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

Wai (also known as Kōwhai or Hakuene) was an influential rangatira originally based at Whāngai, a stronghold of Te Roroa hapū. According to historian Kathleen Shawcross, Wai was not of Te Roroa but headed a smaller hapū allied to Ngāi Tawake of Ngāpuhi’s northern alliance.

On 2 July 1828 the Reverend Henry Williams received a visit from Wai:

This morning 'Wai' a chief from Whangai came and wanted a hatchet. He told me that last night a messenger arrived from Rewa, to say that all the Napui [Ngāpuhi] were to assemble and go against the Popoto, a tribe at Hokianga, on account of the sacrilege committed upon the remains of Warehumu [Te Whareumu]. I fear there is some truth in this report, and apprehend serious consequences. The Wesleyan Missionary station will be in the neighbourhood of the scene of action. [1] 

Although in this case a major conflict was averted, Wai was present during a number of significant taua of the 1830s. In 1832 Williams recorded that Wai’s taua passed him as he journeyed to Tauranga, and in early 1833 Wai led a second expedition to Tauranga alongside Tītore.

Another journal entry by Williams notes that in August 1834 he met with Wai to seek permission to build a chapel at Kororāreka. By this time Wai had land at both Te Waimate and Kororāreka. 'Mr. Baker and I went to Kororarika [sic] to see the Chiefs relative to the erection of a Chapel,' wrote Williams. 'Saw Titore, Tareha, Wai, &c, &c; all very civil.' Wai was said to have been willing to hear more, and 'spoke of great change generally.' [2]

Wai signed He Whakaputanga on 28 October 1835 with his Ngāi Tawake allies Tītore, Moka, Te Wharerahi and Rewa. However, he refused to sign Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and during the hui of 5 February 1840 spoke these famous words to William Hobson:

To thee, O Governor! this. Will you remedy the selling, the exchanging, the cheating, the lying, the stealing of the whites? O Governor! yesterday I was cursed by a white man. Is that straight? The white gives us Natives a pound for a pig; but he gives a white four pounds for such a pig. Is that straight? The white gives us a shilling for a basket of potatoes; but to a white he gives four shillings for a basket like that one of ours. Is that straight? No, no; they will not listen to thee: so go back, go back. If they would listen and obey, ah! yes, good that; but have they ever listened to [James] Busby? And will they listen to thee, a stranger, a man of yesterday? Sit, indeed! what for? Wilt thou make dealing straight? [3] 

It is said that for many years after Wai was still firmly opposed to the Treaty.

[1] Lawrence M. Rogers (ed.), The Early Journals of Henry Williams, Senior Missionary in New Zealand of the Church Missionary Society, 1826–40, Pegasus Press, Christchurch, 1961, p.96.

[2] Ibid.

[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.22-23.

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Posted: 31 Oct 2023

i would believe this is the rangatira te whai hakuene of te rawhiti of ngati kuta, ngai tawake. same location and hapu as the three brothers who signed directly above him.

Annette Ferneyhough

Posted: 17 Jan 2020

I have spent many years researching Wai. I am interested to know where you found the alternative names for him, Kowhai or Hakuene? I would have believed Hakuene was from Rawhiti.
Wai’s daughter Mari married my English ancestor in 1843.
I have the usual references, Henry Williams Diaries ,Shawcross etc but if you can give me more it would be much appreciated.
Annette Ferneyhough