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Letter from Wiremu Tamihana published as "The Maori King" in the Southern Cross newspaper, July 1858

Native Meeting at Ngaruawahia and Rangiaowhia.


Friend Mr—. Do you hearken. We assembled ourselves together on the occasion of Potatau's [Te Wherowhero] coming hither to Ngaruawahia, and we thought that we should now take him [i.e., elect him as King] as he came to us, but the meeting was not willing that Potatau should be taken,—they did not consent to his being elected as king. We thought that Po [the name abbreviated] should now be elected by ourselves as king, but when we found that the meeting was averse to this step, we decided to leave the matter in abeyance on Tuesday and endeavour to effect our object on the Wednesday. We consented to adjourn from the Tuesday till the Wednesday out of respect to the meeting, and we arranged that the guard of honour should be in waiting at 8 o'clock on Wednesday morning. We accordingly wrote letters to the leading chiefs to say that on Wednesday at 8 o'clock on the 2nd of June, the proceedings would commence, and the flag of New Zealand would be hoisted. The people who reside at the place [Waikato] were up while it was yet dark at four o'clock in the morning, and food having been prepared and all parties in readiness, the flag was hoisted at 8 o'clock and the guard of honour moved forward. It consisted of the following tribes:—Ngatihaua, Ngatikoroki, Ngatiruru, Ngatimahuta, and Ngatimaniapoto. When the guard had reached the tent of Potatau, it stood, and presented arms. The women also in a body moved forward and arranged themselves on the other side. No person sat down,—all stood motionless, and not one word was uttered, nor could even the rustling of any one's garment be heard. I then stepped forward holding in my hand the Old Testament, the Psalms, and the New Testament of our Lord. Potatau was in his tent, which I entered and said, ‘Peace be to this house, and to him who is within it.’ I then sat down by his [Potatau's] side and presented to him the Old Testament open at the 20th chapter of Exodus from 1st verse to the 17th—the Commandments. I presented the Psalms also pointing the xxiii-5–6; also the page 266 New Testament, pointing out Matthew xi-28, John xiv-15, John x-11.

‘Now,’ said I, ‘let me ask you which of these two titles do you prefer, that of Chieftain or that of King?’

He replied, ‘I prefer the title of King.

I then said, ‘Who is to be your protector?’

‘Jehovah,’ was the reply.

‘Yes,’ said I, ‘the only—is there no other?’

Jesus Christ,’ was the answer.

‘Even so,’ said I, and I read to him the words of David, ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ and the words of Christ ‘I am the good Shepherd’&c.

I then said, ‘Let us pray to God in order that he may bless us and succeed our present movement.’

After we had prayed together, I said to him, ‘You had better come outside in order that your people may see you.’ He came forth therefore, and all the men, women, and children saw him, and they all uncovered their heads, and did obeisance to him.

I then addressed the flag which had been hoisted, saying unto it, ‘Potatau has consented to become King.’

Paora Te Ahuru immediately proceeded to an eminence, and addressing the mark that was put up [i.e., the flag] called in a loud voice, ‘Are you willing that this man should be your King?’

All cried out ‘Yes,’—both great and small, women and children.

Paora said secondly, ‘Are you willing that this King should put down that which is evil, and stay the hand of him who persists in doing wrong?’

‘Yes’ was the reply of them all.1

After this, those who composed the meeting took part in the proceedings. The first two who came forward were Te Awarahi [Te Katipa] and Ihaka [of Pukaki]. The part they took in the proceedings was most imposing; those who bore arms followed the chiefs,—when they came near, Te Awarahi said,—

1 According to Burrows (Southern Cross, 11 June, 1858), Te Ahuru asked, ‘E pai ano tenei tangata hei Kingi mo koutou?’ (‘Will you have this man for a King?’), and the gathering replied, ‘Ae’ (Yes). He then asked, ‘Katoa te mana me te whenua ki te Kingi?’ (‘Will you agree to give all the power and the land to the King?’), and they agreed.

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‘O Potatau, you will be a father to us, will you not?’1

‘Yes,’ was Potatau's reply, which was greeted by great cheering; and a salute was fired the noise of which, together with the cheering, was like the roaring of the sea on the ocean shore.

