Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 06, Issue 01, 1996

Kehu (Hone Mokehakeha): Biographical Notes

Kehu (Hone Mokehakeha): Biographical Notes

page 3

1. Introduction:

This biography is adapted from speech notes presented on June 30th 1995 at the Department of Conservation Field Centre, St Arnaud, at the unveiling of a carved memorial to Kehu. This short biography does not do justice to Kehu: there is a rich detail of his abilities, skills, character and personal demeanour in the journals of Thomas Brunner, Charles Heaphy and others, from which we have selected extracts: we recommend the complete journals to interested readers. 1

A number of Maori terms and place names are used in these notes: an English translation is given at first usage, and a Glossary is presented at the end.

2. Whakapapa (Family Tree) of Kehu: 2 , 3

Kehu's mother, Matanohinohi, was Ngati Apa, Ngai Tahu, Ngati Mamoe and Ngati Tumatakokiri; she spent the later decades of her life at Kawatiri, near the present town of Westport. Her earlier years were probably more itinerant as her whanau (extended family, tribal members) "beat the bounds" of her tribes' estates. Kehu's father, Tamane, was Ngati Tumatakokiri: unfortunately we have not yet found reliable details of Tamane's antecedents. Kehu is described in all the European colonial journals and the Native Land Court records as being Ngati Tumatakokiri. As near as we can be sure, Kehu was born circa 1798 AD (not 1821, as claimed by some). He is generally known as Kehu but his given names are recorded in Maori Land Court Minutes Books 4 as Hone Mokehakeha or Hone Mokekehu: on very rare occasions some European journals referred to his as 'Jackey'.

3. Background Circumstances:

Kehu was born into a period of considerable strife for Ngati Tumatakokiri who had been in decline and by the late 18th century were maintaining only a tenuous hold over their previous large domain. That domain had been bounded to the north by the coastline from Croisilles to Farewell Spit, to the east by the ranges of Nelson and to the south to the inland lakes. Rotoiti and Rotoroa, and into the Maruia, Kawatiri (Buller). Inangahua and Mawhera (Grey) districts, from their headwaters to the coast. That is, over a period of two centuries they had come to assert their mana (dominion, sovereignty) over the north-western quadrant of this island. However, by the late 1700s there had been generations of skirmishing and battles between Ngati Tumatakokiri and their neighbours on a number of fronts. Ngati Apa had made serious inroads on the northern coastal flanks from Waimea to Mohua (now Golden Bay) and Te Tai Tapu, returning repeatedly by canoe from the Sounds and even from Kapiti and the Rangitikei Coast. Overland skirmishes on their eastern flank were frequently fought with Ngati Kuia and Rangitane. 5 To the south there was frequent harassment from Ngai Tahu parties, from both page 4 page 5their Canterbury bases at Kaiapoi and Tuahiwi etc, and their Te Tai Poutini (West Coast) bases at Mawhera (near Greymouth), and at Taramakau, Arahura and Hokitika.

There did seem to be a period of relative calm for a few years prior to about 1790, but this was disrupted when Wereta Tainui, son of Tuhuru of Poutini Ngai Tahu, abducted Kokore of Ngati Tumatakokiri and took her as wife. Ngati Tumatakokiri objected and another round of skirmishes began which escalated with the killing of the Ngai Tahu chief, Pakeke, at Maruia. As soon as intelligence of this tragedy was received by Ngai Tahu, two retaliatory taua (war parties) set out to avenge his death. One party came from Canterbury, led by Warekino, and the other from Mawhera, led by Tuhuru; these chiefs were near relatives. The two parties met at the Karamea River where, through mistaken identity, Tuhuru almost killed Warekino. The two chiefs combined their taua and proceeded on to Tai Tapu and into Mohua (Golden Bay) to deliver utu (revenge) to Tumatakokiri strongholds in those parts. Matters continued in this vein for the next 10 to 15 years, with Ngati Tumatakokiri gradually losing ground as their various flanks were assailed by the tribes mentioned. We are not convinced that the Ngai Tahu and the Kurahaupo iwi operated in a coordinated way against Ngati Tumatakokiri; it was more likely to have been opportunistic as each faction grabbed chances as they came their way. The final blow for Tumatakokiri on their south-western quarter was delivered by Tuhuru's warriors in about 1810 at the battle called Kotukuwhakaoho near the junction of the Grey and Arnold rivers; some say it was a few miles up the Arnold River at the place now known as Kokiri, itself named as a contraction of Tumatakokiri according to some Maori commentators. 6

4. Tamane's Death, Kehu as Mokai (Serf) to Poutini Ngai Tahu:

Kehu's father, Tamane, was killed at this battle by the Ngai Tahu warrior, Tau, and Kehu was captured by Poutini Ngai Tahu. Kehu was a boy of about 12 at the time; he was already a seasoned traveller throughout the Tumatakokiri domains lying between Te Tai Tapu, Mohua and the West Coast and into the hinterlands and watersheds of the great rivers, Kawatiri, Inangahua and Mawhera. With his capture began a life as mokai (serf, slave); a status he never really shrugged off until well into colonial times. However, Kehu's adolescence and young adulthood were probably more peaceful than his early years, once the majority of his Tumatakokiri relatives had been killed or subdued in subsequent battles over the 2 or 3 years following Kotukuwhakaoho. His family's status as part Ngati Apa/Ngai Tahu of high rank possible saved him from the worst aspects of slavery under Ngai Tahu. We believe that during this period his life involved seasonal migrations to the mahinga kai (food-gathering places) of the inland lakes, rivers and river flats for eels, ducks and botanicals, and to the coastal food baskets.

