The story of Tītokowaru 1868-69

A DigitalNZ Story by National Library of New Zealand Topics

Ngā Ruahine leader Riwha Tītokowaru is known as one of Aotearoa New Zealand's best military leaders. In the South Taranaki campaign (fought over the confiscation of land) between 1868-69, he never lost a battle. SCIS no. 1966268

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- Tītokowaru's war

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Tītokowaru

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Report of Tītokowaru meeting at Waihī

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Normanby NZ Wars memorial

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Tītokowaru's war begins

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Battle of Moturoa

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Moturoa battle plan

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Tutange Waionui

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Story: Titokowaru, Riwha -

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Titokowaru

Puke Ariki

Titokowaru's dilemma

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

New Zealand Wars

Services to Schools

EPIC

Services to Schools

Tauranga-ika pā

Artist Alfred Woolnoth captured this scene from outside Tauranga-ika pā. The empty pā can only mean that it had just been abandoned by Tītokowaru and his supporters on 3 February 1869. The pā was a masterpiece of construction. Each of the four concave sides had a strong point, while a maze of trenches and bomb-proof shelters made it easy for men to move around it. Was it fear, adultery or war-weariness that caused Tītokowaru and his warriors to abandon the pā? These are some questions historians have debated over many years. The conflict at Tauranga-ika pā ended Tītokowaru’s campaign in South Taranaki.

Woolnoth, Alfred, 1849- ca 1897: Taurangahika Pah

Alexander Turnbull Library

Thomas McDonnell was prominent in Tītokowaru’s 1868-69 campaign. He attacked Tītokowaru’s stronghold in Te Ngutu-o-te-Manu three times without success and blamed his subordinates for his defeat. McDonnell was then replaced by his rival George Whitmore. In anger, he wrote recriminatory letters to the Government, for which he was dismissed on 14 October 1868. In December he apologised to the government and returned to the war against Tītokowaru, this time as a subordinate to Whitmore. But success was not to be. He suffered yet another defeat in February 1868 and McDonnell resigned on 18 February 1869.

Colonel Thomas McDonnell

Alexander Turnbull Library

I shall not die

This 3-page letter was written by Tītokowaru in 1868 in part to strike fear in the minds of the local settlers. Tītokowaru proclaiming to have developed a craving for human flesh was a warning to the settlers they may end up in his cooking pot. He mentions that he has already eaten Pākehā Trooper Smith. However, Tītokowaru was a very religious man and not a cannibal. This would have gone against his mana. This letter, however, allowed the colonial press to declare him and his supporters as ‘fiends in human shape’.

Page one of letter from Riwha Titokowaru to his tribe ("I shall not die")

Alexander Turnbull Library

Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui, was also known as Te Keepa, or Major Kemp. Kemp and his men were active in the campaign against Tītokowaru, who seemed to be winning the war against the settlers in South Taranaki. The turning point in the war came when Tauranga-ika pā was abandoned. Te Keepa and his group of Māori and Pākehā soldiers were sent in pursuit of Tītokowaru. The chase continued for several weeks through the thick bush but Tītokowaru managed to avoid capture by escaping into the upper Waitara area.

Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui

Alexander Turnbull Library

Ngatau Omahuru also known as William Fox

Dressed formally in an Eton suit and fine boots, this young boy looks somewhat out of place and unhappy with his surroundings. The story goes Ngātau was abducted before the battle of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu by a man called Pirimoana, who was part of the Māori kupapa (Māori who fought for the British). Ngātau spent some time in the Native Hostelry in Wellington before being adopted by Premier William Fox and his wife Sarah. This happened despite his parents being alive. Kidnappings between Māori and Pākehā did occur, as a kind of ‘natural justice’. William Fox grew up to be a law clerk. Many years later he returned to Mawhitiwhiti to reunite with his parents Hinewai and Te Karere.

Portrait of Ngatau Omahuru also known as William Fox

Alexander Turnbull Library