Story: Tuhawaiki, Hone

Page 1: Biography

Tuhawaiki, Hone


Ngai Tahu leader, whaler, mariner, trader

This biography, written by Atholl Anderson, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.

Tuhawaiki, known as Hone or John Tuhawaiki, and called 'Bloody Jack' by the sealers of Foveaux Strait, was the leader of Ngai Tahu in Murihiku (the southern part of the South Island) from the death of Te Whakataupuka, probably in 1835, until his own death in 1844. He was born at Murikauhaka, Tauhinu (Inch Clutha), probably early in the nineteenth century. Much of his adult life was spent in movement about Ngai Tahu territory and further afield, but his home was on Ruapuke Island.

Tuhawaiki's ancestry can be traced through leading families of Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe. His father, Te Kaihaere, a son of Manawa and Paroparo, was descended from Kaweriri, a famous warrior who died in Murihiku and who was the son of Turakautahi. His mother, Kura (or Kukure), was the daughter of Honekai and Kohuwai. Honekai, descended from Tu-te-ahunga, was a son of Te Hau-tapunui-o-Tu, the Ngai Tahu chief who established a lasting truce with Ngati Mamoe, and Kohuwai was a grand-daughter of Raki-ihia, who was descended from Kaweriri's Ngati Mamoe adversary, Tu-te-makohu.

Similar connections extended into several of Tuhawaiki's marriages. One of his wives was Takaroa, daughter of Wakaka, who was the daughter of Te Wakarawa, Honekai's sister. Te Uira, another wife, was the grand-daughter of Te Ruahine, Kohuwai's brother.

Other than his ancestry, Tuhawaiki's family relationships are poorly recorded. It is difficult to establish the number, order or progeny of his marriages. From conversations with Tuhawaiki in 1843 Edward Shortland compiled a genealogy which shows Kihau and Poko as sons of Te Uira. Kihau (baptised John Frederick) may have been the son of Tuhawaiki and Tahawaiwai (or Touari). Tuhawaiki and Takaroa had five children, and, according to Bishop G. A. Selwyn's account of his visit to Ruapuke in 1844, Tuhawaiki and Te Uira had a daughter as well. At the time of Tuhawaiki's death he may have had another wife, Irikautoa (or Kirihaukau). Kihau was regarded as Tuhawaiki's acknowledged heir. He was born about 1830 and married Madeleine Kurukuru. They had three children, Alfred Frederick, John and Ellen, whose descendants are the only direct descendants of Tuhawaiki known today.

The sealer John Boultbee, who met Tuhawaiki at sea off Clutha Mouth in 1827, observed his strong resemblance to his uncle Te Whakataupuka. Boultbee understood the two men to be brothers, and estimated Te Whakataupuka to be 34 years of age. Te Whakataupuka had succeeded Tupai as the leading chief in Murihiku, after the death of most other important Murihiku chiefs in the 1820s, and Tuhawaiki's political inheritance waxed with the fortunes of his uncle. In addition, the balance of power within Ngai Tahu had begun to shift south as a consequence of Ngati Toa raids on Kaikoura, Kaiapoi, and Onawe pa at Akaroa, the murder at Kapiti Island of the chief of northern Ngai Tahu, Tama-i-hara-nui, and the migration into Murihiku of many of the survivors of Te Rauparaha's raids.

In the retaliatory expeditions by Ngai Tahu against Ngati Toa, Tuhawaiki developed a reputation as a bold and clever military leader. About 1833 he joined the first northern expedition, led by Tu-te-hounuku (Tama-i-hara-nui's son), Tangata Hara of Wairewa (Lake Forsyth) and Makere of Murihiku. At Kapara-te-hau (Lake Grassmere), the war party surprised a group of Ngati Toa on the shore and, in the brief ensuing struggle in the surf, Te Rauparaha was grabbed by a pursuer and managed to escape underwater only by slipping out of his cloak. Several reports say that it was Tuhawaiki who held, for a moment, the great Ngati Toa chief. This incident was followed by a running battle across Cloudy Bay towards Tory Channel.