When the firing was over, the people sat down, and I addressed the meeting. I said,—

‘Hearken, O my fathers and my friends. This is the basis (I here held up in my hand the scriptures). We have not regarded the word of God, which saith, “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest;”—we have not obeyed the call. The Apostle says, “Mortify your members which are on the earth;” but we hearken not, therefore it is deemed proper that the chiefs should be of one mind, and select a person who shall be entrusted with these treasures for the earth [that is, the protection of our property, the management of our lands, etc.]. We have seen that the wars arise from disputations about land, wherefore we seek out him, that he may be a depository for our lands. He will restrain the father who is badly disposed towards his son, and the elder brother who would take advantage of the younger brother. He will manifest his displeasure in regard to that which is evil; he will do away with the works of confusion or disorder, and he will be a covering for the lands of New Zealand which still remain in our possession.’

It was half-past nine, we broke up therefore to get refreshments, and thus ended the meeting for this day.

We arranged that another meeting should take place at 8 o'clock the following morning. Accordingly at 8 o'clock we met again, when the lands were given up to king Potatau.

Paora said,—‘this is the basis upon which we act,—the knowledge which is manifested by the night and by the day [that is, the laws of nature]. It is written in the Psalms, “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.” Now we remain ignorant whilst the day and the night show forth their knowledge. The waves of the sea also obey their law, they roll on to the great ocean whose offspring they are. So in like manner are our own islands looking to God; even this island

1 According to Burrows, Te Katipa Te Awarahi (a Ngatiteata chief) asked Potatau, ‘Ko koe he matua mo matou. Ne?’ (‘Will you be a father to us?’). The Maori in these quotations is stilted and is probably not an exact transcript of what was said.

page 268 and that island are feeling after God. [i.e., the islands of the sea, not including New Zealand]. But this island [i.e., New Zealand] is without reflection. What God is He who had discovered evil [amongst us?] Christ says, “Go ye forth unto all nations and preach the Gospel to every creature.” Paul the Apostle says, “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the gentiles and they will hear it.”’

This was the conclusion of Paora's address.

On the following day there was a subscription by the people for the King. Reweti Te Aho1 stood up and said to Heta Te Wherowhero, ‘Where is the paper you brought hither? Let it be read that we may know its contents.’

‘I am of the same opinion as yourself,’ replied Heta.

‘A collection for the King?’

‘Yes,’ returned Heta.

Reweti commenced the collection by putting down £2 5s. 6d. This money was for Potatau the King. Riki Te Matatokoroa now came forward and put down £6. There was not much cash as we are collecting for the printing press, for chapels, and we had to buy the cattle slaughtered for the tribes on this occasion [The sum of £57 was presented to Potatau at Rangiaowhia by one tribe.] Te Patukoko, Ngatiruru, Ngatimahuta, and Ngatinaho gave £5 7s. making in all, £13 14s. This money has been given to the King.

The supplies for this feast at Ngaruawahia were 20 tons potatoes, 7 tons flour, 85 pigs, and 7 head of cattle.

(Southern Cross, 3 August, 1858.)

Native Meeting at Rangiaowhia.

(Concluded from our last)


On the 8th of the month of June, the tribes went from Waikato to Rangiaowhia.2 The numbers were:—

1 For identification of Maoris mentioned see below, note 6.

2 The date of this meeting is uncertain. Tamihana says 8–9 June, 1858; Buddle (p. 14), states that it commenced on 17 June. A European eye-witness's account, signed ‘Curiosus’ and dated 20 June (Southern Cross, 9 July, 1858), is somewhat obscure about the date. It appears likely, from a comparison of these accounts, that the dates given in Tamihana's letter were inaccurately copied by the translator (or misprinted) and should be 18–19 June, 1858.

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Ngatihaua 267
Ngatikoroki 30
Waikato 240
Ngatimaniapoto 200
Ngatihau 60
Ngatituwharetoa 100
Ngatihinetu & Ngatiapakura 140

When these tribes assembled, the king came outside the railing, and they met the king and his guard, 240 men. The king and his people tarried at the entrance of the gate, and Te Ngatihaua, numbering 297, went forward to make their obeisance to the king. Next in order came the people of the place, and then the tribes of Taupo, Ahuriri, Whanganui, Kawhia and Mokau. They all stood in the entrance of the gate, so that they might meet King Potatau.

