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 Kuta, Ngāi Tawake
1835 residence: 
Te Waimate
Tohu (signature): 

Tenana or Te Nana II – not to be confused with Te Tinana of Ngāti Whātua – was a rangatira of Ngāti Kuta. He was the son of Kuranui and the brother of Tītore Kuranui, Te Iri Kohe and Huri. According to historian Angela Ballara, Tenana was a strong military leader of Ngāi Tawake and was Hongi Hika’s cousin. 

Associated with Te Waimate and Kerikeri, and with the leaders of Ngāpuhi’s northern alliance, he accompanied Hongi to Sydney in 1814. Tenana clearly understood the cultural differences at play – in 1817 he ‘made a very sensible remark on the difference of hospitality perceptible between his own countrymen and the people of New South Wales’ to author and traveller John Nicholas.

In New Zealand, said he, they give you plenty of kiki [food] every where you come to; but at Parramatta, you may walk about all day long, and no person will offer you anything to eat. [1]

Tenana had a stormy relationship with the newly arrived missionaries. At Kerikeri in September 1819 he disagreed with John Butler over payment for thatch material, an argument that was eventually resolved by Rewa. On 15 November 1825 Tenana attended a significant hui between Pākehā and Māori at Kerikeri. Here missionaries tried to dissuade Hongi Hika, Rewa, Tītore, Ururoa, Hihi, Pakira and Tenana from a planned taua (war party), arguing that the costs far outweighed the benefits. However, the taua went ahead as planned.

During a taua against the people of Tauranga in 1832, Tenana clashed with the Reverend Henry Williams. Williams had joined the taua with the idea of being a peacemaker, but Tenana accused him of being a spy and giving information to the opposite side.

On 28 October 1835, Tenana signed He Whakaputanga. His name and tohu were recorded after another rangatira of the Waimate area, Wiremu Taunui of Te Whiu.

In March 1837 a major conflict erupted between rangatira who included He Whakaputanga signatories, led on one side by Tītore of the northern alliance and on the other by Pōmare II. The fighting involved large taua of many waka and led to thirty to fifty deaths, including Tenana and a number of other He Whakaputanga signatories, including of Te Māhurehure. According to some accounts the conflict ended with Tītore’s death in early June 1837.

[1] John Liddiard Nicholas, Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand, Performed in the Years 1814 and 1815, in Company with the Rev. Samuel Marsden, Principal Chaplain of New South Wales, James Black & Son, London, 1817, vol.1, p.350.

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