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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, Te Hikutū
1835 residence
Tohu (signature)

Waikato (sometimes known as Waikato Piriniha or Prince Waikato) of Te Hikutū is said to have been the son of Puketawa, who was the son of Karaka. One of Waikato’s brothers was Puhi. His wife Hira was the sister of Wharepoaka, another leading rangatira of Te Hikutū and signatory of He Whakaputanga. Waikato’s principal pā was Rangihoua, at the entrance to Pēwhairangi (the Bay of Islands).

On 8 August 1820 the young Waikato arrived in England with Hongi Hika and the missionary Thomas Kendall. During their stay they assisted Cambridge professor Samuel Lee with the compilation of a Māori dictionary, visited the House of Lords to see Parliament in action, and on 13 November were presented to King George IV. According to one account, Waikato and Hongi greeted the King with the words, 'How do you do, Mr King George?', to which the King replied, 'How do you do, Mr King Shungee? How do you do, Mr King Waikato?' [1] This diplomatic meeting has been regarded as one of the most important interactions between the British Crown and Māori before the arrival in New Zealand of British Resident James Busby in 1833.

On 20 March 1834 Waikato was one of the rangatira who helped select Te Kara, the United Tribes’ flag. Then, on 28 October 1835, he was the sixth rangatira to sign He Whakaputanga, which he did with a ‘W’.

Within months of signing, Waikato and others of Te Hikutū were involved in a violent conflict at Waitangi. Waikato claimed connection to a kauri forest at Whananaki and had come to an arrangement with two European traders that allowed them to cut trees there. Noa and others of Ngāti Manu objected, claiming the land was theirs and that Waikato’s connection was remote. Busby was asked to mediate, but during the hui two Ngāti Manu were killed and many more were wounded. As a result, when Busby made printed copies of He Whakaputanga he removed Waikato’s name.

At this time Waikato was a strong advocate of the anti-missionary Nākahi movement, influenced by the teachings of Papahurihia. However, in 1841, after the murders of the Roberton family at Pēwhairangi, the Reverend Henry Williams asked Waikato to protect the settlers and to use his influence to bring the culprit (Maketū) to trial. As a guarantee of good faith, Waikato gave Williams the helmet given to him by King George IV. Three years later he converted to Christianity and was baptised Josiah Pratt (or Hōhaia Parata) by Williams.

Waikato died on 17 September 1877.

[1] ‘Heathen Anecdotes’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 16 June 1821, p.2.