Beginning of Tītokowaru's war

9 June 1868

Colonial forces under attack at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu
Colonial forces under attack at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu (Archives New Zealand, AANS 8128 W5154 Box 79)

Ngā Ruahine fighters led by Riwha Tītokowaru killed three Pākehā settlers near Ketemarae, north of Hāwera, signalling the resumption of fighting in south Taranaki.

Tītokowaru was both a tohunga and a Wesleyan lay preacher. In the 1860s his opposition to land-selling led him to support the King Movement (Kīngitanga). He lost an eye in the Pai Mārire attack on Sentry Hill, near New Plymouth, in April 1864.

In 1867 Tītokowaru called for peaceful resistance to Pākehā encroachment, but the confiscation of Ngā Ruahine land continued. After full-scale fighting began in July 1868, he won a series of victories over much larger colonial and kūpapa forces, who were simultaneously fighting Te Kooti on the east coast (see 4 July and 10 November).

In February 1869 the Armed Constabulary faced the prospect of further humiliation at Taurangaika, near Whanganui. But Tītokowaru’s force abandoned him, possibly because of a sexual indiscretion, and his campaign collapsed. He retreated into the interior.

Tītokowaru eventually returned to south Taranaki and became a successful businessman. Such was his military reputation that land confiscation in the area did not resume until the late 1870s.