5. Late 1820s: Tainui and Taranaki Invasions; Kehu as Mokai to Ngati Rarua:

By the late 1820s another invasion from the North Island, this time by the combined tribes of Tainui (Ngati Koata, Ngati Rarua and Ngati Toa) and Taranaki (Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa) had secured a stranglehold on the districts of Te Tau Ihu (Nelson and Marlborough) and had begun to look further south. Many pockets of Kurahaupo people had sought refuge in the page 6hinterlands of Nelson (e.g. in the hills behind Brightwater and Wakefield) and further south, in districts such as Rotoroa. Contingents mainly of Ngati Rarua led by Niho Te Hamu, and Ngati Tama led by Takerei Te Whareaitu, with some assistance from chiefs and warriors of the other Tainui and Taranaki hapu (sub-tribes), proceeded out of Mohua and Te Tai Tapu and into Te Tai Poutini. Over a period of weeks they battled their way south through Te Tai Tapu and Te Tai Poutini into South Westland to as far as Okarito, overrunning pa and kainga (villages) en route. The senior rangatira (chief) of Poutini Ngai Tahu, Tahuru, was captured at Kohiterangi, inland from Hokitika and was taken to Rangitoto (D'Urville Is) to pay homage to Te Rauparaha. Tuhuru was then imprisoned for a few years at Patarau in Te Tai Tapu by Niho and Takerei. Tuhuru's prized mere pounamu (greenstone club), Kai Kanohi, was taken in tribute by Ngati Rarua and his daughter, Nihorere, was given (taken?) in marriage to (by?) Niho to effect Tuhuru's release. (Kai Kanohi remains a treasured possession of Ngati Rarua families of Wairau to this day).

During this round of conquests, Kehu was, for the second time in his life, taken as one of the spoils of victory; he now became mokai to two rangatira of Ngati Rarua, Aperahama Panakenake and Poria. Eventually he was to accompany them back to Motueka where they and a large number of Ngati Rarua put down roots to hold their newly-won territories. The Ngai Tahu warrior, Tau (killer of Kehu's father, Tamane, at Kotukuwhakaoho), was also captured in the same skirmishes and became mokai to Wiremu Kingi Te Koihua, Te Atiawa chief at Pakawau in Mohua, about 15 km from Aorere (Collingwood).

We do not have much information about Kehu's activities over the few years immediately following his transfer to Motueka. We assume that he must have acquitted himself well, and that the mana of his whanau was recognised by his captors, for they eventually granted him life tenure of lands in that district (more about this later). An urgent task for the new conquerors was to consolidate their position by clearing the hinterlands of Waimea, Moutere and Motueka river valleys of remnants of Ngati Apa and other refugees. Kehu's knowledge of those districts would have been invaluable to his Rarua masters.

6. 1830s: Early European Interactions; Whalers and Missionaries:

This was also the beginning of a period of major cultural transition for the tribes of Te Tau Ihu. New opportunities had emerged a few years previously for the Tainui and Taranaki tribes from right across the region to cultivate and supply European crops (mainly potatoes and corn) and pigs to the burgeoning whaling communities in the Marlborough Sounds. Kehu probably spent some time during the 1830s at Tory Channel and/or Port Underwood at the whaling stations; an entry in Charles Heaphy's journal 7 implies as much. He may have been baptised there. His mother, Matanohinohi, and uncle, Puaha Te Rangi, were certainly people of high birth and seemed to enjoy reasonable freedom of movement even though the Tainui and Taranaki iwi now dominated most of their former territories, at least in the coastal districts of Whakaru, Waimea, Motueka, Te Tai Tapu and Te Tai Poutini. A number of Kurahaupo and Ngai Tahu rangatira were installed as vassal chiefs to hold territories for their captors, 8 and members of Kehu's extended family may have been similarly treated.

page 7

7. 1839 and 1841: The New Zealand Land Company:

The next major milestone in Kehu's life followed the arrival of the New Zealand Land Company in late 1839 and the beginnings of the development of the Company's Nelson settlement 18 months later. An immediate and urgent task of the advance guard of Company agents to Nelson, led by Captain Arthur Wakefield, was to survey the districts to establish the boundaries of the separate land blocks for allocation to the waves of settlers who were expected to follow within a few weeks. In order to expedite the surveys, Maori labour was hired to assist as chainmen, and track and line cutters, to cut and supply survey pegs and marker posts, and to provide information about the districts and to act as guides. Kehu was employed in these latter roles: in 1842 he was hired from Panakenake and Poria by Thomas Brunner who was one of the surveyors initially assigned to the Motueka districts and hinterland. 9 Kehu's knowledge of the inland localities of the Motueka and Moutere valleys, and the inland districts of Tapawera, Motupiko, Korere and neighbouring districts was invaluable, and he spent several months with Brunner's survey team in these parts.

