New short film honours return of Northland chief Te Pahi's medal

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

Ko Te Hokinga Mai o te Taonga Nui me te Mauri o Te Pahi is a new short film that documents the return of Bay of Island chief Te Pahi's silver medal from Australia. The medal was gifted to the senior Northland chief by New South Wales Governor Phillip King in 1806.

The Tippahee silver medal symbolised the mutual respect and trade relationship between two leaders who lived on either side of the Tasman sea.

Hugh Rihari (Ngāti Torehina) says, “The medal was a gift by the governor of NSW for his trading contribution who had assisted other whalers who came to Rangihoua seeking water and a place at the beginning of the 'industrial revolution.”

Te Pahi was a successful trader, handsome and described as herculean, who stood over 6'0" ft tall.  He sought cultural and technological exchange with the New South Wales Governor King in 1806.

Direct descendant, Deidre Brown says, “The film serves many purposes. It explains the story of the repatriation of this particular taonga.  It also shows us some of the key actors within that and also the connections between Māori living in Australia and Māori living in New Zealand.”

The Te Pahi silver medal was returned to Aotearoa three years ago, after a successful joint bid by Tamaki Paenga Hira and Te Papa Tongarewa museums, when it was offered for auction having been in a private collection in Australia.

Te Pahi returned home in 1806.  Our theory is that this medal was stolen when whalers wrongfully sacked Te Pahi's Pā and killed his people.  The medal was lost we believe they were taken at that time.

The gifted medal is under a shared guardianship relationship between the two Museums and descendants of the Māori chief.

Brown says, “It's bought Ngātirua, Ngāti Torehina together, it's bought our groups together with the museums, Auckland museum and Te Papa.” 

The short documentary film will screen at Auckland and Te Papa museum and will be available online to watch soon.