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: 
Te Rarawa, Te Horohūhare, Ngāti Hauā
1835 residence: 
Tohu (signature): 

Pāpāhia was the grandson of the warrior chief Tarutaru and his wife Te Ruapounamu, the ancestors of Te Rarawa. Pāpāhia’s parents were Kahi and Kaimanu, and he was the younger brother of Te Huhu. His other brother was Whakarongouru, and he had three sisters, Ngākahuwhero (a woman of considerable mana), Tiari and Te Wairoro. Pāpāhia was also related to Te Morenga through his uncle Ngāmotu, and he was the uncle of both Moetara Motu Tongapōrutu and Ati (later known as Ereonora), who was one of a number of women to sign te Tiriti o Waitangi. Pāpāhia was married to Te Koiuru.

Pāpāhia’s principal residence was at Ōrongotea on the north-west shore of Hokianga Harbour. From here he joined many taua of the 1820s and 1830s, including Tītore’s taua to Tauranga in 1833. The Reverend Henry Williams described Pāpāhia as one of Tītore’s ‘General Officers’.

Absent from the hui of 28 October 1835, Pāpāhia signed He Whakaputanga on 24 September 1838 in support of his Te Rarawa kin. He was the last to sign from Te Tai Tokerau (Northland); Te Hāpuku of Hawke’s Bay signed the next day.

That year Pāpāhia had also converted to Christianity, having been baptised as a Catholic by Bishop Pompallier in January 1838. In a letter to Pāpāhia, British Resident James Busby reassured him that he and the Catholic missionaries should not fear the Anglican missionaries and their converts.

Sometime in early 1840 Pāpāhia signed te Tiriti o Waitangi, despite questioning the role of governor at the Mangungu hui: 'What is the Governor come for? He, indeed! He to be high, very high, like Maungataniwha [a large hill near Hokianga] and we low on the ground; nothing but little hills. No, no, no! Let us be equal; why should one hill be high and another low? This is bad.' [1]

In May 1840 he was also present at the Ōpōtiki signing, and is recorded as a witness on the Bay of Plenty (Fedarb) sheet.

A gifted orator, Pāpāhia was renowned for his poetic abilities – the writer Charles Davis noted in 1855 that 'his compositions would put to the blush many of the civilized scribblers of the present day.' [2] Upon the death of his brother Te Huhu, Pāpāhia composed a famous and much-quoted lament in his honour: ‘Ka ngaro ngā iwi, ka rū te whenua’ (the people are lost, the earth is shaken).

Before his own death in the early 1850s, Pāpāhia composed a last waiata lamenting the forests felled by Pākehā as a metaphor for his people:

Tērā te kapua e, i oma ki ō te rangi,
Au rā ki raro nei he rau aku mahara;
Kotia mai rā e, i te uru tapu o Tāne;
Kia hinga ki raro rā Te Aitanga-a-Punga
Aia ki te wao a Tāne, i whiua, i makā,
Ki tai o te moana; utaina atu rā, ki
Oropi rāia, kia tū mai koutou e i.

Clouds hasten across the sky
Below am I with boundless thoughts
Severed from the sacred head of Tāne
Falling down to the insects
Driven out from the forest of Tāne
And cast out to oceans yonder
Loaded on board for Europe
Where you will again stand. [3]

[1] J. S. Buick, The Treaty of Waitangi: How New Zealand Became a British Colony, Thomas Avery & Sons, New Plymouth, 1936, p.170.

[2] Charles O. B. Davis, Maori Mementos: Being a Series of Addresses, Presented by the Native People to His Excellency Sir George Grey, K.C.B., F.R.S. Governor and High Commissioner of the Cape of Good Hope, and late Governor of New Zealand With Introductory Remarks and Explanatory Notes, to Which is Added a Small Collection of Laments, &c., Williamson and Wilson, Auckland, 1855, p.165.

[3] ‘He Whenua Rangatira: Northern Tribal Landscape Overview (Hokianga, Whangaroa, Bay of Islands, Whāngārei, Mahurangi and Gulf Islands’, Waitangi Tribunal Research Report, WAI 1040 A37, pp.625–26.

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