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.


SignatureSheetSigned asProbable nameTribeHapūSigning Occasion
24Sheet 1 — The Waitangi SheetRuheRuheNgāpuhiNgāti Rangi, Ngāti Pou, Te Uri TaniwhaWaitangi 6 February 1840

Ruhe, a Ngāpuhi rangatira (chief) from Kaikohe, signed the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February at Waitangi. Beside his mark was the statement, ‘Te Tohu o Ruhe te tamaiti o Kopiri’ (The mark of Ruhe the son of Kōpiri). He and another chief, Marupō, spoke out against the treaty while others were signing it: ‘Both warriors delivered themselves in the style characteristic of their people when they have serious business on hand, running sharply up and down a beaten avenue, gesticulating energetically, stamping their feet, and pouring out their denunciations with a volubility that was difficult to follow.’ [1]

Ruhe’s son, Maketū Wharetōtara (also known as Wiremu Kingi Maketu) murdered five people in 1841. Ruhe surrendered his son to the government, and Maketū was tried, found guilty and hanged for murder in 1842. Ruhe asked for his son’s body, which was exhumed. His bones were scraped according to custom before he was reburied by his family.

It is said that Ruhe, still mourning his son, went to Hōne Heke Pōkai and sang a lament for Maketū, which added to Heke’s anti-government feeling: ‘“Kaore te aroha mohukihuki ana, Te panga mai ki ahau, me he ahi e tahu” (Alas, this all-devouring grief, That burns within me like a flame.)’ [2]

Despite this, Ruhe remained neutral during the Northern War of 1845–46 and acted as a peacemaker in relation to Hōne Heke. From Puketutu, Ruhe supplied pigs and potatoes to both sides. In 1865 Ruhe shot himself.

[1] T. Lindsay Buick, The Treaty of Waitangi: or, how New Zealand became a British colony, Mackay, Wellington, 1914, pp. 158–9

[2] Quoted in New Zealand Railways Magazine, vol. 10, no. 9, 2 December 1935,

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