From this point on in his life, Kehu appears to have enjoyed considerable freedom, although the influences of Christianity, the establishment of British law among Maori following the Treaty of Waitangi, and the colonial ways of life had by now somewhat diminished the worst vicissitudes of slavery. Kehu seems to have spent much of his time between surveying 'contracts' living at or near Nelson, sometimes in the homes of people like Brunner. His relocation to Nelson may have been prompted by his marriage to a woman who was a runaway slave from Te Iti, another of the Rarua chiefs of Motueka (and close relative of Poria and Panakenake). At some point in this period Kehu must have become a Christian of Wesleyan persuasion, 10 and possibly he learned to read, at least the book of Scripture which he treasured.

8. Land Shortages: Kehu as Explorers' Guide:

The New Zealand Company's affairs reached a crisis when, by late 1842, it became obvious that even after surveying the Upper Motueka and Moutere valleys and the Takaka and Aorere districts of Golden Bay there was still insufficient land available to satisfy the requirements of the Nelson settlement scheme. The scheme needed 221,100 acres of arable, cultivable land and after all of these surveys were completed by early 1843, the Company was more than 120,000 acres short of this target. Arthur Wakefield therefore turned to the Wairau. He and other Company Agents insisted that the Wairau had been purchased from Te Rauparaha and other chiefs, and tried to enforce the purchase by sending surveyors into that district. They dismissed or ignored the protestations of several delegations to Nelson and Wellington of Ngati Toa chiefs, and others; the armed confrontation and killings in June 1843 at Tuamarina in the Wairau were the result. The inquiries and investigations following this tragedy confirmed the illegalities of the Company's attempted takeover and exonerated Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa from blame for what had happened. One of the immediate impacts on the Nelson settlement scheme was that the additional land required would have to be found elsewhere. The outcome was an upsurge of exploratory activities to the hinterlands of Nelson and to more southern districts. Again the Company agents turned to local Maori for assistance. Over the ensuring years Kehu was frequently hired as porter-cum-guide to lead a number of exploratory parties back to those districts which he had known so well as a free-page 8born youth and as mokai of Poutini Ngai Tahu. He came to guide a number of the greatest journeys of overland exploration in the colonial history of this country.

Authority for the employment of Kehu in this capacity appears in a letter from Frederick Tuckett dated 8th November 1843, confirming that he had authorised Thomas Brunner

"… to employ a native, Ekehu, as a guide on his recent journey of exploration at the same rate of remuneration as the other, Epito 11 , has received – 14/- a week and rations." 12

Tucket went on to say that as Kehu had not consumed any rations, his weekly rate had been adjusted to £2/2/- per week; apparently he had been able to live off the land during the expedition.

For the first couple of years Kehu and other Maori guided parties on a number of exploratory expeditions of two to three weeks duration, into the various inland districts of Nelson. None discovered the hoped-for great plains of arable, cultivable pasture lands which the Company desperately sought and therefore by the mid-1840s longer excursions further afield were being undertaken. In February and March 1846 Kehu led Brunner, Charles Heaphy and William Fox 13 through the Rotoiti and Rotoroa districts en route to the Matakitaki. The previous year, apparently in anticipation of their own possible occupancy of these parts, Kehu and a group of his whanaunga (extended family) had made their own excursion to the lakes districts, to build shelters in a number of places, and to clear areas for planting; in at least one locality, Lake Rotoroa, they built a small canoe and hid it for future use. These shelters and huts, and the canoe, were used on this expedition with Brunner, Heaphy and Fox, and on subsequent exploratory journeys.

One evening while in these parts Kehu showed his superior fishing skills and a rather curious mix of Christianity, vulgarity and ancient beliefs:

"The Maori watched to see the eels at the bottom, and putting the bait in their way, had them the next moment in the canoe, splashing the more unfortunate sportsmen who still had nothing but nibbles. After supper, when we had relinquished the spot, he recrossed the river, and, to dispel all feelings of lonesomeness, commenced chanting his Wesleyan missionary service, mixing with the translated version of the ritual special incantations to the taipo of the lake and the river for propitious weather and easy fords, together with request to the eels to bite quickly, and not keep him longer in the cold. Then, as he caught one which would not die quick enough to please him, would he introduce some decidedly uncomplimentary language which he learnt at a whaling station, and again subside into the recitation of his Wesleyan catechism and hymnbook, bringing in our various names in the versification. He did not leave off till long after we were asleep: and in the morning when we awoke, four fine eels were roasting for breakfast, and another four were hanging from an adjacent tree." 14

Of the February 1846 exploratory party, only Kehu's name has been immortalised in these districts by the naming of a peak in the Travers Range behind Lake Rotoiti. Heaphy did try to page 9give the name Fox River to the Upper Kawatiri, but eventually this river became known as the Buller. Their journey took them to the Matakitaki district; probably on the plains near present-day Murchison.

