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 Roroa, Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Pou
1835 residence: 
Tohu (signature): 

Pūmuka was a leading rangatira based at Te Haumi and later Whāngai, near Kawakawa. He was the son of Te Whānui and Kahiti, and the brother of Te Wairaki (or Te Wairākau) and Kuki Retini. He had children with two wives: Makarita, with whom he had Hoana Tiraroa Pūmuka, and Ani Mahiwhare, with whom he had Hōri Pūmuka and Eru Pūmuka. Pūmuka also had a third wife, Kerikeri, who worked for some time for Marianne Williams, the wife of missionary Henry Williams. Pūmuka associated with rangatira such as Te Ruki Kawiti, Kiwikiwi and Pōmare II of Ngāpuhi’s southern alliance.

In early 1828 Pūmuka and Henry Williams had a disagreement, possibly over Pūmuka’s intention to bring another wife to the mission, and it seems that he and Kerikeri left Paihia at about this time. Further disagreements with Williams followed, over land at Te Haumi, Ōpua and Paihia that Pūmuka had sold to the mission, but where he expected to be able to maintain his traditional interests. Pūmuka continued to assert his rights to some of this land for a number of years, although Williams disagreed and at one point asked Kawiti to mediate in the dispute. However, Pūmuka’s association with the Williams families did not entirely end, for in 1834 William Williams noted that Pūmuka had brought seventy of his men to assist with constructing a ‘horse road’ from Paihia to Whāngai, where his pā was located.

On 28 October 1835 Pūmuka signed He Whakaputanga alongside his ally Te Ruki Kawiti. Despite Kawiti’s opposition to signing Te Tiriti on 5 February 1840, Pūmuka spoke in support of the Treaty. Pūmuka said: 'Stay, remain, Governor; remain for me. Hear, all of you. I will have this man a foster-father for me. Stay, sit, Governor. Listen to my words, O Governor! Do not go away; remain. Sit, Governor, sit. I wish to have two fathers – thou and Busby, and the missionaries.' [1]

Around this time British Resident James Busby gifted a Union flag to Pūmuka in recognition of his guidance and support. This important taonga is now held at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Pūmuka’s acceptance of the British soon faded. On 11 March 1845 he, alongside Hōne Heke Pōkai and Kawiti, led an attack on Kororāreka (later Russell). While accounts on the specifics differ, they agree that Pūmuka took the mātāika (first victim taken in battle). Pūmuka himself was killed by Captain David Robertson of the HMS Hazard. Kawiti’s forces came upon his body, and it was rowed across the bay to Paihia. Pūmuka’s pā at Whāngai was later destroyed by the British.

[1] William Colenso, The Authentic and Genuine History of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand, February 5 and 6, 1840: Being a Faithful and Circumstantial, Though Brief, Narration of Events Which Happened on That Memorable Occasion: With Copies of the Treaty in English and Maori and of the Three Early Proclamations Respecting the Founding of the Colony, George Didsbury, Government Printer, Wellington, 1890, p.23.

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