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: 
Probable name: 
Ngāpuhi, Te Whānau Rara, Te Whānau Rongo, Te Matarahurahu, Ngāti Kawa, Ngāti Rāhiri, Ngāti Pou
1835 residence: 
Tohu (signature): 

Marupō was a noted warrior of Ngāti Rāhiri. His father was Te Whango; his brother was Mahikai – ‘Mahikai’ means food producer, and he was known for his cultivations; and Te Kēmara was his uncle. Marupō was also related to Hōne Heke Pōkai, whom he supported during the 1845–46 Northern Wars. Waitangi was the coastal settlement of Ngāti Rāhiri, and Marupō was associated with events both there and further inland, such as at Pouērua and Pākaraka (where Mahikai tended the hapū gardens).

A young fighting rangatira in the 1820s, Marupō rose to prominence on the many taua of Hongi Hika. In 1821, Marupō and Te Kēmara led warriors of Pākaraka on the attacks on Ngāti Pāoa at Mokoia and Ngāti Maru at Te Tōtara pā, and later saw action in Waikato, Rotorua, Kaipara and Tauranga. In 1829 Marupō is said to have violated the peace between Ngāpuhi’s northern alliance and the people of Thames.

Marupō’s involvement in taua, his defence of Māori authority and his opposition to missionaries has left a negative picture of him in early published sources. He was variously described as ‘blustering’, ‘villainous’, a ‘murderous old fellow’, a ‘rascal’ and ‘a Chief of very bad character.' [1] When the Waitangi residence of James Busby was raided in April 1834, Marupō was immediately suspected (he was later cleared of any wrongdoing). Around that time Busby and Marupō clashed during a land dispute. Historians Bruce Stirling and Richard Towers describe how Marupō occupied land claimed by the missionary William Fairburn. Fairburn protested to Busby, who asked local rangatira to form a committee and look into Marupō’s actions.

According to missionary representative John Flatt, the committee and Busby decided against Marupō, who is reported to have asked Busby 'what he would do, whether he would fight.' Busby replied that 'he had a way of fighting', which involved calling on the next warship to visit Pēwhairangi (the Bay of Islands) to bombard Marupō’s pā. In the end, Marupō agreed to 'take no further notice of it' and allow Fairburn to remain on the land 'if they would give him a good feast' of stirabout (a missionary concoction of flour, sugar and water). [2]

On 28 October 1835 Marupō signed He Whakaputanga. His tohu on the document is highly expressive, which fits his dramatic nature. Later, at the Waitangi hui of 5 February 1840, he discarded all his clothing except a piupiu which hung round his waist, and argued against the rangatira signing until his voice and body failed from sheer physical exhaustion. Despite his protest, Marupō signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi on 6 February. After signing it is said he shook William Hobson’s hand, and then tried to put on Hobson’s plumed hat.

Marupō’s verbal opposition turned into action five years later. During the Northern Wars he supported Hōne Heke Pōkai, Pūmuka and Te Ruki Kawiti, joining one of the July 1845 taua that felled the Kororāreka flagstaff. Governor FitzRoy believed he was one of the staunchest opponents of the British.

By 1867 Marupō, in his advancing years, had moderated his views to the extent that he was a member of a committee set up to organise a reception for the Duke of Edinburgh. In 1868 he asked that the restrictions on gunpowder, instituted due to the New Zealand Wars, be lifted, particularly for ‘sporting’ (hunting) purposes. It is not known when Marupō died.

[1] James Cowan, Hero Stories of New Zealand, Harry H. Tombs, Wellington, 1935, p.18; George Clarke, Notes on Early Life in New Zealand, J. Walch, Hobart, 1903, p.17; Lawrence M. Rogers (ed.), The Early Journals of Henry Williams, Senior Missionary in New Zealand of the Church Missionary Society, 1826–40, Pegasus Press, Christchurch, 1961, p.71.

[2] Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords Appointed to Inquire into the Present State of the Islands of New Zealand and the Expediency of Regulating the Settlement of British Subjects Therein: With the Minutes of Evidence Taken Before the Committee and an Index Thereto, House of Commons, London, 1838, p.40.

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