Kehu proved to be the complete guide; Charles Heaphy often wrote disparagingly of the Maori people he met, but even he spoke glowingly of Kehu in his report published in the Nelson Examiner on 7th March 1846:

"E Kehu, our guide, is thus a perfect bushman, and is of very great service on an expedition; he has none of the sluggishness of disposition so common to the Maori, but is active and energetic, displaying far more of the characteristics of the Indian savage than are to be seen in the usual lazy inhabitants of a pa; thoroughly acquainted with the 'bush' he appears to have an instinctive sense, beyond our comprehension, which enables him to find his way through the forest when neither sun nor distant object is visible, amidst gullies, brakes, and ravines in confused disorder, still onward he goes, following the same bearing or diverging from it but so much as is necessary for the avoidance of impediments, until at length he points out to you the notch in some tree or the footprint in the moss, which assures you that he has fallen upon a track, although one which he had not been previously acquainted with. A good shot, one who takes care never to miss his bird, a capital manager of a canoe, a sure snarer of wild fowl, and a superb fellow at a ford, is that same E Kehu; and he is worth his weight in tobacco!". 15

By this time, Kehu was approximately 48 years of age. Kehu appears in sketches by Heaphy and watercolours done by Fox as part of their pictorial record of this journey.

Pencil sketch of Kehu by Charles Heaphy – Nelson Provincial Museum

Pencil sketch of Kehu by Charles Heaphy – Nelson Provincial Museum

page 10

9. March – September 1846: Brunner Heaphy and Kehu to the West Coast:

Almost immediately after their return from the February/March expedition Brunner, Heaphy and Kehu were off again. This time their task was to see if a route existed to Westland via the coast from Mohua. On 17th March 1846 they sailed from Nelson to Aorere and set off tramping from there on the 23rd, carrying horrendously heavy loads. By the time they reached Pakawau, about 15 km from Aorere, they realised that another porter was going to be needed. They stopped overnight at Pakawau Pa where they hired from Hemi Kuku, son of the Te Atiawa chief Wiremu Kingi Te Koihua, the services of a slave who turned out to be none other than Tau, the killer of Kehu's father at 'Kotukuwhakaoho' over 36 years earlier. Brunner recorded the irony of this situation.

"Kehu had every reason to suppose him to be the man who had killed his father: a friendship consequently commenced and they became merry at the idea of journeying to Kawatiri together."

The next hurdle the party had to face was the angry old Rarua chief, Niho Te Hamu, who was still living at Te Tai Tapu. He had to be placated with gifts of tobacco before they were allowed to pass south into his domains. Their journals and reports in the 'Nelson Examiner' in September 1846 record the hardships, privations, endurance and excitements of their journey which lasted over five months. They discovered the wreckage of at least two European vessels; they almost drowned more than once and they identified the old Ngati Hapa (Apa) route from the mouth of the Kohaihai River to Aorere – parts of it probably following the route of the present-day Heaphy Track. At the mouth of Kawatiri Kehu and Tau stated that this river was the boundary between Poutini Ngai Tahu and Niho's territory through which they had just passed.

Just south of Kawatiri they met a party of Maori en route to Kawatiri where they were intending to clear land to plant potatoes; the leader of that party was

"…. Mawika, the half-brother of Ekehu."

The journals do not state whether this was Henare or Hoani Mahuika. 16 A few miles further south they had to brave the old Maori ladder made of vines running up the precipitous Te Miko Bluff, just north of Punakaiki.

Brunner and Heaphy were reputed to have been the first Europeans seen at many of the West Coast kainga visited en route. At Kararoa, north of Greymouth, where Tau was well known, they were accorded a grand welcome. They continued to Taramakau which, incidentally, Heaphy later described as a Ngati Rarua village with approximately 70 people engaged in working greenstone for their Rarua rangatira.

The party proceeded as far south as Arahura before turning for home. Brunner and Heaphy wanted to cross the Alps to Port Cooper (Akaroa) from Mawhera but Kehu wouldn't here of it – he said that the alpine routes were too dangerous and they they would be killed in such an attempt. Therefore they returned to Nelson via the same coastal route to Te Tai Tapu and Aorere.

page 11

"On the 7th we reached Pakawau in Massacre Bay, where, the natives, being aware of the privations which we had undergone, treated us with the greatest kindness and attention; furnishing us with fresh pork, four, tea, and sugar; and finally bringing us in their canoes to Nelson, where we arrived on the 18th of August, after an absence of exactly five months."17

10. Brunner, Kehu and Pikiwati (and Wives) to the West Coast:

They were only back in Nelson for three months when Brunner set out again on 3rd December 1846, not accompanied by any other European, but assisted by Pikiwati as well as Kehu, and their wives. Pikiwati was also of Ngati Tumatakokiri and mokai of Motueka chiefs, and like Kehu, had been in the employ of Europeans since at least 1842. He had been known as Sylvanus Cotterell's "Man Friday" and in November 1842 had been his guide on a major journey of exploration from Nelson to Tophouse, down the Wairau Valley to the coast and south to the Clarence River. Two months later, in January 1843, Pikiwati led Cotterell to 'discover' Lake Rotoiti and the Buller outflow; they also tramped to the head of the lake and up the Travers River for some distance before climbing to the ridge of the eastern range, to find only mountains all around and not the great plains which Cotterell was seeking. Cotterell was killed at the Wairau Affray in June 1843 and Pikiwati had apparently been devastated by the death of his mentor and friend at that tragedy. Pikiwati then became Williams Fox's guide on some of his early journeys of exploration.

