Story: Papahia, Hone Tana

Page 1: Biography

Papahia, Hone Tana


Te Rarawa and Nga Puhi; Anglican clergyman, missionary

This biography, written by Wiritai Toi, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.

Hone Tana Papahia was born probably sometime between 1856 and 1859 at Orongotea, on the north-west shoreline of the Hokianga Harbour. His father was Wiremu Tana Papahia; his mother's name is not known. Papahia was baptised Hone Wepiha (John Webster) after an early nineteenth century European settler, but 'Wepiha' was later replaced by the family name 'Tana' and he became known as Hone Tana Papahia. His descent lines were through Te Horohuhare and Ngati Haua hapu of Te Rarawa of north Hokianga. He was also kin to Nga Puhi through his descent from Tupoto. Both his father and his paternal grandfather, Papahia, were signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi at Mangungu mission station in 1840.

Papahia attended the Native Teachers' Institute at the Kaitaia mission station, then in 1884 enrolled at the Church Missionary Society's theological centre for Maori students, Te Rau College, at Gisborne. Under the tutelage of Archdeacon W. L. Williams and his nephew, the Reverend A. O. Williams, he received instruction on Scripture, church history and doctrine, liturgy and general subjects.

On Sunday 27 March 1887 in St George's Church at Thames, Papahia was admitted to deacon's orders by the bishop of Auckland, W. G. Cowie. At 3 p.m. that day he preached his first sermon at the Holy Trinity Church, Parawai. In May 1888 Papahia and the Reverend Wiki Te Paa conducted a mission in the Waikato to examine the extent of Hauhauism among the people following the wars of the 1860s. Areas visited were Tapapa, Waotu, Parawera, Otorohanga, Te Kuiti, Taupiri and Pukekawa. They found the people receptive to their overtures, resulting in a recommendation that Waotu and Otorohanga be established as bases for ministry in Waikato.

On Sunday 10 January 1892, Papahia was admitted to the priesthood by Bishop Cowie at St Mary's Cathedral, Parnell, Auckland. He was to be based at Waiparera, his home parish, and his stipend rose from £50 to £60 annually. In 1903 he acted as bishop's chaplain at the consecration of the new bishop of Auckland, Dr M. R. Neligan, at St Mary's Cathedral. Papahia was appointed assistant superintendent of the Maori mission under Archdeacon H. A. Hawkins in 1905. Around this time stipends of the Maori clergy rose to £70 per annum.

Papahia and Hawkins travelled to the Melanesian islands in 1907, to examine the feasibility of Maori clergy becoming teachers for the Melanesian mission. Papahia was the second known Maori clergyman to visit Melanesia, after Henare Wiremu Taratoa, who accompanied Bishop G. A. Selwyn in 1852. The two missionaries recommended that the Reef Islets in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu) be established as the base for future Maori missions, after deciding that the islands met adequate standards of health, food, language and 'friendliness'. A permanent Maori mission was never established, but Maori clergy have continued to visit the islands.

At the invitation of the bishop of Christchurch, Churchill Julius, in December 1911, Papahia conducted a mission among the Maori people of the Christchurch diocese. Details of his movements are not known, although it is reported that his visit proved to be very productive.

On his return to Waiparera, Papahia became ill; he died on 9 February 1912 and was buried on 14 February. There is no evidence that he married. Many tributes extolling his life's work in the church began to appear. St Barnabas' Church at Peria, Northland, was dedicated to his memory, as were memorial stones at Te Kao and Gisborne. In 1914 a stained glass window dedicated to his memory was placed in St Mary's Cathedral, Auckland. Standing just inside the gateway to the Ripeka Tapu Church and cemetery at Waiparera is an imposing four-metre-tall monument, comprising an obelisk of brown-flecked marble supporting a white marble angel. The east-facing side contains Papahia's epitaph, the north depicts his church career. Papahia's epitaph, in poetic Maori, eulogises his standing as spiritual leader and churchman in his own Maori community. Bishop Cowie wrote of Papahia in 1892: 'He is most humble, is a man of stainless life and of entire devotion to his calling.'

How to cite this page:

Wiritai Toi. 'Papahia, Hone Tana', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 11 August 2020)