Tōua or Taua

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: 
Tōua or Taua
1835 residence: 
Tohu (signature): 

The identity of Tōua or Taua – ‘Tona’ according to the printed version of He Whakaputanga – is not clear. He is most probably Tōua, a rangatira associated with the Waitangi area who later signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi; but he could also be Te Manutahi (Whakapaenga) Taua or his son Te Wheinga (Hōne) Taua, who also signed Te Tiriti. Tōua/Taua signed He Whakaputanga alongside Tāmati Wāka Nene and Te Huhu sometime after the hui of 28 October 1835 but before 13 January 1836.

Tōua or Taua of Pēwhairangi (the Bay of Islands) is described in some sources as the son of Te Pahi, the influential and widely travelled rangatira credited with inspiring the missionary Samuel Marsden to establish the Church Missionary Society in New Zealand. If so, this would make him of Ngāti Rēhia and Te Hikutū descent. As Te Pahi’s son he is likely to have spent time with Marsden in Sydney.

The name Tōua is also associated with many land transactions of the pre-Treaty period, and later, with the hearings of the land claims commissions that looked into these transactions. However, it is not clear if this is the same Tōua or Taua described above. In the records of these land claims Tōua (or Tona) is said to have been married to Tautahi; Te Atakau was his sister and he was the uncle of Hōne Rūtene Taiheke. In the late 1850s Tōua was said to have been dying and he may have passed away not long after.

Among Tōua’s many land deals were transactions with British Resident James Busby and the Reverend Henry Williams involving land at Waitangi. Historians Bruce Stirling and Richard Towers note that during an 1836 dispute, Tōua and his people occupied the land and were threatened by Busby with 'the punishment which would follow if they did not act as required' and leave. [1] As Busby was essentially threatening an attack by British forces, Tōua became alarmed and told his people to move.

The placement of the name ‘Toua’ on He Whakaputanga suggests a possible Te Rarawa connection. Tōua or Taua signed on the same day as Te Huhu, a leading rangatira of Te Rarawa and the elder brother of the important tohunga and rangatira Pāpāhia. Both Te Manutahi Taua and Te Wheinga Taua have connections to Karepōnia, Rangiāwhia and Mangatakauere, and are said to be of Ngāti Kahu, Te Patukoraha, Te Aupōuri and Te Rarawa descent. To complicate things further, according to Robin McConnell’s biography of Te Wheinga’s grandson Wiremu Hoani Taua, the names Taua and Tōua were used interchangeably in the Taua family.

Te Manutahi (Whakapaenga) Taua was the son of Mere and Taitapu, and is believed to have died around 1836. He is buried at Mangatakauere. His son Te Wheinga Taua was baptised as Hōne Taua Tongarewa on 27 October 1839, and was associated with the Kaitāia mission station. A leader of Te Pātū, he is said to have signed the Treaty of Waitangi as Tana, and died in September 1850. His grandson Wiremu Hoani Taua was a noted educationalist and the first Māori head teacher of a native school (and, almost certainly, of any primary school).

[1] Bruce Stirling and Richard Towers, ‘Not With the Sword But With the Pen: The Taking of the Northland Old Land Claims. Part 1: Historical Overview’, Waitangi Tribunal Research Report, WAI 1040, A009, 2007, p.1469.

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