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Te Kanawa

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
5 Sheet 2 — The Manukau-Kāwhia Sheet Te Kanawa Te Kanawa Waikato, Ngāti Maniapoto Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Naho, Ngāti Hine Kāwhia, 21 May 1840

Te Kawana signed the Manukau-Kāwhia sheet of the Treaty of Waitangi on 21 May 1840 at Kāwhia, having already signed the Waikato–Manukau sheet in late March or early April 1840.

Te Kanawa headed Ngāti Mahuta taua (war parties) in many battles in the 1820s and 1830s, under the leadership of Te Wherowhero, who later became the first Māori king. In 1820–21, Te Kanawa led a taua by sea to avenge the murder of Ngāti Māhanga rangatira (chief) Unu-a-tahu by Ngāti Toa. This attacked the pā of Ngāti Rārua, a Ngāti Toa subtribe, at Waikawau near Mōkau. In 1821–22, Te Kanawa was part of a 600-strong taua called Amio Whenua. News of this war party travelled ahead of them and when they arrived in the Kāpiti district they found it deserted, with no waka (canoes) left to allow them to attack Ngāti Toa on Kāpiti Island.

In 1831 Te Kanawa was part of an even larger taua of around 4,000 men. Three years later Te Kanawa joined other Waikato taua and 2,500 fighters who attacked the Taranaki pā of Ngāti Ruanui at Te Ruaki in revenge for the death of Te Karawa and their defeat at Te Namu on the Taranaki coast.

In 1845, during the Northern War, Te Kanawa, along with 15 other Waikato rangatira, wrote a letter saying that they would not join in ‘Ngāpuhi’s wrongdoing’. [1] They said they would support Te Wherowhero if he asked them to support the Pākehā in Auckland, but challenge him if Ngāpuhi persuaded him to join them.

In 1857 Te Kanawa was one of the rangatira present when the Ngāti Maniapoto people confirmed their support for Te Wherowhero as the first Māori king.

[1] Letter from chiefs to McLean, 24 March 1845, MS-Papers-0032-0669A-06, Alexander Turnbull Library

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