Page 1: Biography
Ngāi Tahu leader, missionary, assessor, land protester
This biography, written by Te Maire Tau, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.
Horomona Pōhio claimed descent from the major lines of Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe and Waitaha. His hapū were Ngāi Taoka, Ngāti Huirapa, Ngāi Te Ruahikihiki, Ngāi Te Rakiāmoa and Ngāi Tūāhuriri. His father was Tohu, his mother Tutu.
According to his obituary Pōhio was born in 1815 at Wainono, in the Waihao region of South Canterbury, near Te Waimatemate (Waimate). He was given the name Iwikau. He was one of the children who were sent to Murihiku (the southern part of the South Island), to be kept from a possible threat from Te Rauparaha and Ngāti Toa, with whom Ngāi Tahu of Kaiapoi pā were in dispute. His early years were spent at Ruapuke Island, in Foveaux Strait, with his grandfather Te Kahupātītī.
Pōhio came in contact with Christianity in the early 1840s, while living at Ruapuke. On 18 June 1843, at Waikouaiti, he was baptised by James Watkin, a Wesleyan missionary, and took the name Horomona (Solomon). As a part of his mission Horomona was to act as pastor of Ruapuke. In the 1840s and 1850s he also assisted the Wesleyan missionaries at Waikouaiti and Moeraki.
Horomona Pōhio was a participant in the signing of the Otago purchase deed in 1844. He was also a signatory to the sale of Canterbury in 1848, and the Murihiku purchase in 1853. In 1859 he was made an assessor at Te Waimatemate, a position which carried the duties of a local magistrate, and in the 1860s spent some time in Hawke's Bay. On his return to the South Island he became a follower of Ngāi Tahu tohunga Hipa Te Maihāroa, at Te Wai-a-Te Ruatī, near Arowhenua, and a missionary for the Kaingārara religion, which had similarities with the teachings of Te Ua Haumēne in the North Island.
Pōhio, as secular leader of Te Maihāroa's community, was concerned with the consequences of Ngāi Tahu land sales. The signatories to the Otago purchase had been informed that reserves, known as tenths, were to be set aside for Ngāi Tahu, and protested when this did not come about. Ngāi Tahu also contested the boundary of the Canterbury purchase. They understood that the purchase applied to the area from Maungatere (Mt Grey, near Kaiapoi) in the north to Maunga-atua (Maungātua), at the boundary of the Otago block, in the south, and west as far as the foothills of the Southern Alps. The purchasers insisted that the western boundary was the main divide itself. Larger reserves as well as areas where food was produced or gathered were to be set aside for Ngāi Tahu and future generations. By 1868 parts of the reserve at Hakataramea, on the Waitaki River, had been sold, and the new owners refused to allow Māori to continue to hunt weka there. In Murihiku the boundary of the purchase was again in dispute. Pōhio was one of the principal speakers at a hui held at Tuahiwi, near Kaiapoi, in March 1874, to discuss Ngāi Tahu grievances.
In 1877 Te Maihāroa led his followers, including Pōhio, to establish a new settlement, Te Ao Mārama (Ōmārama), high in the Waitaki valley, to assert Ngāi Tahu rights to the interior of the South Island. In joining Te Maihāroa, Pōhio alienated himself from the mainstream leadership of Ngāi Tahu, who sympathised with the tohunga but did not approve of his actions. In October 1878 Pōhio and his son Tūwhare travelled to Wellington for a meeting with the native minister, John Sheehan. They were courteously received, but Ngāi Tahu claims for the return of the interior of the South Island were rejected by Sheehan as illegitimate. Pōhio turned down the offer of a commission of investigation, considering that no justice could result from a Pākehā inquiry. Hōri Kerei Taiaroa, MHR for Southern Māori, who was present, regarded Te Maihāroa's protest as counterproductive. Pōhio returned, bitter, to Te Ao Mārama. Tension between local Pākehā runholders and Te Maihāroa's supporters increased, and in the winter of 1879 Te Maihāroa and his followers were forcibly evicted from the Waitaki valley by armed police.
The failure of this protest was followed by an attempt to achieve justice within the Pākehā judicial and political framework. In 1879 and 1880 Pōhio gave evidence before the Commission on Middle Island Native Land Purchases (the Smith–Nairn commission), which was set up to inquire into Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Māmoe claims, that the Crown had failed to keep its promises. When the commission's interim findings were that Ngāi Tahu did have valid grievances, the government cancelled the commission's funding. Pōhio returned to live at Te Waimatemate, where he died on 12 March 1880.
Horomona Pōhio is known to have had four wives. His first wife was Mauhē, of Murihiku. His second wife was Wikitōria Kōrako, the daughter of a Ngāti Māmoe chief of Ngāti Huirapa hapū. They had two children. In Hawke's Bay in the 1860s Horomona married Peti Paihi (or Pae) of Ngāti Kahungunu, from Wairoa. They had two children also. Pōhio's fourth wife was Hera (or Hira) Tau, daughter of Ngāi Tūāhuriri chief Pāora Tau of Kaiapoi, and Te Raki. They had six children.