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 Kapotai
1835 residence: 
Tohu (signature): 

Whiwhia was a highly regarded rangatira of Te Kapotai, based at Waikare in southern Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands). He was the son of Te Matatahi and Mari, and the grandson of Whakaeatu and Tūkarangatia. Whiwhia was the older brother of Te Toro (whose image is sometimes confused with Tītore’s) and had mana whenua over the Waikare area.

Based in a resource-rich territory that was sought after by both Māori and Europeans, Whiwhia and his hapū had many early contacts with traders wanting goods such as timber and food.

In February 1820 British naval officer Richard Cruise visited Waikare aboard the naval store ship Dromedary. As well as describing the richly-decorated pātaka (storehouses), Cruise recorded his impressions of Whiwhia:

He was seated on the ground, opposite his house, to receive us, with his best mat thrown over his shoulders, his face and body smeared with red ochre, and his hair tied in a bunch on the top of his head, and ornamented with the white feathers of the gannet or the albatross… in person he was not above the middle stature. [1]

As well as receiving visits from Europeans, Te Kapotai leaders also travelled themselves. Whiwhia and Te Toro visited Sydney, then more commonly known as Port Jackson, as guardians of several children attending Samuel Marsden’s mission school. Whiwhia later named one of his sons Poihākena (Port Jackson) after his travels.

Although present at the attack on Te Tōtara pā in 1821, Whiwhia was known more for talking rather than fighting. During the inter-hapū ‘Girls’ War’ of 1830 he took a neutral position.

According to his descendants, his skill as an orator meant Whiwhia was a member of Te Whakaminenga, the high level gatherings of hapū which met before 1835. At these hui Whiwhia would have shared his thoughts on the changing times and issues with settlers and traders. It is said that this is why he signed He Whakaputanga, on 28 October 1835 – he saw it as a useful and peaceful means of resolving the concerns raised by Te Whakaminenga.

[1] Richard A. Cruise, Journal of a Ten Months’ Residence in New Zealand, 2nd edn, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown & Green, London, 1824, pp.23–24.

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Cole tarau

Posted: 30 Jun 2020

My older brother's name is whiwhia..