Brunner arranged for the men to be paid £5 for their services and they were supplied with outfits and stores for the journey, but he was not happy about being accompanied by the wives who would also have to be outfitted and fed. However, he was given no choice in the matter. We have not been able to discover any further details about these women. 18

The intention of this journey was to reach the furtherest point of the February expedition in the Matakitaki district, and proceed from there to find a route down the Kawatiri to its mouth, retrace the coastal route south to Arahura again, and from there as far into South Westland as possible. This turned out to be the most rigorous of all expeditions ever undertaken in the colonial exploration of this country. Despite having the assistance of a mule to reach Rotoiti it took six months for them to reach the mouth of the Buller. Brunner's accounts record with great admiration the Maoris' ingenuity at net-making, rapid construction of water-tight bark shelters, river-crossing, fishing, eeling, bird-snaring and raft construction. Again they used the shelters previously built by Kehu and friends in 1845, and the canoe which was still safely hidden at Lake Rotoroa. Despite the Maoris' skills there were many periods during which they almost starved; at one stage (May 1847) they were so desperate for food that Brunner's dog had to be sacrificed. On other occasions Brunner was utterly frustrated when Kehu would get onto a good run of eels and refuse to budge, sometimes for days, until he had caught every last available fish. The Maori sometimes quarrelled among themselves; one of the women was stricken by the taipo (evil spirits) and was missing for a time; all got cramps and other afflictions. Brunner noted how his companions became disgruntled by the stresses and demands of their situations but that

"…I had trouble with all but my own native Kehu. "

page 12

It was July before they reached Taramakau, and Kehu and Pikiwati refused to travel any further south; probably for them, this was another homecoming of sorts. Brunner was forced to wait three months before any of the local Poutini chiefs were prepared to guide him south; in October he set out with three of them. While at Okarito Brunner noted that the chief, Tuhuru, who had been captured by Niho 16–17 years earlier was now at that place:

"…also took Tu Uru, the chief, prisoner, whom he has since released to return here to work the greenstone for him. " 19

Brunner got as far as Paringa where a serious injury to his ankle forced him to recuperate for a period and then return north. It was Christmas Day 1847 (over a year after leaving Nelson) that Brunner arrived back at Mawhera where he had a further wait of about 10 days for Kehu who had gone fishing with the locals.

Again Brunner wished to cross the Alps to Canterbury and again Kehu refused. Kehu and Pikiwati also refused to take the easier route back to Nelson via the coast to Buller, Te Tai Tapu and Aorere. They argued that to do so would place the lives of all in jeopardy, given that their wives were runaway slaves and would be recognised at the Rarua and Atiawa kainga they would have to pass through on that route. Eventually they travelled for the first 60 miles by another new route (for Brunner, that is), which was via the Upper Mawhera valley. Brunner was most impressed with the hospitality and kindness of the Poutini Ngai Tahu; despite his having nothing left in his stores to reward them with, these people took him several miles up the Mawhera River to the limit of canoe travel, and then presented him with half of their tobacco stores as a farewell gift. As they passed Kotukuwhakaoho he noted

"This is the place where Kehu, my lad, lost his father and was taken prisoner himself by the Ngaitahu tribe." 20

Eventually they came to the Inangahua where they re-entered the dreaded Upper Buller Gorge where the party faced further cycles of feast and famine; they were near to starvation in late February, but then on March 1st they had 54 eels, each an average 31bs in weight, all of which Kehu insisted they carry with them….and then four miles on he found another eel-hole where

"…nothing would induce him to pass it. "

Pikiwati became lame for a period and then in mid-April Brunner suffered a severe stroke and was paralysed for a time, with lasting defects in his vision and balance as well. Were it not for Kehu and his wife, Brunner would have surely died:

"Kehu refused to leave me, but Epike and his wife started forward by themselves. I received great kindness from Ekehu and his wife for the week I was compelled to remain here; the woman kindly attending me, and Ekehu working hard to obtain food for us all, always pressing me to take the best, and frequently telling me he would never return to Nelson without I could accompany him. "

During their enforced delay as Brunner slowly recovered, Kehu spent some time fashioning shelters, planting potatoes and making other preparations for a possible return to reside in the district.

page 13

When they finally moved, on May 20th 1848, Kehu virtually carried Brunner who could only stand on one leg. Kehu would first carry their gear ahead and return for Brunner "…partly carrying, partly leading me along. " And so it went for almost a month, out of the Gorge, across the Matakitaki, up the Tiraumea and the Tutaki and back to Lake Rotoroa. Here, Kehu's wife again came to the fore, swimming out to the middle of the lake to retrieve the canoe which had floated off in a fresh. They journeyed back through Rotoiti and eventually to Frazer's farm in the upper Motueka Valley.

The final sentence of Brunner's account reads:

"I found my native Ekehu of much use – invaluable indeed… … to Ekehu I owe my life – he is a faithful and attached servant. "

So ended The Great Journey – some would say the greatest journey of colonial exploration in New Zealand – a saga of over 19 months!

