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 9 — The East Coast SheetTurangi PotitiParatene TūrangiRongowhakaataNgāi Tawhiri, Ngāi Te Kete Tūranga 5-12 May 1840

Paratene Tūrangi signed the East Coast sheet of the Treaty of Waitangi between 5 and 12 May 1840 at Tūranga (now Gisborne). Also known as Paratene Pōtoti, he was a Ngāi Tawhiri and Ngāi Te Kete rangatira (chief) of the Rongowhakaata iwi (tribe). Tūrangi’s mother was Hine Rakakao, the daughter of Kamakama. He was related to Mokena and Te Kooti. One of his wives was named Wikitoria Hineko. The Wikitoria flood in March 1853 may have been named after her, as she died around that time.

Tūrangi was the protector of John Williams Harris, an English trader who moved to the area in 1831. One of the main tasks of those living in Tūranga at this time was preparing flax to trade for firearms and other items. On Harris’s arrival they had few muskets and feared invasion, but when Whakatōhea did invade at Kekeparaoa in 1832 they were easily defeated thanks to the many firearms Rongowhakaata had now acquired. Tūrangi sold Harris land known as Ko Opou on the bank of the Waipāoa River, where he built a house, a trading station and a wharf. Harris paid 29 pounds of powder, one axe, 48 pipes and six pounds of tobacco. Another sale agreement was signed in 1840 due to treaty requirements to investigate all earlier land sales.

In 1843, Tūrangi led an expedition to Pu-rehua, believing that someone from Reporua had threatened one of their relatives with witchcraft. However, when the Toki-a-Tāpiri waka (a canoe now in the Auckland Museum) arrived the party was met by Eruera Pakura, who convinced them to act peacefully. They feasted and Tūrangi composed a waiata (song) before returning home.

Government land agent Donald McLean visited Tūranga in 1851 to discuss the possibility of creating a European township in Poverty Bay. While Tūrangi and others supported the idea, the Tūranga rangatira were evenly divided and no decision was made.

In 1856, Tūrangi was appointed as an assessor to work with the Tūranga resident magistrate to settle disputes. On 18 May 1865 he was at a meeting at Taruheru to discuss Mōkena Kōhere’s suggestion to raise a British flag in Tūranga to send a message to the Pai Mārire (Hauhau) followers in the area. It was decided that they would not do this immediately as it would cause offence to many.

Tūrangi was killed during Te Kooti’s attack on Oweta, in Tūranga, in 1868 because he was known to be friendly to the government. After the attack on Matawhero, Tūrangi went to visit Te Kooti at Pātūtahi to ask him not to commit any more murders. Te Kooti instead insisted that Rongowhakaata join him. The party said that he would have to go and ask them himself, which he soon did. As Te Kooti arrived at Oweta he demanded they join him or be shot. All agreed, but between five and nine men, including Tūrangi, were detained. Several years earlier, Tūrangi had advised Major Biggs to include Te Kooti among the prisoners that were being sent to the Chatham Islands on the next boat. According to Tuta Nihoniho, Te Kooti mentioned this before hitting Tūrangi with a large hatchet. In another account, the group was taken into the bush and shot by Nepa Tokitahi. They were buried at Oweta by the Muriwai people.


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