Beginning of Tītokowaru's war

9 June 1868

Colonial forces under attack at Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu (Alexander Turnbull Library, PUBL-0047-1868-10-08)

Ngā Ruahine warriors led by Riwha Tītokowaru killed three settlers near Ketemarae, north of Hāwera, provoking a 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 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 fighters 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.