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 Huhu
Te Rarawa, Ngāti Hao, Ngāti Miru, Ngāti Pou
1835 residence: 
Tohu (signature): 

A leading rangatira of Te Rarawa, Te Huhu was also known as Whārō, a name inherited from his father, Kahi, after his death. The name derived from the beach at Ahipara, where the tide ‘whārō ki uta, whārō ki tai’ (stretched out to the land and to the sea) – although Te Huhu’s principal settlement was at Pawarenga on the southern side of Whāngāpē Harbour.

Te Huhu was the grandson of warrior chief Tarutaru and his wife Te Ruapounamu, the ancestors of Te Rarawa. His mother was Kaimanu. Pāpāhia and Whakarongouru were his younger brothers, and his sisters included the important wāhine rangatira Ngākahuwhero, Tiari and Te Wairoro. Te Huhu’s daughter Ati, later known as Ereonora (Eleanor), was an influential woman in her own right – an owner of land and timber, she was one of a number of women to sign Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Through his uncle Ngāmotu, Te Huhu was related to Te Morenga. He was also related to Nōpera Panakareao.

One of the second group of rangatira to sign He Whakaputanga, Te Huhu made his tohu on the codicil sometime after the hui of 28 October 1835 but before 13 January 1836.

It is likely that Te Huhu was the ‘Matiu Huhu’ who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi at Kaitāia on 28 April 1840. He is recorded as having expressed his concerns before doing so: 'It is said that a great many Pakeha are coming to take the Land – that they come not for good – that the Soldiers have come here to shoot us.' Wary of the British having authority over Māori, he noted that 'many sitting around here think that the Governor has not come as a Shepherd' and, pointing to one of the soldiers present, said, 'I do not like them… I do not like being prevented from going to a Neighbour’s to light a pipe.' [1]

Te Huhu died a natural death at Waimako, near Ōrongotea. His brother Pāpāhia, renowned for his poetic abilities, composed a famous and much-quoted lament in his honour. As well as mourning his loss, Pāpāhia spoke to the concerns raised by Te Huhu:

Ehara, e te hoa, he utanga kupu au
Nā rau o iwi, nā rau o tāngata.
Ka ngaro ngā iwi, ka rū te whenua;
Ka poua tāua ngā pou tū noa
I roto o Waimako. Ka tōkia tō kiri
E te tōmairangi whenua i roto o Hokianga;
Ka timu ngā tai, ka mōkaia hoki, ē ī!

As for me my friend, I am burdened
With the words of other peoples, other men.
Bereft are the tribes, and the land trembles.
We are as the driven stakes standing bare
At Waimako. Your skin is moistened
By the heavy dew of Hokianga vale;
The tides are at lowest ebb; our fortunes too. [2]

[1] Journal account of Dr John Johnson of the Kaitāia Treaty meeting, quoted in Anne Salmond, ‘Treaty Transactions: Waitangi, Mangungu and Kaitaia, 1840’, Waitangi Tribunal Research Report, WAI 45, F19, 1991, p.55.

[2] ‘Tangi mo Te Huhu’, Nga Moteatea, Polynesian Society, Auckland, 2004, vol.1, p.17.

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