Story: Ngawaka, Anaru Iehu

Page 1: Biography

Ngawaka, Anaru Iehu


Te Rarawa leader, Anglican clergyman

This biography, written by Manuka Henare, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.

Anaru Iehu Ngawaka, more popularly known as Naru or Andrew Ngawaka, was born in the Whangape area of north Hokianga, probably in 1872. His father, Iehu Ngawaka, a farmer, and his mother, Nganeko Mare (Murray), later known as Mary Ngahemo Ngawaka, were both of Te Rarawa. Naru was a descendant of Ruanui and Nukutawhiti of the Mamari and Nga-toki-mata-whao-rua canoes. His ancestral lines descended from the marriages of Waimirirangi and Kairewa, and Tarutaru and Te Ruapounamu. These lines connected him to many Northland tribes, including Nga Puhi and Te Aupouri, but he was principally of Te Rarawa. He was kin to the hapu Ngati Hinerakei and Ngai Tumamao, but was most closely associated with Ngati Haua hapu.

On 21 November 1894 at Whangape he married Maraea Wetini of Ngati Whatua from Te Paraki. They were to have eight children. With other elders and rangatira of Ngati Haua, Naru and his father supported education for the children and assisted with the introduction of formal schooling in the Whangape area. They offered land for the schools and buildings and helped in their continuing maintenance.

Naru's interest in land issues probably developed as he travelled with his father, attending Native Land Court hearings from the 1890s. He was the first chairman of the Taitokerau Maori Trust Board and was known for his endeavours to ensure that Maori land was fully used. He stood unsuccessfully in 1914, 1919 and 1922 against Tau Henare, the sitting member of Parliament for Northern Maori.

Naru's public debates on the marae at Waitangi with Apirana Ngata over Treaty of Waitangi issues are legendary. This commitment to the upholding of the 1835 Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand and of the treaty had been instilled in him by his father and ancestors. He was a direct descendant of signatories to both documents, namely Papahia and Te Huhu of Whangape and Nopera Pana-kareao of Kaitaia. Occasionally, he appeared as an expert witness on land claims, and invoked Maori rights and obligations under the treaty.

The influence of Christianity in the region was profound from its formal introduction in 1827. However, the mana and tapu of Naru had such strength that one of his actions compelled some families to reconsider their membership of the Anglican church. In the early 1920s an unintended slight by Naru against a woman of Ngati Haua caused most of the leading families of the hapu to change denominations. In 1923 they crossed the Whangape Harbour to Pawarenga for their baptism into the Catholic church. Despite Naru's attempts to apologise and effect reconciliation, matters could not be reversed.

Under the influence of the Reverend Hone Tana Papahia, Naru was considered for ordination to the Anglican priesthood. He became the first Maori to be ordained deacon without first going to St John's College in Auckland. The ceremony took place on 12 May 1940 at Otiria marae, Moerewa. He was in his late 60s. Frederick Bennett, Anglican bishop of Aotearoa, conducted the service and had persuaded the bishop of Auckland, W. J. Simkin, that the ordination should go ahead. Naru was licensed to minister in the Maori district of Whangape. Simkin did not, however, approve full ordination as a priest. He could not reconcile his views on what he considered to be tohungaism with the Christian priesthood. Naru had no such conflict and practised both Maori and Anglican forms of ministry, including healing. He travelled throughout New Zealand and had visited Ratana pa at its beginnings. Wiremu Ratana wanted him to be a minister of the new Maori church, but Naru declined.

Naru's wife, Maraea, died in 1941 aged 65. On 26 February 1944 at Whangape, Naru married Ngarui Heiwari (also known as Ngahiraka Rapata). He was in his early 70s and she was 62. Naru Ngawaka died at Whangape on 15 August 1964 and was buried there. He was survived by Ngarui, and two daughters and two sons from his first marriage.

Naru was an acknowledged authority on whakapapa, Maori custom, illness and sacred places, the Treaty of Waitangi, and the Bible. He gained a reputation as a brilliant speaker and preacher in both Maori and English. His ability to heal and his gift of foresight are said to have come from his ancestors Tiari, Ere and Iehu. An advocate for the effective use of Maori land, he gained prominence as a champion of Maori rights under the Treaty of Waitangi. Like Ngata, Peter Buck, Te Puea Herangi and Whina Cooper, he was one of the new generation of Maori leaders serving and leading their people into the twentieth century.

How to cite this page:

Manuka Henare. 'Ngawaka, Anaru Iehu', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 August 2020)