Wiremu Tamihana

Andre de Groot
Sunday, 19 August 2007

Hi Cityside. Today I'm talking about Wiremu Tamihana of the tribe Ngati Haua from Matamata way.


For those of you who don't know who he is, and thus lack essential knowledge of New Zealand history, let someone who has done the engineering training enlighten you.


He started off as Tarapipi Te Waharoa. His father was Te Waharoa, the mighty warrier chief.


In those days there were many tit for tat conflicts in the Waikato - Bay of Plenty region, where one tribe would attack a village and then in retaliation the other tribe would make an revenge attack.


For example, two days after Christmas day in 1835, one of Tamihana's relatives had been murdered in Rotorua. So Tamihana's father Te Waharoa led Ngati Haua in an attack on the village Maketu. In retaliation the Rotorua tribe Te Arawa attacked a pa allied to Ngati Haua in Tauranga. Soon 400 people had died in these retalitory attacks steming from this one incident.


After having listened to missionaries pleads for peace amongst the maori tribes, Tamihana decided to do what he could to prevent further conflicts. He could see the never ending nature of revenge attacks.


In 39 Tarapipi Te Waharoa was baptised as a Christian by the CMS Missionary Reverend Alfred Nesbit Brown. He was baptised as William Thompson, the Maori version of which is Wiremu Tamihana.


To help live in a Christian manner, Tamihana established the village of Peria as a Christian Village. It was called after the Macedonian town of Berea, which is mentioned in Acts 17 as having given St Paul and Silas a good reception in their preaching of the gospel. Rules were institued, with the 10 commandments being central.



After his father chief Waharoa died in '38, Wiremu's brother was made chief. But his people Ngati Haua decided his brother was too stupid, so they made Tamihana chief instead. THAT IS HOW WIREMU TAMIHANA USURPED POWER OF NGATI HAUA.


Not the tightest of grips though. When the time came for his people to restart their wars with Te Arawa, after their ignoring his impassioned call for peace, his people still didn't listen to him. So he had to make his own journey, to go ahead of his war party to warn the victims. Wiremu got to Tauranga, where he sent a message to targeted village Maketu, warning of his own tribes incoming war party. This was of benefit to the local people. They could not be enticed to fight in the open field, so the war party became impatient and attacked the pa, unsuccessfully as the locals were able to prepare. That was back in '38.


When the war party returned and complained that they had lost many of their best men, Tamihana told them “ Yes, that is your Utu for having insulted one of God's Servants.”


Tamihana liked British Law, but saw that British Laws was applied only to Maori people when a Maori person attacked a Pakeha. When a Maori murdered another Maori, the colonial government would did nothing. At the beginning of '57 Tamihana went to visit the Governor in Auckland to get the Governor to do something about the lawlessness of the country. He spent two days at the Government buildings without seeing the governor. He said afterwards “we are treated as dogs – I will not go agian”. From then on Tamihana resolved that any system of government to bring order to the Maori people had to be a Maori system of Government.


The idea of having a Maori King began with another Tamihana, Tamihana Te Rauparaha, who visited Queen Victoria in England in '52.


Wiremu Tamihana Te Waharoa took a liking to the idea of having a Maori King, seeing it as a good way to bring unity amongst Maori tribes and hence stop the endless wars, and as a means of establishing laws amongst the Maori people.


Tamihana eventually persuaded the elderly chief Potatau to become the Maori King. But Potatau didn't trust Tamihana. This was because back in 1825, before Tamihana became a Christian, Tamihana had led a raid against a village called Kaipaka and killed Potatau's relative Rangianewa. Potatau thought Tamihana was being sinister by trying to make him King. But eventually Potatau gave in and became King in 1856.


The King Movement was strongly against land sales, seeing that the items they got for their land quickly wore out while they lost their land forever.


In 1859 the King Movement distributed a circular that their council had determined the following things:

  1. that no European magistrate was permitted to officiate in their territory.
  2. That no native was to imprisioned in the the Governor's jail.

The next point is very painful for myself . I have devoted the last five years of my life to the construction and maintenance of roads. Their third edict was that no roads would be built within Maori Lands. If ever there was a crime guilty of sedition, making such edicts is one.