Tuhawaiki does not seem to have been involved in the 1834 Ngai Tahu expedition to Cloudy Bay, which was led by Taiaroa and Te Whakataupuka. Soon after he succeeded to the leadership of southern Ngai Tahu, in 1835, Tuhawaiki was faced with a threat much closer to home. Te Puoho-o-te-rangi led a small war party of Ngati Tama down the West Coast, through the pass of Tiori-patea (Haast Pass) and into Murihiku in late 1836. News of this event reached Tuhawaiki at Awarua and he promptly sailed for Ruapuke to gather his men, then returned to attack Ngati Tama at Tuturau. Te Puoho was shot and his followers were taken into captivity.

In January 1838 a Ngai Tahu expedition sought unsuccessfully to draw Ngati Toa into battle at Cloudy Bay. Tuhawaiki was probably involved in this expedition, and he certainly led the next, and last, northern expedition, in late 1839. At Wairewa several Ngati Toa, part of George Hempleman's whaling gang, were located and one was murdered. There was little hope of luring Te Rauparaha from Kapiti, and this incident provided sufficient satisfaction for Tuhawaiki to forsake war for business. He sold land on Banks Peninsula to Hempleman, in return for a small coastal boat, the Mary Ann, and returned home to Ruapuke.

Hempleman's purchase was not the first of Tuhawaiki's land sales. Between 31 December 1835, when he endorsed the whaler Peter Williams's deed of purchase for Preservation Inlet, which had been signed in 1832 by Te Whakataupuka, and early September 1838, Tuhawaiki sold some small parcels of land in the Foveaux Strait area to local whalers and sealers. In late September 1838 Tuhawaiki, Karetai, Taiaroa, Topi Patuki and Haereroa sailed for Sydney and, on arrival, began to sell huge blocks of land. During October they disposed of about two million acres of Murihiku for less than £500 and a range of goods. On returning home Tuhawaiki continued to sell large tracts of land for small sums of money. Other southern chiefs were enthusiastically selling vast territories as well.

Tuhawaiki returned to Sydney in January 1840 and met Governor George Gipps, who attempted to forestall any further sales, proclaiming, on 14 January, that all earlier deeds were to be investigated and no further land was to be sold, except to the Crown. Tuhawaiki and other chiefs treated this news with the utmost disdain, and on 15 February sold the whole of the South Island and Rakiura (Stewart Island) to Johnny Jones and W. C. Wentworth. Tuhawaiki, styled 'John Towack, King' in the deed, received £100 and a £50 annuity.

In these major transactions it is apparent that neither party regarded the deeds as representing a real transfer of land. Few deeds were translated into Maori, boundaries were stated in the most cursory fashion, plans were seldom drawn, blocks often overlapped or were repeatedly sold, and the purchasers had few illusions about the legality of the titles and often promptly subdivided their lands for resale. When the claims were investigated, many purchasers failed to defend their deeds. Before Colonel Edward Godfrey's commission, set up by Gipps in 1840 to investigate the sales, Tuhawaiki acted with admirable probity and, according to Shortland, Godfrey 'was much struck with the straightforward and willing evidence given by this chief…and with the skill displayed by him in illustrating his description of boundaries'.

With the proceeds of his land sales Tuhawaiki was able to pursue several commercial interests. He had introduced cattle to Ruapuke on returning from Sydney in March 1840 but had no real interest in farming. He had some experience in the whaling industry and in early 1840 seems to have established a shore station at Bluff, which for a time employed several Europeans. Whaling, however, was becoming unprofitable and Tuhawaiki, like other southern chiefs, found better employment for his boats in carrying goods and people about the southern coast. He owned various craft including the Mary Ann, and jointly with Topi Patuki and other chiefs, the Levin, and a sealing boat which had been rebuilt into a 20 ton schooner, the Perseverance. Johnny Jones thought the craft unseaworthy, but it was safe in Tuhawaiki's hands, and on several occasions outran other coastal craft.

