Remembering a Māori King born 200 years ago

By Marena Mane

Plans for the commemoration of the birth of Tawhiao, the second Māori King, at Ōrongokoekoeā near Taumarunui are well underway. 

The Kīngitanga’s historian, Rāhui Papa, says it will be a remembrance of a Māori king born 200 years ago.

“This is a commemoration and a memorial to 200 years of probably one of the most enigmatic leaders of the country of his time … the trials and tribulations of raupatu (confiscation), the aspects of the establishment of the Kingitanga, the moving from the feudal, a Māori system into an air of Te Kotahitanga,” he says.

Papa (Waikato-Tainui) says King Tāwhiao was mischievous as a child and was sent away to be raised elsewhere.

“Tāwhiao was a bit of a ratbag; he frequently fell out with his father and so, when Governor George Grey arrived for his first term, he was put on Kawau Island at Grey's house with Te Rauparaha's daughter.”

King Tāwhiao, like his father King Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, made his own statement when he took his mataora.

Leader in  his own right

“The mataora of Tāwhiao was distinctive because it didn't have the cheek areas and according to our old people that was an emblem of his whakapapa (genealogy), of his pedigree and his heritage. He left that out for particular reasons. He didn't want to just be known as the son of Te Wherowhero. He wanted to be known as a leader in his own right.”

King Tāwhiao visited many iwi and hapū throughout his life reinforcing bonds and encouraging mana motuhake - the Kīngitanga - to be self-sufficient in its own territory.

“That's when he said, 'Māku anō e hanga i tōku nei whare.' (I will fashion my own house) and those sorts of tongikura (prophetic saying) have left absolute reminders and obligations on the people of the Kīngitanga, to uphold those worldviews of that time even into a modern context.”

King Tāwhiao died in Pārāwera in August 1894 and was buried on Taupiri maunga.

“Tāwhiao was born in Ōrongokoekoeā in Ngāti Matakore country within the King Country and he passed away at Pārāwera. He was also taken to Mangakawa and to Hukanui before being interred on Taupiri.”