As an aside, motorways are not a Nazi invention. That is just Nazi propoganda. While Nazi Germany was the first country to have a large scale motorway building programme, plans were already in place before Adolf Hitler came to power. Prior to that, the development work had been undertaken in Mussolini's fascist Italy, and before that, with a German car test track.


There occurred an incident in Waitara, near New Plymouth that grew and grew in messyness. The colonial government had bought land from one Maori man, despite his tribe having veto power over the purchase. The government ignored this power of veto. Colonial soldiers ended up burning a Maori village and eating their cattle, then auctioned off their horses. Tamihana tried to stop his people going to join this conflict. Eventually he went there as a peacemaker and asked for a truce. The local chief gave the land to him to settle the issue however he could. Tamihana obtained a truce and asked for a government inquiry. By the time the government finally was willing to take him up on his offer, the situation in the central Waikato had deterioted so that Tamihana's people no longer wanted an inquiry.



The other strong personality behind the king movement was Rewi Maniapoto. The tribe Ngati Maniapoto was and still is located in the Otorohanga / Waitomo districts. Rewi liked the idea of driving all the British settlers back to the sea. For him, the purpose of the King movement was to allow Maori tribes to unite against the British settlers.


But with Tamihana's influence the King Movement was not aggressive towards the colonial government. But this is not how the colonial government in Auckland saw things.


Sir John Gorst wrote “the members of the government, however, in Auckland did not like Tamihana. Few Europeans knew him personally, and it was the fashion to believe him insincre. No enocouragement was on this occasion held out to him, nor were negotiations entered into.”


In early July 1863, Prime Minister Domett sent a memorandum to Governor Gray:

It is now beyond question that the Native Tribes of Waikato, the most powerful in New Zealand, are resolved to attempt to drive out or destroy the Europeans of the Northern Island, and to establish a Native Kingdom under a Native King.


My reaction to this clearly wrong understanding of the King Movement is [Hold my face in Agony].


Outside of Britain and India the British Imperial Army numbered only 40,000 troops, one quarter of which came to New Zealand to invade the Waikato. In July 1863 these troops moved in King territory.


The first major battle was at Rangiriri, where 1200 troops attacked 500 Maori defenders. Tamihana was there but did not fight himself. He escaped at night along the shores of Lake Waikare. The next morning the remaining defenders hoisted a white flag. The people doing so might have just been doing it to hear what the terms of surrender would be, rather than be doing a full scale surrender of the King Movement to the Imperial forces.


I have here some prints that I got from an Art Collection. They were made in 1990.


The Kingites travelled south down the Waikato and Waipa rivers to Te Awamutu, with the British in pursuit. Maori were told to keep their women and children away from the battles, but this ended up with the British Army attacking the undefended village Rangiaowhia. At least Twelve Maori were killed through gunshots or fire. Many whares were burnt to the ground,


It was only then, angered by the attack of an undefended village the previous day, that Tamihana himself fought against British troops. The battle of Harini, 1km away, was the only time Tamihana fought against British troops. Four kilometers and 1 month later, the last major battle of the Waikato invasion occured, at Orakau, with the Maori defenders again retreating.


In May 1865 Tamihana surrendered to Brigadier-General Carey at Tamahere, just south of Hamilton, while Rewi Maniapoto and the then King Tawhiao the First, fled to Rewi's lands, which are now called King Country.


Part of war is getting to confiscate land from the losers. There are a number of ways of doing so. The colonial government had the choice of whether or not to confiscate the land from the Maori most opposed to European settlement, or to do it based upon what will provide a safe line of defense for Auckland, or based upon the suitability for farming. It was an obvious choice. Take the best farmland. They took the best farmland from from Auckland down to Raglan, Te Awamutu, and in a straight line from Cambridge to the firth of Thames. It also useful as a line of defense against Auckland. Its of no concern that the land that was confiscated belonged to the people who had the least qualms about British settlement, while the land that was left alone was that of the people most against the British colonization.



After the war Tamihana went to Wellington, now the location of the government, for their to be an inquiry into his own good character and the so called 'rebellion'. He was ill during this journey. He died in December 1866.


In summary, Tamihana, in order to stop fighting between Maori tribes, lobbyied to have a Maori King. This led the Waikato tribes down a path to war with the British empire.


