Page 1: Biography
Te Houkāmau, Iharaira
Ngāti Porou leader
This biography, written by Steven Oliver, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.
Te Houkāmau, of Ngāti Porou, was descended from Te Rangi-i-pāia I, and from Tūwhakairiora and his wife, Ruataupare. His father was Whakataha-te-rangi and his mother Kākahutangohia. Te Houkāmau was born probably in the early nineteenth century, and was involved in tribal wars in his youth. To resist the raids of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou gathered into several immense pā in the Waiapu Valley. When peace came in the mid 1830s, the people moved to new villages; trade drew many towards the coast. Te Houkāmau settled at Hekawa, near Te Kawakawa (Te Araroa), because it was near to passing ships. There he came into contact with Christianity, and in 1838 was hospitable to the missionaries William Williams and William Colenso, when they visited the area.
In 1840 William Williams sought signatures of Māori in the East Coast area to a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi. At the invitation of Te Houkāmau he went to the chief's house on 4 June 'to talk', but failed to secure Te Houkāmau's signature to the treaty. A major leader in the region, Te Houkāmau was wary of being too closely associated publicly with either the missionary or the local Māori lay teacher, Hoani Timo. Nevertheless he expressed a wish to receive instruction.
Nothing came of this, it seems, for in August 1848 Williams complained that the unconverted Te Houkāmau was endeavouring 'to draw aside as many as he can' from Christianity. Yet the next year Te Houkāmau approached Williams with one of his wives whom he wanted baptised. He asked to be a candidate himself, and, prepared to put aside his second wife, dictated a letter formally setting her at liberty. He was finally baptised, taking the name Iharaira (Israel).
Te Houkāmau had opposed the appointment of Rota Waitoa, the first Māori deacon, to Te Kawakawa in 1853, because he considered it inappropriate that a man of Ngāti Raukawa should exercise power in Ngāti Porou territory. It is said that later, in a penitent mood, he begged Waitoa to make him 'church sweeper and bellringer to the House of the Lord'; he became a strong supporter of the church.
With his kinsmen Mōkena Kōhere and Hēnare Pōtae, Te Houkāmau also became a supporter of the government. In 1862 he was talking of going to Ōpōtiki and other districts to 'preach the law'. In 1865, when the Pai Mārire movement became strong in the Waiapu area, he moved to Matakaoa Point, at the north end of Hicks Bay, where he built a new pā, Makerōnia (Macedonia). He had said that he would prevent the Pai Mārire prophet Pātara Raukatauri from entering Waiapu from Whangaparāoa, near Cape Runaway, but was unable to do so. The arrival of Pātara in Waiapu was followed by a Hauhau victory at the battle of Mangaone. Makerōnia too was attacked but the Hauhau were driven off. Te Houkāmau and other pro-government leaders were provided with arms and ammunition by Donald McLean, the provincial superintendent and agent for the general government, and, supported by government troops, they finally achieved victory in the Waiapu area.
Like other Ngāti Porou leaders Te Houkāmau sought to retain tribal lands. In the 1870s he encouraged the building of roads into his district. The government employed European surveyors and overseers for this work, but most of the construction was subcontracted to local Māori, providing them with both improved communications and income. Te Houkāmau continued to support the government: when he held a large feast late in 1874, a flagstaff was erected, the Union Jack was flown, and a declaration of loyalty to the Queen and the government was made.
Te Houkāmau had three wives: Mere Raiha Hineitukua, with whom he had two children, Iritana and Pētera; Hāriata, with whom he had Apikara; and Ripeka Paiatehau (Mere's younger sister), with whom he had Te Hatiwira, Wingara and Tipiwai. Te Hatiwira had joined his father in fighting the Hauhau, and was at Te Māwhai pā, at Tokomaru Bay, in September 1865 when it was attacked during the absence of its chief, Hēnare Pōtae. The pā was successfully defended by Te Hatiwira and a group of women, one of whom, Mere Arihi Te Pana, he later married. After the war in Waiapu he fought with government forces in Poverty Bay and in the Urewera, and commanded a company of Ngāti Porou sent to Taranaki to fight Tītokowaru.
Iharaira Te Houkāmau died at Te Kawakawa in early January 1875. It was said of him that the great influence he held was always exerted for the purposes of peace.