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, Ngāti Rēhia, Ngāi Tawake
1835 residence: 

Tāreha was a powerful rangatira of Ngāti Rēhia, large in both mana and size. Born around the 1760s, he was the son of Toko and his wife Rere. Tāreha’s grandmother, Te Perenga, had married the grandson of Rēhia, the founding ancestor of Ngāti Rēhia. Through her and his father, Tāreha was related to other leaders of Ngāpuhi’s northern alliance, including Hongi Hika, Rewa and Tītore (who was his nephew). He had seven wives, and in return for his protection, had relationships with numerous women from other hapū. His family ties and mana saw him take part in many significant events of the pre-Treaty period.

Trained by renowned fighting chiefs and a leader of many war expeditions up to the 1840s, Tāreha was widely known as Hongi’s ‘chief captain’. Around the early 1800s he joined a series of attacks on Ngare Raumati and took the name Tāreha after a fallen Ngare Raumati chief. He was also known as Tāreha the Protector and Tāreha the Peacemaker: 'Ko Tāreha, he Kaitiaki, he Hohourongo hoki.'

Missionaries quickly recognised Tāreha as a significant leader of Te Waimate, Te Tii, Mangōnui and Kerikeri. They also recorded his large figure – John Butler noted that Tāreha was a man 'of extraordinary size', while Richard Taylor recorded that at almost 7 feet (2.1 metres) tall he was one of the largest men he had ever seen. [1]

As historian Tony Walzl notes, Europeans held Tāreha in awe. He often played on his reputation as a ‘ferocious cannibal’ to keep an edge over the missionaries. When Tāreha first met Taylor, he grabbed the missionary’s arm and in a gruff voice said, 'You will not do yet.' According to one missionary, Tāreha lost patience with John King and 'seized the poor Missionary, who was not a very large person, and putting him under his arm, walked off with him to the Mission-house, where he safely deposited him, shutting the door, and bidding Mrs. King take care and not let him go out again lest he should eat him.' [2]

Tāreha signed He Whakaputanga on 28 October 1835. He later refused to sign Te Tiriti o Waitangi. At the hui of 5 February 1840, he argued that 'we, we only are the chiefs, rulers. We will not be ruled over. What! thou a foreigner, up, and I down! Thou high, and I, Tareha, the great chief of the Ngapuhi tribes, low! No, no; never, never.' Wearing a simple mat and holding up a bundle of fern roots, Tāreha asserted that Māori did not need European things: '[T]his is my food, the food of my ancestors, the food of the Native people. Pshaw, Governor! To think of tempting men – us Natives – with baits of clothing and of food!' [3]

Although Tāreha did not sign Te Tiriti, the Waitangi sheet records the name Mene (Tāreha’s son) and the words ‘te tamaiti o Tareha, mo tona matua’ (the son of Tāreha, for his father). However, descendants do not accept that Mene signed on his father’s behalf, especially when Mene had not spoken at the hui and Tāreha had opposed signing.

After taking a neutral stance during the 1845–46 Northern Wars, Tāreha died of a throat disease on 18 August 1848, aged around eighty-five.

[1] R. J. Barton (ed.), Earliest New Zealand: The Journals and Correspondence of the Rev. John Butler, Palamontain & Petherick, Masterton, 1927, p.310.

[2] Richard Taylor, Te Ika a Maui, or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants: Illustrating the Origin, Manners, Customs, Mythology, Religion, Rites, Songs, Proverbs, Fables, and Language of the Natives; Together With the Geology, Natural History, Productions, and Climate of the Country, its State as Regards Christianity, Sketches of the Principal Chiefs, and their Present Position, Wertheim & Macintosh, London, 1855, p.316.

[3] 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, pp.24-25.

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