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Te Kēmara

Nga Tohu

In 1840 more than 500 chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document. Ngā Tohu, when complete, will contain a biographical sketch of each signatory.


Signature Sheet Signed as Probable name Tribe Hapū Signing Occasion
19 Sheet 1 — The Waitangi Sheet Te Kamera Te Kēmara Ngāpuhi Ngāti Kawa, Ngāti Hauata Waitangi, 6 February 1840

Te Kēmara, also known as Kēmara (Campbell) Kaitīeke, signed the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840 at Waitangi.

Te Kēmara was originally known as Tāreha (not to be confused with Tāreha of Waimate). A famous tohunga (priest) from Te Tī, Waitangi, he was allied with Hongi Hika and involved in the intertribal Musket Wars of the early 1800s. He was apparently named Kaitīeke following an incident in Hicks Bay during one of Hongi’s war expeditions.

He initially opposed Christianity and supported the prophet Papahurihia, also known as Te Atua Wera (the fiery god), in the 1830s. Later he became more sympathetic to Christianity and built a large chapel, although he was not baptised.

Historian Claudia Orange notes that ‘As senior chief and tohunga of the Waitangi locality, the elderly Te Kemara was assigned first right of speech’ in the hui on 5 February. [1] Mission printer William Colenso recorded Te Kēmara's speech:

‘“Health to thee, O Governor! This is mine to thee, O Governor! I am not pleased towards thee. I do not wish for thee. I will not consent to thy remaining here in this country. If thou stayest as Governor, then, perhaps, Te Kemara will be judged and condemned. Yes, indeed, and more than that – even hung by the neck. No, no, no; I shall never say ‘Yes’ to your staying. Were all to be on an equality, then, perhaps, Te Kemara would say, ‘Yes;’ but for the Governor to be up and Te Kemara down – Governor high up, up, up, and Te Kemara down low, small, a worm, a crawler – No, no, no. O Governor! this is mine to thee. O Governor! my land is gone, gone, all gone. The inheritances of my ancestors, fathers, relatives, all gone, stolen, gone with the missionaries. Yes, they have it all, all, all. That man there, the Busby, and that man there, the Williams, they have my land. The land on which we are now standing this day is mine. This land, even this under my feet, return it to me. O Governor! return me my lands. Say to Williams, ‘Return to Te Kemara his land.’ Thou” (pointing and running up to the Rev. H. Williams), “thou, thou, thou bald-headed man – thou hast got my lands. O Governor! I do not wish thee to stay. You English are not kind to us like other foreigners. You do not give us good things. I say, Go back, go back, Governor, we do not want thee here in this country. And Te Kemara says to thee, Go back, leave to Busby and to Williams to arrange and to settle matters for us Natives as heretofore.”

’This chief spoke in his energetic, peculiar manner, as if very angry; his eyes rolling, and accompanying his remarks with extravagant gestures and grimace ... The officers of the man-o’-war, and all strangers, were wonderfully struck with his show of himself. To any one unacquainted with New Zealand oratory it is morally impossible to convey a just idea of his excited manner, especially when addressing himself to Mr. Busby and to the Rev. H. Williams on the subject of the land.’ [2]

Kēmara also spoke last on 5 February: ‘Te Kemara … jumped up, and, in his usual excitable, lively, and flourishing manner, said, “No, no. Who says ‘Stay’? Go away; return to thine own land. I want my lands returned to me. If thou wilt say, ‘Return to that man Te Kemara his land,’ then it would be good. Let us all be alike (in rank, in power). Then, O Governor! remain. But, the Governor up! Te Kemara down, low, flat! No, no, no. Besides, where art thou to stay, to dwell? There is no place left for thee.” Here Te Kemara ran up to the Governor, and, crossing his wrists, imitating a man handcuffed, loudly vociferated, with fiery flashing eyes, “Shall I be thus, thus? Say to me, Governor, speak. Like this, eh? like this? Come, come, speak, Governor. Like this, eh?” He then seized hold of the Governor’s hand with both his and shook it most heartily, roaring out with additional grimace and gesture (in broken English), “How d’ye do, eh, Governor? How d’ye do, eh, Mister Governor?” This he did over, and over, and over again, the Governor evidently taking it in good part, the whole assembly of whites and browns, chief and slave, Governor, missionaries, officers of the man-o’-war, and, indeed, “all hands,” being convulsed with laughter.’ [3]

Te Kēmara observed that Bishop Pompallier had told the chiefs that if they signed the treaty they would become slaves.

[1] Claudia Orange, The Treaty of Waitangi, Allen & Unwin, Port Nicholson Press, Wellington, 1987, p. 47

[2] William Colenso, The authentic and genuine history of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand, February 5 and 6, 1840, Government Printer, Wellington, 1890, pp. 17–18,

[3] The authentic and genuine history of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, pp. 27–88,

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