The English parliamentarian Sir John Gorst, who had spent some of his early days in New Zealand, wrote about Tamihana:

“Tamihana was a pleasant man to argue with : he heard patiently all you had to say, took the greatest pains to find out exactly what you meant, and replied calmly, and always to the point. I have met many statesmen in the course of my long life, but none superior in intellect and character to this Maori Chief, whom most people would look upon as a savage.”


When I reflect upon Wiremu Tamihana, what comes to mind? That he failed! Tamihana failed to see the Maori Kingdom become what he intended it to be. He failed. It failed because it ended up at war with the British Imperial Army.


What is my response now to this failed movement? To celebrate it!


For myself as a Christian, the stories I know from the bible are full of vibrant and lively failures to be celebrated. As to the old Testament Prophets, prophet after prophet brought messages from God only to be ignored or persecuted, failing to get the people to listen to their messages. The one whose success stands out, the exception that proves the rule, is Jonah. Even the cows repented when he spoke. He was a miserable success. The book of Jonah ends with Jonah's immense anger at his success.


Then as a climax to the failure of the prophets, is the failure of Jesus.


Jesus tells the story of a vineyard owner who plants a vineyard and rents it out. The landlord sends people to collect his rent and they are beaten up, some killed. So the vineyard owner sends his own son, who also fails and is killed. I take that parable to refer to God being the landlord, the owners being Israel, and the prophets being the vineyard rent collectors while the landlord's son is Jesus, who fails to get Israel to turn from the path of destruction it was going down.


Jesus carried the hopes of his nation, to bring together his people and overthrow the Roman overlords and corrupt Jewish leaders maintaining Roman power. Jesus failed to lead a successful uprising and was killed in the execution style reserved for failed insurgents. Jesus last words are words of failure “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (As an aside, there are also other aspects of Jesus death and resurrection, such as victory over Satan, sin and death, but that is beyond the scope of this mornig).


The failure that is Wiremu Tamihana should be celebrated. What actually excites me about him, though, is not his failing, but that he lived a life of integrity with his Christian beliefs. He had a Christian vision for his people and he lived it out in his life. And he got his tribe Ngati Haua to as well. He championed this vision amongst tribes across the Waikato. His King Movement was quenched by the government troops, but still things were much better than had he not been around. Were it not for Tamihana, Rewi Maniapoto would have led an attack on Auckland. If Waikato Maori had attacked our city Auckland, the ensuing wars would have been much more vicious than occurred in the New Zealand wars. As it stands the war in the Waikato was the largest of the New Zealand wars, yet cool heads such as Tamihana's were able to keep it from becoming several orders of magnitude uglier.


So Tamihana, even with his King Movement failing to live up to his visions for it, lived out his Christian vision with integrity, without whom the New Zealand wars would have been much worse.

We can celebrate him even though he failed.


Its quite easy to celebrate the failues of people and what they did long ago. To celebrate ones own failures is quite a different thing. To do so while failing is even more challenging. There is no reason why we should be miserable failing. Nah we should be grinning failures. Christian vocation can mean launching off in a trajectory towards failure, whether in terms of giving up status, high paying careers and personal wealth, or because one emerses themselves in the problems of others that are overwhelming, where help is often futile. But there is beauty to living in such a vocation, and that beauty can be celebrated failure or no failure.


I like something that I think this American fella Warren Buffet said, not that I find any proof of him saying it. Business is easy because you look for the easiest possible ways to make money. But when it comes to fixity things such as poverty, it is hard because you are trying to fix the problems that no one else has been able to fix yet.


To me, the christian storyline is of the world starts off good, then goes bad. So God forms a special people to fix the world, Israel, but they turn bad. Then Jesus forms a new people, the Christians, to fix the messed upness of this world. So Christians get to fix the things no one can fix. And so to state the obvious, most of the time they will fail.




But the life of integrity, where one tries, is such a beautiful, delightful thing, well worth celebrating.


When I was in Hamilton, I met a friend who had Aspergers, which is a type of Autism. He also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He also had a sensitivity to bright light. He would clash with anything and everything. With one place that he was staying at, he clashed particularly badly with the people he was staying with. So I found a house to rent and we moved in together. For the first three months he would spend many a midnight shouting at me at the top of his voice. Then he calmed down and was much more pleasant to be around. For me it was about being able to live in tune with my Christian beliefs, because I do see such a life as beautiful, worth celebrating.



That is all I have to say.