. Parore assumed a leading role in welcoming Governor George Bowen to northern Wairoa in October 1869, taking the opportunity to remind Bowen that it was through the exercise of his own rangatiratanga that the district remained quiet.

The 1870s saw Parore, now living to the south at Mangawhare, engaged in a number of Native Land Court battles with his Te Roroa and Ngati Whatua relatives. These concerned Te Roroa ancestral lands in the Kaihu valley and at Maunganui Bluff and Waipoua, and his participation in widespread sales of land to the Crown. With Te Roroa and Ngati Whatua he joined in the sale of the Tunatahi block, later the site of the town of Dargaville, to J. M. Dargaville, and leased land at Kaihu for flax processing. In this period he also sought to enhance opportunities for his people in the Pakeha world by establishing English schools in his district. He remained an active Wesleyan, building a church in his settlement about 1875.

Parore assumed a role of national importance in 1882 when he funded the unsuccessful mission led by Hirini Taiwhanga to present a Nga Puhi petition to Queen Victoria. The first major Maori appeal to England grounded firmly on the Treaty of Waitangi, the petition requested that a royal commission be appointed to investigate laws contravening the treaty, and that authority be given for the establishment of a Maori parliament. It was suggested in official circles that Parore's motivation was to afford his nephew, Wiremu, and grandson, Hakena, who accompanied Taiwhanga, an opportunity of seeing the Queen. However, it is more likely that his support was prompted by the advance of Pakeha settlement of the 1870s which threatened to erode his influence.

Parore Te Awha was described by the ethnologist S. Percy Smith as 'a fine stalwart man, beautifully tattooed, whose mana over his people was very great.' He died on 24 September 1887, and was buried at Te Wharau on 30 September. His funeral reflected both the pattern of his life in seeking the benefits of Pakeha civilisation on Maori terms and his mana as a leading chief of Tai Tokerau: it was conducted with much pomp with a display of flags presented to him by governors George Bowen and William Jervois, a band playing the dead march, and a salute of three volleys. He was succeeded in tribal affairs by his grandson, Pouaka Parore, the son of Waata (Walter) Parore. A portrait of Parore Te Awha in old age, showing the beautiful moko remarked upon by many writers, is displayed occasionally in the meeting house Rahiri at Te Houhanga marae, Dargaville.