There was also present a youth named Keremete, brother of Wi Karamoa, holding in hand a paper, which he read. This is the first portion,—‘Welcome hither, O king Potatau. Establish thou the nationality of New Zealand!’ The remaining sentences I do not know. After this address was read, the people walked backward and fired a salute, even three vollies, and the sound thereof was as the roar of thunder. After this they did obeisance, and arranged themselves in procession. First came the people resident in that locality, bearing aloft the flag of New Zealand; then followed the king with his own people; then followed the other tribes; and lastly the women. Those who went before the king were the inhabitants of the settlement and the visitors (that is, the Ahuriri and Whanganui people). On arriving at the camp they halted, and ranged themselves on each side of the court yard in rows three deep. Then stood up Te Tapihana, a teacher of the Ngatihikairo, and said, ‘Name the king, O Io, O Io!’ [Io is a Maori deity dwelling in the heavens, and represented as being all powerful, wise and good.] He meant, ‘Name the king, O William, O William.’ [William Thompson Tarapipipi, one of Potatau's chief supporters.] After this they did obeisance to the king, and the 23rd hymn was given out by the same monitor—

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‘From Egypt lately come,
Where death and darkness reign,
We see a new, a better home,
Where we our rest shall gain:
We are on our way to god, &c.’

After this Te Heuheu spoke, but his speech was not of consequence. The tribes now dispersed to their encampments, and met on the 9th, when the chiefs spoke. Policemen were appointed to keep order; the Superintendent of Police was Aihipene Kaihau. When all was arranged, Kiwa, the brother of Hoani Papita stood up and said,—‘Welcome, O son, welcome, welcome, to your people. Hold the authority of your ancestors and your fathers. You shall be king.’

Wiremu Te Akerautangi stood up and said,—

‘Welcome O King;—welcome to Waikato.

“The shame I feel is great
For thou hast made a hapless exit.
And now thou art as fish caught from the sea
And placed upon the stalls to dry;
Are we to feed upon the things that come
From lands far distant?
O son, thou gavest this to me
And caused these lips to be polluted
Which once were sacred. Lo, I'll lop it off.
Lest it should lead me to adopt its measures.”

[The Poet feels shame that the sun of the Maori nation should have gone down. The present social condition of his countrymen is compared to fish once healthful swimming at ease in its native water, but now ruthlessly cast upon the stalls no longer to be admired, but simply looked upon as an article of food. He asks whether the New Zealanders should be satisfied with the systems of foreign people which they have been called upon to adopt. He then censures the natives who were so credulous as to take for granted that the foreigner sought only the benefit of the New Zealanders by coming to this land and introducing other customs that came into collision with their own sacred usages; and concludes with a determination to maintain the national independence of the Maoris.]

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Kingi Waikawau said,—

‘Welcome, O son, welcome.

“The pangs I feel are of a two-fold nature,
Some are without and as the wind beyond my grasp.
O King welcome, and be thou enthroned.”’

Toma Te Ipuinanga spoke and chaunted a song complimentary to the King.

Te Awarahi [Te Katipa] now stood up; he said,—

‘Oh my elder brethren and my children, you have given us [a hearty] welcome.

“O this deafening noise and dread confusion
How am I pained for thee O wife
Gone from me to another!”’

[O wife gone from me, &c.—i.e., the lands sold to the Government. He bitterly regrets that his wife—i.e., Maori lands—should have been sold, and now that he is anxious to raise the Maori standard, and organize a Maori system, impediments will arise from the fact that many valuable native lands are in the possession of a power they are not prepared to either respect or obey. The above speech is a reply to those which preceded it.]

Then rose up Te Mutumutu, grand son of Turoa, the Chief of Whanganui. He said,—

‘Return hither, O my relative, and steer the canoe
[i.e., guide the people].
Mat which Hotunui and Hoturangi
Reclined upon, thy face was broken,
Thy face was beaten, and yet thy face
Was worn as ornaments around the neck.
Thy face too was concealed, yet it was grand,
And beautiful the while.
Hither bring my treasures—
The treasures that I got me from the northern countries,
And from the eastern lands, that I may
Cover now that face.
Lo, the mat is spread,—how great a treasure!
Give the King to beautify the features of each man
And rid the land of evil.’

