Story: Te Huruhuru

Page 1: Biography

Te Huruhuru


Ngai Tahu leader

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

Te Huruhuru (or Huruhuru) of Ngai Tahu was born probably about 1800. He was one of eight children. His father was Nuku and his mother was Te Whakaaro. His hapu were Ngai Te Ruahikihiki and Ngai Taoka. Little is recorded of his life before 1844. He may have been originally from Kaiapoi, before Ngai Tahu were besieged there by Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa in 1831. In 1833 Te Huruhuru fought at the battles of Oraumoa near Kapara-te-hau (Lake Grassmere), when Ngai Tahu ambushed Te Rauparaha. He may have resided at Lake Hawea about this time. When Te Puoho-o-te-rangi and his expedition of Ngati Tama from Te Taitapu (Golden Bay) attacked Ngai Tahu people in the Wanaka and Hawea areas late in 1836, the survivors retreated to the lower Waitaki River area.

In 1844 Te Huruhuru was chief of the settlement at Te Puna-a-Maru (Georgetown) on the lower Waitaki River, near its junction with the Awamoko Stream. He had an eeling camp near the mouth of the Waihao River, to the north. Edward Shortland, travelling north in the course of his census of the Maori population of southern New Zealand, arrived at Te Puna-a-Maru on 10 January 1844. Te Huruhuru agreed to ferry him across the flooded Waitaki, and while awaiting the construction of raupo rafts to carry the party across the river, Shortland obtained much valuable information about the geography of the interior of the South Island, including the first map of Lakes Wanaka, Hawea and Wakatipu, and the route to them over the pass called Okahu (Lindis Pass). Te Huruhuru also described the inland settlements and provided the first recorded account of the raid on Ngai Tahu by Te Puoho and his party.

Shortland recorded that Mokehe was the wife of Te Huruhuru, and that they had a 13-year-old son, Te Urukaio. He described Te Huruhuru as 'a man of singularly pleasing manners and address', and was grateful for his generous assistance. Three days after Shortland's crossing, Bishop G. A. Selwyn, travelling south, met Te Huruhuru at the Waihao on 17 January. After sharing a meal of eels, in return for which Selwyn made him a present of some books, Te Huruhuru agreed to ferry the bishop's party south across the Waitaki. Selwyn also found Te Huruhuru 'singularly charming'.

The lower Waitaki settlements of Te Puna-a-Maru, Tauhinu, Tama-haere-whenua and Te Aka-taramea were occupied on a seasonal basis, and Te Huruhuru seems to have had his closest connections in the village at Waikouaiti. In October 1848, when W. B. D. Mantell arrived at Te Puna-a-Maru to lay out the Waitaki reserves promised in the purchase of the Canterbury block from Ngai Tahu, Te Huruhuru was at Waikouaiti, too ill with influenza to accompany the surveyors. In Te Huruhuru's dwelling Taiaroa, who accompanied Mantell, found 'fragmentary prayerbooks of all persuasions', and letters written in Maori, suggesting that Te Huruhuru may have been literate, and possibly a Christian.

In 1853 Mantell reported that Te Huruhuru had become uncooperative over the disposition of the reserves he had been allocated, which were much less extensive than had been anticipated. He and Te Rakitawine of Tauhinu were accused of destroying the bush, 'felling trees which they leave to rot upon the ground, – being only actuated by a wish to injure the government'. The same year Te Huruhuru and most of the lower Waitaki people shifted to Te Waimatemate (Waimate), where they established a village at Tutekawa, on the west bank of the Waimate River. Some 40 or 50 people dwelt there, in 25 dwellings of totara bark.

Michael Studholme, who had come from Christchurch to select land for a sheep run, visited Te Huruhuru in July 1854 at Te Waimatemate, and found him 'a fine looking man as regards features. He was deeply tattooed, the whole face being covered. He had a broad, high brow, and bright, piercing eyes.' Despite the fact that Te Huruhuru was now paralysed from the waist down, 'he ruled the Pah and was very clear headed.' He was said to be 60 years of age when he died in 1861, and is buried in the Maori cemetery at Point Bush. He is commemorated by a memorial raised nearby in 1934, and a peak in The Hunters Hills named Te Huruhuru. He was survived by a son, Tihema Te Huruhuru.

How to cite this page:

Atholl Anderson. 'Te Huruhuru', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 9 August 2020)