Kehu guided several other expeditions. Later in 1848 he, Brunner and Alexander Campbell crossed the Bryant Range to the Pelorus River near the confluence with the Tinline; and from there travelled down to the pa at Wakamarina. Here they made a mokihi (a raft of dried flax flowers) and experienced a most exciting and memorable ride down the heavily flooded Wakamarina and Lower Pelorus Rivers to the pa at Motueka (Havelock). They then travelled out through the Kaituna Valley to the Wairau before returning to Nelson.

11. Closing Chapters:

What were the final chapters in Kehu's most eventful life? We can't be absolutely certain about this for he seems to 'drop out' of the European records as the era of major explorations drew to a close in the late 1840s, and there was a decline in the settlers' dependence on the assistance, knowledge and skills of local Maori. However, as well as commanding tremendous respect from those Europeans who had come to know him well, Kehu must have enjoyed considerable mana in Maori communities as well. Why do we say that? We say it because even his masters, the Ngati Rarua chiefs Aperahama Panakenake and Poria (themselves also baptised Wesleyans), granted to Kehu a life interest in six acres of their land in Motueka, and his name appears as an owner of this section (Pt Section 181, Motueka S.D.) on an original cadastral map of that district, Kehu may have returned to the Matakitaki as he had intimated in mid-1848, but we think it most likely that he returned to Motueka to work his land; why else would Panakenake and Poria formally grant him life tenure if he was not in occupation? In regard to Kehu's land tenure, Hohaia Rangiauru (Motueka chief of Te Atiawa) gave the following evidence to the Native Land Court 1901:

"Hone Mokehakeha belonged to Ngati Tumatakokiri the original tribe who occupied the district. He was a slave of Aperahama and Poria's, and according to Native custom the land occupied by him would go back to his rangatiras. He accompanied Mr Brunner on his exploration of the interior in 1846, Pikiwati of the same tribe went with him."

page 14

Tuiti Makitonore (later M.P.) of Rangitane was next witness and confirmed Rangiauru's evidence:

"Hone Mokehakeha was a captive. He belonged to Ngati Tumatakokiri, the original tribe. Aperahama and Poria were his rangatira 's… " 21

Hohaia Rangiauru also intimated that Kehu had an interest in Section 165 in Motueka:

"…Heard that Mokehakeha was allotted a portion of the land. " 22

We hope that Kehu's wife was forgiven by Te Iti and was also allowed to return to Motueka with him.

Kehu's end is cloaked in mystery. There is a curious death notice/obituary in The Colonist of 16 June 1893 of "Ekehu, better known as Charley Brunner…at the age of 75 years"; this man had died at Wakapuaka Pa where he had spent his declining years with Huria and Hemi Matenga. This creates a real mystery because the man known as "Charley Brunner" who died at Wakapuaka that day was Eruera Rawiri Te Rauhihi, who was of Ngati Rarua/Ngati Tama descent. Te Rauhihi was certainly not Hone Mokekehu of Ngati Tumatakokiri. Understandably, historians have taken the newspaper report as gospel e.g. the Wastney history which has later been retold by others such as Lesley Richardson and Phillip Temple (although Lesley was sorely exercised trying to reconcile the whakapapa and biography of Te Rauhihi with the then known biography of Kehu). We do not believe the newspaper account to be accurate; the confusion probably arises from Rauhihi's nick-name, "Charley Brunner". We have never seen any reference to Kehu in the 1840s journals, diaries or official records as "Charley Brunner", although he was called 'Jackey' on rare occasions (Hone = John = Jack = Jackey?), 23

There are other difficulties in trying to reconcile Kehu's age with the above account (and other indications in the journals). In 1893 Kehu would have been near to 100 years old. Even though Brunner sometimes referred to Kehu as "my lad", and Heaphy's pencil sketches are claimed by some to represent a young man, we believe that by the mid-1840s Kehu would have been in his late 40s. Commentators have also referred to the then life-expectancy of Maori and have even claimed that 48 was "old" for a Maori; however, any number of tipuna of Nelson and Marlborough reached grand old age, as recorded time and again by anthropologists and historians and in the Native Land Court records. The simple conclusion is that at the time of writing, Kehu's later life remains a mystery as does the date and place of his death.

12. He Poroporoaki (A Final Farewell):

[i roto i te reo Pākehā]

page 15

Na Reira e Kehu.

He tohunga tino mohio koe i nga waahi o nga
takiwa o Te Tau Ihu me Te Tai Poutini,
He rangatira tino mohio koe i nga mahi
tuturu me te matauranga o o tipuna,

Haere e Kehu, haere, haere. Kia takototia koe
tonu i roto i te korowai o te rangimarie
o o matou whaea Papatuanuku.

Ahakoa kua haere atu koe ki te tini, ki te mano,
Ki te Hono-i-Wairua. Ki te Puutahi-Nui-a-Rehua;

Ahakoa kua ngaro koe ki te ngia o te maatoru
o te Poo tino roa;

Otira, e Kehu I hangaia i te tohu whakairo i roto
i te whare Doc i Rotoiti, hei whakamaharatanga
o o maahi nunui i te timatatanga o te
nohoanga hou i Whakatu.

