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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

Proceedings of Governor Hobson

Proceedings of Governor Hobson.

  • 31. I have described the condition to which the Ngatiawa Tribe had been reduced by successive conquests and migrations, and the abject state of the remnant which still remained at Taranaki in 1840. It was in this state of things that Governor Hobson made his purchase of the Taranaki District from the great Waikato chief Te Wherowhero, who had some time previously accompanied him to Kapiti. Writing to the Secretary of State, in December, 1841, the Governor gave the following description of the transaction, and of the position which Te Wherowhero assumed in it: "Te Wherowhero claims the country as his by right of conquest, and insists on it that the remnant of the Ngatiawas are slaves; that they only live at Taranaki by sufferance, and that they had no right whatsoever to sell the land without his consent. In illustration of his argument, he placed a heavy ruler on some light papers, saying, 'Now, so long as I choose to keep this weight here, the papers remain quiet, but if I remove it the wind immediately blows them away: so it is with the people of Taranaki;' alluding to his power to drive them off."
  • 32. The deed of sale was executed in January, 1842: the boundaries included all the country from Tongapourutu, north of the Mokau River, to the Ngatiruanui country south of the Sugarloaves, comprising the whole of the Waitara District. It does not appear that Governor Hobson obtained any formal cession of their rights from the Ngatimaniapoto chiefs, who, with Te Wherowhero, were the joint conquerors of the Ngatiawa; but Tamati Ngapora, Te Wherowhero's brother, told me not long since that the Ngatimaniapoto got the whole payment, and that his brother was very angry, and said he would have been satisfied with even a blanket as a token of recognition. During his visit to the Ngatimaniapoto chiefs at Kawhia in April, 1842, Governor Hobson acquainted them with his purchase, and gave them permission to occupy a part of the land within the boundary, distinctly warning them at the same time that they were not to interfere with the European settlement at New Plymouth, and desiring the Resident Magistrate there to point out to them the English boundary.
  • 33. In this transaction it is clear that Governor Hobson in no way admitted the right of the Ngatiawa Tribe to the country they had abandoned, nor any right of chieftainship, nor any right on their part to forbid the sale: but, on the contrary, recognized the European settlement, and claimed to have extinguished the aboriginal title by his purchase from the Waikatos.
  • 34. In order clearly to ascertain the completeness of that purchase it will be necessary to examine the evidence of the Waikato title by conquest. I am aware that it has been held to be a rule in Native tenure that conquest without occupation gives no sufficient title. The doctrine has been laid down very distinctly and decisively, though it is held to be doubtful on good authority; but, for the present purpose, it is not necessary that I should controvert it. The question, then, is narrowed to this: whether or not the Waikatos retained possession or occupation of Taranaki after their conquest.
  • 35. Though the doctrine has been broadly laid down as above stated, it is nowhere said what degree of possession and occupation is sufficient to establish a complete title. In the case of Taranaki, Chief Protector Clarke in 1843, while admitting that the title of the Waikato conquerors was good so far as they had taken possession, held that the chief right was still vested in the Ngatiawa Tribe as the original inhabitants; but in the case of Wairau, in the Middle Island, just after the massacre in the same year, he held that the title lay wholly in Rauparaha and the Ngatitoa Tribe as conquerors of the district, though, so far from occupying the country, they were (both before and after the massacre) settled on the north shore of Cook Strait, and had only an insignificant cultivation in Cloudy Bay. Thus, in one case, the principal right was said to remain with the conquered tribe which had wholly abandoned its territory, while in the other it was said to vest in the conquerors who had never resided in the country they had subdued.
  • 36. I willingly admit that the degree of occupation of Taranaki retained by the Waikatos has been much contested. It is barely recognized by some authorities, and denied by another. On the other hand the weight of testimony is decidedly in favour of their possession and occupation. Chief Protector Clarke and Commissioner Spain both admit it; and the aspect of the question is clearly shown by Chief Commissioner McLean in his speeches to the Waikato chiefs at the Ngaruawahia meeting this year, as well as in his speeches at the Kohimarama Conference, and in his evidence before the House of Representatives: "You also [Waikato] sold it to us in all its boundaries; therefore I say that land has been fully ceded and given into our hands in open daylight….. Waikato has taken up arms to hold that which their own chiefs gave to the Europeans, spreading it forth for their acceptance in the light of day and under the shining sun of heaven….. Had it been territory not previously touched or broken into, it would have been different; but this was not the case….. The land has been consumed; it cannot return to its original state any more than the ashes of a dead fire can be rekindled. This statement is not a new one; it was made by me [here] page 34at Waikato, and the old chief who has just died [Potatau] fully admitted its truth. Referring to it he said, 'It is correct.' …. Now, in accordance with your customs, this land was completely forfeited and gone. Of the men who once possessed it some had been brought as slaves to Waikato; some had gone to Kapiti. It was a complete abandonment of a conquered territory." The Waikato title to Taranaki was universally admitted by the Natives; at the time of the conquest many acts of ownership over the soil had been exercised by them. The land was divided among the conquering chiefs; the usual custom of putting up flags and posts to mark the boundaries of the portions claimed by each chief had been gone through. Any occupation of the land by the Ngatiawa at that period was entirely out of the question, but those Natives who were released from slavery from time to time were permitted by Waikato to occupy; but those who had fled to the south were not allowed to return, and they were distinctly warned that if a return were attempted it would be the cause for fresh war against Ngatiawa. The Waikato right was thus established as a right of conquest, and was fully admitted by the Ngatiawa themselves, who, on each occasion when they sold a portion of land, at Taranaki, sent a part of the payment to Waikato as an acknowledgment of conquest or of the right of mana possessed by the Waikato chiefs as their conquerors. In this view of the question it is quite evident that the Ngatiawa title had been superseded by the right of the conquerors.
  • 37. But the most conclusive evidence is furnished by the Waikato chiefs themselves so long ago as 1844. When Mr. Protector Forsaith was sent down to Taranaki by Governor Fitzroy he had interviews on his way with the Waikato and Ngatimaniapoto chiefs, who expressly asserted their title and desired him to warn the Ngatiawas of it. "You are now going to Taranaki; listen to our parting words: That land is ours. We claim it by right of conquest, and some part of it by possession. We hold the late Governor's permission to locate any of the lands at Taranaki provided we do not go south of Urenui. Go and tell the Ngatiawas that the Waikato chiefs remind them that the land is theirs, and advise them to settle their dispute with the Europeans, or the Waikatos will settle it for them."
  • 38. Another important proof of the validity of the Waikato title is afforded by the fact that, when Wiremu Kingi finally decided to return to Waitara in 1848, he did so by the express permission of Te Wherowhero, thus recognizing the right of the latter to the district as conqueror, and illustrating a practice not infrequent among the New Zealanders as a means of reconciling feuds and securing quiet occupation of land about which the tribes concerned might have been at war.
  • 39. And I beg to add to this the further testimony, given to myself by the Waikato chiefs Tamati Ngapora (half-brother to Potatau) and Te Katipa, who absolutely maintain to this day the right of Waikato to sell Taranaki to Governor Hobson: and the evidence of the Rev. Mr. Buddie and Rev. Mr. Whiteley, missionaries who have resided at Taranaki and have been twenty years in the colony, which has just reached me.