Tuhawaiki signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Ruapuke on 9 June 1840. His name is recorded as John Touwaick. He went on board the Herald'in a full dress staff uniform, of a British aide de camp, with gold lace trowsers and cocked hat and plume, in which he looked extremely well; …accompanied by a native orderly sergeant, dressed in a corresponding costume.' Tuhawaiki's home was now a weatherboard house, and he was the acknowledged leader of Ngai Tahu. He had his own trained bodyguard of 20 men, clothed and equipped as British soldiers. He was, furthermore, determined to make the most of the new agreement. His commercial ability impressed European observers, who noted that he spoke English freely, could read and write a little, and was accustomed to cash transactions and bank business. On business he dressed in a neat suit and white greatcoat, and wore a watch and chain.

These were the impressions of worldly men like Tuhawaiki himself. The missionaries were seldom so generous in their views. Some imagined Tuhawaiki had a particularly lurid past. The Reverend J. F. H. Wohlers described him as dressing like a horse-dealer and as being 'a cadger, treacherous and deceitful…[who had] acquired his standing along this coast only by cunning and by his connection to the Europeans.' His enjoyment of wine, brandy and rum was regarded as deplorable.

Although not a pious man, Tuhawaiki was sincere in his desire for a missionary on Ruapuke Island. He made this request repeatedly of the Methodist missionary at Waikouaiti, James Watkin, specifying that he wanted a European missionary, not a Maori teacher. The Anglican Tamihana Te Rauparaha and the Wesleyan Horomona Pohio had already visited Ruapuke when Bishop Selwyn came south on the Perseverance with Tuhawaiki early in 1844, and stayed in his two-roomed house. Tuhawaiki was professedly a Protestant, although it is not clear that he was ever baptised. When the desired missionary, Wohlers, arrived in May 1844, he saw very little of Tuhawaiki who, having taken Selwyn to Akaroa, sailed for Wellington, where he was presented to Governor Robert FitzRoy, and then returned to deal with the New Zealand Company purchase of the Otago block.

This matter had drawn all the principal chiefs to Otakou by mid June. During the protracted negotiations Tuhawaiki took a very close interest in the survey and the details of the deed, and in an eloquent lament sought to remind the Europeans of what their coming had wrought: 'We are but a poor remnant now, and the Pakeha will soon see us all die out, but even in my time we…were a large and powerful tribe…we had a worse enemy than even Rauparaha, and that was the visit of the Pakeha with his drink and his disease. You think us very corrupted, but the very scum of Port Jackson shipped as whalers or landed as sealers on this coast. They brought us new plagues, unknown to our fathers, till our people melted away.'

The Otago deed was signed on 31 July 1844, and Tuhawaiki received £900 as his share. Most of it was consigned to David Scott in Wellington for another boat and sundry goods. Tuhawaiki remained at Otakou, settling disputes about the payment to other chiefs and conducting business, and then sailed north in a convoy of small boats in early October.

On 10 October, off Paparoa Point (Tuhawaiki Point), near Timaru, Tuhawaiki's boat hit an awkward sea. He was swept overboard, perhaps knocked by the steering oar, and drowned. His body, recovered some time later at Mutumutu, to the north, was taken for burial at Te Wai-a-te-ruati, the old pa which stood guard in South Canterbury against the further incursion of Te Rauparaha. The pa was then abandoned and the boat, now tapu, was taken to Banks Peninsula and left to decay. In August 1846 Topi Patuki brought Tuhawaiki's remains back to Ruapuke for reburial.

Tuhawaiki was one of the great South Island chiefs, and a highly influential figure in the early years of European contact. His prominence arose not only from the circumstances of his ancestry but also from his combination of intelligence, commercial acumen, bold leadership and personal charm. The loss of Tuhawaiki at a time when Ngai Tahu were about to face the main influx of Pakeha settlement was a considerable tragedy.

How to cite this page:

Atholl Anderson. 'Tuhawaiki, Hone', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 7 April 2020)