[ko te tohutoro i roto i te reo Māori]


You were an expert most learned in the
districts of Nelson and the West Coast,
You were a chief most learned in the
traditional work and knowledge of your

Farewell, e Kehu, farewell. You are lying in
the bosom of our mother Papatuanuku

Although you have departed to the majority,.
To the resting-place of the Spirits.
To the pathways among the Stars:
Although you are lost to the very depths of
the longest night:

Nevertheless less, Kehu, we dedicate a carving
in the Doc building at Rotoiti as a
memorial to your great contribution to the
establishment of the new settlement of Nelson

page 16


1e.g. see Nancy Taylor "Early Travellers in New Zealand". Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959.
2Mr Hohua MacDonald Whakapapa files, date unclear; sourced from Tanerau Hemi Kerei. Included in Brief of Evidence of Bradley family to Maori Appellate Court, Christchurch, June 1990.
3Nelson Minute Book #6 folio 60, 1907. Also from Mrs Kath Hemi and Mrs Kuini Mei Haeata. Omaka Marae, Blenheim.
4e.g. Nelson Minute Book No. 5, folios 78–79.
5The iwi (tribes) of Ngati Apa, Ngati Kuia and Rangitane are sometimes referred to collectively as the 'Kurahaupo' iwi, since they have a number of lines of common descent from crew members of the 'Kurahaupo' waka (canoe) from Hawaiki.
6e.g. Mr Maika Mason, a descendant from the marriage of Wereta Tainui (Poutini Ngai Tahu) and Kokore (Ngati Tumatakokiri).
7Charles Heaphy narrative. 'Nelson Examiner', March 1846. Also Nancy Taylor p195.
8e.g. Te Kawau of Ngati Apa was installed to hold territories in Golden Bay for Ngati Rarua and Te Atiawa; he discharged those duties with such diligence that he was arrested and fined in late 1842 for trying to protect those assets from exploitation by New Zealand Company settlers.
9Kehu is recorded, with other Maori and New Zealand Company survey assistants, among those carrying out these surveys, in the Surveyors' field books held by the Department of Survey and Land Information, Nelson.
10We cannot identify where, when or by whom Kehu was baptised; he is not listed (at least not as Kehu or Hone Mokekehu) in the earliest baptismal registers of the Wesleyan (Rev Ironside and Aldred) or Anglican missionaries (Rev Saxton and Reay) which date from late 1840. Earlier, in April 1836, the Methodist Rev William White spent one day in Port Underwood, and 14 months later Anglican Rev Samuel Marsden also paid a brief visit; it is not known whether they baptised any of the locals, but the need for a mission station in this district was emphasised. Many Maori in the Sounds received Christian instruction in 1839 and 1840; in mid-1839 a group of young Methodist Maori missioners were brought by Revs JH Bumby and J Hobbs, to work with and preach to Maori people at the whaling stations throughout the Sounds. They also taught reading and writing. Unfortunately no registers of any of these efforts prior to December 1840 seem to have survived.
11This was probably Hamiora Haeana Pito, freeman of Ngati Rarua of Motueka, who had also been employed from time to time in surveying parties. In 1841 he had guided the NZ Co's exploration by boat from Motueka of the Waimea and Whakatu coastline, eventually leading to the discovery of Nelson Haven, which became the preferred port and site for the establishment of the new settlement's main town.
12Frederick Tuckett: letter to Principal Agent. New Zealand Company. In National Archives, Manuscript No. NZC 208/2 No. 94.
13Later to become Sir William Fox, and Premier of New Zealand.
14 Nelson Examiner 14/3/1846
15 Nelson Examiner 7/3/1846.
16 page 17This might have been their first reunion for more than 15 years although Matanohinohi, who was mother of Kehu and Mahuika, and others of their family had travelled to Nelson from the West Coast to be baptised by Rev Aldred in July the previous year. "Hoard Waitere Mawika" was among those baptised (on 13th July 1845), being recorded as a "Native Adult" in the Wesley Church's Nelson Baptismal Register. 1842–1971.
17 Charles Heaphy journal (in Nancy Taylor).
18A recent television documentary names Kehu's wife as 'Mary', but we have not found her referred to by any name in Brunner's accounts of the expedition, nor in any other record, colonial or Maori.
19 Thomas Brunner. Journal, 22/11/1847.
20 Thomas Brunner. Journal, 27/1/1848.
21Nelson Minute Book No. 5, 30th April 1901; folios 78–79. Evidence of Hohaia Rangiauru and Tuiti Makitonore.
22Nelson Minute Book No.5, 30th April 1901; folio 81. Evidence of Hohaia Rangiauru.
23Eruera Rauhihi, who died in 1896 aged 75, was apparently called "Charley Brunner" by Nelson Europeans, but he was of Ngati Tama and Ngati Rarua descent. Temple and Richardson have claimed that this man was Kehu. This is impossible: Eruera Rauhihi's father, Rawiri, was one of the senior chiefs at Motupipi, Takaka, and their whakapapa is well known, as is Kehu's. Rauhihi would have been a generation too young to have been Kehu.

