The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on the northern side of the Tukituki river mouth was an important signal to Hawke’s Bay Maori still living in self-imposed exile at Mahia Peninsula that it was now safe to begin the slow return home.
The region had been under attack from neighbouring tribes during the Musket Wars and with Hawke’s Bay iwi and hapu (sub-tribal groups) late to embrace musket power, most believed the safest option was to accept the offer of protection from famed Ngapuhi chief Wera Hauraki at Nukutaurua.
On 20 June 1840, the S.S. Resolution, on its way north after obtaining treaty signatures in Waipounamu (the South Island), entered the Tukituki River mouth, which at the time opened up into a large lagoon, and anchored for three days close to Waipureku pa (East Clive).
Aboard were Major Thomas Bunbury and Edward Williams and the son of Church Missionary Society (CMS) head Henry Williams who helped translate the Treaty into the Maori language.
Chiefs who gathered to add their names to the document included Harawira Te Mahikai of Waimarama, Hoani Waikato of Ngati Whatu-i-apiti, Matenga Tukareaho of Nuhaka and Heretaunga chiefs Te Tore of Petane, Rawiri Paturoa and his brother Wiremu Te Ota of Ngati Upokoiri who had been living in the Manawatu.
Major Bunbury was determined to get one more signature; that of Ngati Whatu-i-apiti chief Te Hapuku who had previously signed the Declaration of Independence while visiting the Bay of Islands on 25 September 1839.
Te Hapuku had heard Ngapuhi were now slaves because of the Treaty, so Bunbury and Williams had their work cut out to counter his fears, with help from Hara, who had already signed in the Bay of Islands. Bunbury explained to Te Hapuku that Queen Victoria would be placed over all the chiefs:
“...Not for an evil purpose as they supposed but to enable her to enforce the execution of justice and good government equally amongst her subjects. Her authority having been already proclaimed over New Zealand, with the consent of the greatest number of influential chiefs, he [Te Hapuku] would find that the tribes must no longer go to war with each other, but subject their differences to arbitration; strangers and foreigners must no longer be plundered and oppressed by natives or their chiefs, nor them injured or insulted by white men. It was not the object of Her Majesty’s Government to lower the chiefs in the estimation of their tribes.”
Te Hapuku signed on June 23, convinced his mana (prestige and standing) would be increased. Unlike, the signings at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands and at Hokianga, there was no large hui with other Ahuriri and Heretaunga chiefs or any further explanation of the Treaty’s significance.
Protecting Maori interests
One of the major concerns of those looking to return to their traditional lands was the growing number of foreign ships visiting the area and the claim by W.B Rhodes to have purchased much of the region from Wairoa to Wairapapa.
On learning of this audacious assertion senior CMS missionary William Williams, now based at the Turanga mission station (Gisborne) had written to influential contacts within the British Government to have the deal overturned.
He was determined to protect Maori interests in the hope they would live peacefully on their return and be open to hearing more of the Christian message which many had heard for the first time at Nukutaurua, at the mission schools in the Bay of Islands or from Catholic priests who were visiting the East Coast.
Williams had sent one of his principal Maori teachers from Wairoa, Joseph (Hohepa) Kamon, to Ahuriri for two months from June 1840 to see how those who had remained or recently returned were faring.
An interim report on 10 July from the party of Ngati Kahungunu who had accompanied Hohepa, confirmed the people were ready for a missionary presence. Williams had few resources available to him and told the CMS all he needed was two good native teachers and a supply of books.
He promised to visit when the Columbine was next in the area. “A letter from one of the chiefs of the place requests me to send them 1000 books. A party is returning thither shortly to whom I give 7 catechisms and as many slates being all I can provide.”
William Williams and a small party of Maori teachers made a personal visit to Ahuriri in October 1840, where they conducted services at two small settlements, each attended by up to 100 people.
Maori chapel built
Back in Ahuriri to check on progress in November 1842, Williams’ diary states that Maori teachers working among their own people had built a 60 x 30 foot (18 x 12 metres) chapel at Te Awapuni (near the present day Star Compass or Te Atea a Rangi, capable of seating 400 people. On 1 November 1842, he baptised 10 of the 20 who had been under instruction.
Williams was astonished to find that wherever he went he and his teachers were preaching not to the ‘wholly unconverted’ but to people who already possessed rudimentary knowledge of Christianity:
“A great work has been accomplished in which the hand of the Lord has been signally manifest. It has not been through the labour of your missionaries; for the word has only been preached by Native teachers. We had literally stood still to see the salvation of God.”
The chapel at Te Awapuni pa at Waitangi was to become the major assembly place for the returning tribes. It was here the old Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti chief Pareihe, who had earlier forged an alliance with Wera Hauraki to protect the besieged Heretaunga tribes at Nukutauroa, ceremonially restoring mana to the five principal chiefs Te Moananui, Te Hapuku, Tiakitai, Puhara and Tareha.
It had been agreed among the various tribal leaders that no pa or village (kainga) where blood had been spilled would be reoccupied. Still wary after the Musket War massacres they generally chose coastal sites, remaining in close proximity to each other.
The principle settlement was established by Pareihe at Te Awapuni, north of the Ngaruroro River mouth at Waitangi; to their south Kurupo Te Moananui and Ngati Hawea established themselves at Waipureku (East Clive) and Te Hapuku at Whakatu. Tareha settled at Awatoto, although by the mid-1850s he had moved to Pa Whakairo at Waiohiki. Ngai Te Upokoiri settled at Omahu under their leader, the Christian teacher Renata Kawepo, on his return to the district.
Ngati Hinepare and Ngati Mahu moved to Te Poraiti and Wharerangi and those hapu who had previously occupied the island pa at the northern end of Te Whanganui-a-Orotu (Ahuriri harbour) moved further north to the present day Esk River mouth and Petane on the north side
Pereihi, who died in August 1843, had been party to the agreement that the first permanent European residents, missionaries William and Elizabeth Colenso would occupy neutral ground between the tribal territories. The Colensos took up their swampy residence at Waitangi in December 1844.
Initially the chiefs were far more interested in economic activities such as dressing flax to buy muskets for protection than hearing his Christian message. Within months Tiakitai had returned to Waimarama, providing another signal for people to return to their homelands further down the coast including Porangahau.
The impact of the Treaty of Waitangi may not have been evident immediately but the pre-emption clause, meaning all sales of Maori land must go through the Crown first, meant existing ‘sales’ would be investigated.
The Treaty however set the tone for the many contentious deals that still lay ahead. Pastoralists looking for fresh open spaces to lease or own to graze their sheep and cattle had a keen eye on Hawke’s Bay.
Maori, well aware the world around them was rapidly changing, continued to supply treated flax, pigs, potatoes, and other provisions to visiting European ships in exchange for a widening range of trade goods, including firearms for their protection.
The various hapu returning to the work of harvesting flax from swamp areas, working cultivations for new crops and seasonal fishing and hunting expeditions, cautiously observed the growing intrusion of traders and whalers, aware of both the threats and opportunities that accompanied land acquisition.
Pat Parsons giving evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal D4:19; further comments from Parsons July 2017 bus tour
Orange, C. The Treaty of Waitangi, pp.81-82. Waitangi Tribunal Reports Wai201, Hawke’s Bay the land and its people footnote 54 (www.justice.govt.nz)
Williams, W. The Turanga Journals - 1840 Letters and Journals, p119
HB Today, March 2012
Joseph Angus Mackay, Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z, Joseph Angus Mackay, 1949, Gisborne, p165