66 | Te Rauparaha Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023

66 | Te Rauparaha Greatest Kiwi of All Time 2023

Greatest Kiwi Of All Time: No. 66 - Te Rauparaha (Up 4 from 70 last year)

Ka Mate. Our most famous haka.  A celebration of life over death.  It’s composer, Māori rangatira and Ngāti Toa war leader, Te Rauparaha.

Born around 1768, probably around Kāwhia in the Waikato, Te Rauparaha was a boy when Captain James Cook arrived in New Zealand.  Although not of the highest rank, he would rise to the leadership of Ngāti Toa because of his prowess in battle.  His name came from an edible plant called rauparaha.  

In the late 1700’s, his iwi was regularly at war with other Waikato iwi over land.  War would get particularly vicious whenever a chief was insulted or killed.  Te Rauparaha became involved in many of these disputes.  He would lead a fighting retreat down the North Island, eventually so far south his men would take over the southern part of the North Island, including Kapiti Island - a strategic asset.

A group of 3,000 warriors would march on Te Rauparaha and his men with the object of taking Kapiti Island.  Crossing in waka at dark, they were slaughtered due to the difficult terrain, weather and Te Rauparaha’s leadership.

Te Rauparaha would now set his sights on the South Island.  He would seize greenstone and extend Ngāti Toa’s reach to the northern part of the mainland.

Over this period, whalers would be established in the region.  Māori would wed Pākēha and trade muskets and other supplies.  His daughter would marry a whaling captain, and Te Rauparaha would hire British ships to help expand his territory - notably taking over the ship Elizabeth to send 100 warriors to attack Ngāi Tahu at Akaroa.

Te Rauparaha would sign a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi on 14th May 1840.  He assumed the Treaty would ensure he retained the territories he had conquered the previous 18 years.

Te Rauparaha became concerned with the flood of British settlers and wouldn’t sell any more of his land.  This led to a party from Nelson attempting to arrest Te Rauparaha.  22 of them would be killed.

Then, in 1846 fighting broke out between settlers and Te Rauparaha’s whanau.  

Despite maintaining his neutrality, Te Rauparaha was arrested and exiled to Auckland.  Realising that Te Rauparaha was old and sick, Governor George Grey allowed him to return to Ōtaki in 1848 after giving up his claims to land in the Wairau Valley.

When back in Ōtaki, Te Rauparaha helped build the Rangiātea church for his local pā.  He would die in November 1849.

A fierce warrior, leader in the Musket Wars, and an influential party in the sale of land to the government, he was right there at the dawn of what we now call New Zealand.  Te Rauparaha, one of Today FM’s Greatest Kiwis of All Time.