Haimona Pita Matangi

He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene

On 28 October 1835 at the Waitangi residence of James Busby, 34 chiefs signed He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene (known in English as the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand). By 1839, 18 more chiefs had signed He Whakaputanga, which was acknowledged by the British government. This biography of one of the signatories was originally written for the He Tohu exhibition.

Signing details

Signature number: 
Signed as: 
Haimona Pita-Matangi
Probable name: 
Haimona Pita Matangi
Ngāpuhi, Te Popoto
1835 residence: 
Waihou Valley
Tohu (signature): 

Matangi, later known as Haimona Pita Matangi, was said to have been a great warrior whose name provoked dread. He was born around 1780 and was the son of prominent rangatira Wharemaru. He was the nephew of Kauteāwhā and Tarewhare, and his siblings were Karaitiana and Kūranga. Some accounts give Makoare Te Taonui as his cousin and/or brother in-law.

Matangi’s long relationship with missionaries began on 29 June 1819 when Thomas Kendall and John King visited Hokianga for the first time. Arriving at Matangi’s village of Ōraka on the upper Waihou River, King notes that 'they made a good fire; we had supper, and after a long conversation offered up our evening sacrifice of prayer and praise and went to rest.' [1]

Three months later Matangi met the Reverend Samuel Marsden, who arrived at Ōraka on 29 September 1819. He advised Marsden to travel no further due to Matangi’s conflict with Muriwai, another leading rangatira of the Waihou Valley. 'Though very kind to us,' wrote Marsden, '[Matangi] seemed deeply involved in thought and uneasy in his mind from what had taken place between [Muriwai] and him.' [2]

In 1831 Matangi was one of 13 rangatira to sign the letter to King William IV, no doubt because of his mana and his relationship with missionaries. He wrote his name as Matangi, but by late 1833 he had converted to Christianity and taken the name Haimona Pita (Simon Peter); he was one of eleven Wesleyan (Methodist) converts baptised by the Reverend William White on 23 December 1833.

When his son Pāora Nohi fell ill, Matangi requested medicine from missionaries, but also sent for a tohunga. In November 1834 Matangi travelled to Kāwhia with William Woon, the Wesleyan missionary and printer based at Mangungu. He assisted Woon with founding the short-lived Kāwhia mission station at Pāpakarewa, and lived there for a time with the Reverend John Whiteley. According to Woon, 'he was a class leader and exhorter [teacher] for several years, and was diligent in watching over his charges.' [3]

Matangi signed He Whakaputanga on 29 March 1836. A similar name is recorded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi; however, Matangi could not have signed as he died at Utakura on 5 January 1839.

Matangi’s obituary in the Colonist, written by William Woon, notes that his health

had been failing for some time, and his end was hastened by the prevailing influenza… He was respected and beloved by both Church and Wesleyan Missionaries, and especially by James Busby, Esq., the British Resident, who always entertained him at his house with great hospitality; that gentleman presented  him with a New Zealand Testament the other day, printed at the Church Missionary Press, which he greatly prized. [4]

He was said to have been over sixty when he died.

[1] John Rawson Elder, Marsden’s Lieutenants, Coulls, Somerville, Wilkie and A. H. Reed for the Otago University Council, Dunedin, 1934, p.251.

[2] John Rawson Elder (ed.), The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden, 1765–1838, Senior Chaplain in the Colony of New South Wales and Superintendent of the Mission of the Church Missionary Society in New Zealand, Coulls, Somerville, Wilkie and A. H. Reed for the Otago University Council, Dunedin, 1932, p.184.

[3] ‘New Zealand’, The Colonist, 13 April 1839, p.4.

[4] Ibid.

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