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: 
Te Peha
Probable name: 
Te Peha
Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu, Te Matarahurahu
1835 residence: 
Tohu (signature): 

There are few references to Te Peha, also known as Taungahuru, in published sources. His hapū was not recorded on He Whakaputanga, and for some reason his name was left off the printed version compiled by James Busby and William Colenso. Letters to Busby suggest that Te Peha had interests at Onewhero Bay, north of Waitangi, while other sources give Te Puke, of inland Waitangi, as his home. He signed He Whakaputanga by writing his own name on 28 October 1835, before the day’s final signatory, Hōne Heke Pōkai.

Te Peha is associated with Waitangi and its surrounds, and is mentioned in a number of land transactions in the area. Despite his omission from the printed version of He Whakaputanga, it seems he had a good relationship with James Busby. Historians Bruce Stirling and Richard Towers note that during an 1836 dispute between Dr Ross, a Pākehā settler, and Wariki, Te Peha diffused the situation by dismantling Wariki’s newly built whare on the disputed land. 'The problem was he did not move it far, and Ross believed it still lay within his exclusive boundary; a boundary he accused Te Peha of altering.' [1]

Nonetheless, both Busby and Ross relied on Te Peha again when another rangatira, Tōua, occupied the disputed land. Te Peha was told by Busby to threaten Tōua with 'the punishment which would follow if they did not act as required', and leave the land. As Busby was essentially threatening an attack by British forces, Tōua became alarmed and told his people to move. [2]

Te Peha also aided Busby when he purchased land at Waitangi from Te Kēmara and others. The deed of 11 July 1838 was witnessed by Busby’s brother, Alexander, and by Te Peha.

Stirling and Towers note that a year later Busby arranged his seventh Waitangi transaction by a deed of 19 February 1839. This Te Puke land deed was signed by Te Peha and another He Whakaputanga signatory, Te Tao. In October 1840 Busby noted that the children of Te Peha were given further payment for this land, which, Stirling suggests, means Te Peha had died by this time. This was confirmed by Busby on 29 January 1841 when he told a land claims hearing that his witness to the July 1838 deed, Te Peha, had died. He may have died prior to the signing of the Treaty as his name is not recorded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

[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.1468-69.

[2] Ibid.

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