Page 1: Biography
Ngāti Porou leader
This biography, written by Steven Oliver, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.
Hēnare Pōtae was born possibly in the late 1820s. He belonged to Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare hapū of Ngāti Porou. His father was Te Pōtaeaute, also known as Ēnoka Pōtae, who signed a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi on 9 June 1840 at Tokomaru Bay. His mother was Mākere Te Materonea, a woman of importance in Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. Hēnare emerged as the major leader of his people on the death of his older half-brother, Tama Whakanehua (also known as Tāmati Wāka), in 1854. His main dwelling place was Tuatini in Tokomaru Bay.
In 1862 Hēnare Pōtae was appointed an assessor in Governor George Grey's rūnanga system, which the government proposed to extend to the East Coast. His immediate concern, shared by his northern neighbours, was to oppose the spread of support for the King movement: he tried to dissuade Ngāti Porou from going to Waikato to join the King's forces. After the defeat of the King movement, the Pai Mārire religion reached the East Coast, in 1865. Ngāti Porou divided into factions, and fighting began with the arrival in the Waiapu Valley of the Pai Mārire prophet Pātara Raukatauri. Pōtae fortified Te Māwhai pā at Tokomaru Bay; his following was limited to his immediate relations. Other Tokomaru Bay people adopted the Pai Mārire faith and built Pukepapa pa. Totally committed to defeating the Hauhau, Pōtae received arms from the government and went along the coast to gather supporters. In his absence Te Māwhai was attacked but was successfully defended by a small garrison. On his return Pōtae sent for assistance to Rāpata Wahawaha and together they attacked and captured Pukepapa. Hauhau belonging to Te Whānau-a-Ruataupare were driven out; an estimated 50 men and their families went south to seek refuge with Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki at Tūranga (Gisborne). Moving towards Tolaga Bay, Pōtae encountered Hauhau at Pākura and, with the arrival of Rāpata and Te Aowera supporters, decisively defeated them. The Hauhau abandoned the pā at Tahutahupō and also fled south to Poverty Bay.
Pōtae followed the Hauhau refugees to Waerenga-a-hika, where a request for their surrender was rejected. He and his men did not take part in the subsequent capture of Waerenga-a-hika because they were garrisoning nearby Tūranga. There, prisoners from Waerenga-a-hika were held; some were deported by the government to the Chatham Islands. At Tokomaru Bay, after the end of hostilities, resettlement took place and all Māori inhabitants were gathered into village units, leaving the central part of the district empty. Identifiable Hauhau were sent north to the Anaura Bay district.
Warfare began again on the East Coast when Te Kooti and his followers escaped from the Chathams and landed in Poverty Bay on 10 July 1868. Pōtae and his men again garrisoned Tūranga, and during the attack by Te Kooti on Poverty Bay Pōtae briefly commanded the town's defences. He fought in the expeditions against Te Kooti in the following years, holding responsible positions and participating in the capture of the Tūhoe pā Horoeka, and Te Kooti's pā at Maraetahi. Pōtae and his contingent were one of the four parties which surrounded Te Kooti's camp at Te Hāpua on 1 September 1871, and nearly captured him. After this Te Kooti took refuge in the King Country and the war in the Urewera came to an end.
Pōtae was rewarded for his military service with several sections of land in Gisborne. He had been made a chief assessor in 1869, receiving £50 a year, and he continued to maintain law and order in his district, assisting the resident magistrate and also exercising a degree of independent jurisdiction. Beginning in the 1870s, he encouraged settlement at Tokomaru Bay by granting settlers long-term leases to large blocks of land for sheep runs. He assisted in putting other land through the Native Land Court and opposed the Repudiationist movement, which sought the repudiation of all Crown and private land deals, in the 1870s. He was responsible for a petition against the electoral victory of Karaitiana Takamoana of Ngāti Kahungunu in Eastern Māori in 1875–76, and in 1878 was the principal speaker at the welcome to Sir George Grey at Te Poho-o-Rāwiri. In the same year he spoke at Waerenga-a-hika against Poverty Bay tribes' communicating with Te Kooti.
Hēnare Pōtae married Tepora Kahukino; they had a son named Wiremu Hēnare and a daughter named Keriana, who first married Karauria, the son of Hirini Te Kani, and then Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury. Hēnare had other wives, among them Hariata, who may have been one of the women who defended Te Māwhai in 1865, but he had no other children. For many years he was a member of the Church of England, but in 1884 he was baptised into the Mormon faith with his son Wiremu and his cousin Hone Te Whaia.
Hēnare Pōtae died at Kaitī, Gisborne, on 5 October 1895. His funeral was held at Tokomaru Bay, where he was buried with his father in the Tuatini cemetery.