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
3Sheet 6 — The Bay of Plenty (Fedarb) SheetAporotangaTe ĀporotangaTe WhakatōheaNgāti Rua Ōpōtiki 27-28 May 1840

Te Āporotanga signed the Bay of Plenty (Fedarb) sheet of the Treaty of Waitangi at Ōpōtiki on 27 or 28 May 1840. He was a Ngāti Rua rangatira (chief) with great mana and who was skilled in the art of tā moko (tattoo): women from Te Whakatōhea would travel from all over to have their moko done by Te Āporotanga.

Te Āporotanga’s grandfather was Te Amoa. His father was Mawhe or Mawe. Te Āporotanga's children included Awanui Te Āporotanga, and a daughter named Makawa, who became the mother of Tuakana Āporotanga. His brother was Rikihana, who was killed by Ngāi Tai at Puketapa Pā, Ōpape.

Te Āporotanga was the custodian of the famous greenstone adze Waiwhārangi. The adze was exchanged for the head of Ngāi Tai rangatira Tuterangikurei. This exchange symbolised the start of a new relationship between Ngāi Tai and Whakatōhea, ending generations of blood feuds between them. Whakatāne Museum is the present kaitiaki of Waiwhārangi.

Te Āporotanga was killed in April 1865 during the New Zealand Wars after Ngāti Rua joined a Ngāti Porou taua (war party). Te Arawa cut them off at the Te Awa o te Atua pā, near Matatā. Te Arawa won the battle but their rangatira Tohi te Ururangi was killed. Te Āporotanga was wounded and taken as a prisoner to the Te Arawa camp. [1] Ngāpī, Tohi’s wife, called for Te Āporotanga’s death as utu (to restore balance) for the death of her husband. She seized a loaded musket from one of the fighters and shot Te Āporotanga through the heart.

[1] ‘The Widow’s Revenge’, New Zealand Railways Magazine, vol. 4, no. 1, 1 May 1929, p. 23

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