Glossary of Maori Terms:

Hapu = sub-tribal groupings
iwi = tribe
mana = dominion over, sovereignty, status
mere = club
mokai = serf, slave
mokihi = raft made of flax flowers
pounamu = greenstone
pa, kainga = (fortified) village
rangatira = chief
taua = war party
utu = revenge, vengeance, payment
whakapapa = genealogy, family tree
whanau = extended family
whanaunga = relatives, iwi members

Place Names:

Kawatiri = Buller River, valley, Westport
Kotukuwhakaoho = Arnold River, near junction with the Grey
Mawhera = Grey River, valley, Greymouth
Mohua = Golden Bay
Rangitoto = D'Urville Island
Te Tai Poutini = West Coast, south of Kawatiripage 18
Te Tai Tapu = West Coast, Farewell Spit to Kawatiri
Te Tau Ihu = Nelson and Marlborough

Tribal Collectives in te Tau Ihu:

Kurahaupo tribes = Ngati Apa. Ngati Kuia. Rangitane (pre-1820s tribes in Te Tau Ihu)
Tainui tribes = Ngati Koata. Ngati Rarua, Ngati Toarangatira (from Kawhia district)
Taranaki tribes = Ngati Tama. Te Atiawa (from northern Taranaki)

(Hone Mokehakeha, A.K.A. Hone Mokekehu)

He rangatira tino mohio i nga takiwa o Te Tau Ihu me Te Tai Poutini hoki, He tohunga tino mohio i nga mahi tururu o tana tipuna.

While it is difficult to be exact about some of the dates we believe that the following chronology is a reasonably accurate record of the sequence of some of the main events in the life of Hone Mokehakeha, better known as Kehu.

1798 AD:

Birth. Father: Tamane, of Ngati Tumatakokiri Mother: Matanolunohi, of Ngati Apa, Ngati Mamoe, Ngai Tahu Ngati Tumatakokiri.


Childhood: frequent traveller around the outposts of N. Tumatakokiri, from Te Tai Tapu and Mohua (Golden Bay) to Whangarae (Croisilles) and south to Rotoiti, Maruia, Mawhera (Greymouth), Kawatiri (Buller) and the inland trails and mahinga kai (food baskets).


Kehu's father, Tamane, killed at the battle 'Kotukuwhakaoho' in the Mawhera valley by Ngai Tahu warrior named Tau; Kehu captured and enslaved by Poutini Ngaitahu.


N. Tumatakokiri defeated throughout their previous large domain and virtually annihilated as an iwi of manawhenua (dominion over lands).


Kehu in bondage to Ngai Tahu; continued seasonal, itinerant lifestyle in Te Tai Poutini, to and from the coastal and inland resources of those districts.


Moved to Motueka with Panakenake and Porta and employed by them in strengthening their hold on that district through battles to subdue refugee remnants of Ngati Apa and other iwi in inland districts, and ground-breaking for new cultivations. Rarua and other conquering tribes become suppliers of produce to whaling communities of the Marlborough Sounds.

page 19


Tainui and Taranaki tribes conquer West Coast, led by Niho Te Hamu of N. Rama and Takerei Te Whareaitu of N. Tama, Kehu taken as spoil of war and now bonded to the N. Rarua chiefs, Aperahama Panakenake and Poria.

Mid-late 1830s:

Kehu possibly at one or more of the whaling stations at Tory Channel or Port Underwood.

Late 1830s:

Became a Wesleyan Christian, possibly while at Marlborough Sounds.


New Zealand Company established Nelson settlement.


Assistant to Thomas Brunner, Surveyor for NZ Company of Motueka and inland river valleys.


Spent time with other Maori in Rotoiti and Rotoroa districts building shelters, huts and a canoe, and established eeling stations and gardens, in anticipation of a possible re-location by them to this area. Mother, uncle, half-brother and other whanaunga baptised by Wesleyan, Rev Aldred.

Feb-Mar 1846:

Guided Brunner, Heaphy and Fox on journey of exploration from Nelson through Rotoiti and Rotoroa districts and beyond to Matakitaki (Murchison).

Apr-Aug 1846:

Guided Brunner and Heaphy to Arahura, Westland, via Aorere (Collingwood), Te Tai Tapu, Kawatiri and Mawhera, and returned to Nelson by same route, Party assisted by Tau, killer of Kehu's father.

Dec 1846 – June 1848:

Guided Brunner through Rotoiti district en route to Buller Gorge and on to its mouth and south to Taramakau; returned to Nelson via the Mawhera (Grey) and Inangahua Valleys. Assisted by Pikiwati and their wives, also of N. Tumatakokiri. This was the most arduous of the overland journeys of colonial exploration ever undertaken in this country; 19 months of utmost hardship and privation.

Late 1848:

Guided Brunner and Campbell over Bryant Range to Upper Pelorus down to Wakamarina. Built them a mokihi (flax flower raft) for an exciting ride down the Pelorus River in high flood, to Havelock. Tramped through Kaituna Valley to Wairau River mouth; returned to Nelson by sea.

Post 1850:

Uncertain. May have moved to live at Matakitaki but probably returned to Motueka where he was granted life tenure of six acres of land by his masters. Panakenake and Poria of Ngati Rarua.

Date of death and place of burial unknown.

E Kehu, he rangatira tino mohio koe i waenganui i te ao tawhito me te ao hou. Haere e Kehu, Haere, Haere.