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[Hitunuku and Hoturangi,1 deified men. If we understand the thing rightly, mats were made and offerings presented to these deities, and when the priests prayed and muttered their incantations, the gods came and reclined upon the new mats spread for them. Of course the mats were highly venerated, and although broken, or beaten by accident, or trampled upon and partially destroyed by enemies in war, the fragments were collected and worn as relics. Although thus debased they were considered grand &c. So in like manner, Te Wherowhero, or Potatau, though denuded of his native dignity by residing in the heart of a European settlement, still the tribes looked upon him with a feeling of veneration. His return to his kindred and people is embodied in the figure ‘Lo the mat is spread.’ Lest there should be any doubt, however, on the minds of the audience, in reference to the metaphorical language used, the poet concludes in plain terms, ‘Give the King’ &c.]

Tuhikitia stood up and said,—'Welcome O Te Mutumutu; welcome O Wi Pakau; welcome O Te Moananui; welcome O Te Heuheu; welcome O Te Poihipi; welcome O Pakake; welcome O Te Wetini Pahukohatu; welcome O Takerei Hikuroa; welcome O Waikawau and Wiremu Te Ake.

“O sacred glory! how I love to dwell on thee,
Streaming forth along the narrow way.
Come hither daughter, let us go together
To Isaiah, he will make us Teachers;
And he'll gather us together
That we may seize upon the Word of God,
And lean upon the Saviour.”

‘Welcome; let us be one;—let us cling to God and the King.’

Hori Te Waru stood up, and said,—
‘Let us be one,—one with God and the King.’
Te Heuheu rose up and said,—

1 It is not clear why the translator has changed ‘Hotunui’ to ‘Hitunuku’ in his comment. Possibly he wished to contrast ‘-nuku’ (earthly) with ‘-rangi’ (heavenly). No reference to Hitunuku or Hoturangi has been found. Hotu-nui is said to have been a descendant of Hoturoa (traditionally believed to have been the chief of the Tainui canoe). Since Hotunui is supposed to have been born in Taranaki, and since Te Mutumutu was a Wanganui chief, the rendering in the text may be correct. Several early writers confuse Hoturoa with Hotunui. (I am indebted to my colleague, Dr B. G. Biggs, for advice on this point.)

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‘O Hoani, be energetic; O Hori, be energetic; O Tamihana, be energetic; O Te Wetini be energetic for the King, and drive away wickedness and disorder.’

Then rose up Kapara Ngatoki; he said,—

‘Let those who have been named be brave, and adhere to the King.’

Then Wiremu Pakau [a Southern Chief] stood up and said,—

‘Ye have called, and bid me welcome. Lo I have journeyed hither to Waikato.

“It is being flung that way
Where the clump of forest trees are growing.
Even at Tongaporutu, herewith shall cease
The sorrow for my land.”’

[Being flung that way,—i.e., he is drawn to Waikato the people of which are compared to forest trees growing luxuriantly, he hopes by joining the king confederation to secure the well being of his countrymen, and mitigate the sorrow he feels on account of their present degraded state.]

On this day a collection was made for the printing press. The monies collected were,—for the printing press, £100; for King Potatau, £73 16s. 6d.

It was now determined that the kingship should be abiding,—that it should stand henceforward. Te Moananui of Ahuriri has consented thereto; also Te Mutumutu and Wi Pakau of Whanganui; Te Heuheu and Te Poihipi of Taupo; Pakira, Te Paerata, and Pakake of the Ngatiraukawa; and all the conversation was about the King.

On the following day a committee was called to appoint a council [i.e., executive] for the King. Patara, relative of King Potatau, said, ‘Ngatihaua, do you seek out a man known by you [for his ability] as a member for the council at Ngaruawahia—[the headquarters]—so that matters relative to the people may be attended to.’ The Ngatihaua consented to this, and Te Wetini Taiporutu was chosen; he is to stand on the right hand [be chairman or speaker].

Then it was said,—‘Ngatikoroki, do you look out a man from among you,’ and Te Area was chosen. The Patukoko sent Epiha Hihipa. Then Rewi Maniapoto was chosen, and then Te Manu page 274 Te Waitai.1 These are to form King Potatau's council, and to assist him, and to make known his sentiments to all the people.

O Mr——if you approve of the contents of this paper being published, well; if not, cast it aside. O friend of the native people, salutations to you. Lo this is the end.

(signed) William.