Community Contributed

Nepia Taratoa

Kete Horowhenua2020-03-23T16:51:34+00:00
Taratoa made his home at Maramahoea, a village on the south bank of the Rangitikei River opposite Parewanui and 4 or 5 miles from the river mouth.
Date of death1863
Taratoa was the youngest of three brothers, the older brothers being Maukiringutu and Ngawaka Taiaho. He was a nephew of Te Rauparaha and came south with Te Whatanui and others of the Ngati Raukawa tribe in the “Heke Kariritahi” (great migration) about 1827.

At a meeting at Kapiti, Te Rauparaha, chief of the Ngati Toa, proclaimed to the assembled people the districts which were to be their future homes. The country around Lake Horowhenua went to Te Whatanui and his people. The lower Manawatu was to be occupied by a section of Ngati Rauakwa under Te Whetu and higher up, Rangitikei, became the domain of Taratoa. Although it has been said that this land had not actually been taken by conquest, Ngati Toa traditions tell of fighting in 1818/19 at Purua, south of Wanganui, and of at least one hundred being killed, including the chief, Te Tihi. The expedition came on to Turakina and Rangitikei, with at least another hundred being killed, among them the local chiefs Te Aokehu, Te Kotirioterangi and Rutea. Among the prisoners were Te Pikinga, whom they found to be a woman of rank in the Ngati Apa tribe and her brother, Arapata.

Te Pikinga provided Ngati Toa with the opportunity to negotiate another Maori custom. They needed people to retain for them that which they had just acquired. Te Rangihaeata of Ngati Toa decided he would take Te Pikinga as his wife and that if her tribe and his could reach agreement on the question, then the marriage would have honourable status, her brother would be spared and fighting would cease between them. Arapata was released to go back to his people to begin negotiations, which when finally completed, included a block of greenstone called Te Whakahiamoe from Te Pikinga and her people to Te Rangihaeata. Without all these negotiations it would have been correct for Ngati Apa, at some future date, to seek revenge. However a Chieftainess and her brother had been spared and the authority over the land, according to Maori custom, remained with the conqueror. The marriage and the peace agreed to remained for some years, however incidents did occur and later we find Ngati Apa taking part in battles against the Ngati Toa. There were also fights between Ngati Apa and Ngati Raukawa, Taratoa’s people, but history has correctly recorded Nepia Taratoa as the most important chief of the area.

Many of the Ngati Raukawa claimed a Ngati Raukawa presence in the 1818/19 conquest in the persons of Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata since their mother and grandmother respectively belonged to the Ngati Raukawa and Te Rauparaha had the authority of their deceased chief, Hape.

Taratoa made his home at Maramahoea, a village on the south bank of the Rangitikei River opposite Parewanui and 4 or 5 miles from the river mouth. His wife was Pareautohe and his children Pataka, Nepia, Erenora and Atareti. From all accounts Taratoa was on good terms with Ihakara, Te Whatanui and even the fiery Rangihaeatea as well as Octavious Hadfield, Richard Taylor and James Duncan.

In one of Duncan’s letters written in September, 1849 and printed in “Scottish Presbyterian” he says “During part of the winter, from the state of the roads and the river, which rendered travelling impractible to me, I was prevented from visiting stations at a distance. I was, however, fully employed at Te Awahou. The natives here have of late kept more constantly together than they were wont to do, and the daily classes for instructions were regularly well attended. The average number at the morning school was about 80. As usual it was held at the pa, immediately after morning prayers. The reading of a chapter, by the testament classes, on which they are afterwards examined, occupies about three-quarters of an hour, about the same time is afterwards taken up with writing and arithmetic. The day school for youth and children succeeds well. It is held in a native building adjoining my dwelling house, and is continued about two hours daily, Saturdays excepted. About forty have given a very regular attendance, and their steady progress has been very satisfactory. It is pleasing to have to add that the instructions they are receiving seem to be producing a good effect upon their general conduct. Taratoa, the most influential chief on the river, though generally residing with his family about sixteen miles from this, has sent one of his daughters to live here for the purpose of attending the school, and there is a prospect of others joining us.” This daughter may have been Erenora.

At the beginning of 1850, Duncan, in a letter to Donald McLean says that Taratoa has been very ill but is now recovered and has been living at Te Awahou for six weeks and intends to spend most of his time here in future.

However in 1853, Richard Taylor baptised Taratoa back at his village Maramahoea. He was given the baptismal name of “Napier” probably after Sir Charles Napier, a famous British soldier in India who died in 1853. The township of Napier was also named after him. As a young man Taratoa was well known as a warrior and this was a suitable name for him. His son Nepia’s other name “Winiata” probably came as a baptismal name after Lt. Colonel Robert Henry Wynyard, Officer Commanding the 58th Regiment and Commander of the Military Forces from 1851-58. Wynard took a prominent part in the war against Hone Heke (1845-46) and was also Acting Governor of New Zealand (1854-55) during which time he opened New Zealand’s first Parliament. He spent most of his time in Auckland but his name would have been well-known throughout the country and would have been an appropriate baptismal name for the son of a powerful chief such as Nepia Taratoa.

Duncan was not happy about Taratoa’s baptism as he felt that he was not yet fully committed to Christanity.

Taratoa’s eldest son, Pataka had a son, Pationa, who is buried behind All Saints Church. The inscription on the stone states that he was the son of Taratoa but it seems he was a grandson – maybe raised by Taratoa. Pationa was also known as Wiremu Hukiki. Although Pationa is said to have been only 19 years old when he died of consumption, he was married to Nga Reta.

Erenora, through her liaison with pakeha, Tarahi (George Enoch Trask) had a son whom she named Winiata Pataka. He is the founder of the well known and respected Winiata family of Horowhenua. Taratoa refused to allow Erenora to marry Trask. George Enoch Trask was a baker by trade and could have been employed at T.U. Cook’s hotel. When Cook applied for a licence for his hotel he stated “I have a baker on the premises constantly employed in baking biscuits, bread etc.” Thomas Cook had a Maori wife, Meretini, and the hotel was a great meeting place for the Maori people for both trading and recreation. Trask could well have met Erenora here. Erenora was a beautiful woman, courted by Maori and European alike but other young Maori woman were very jealous of her and made disparaging remarks about her. This is when she wrote the action song which begins “Swing afar off my poi”.

Over the years the Ngati Raukawa were remarkably generous to the dispossessed tribes of the district and even allowed the Ngatiapa in 1849, to sell to the Crown the land between Rangitikei and Wanganui. The Ngati Raukawa did not share in the payment. The Ngati Raukawa, in a similar generous act conceded the Ahuaturanga Block in Upper Manawatu to the Rangitane people. Shortly before Taratoa died in 1863 (at an estimated age of 70) he paid to the Ngatiapa and Rangitane tribes a share of lease money he had received from land south of the Rangitikei River. This was a mistaken gesture as, after Taratoa died, these tribes claimed ownership of the land and this led to much bitterness and almost bloodshed. Eventually after several years of claims and threats, the tribes concerned, agreed that the only way to settle matters was to sell the Manawatu-Rangitikei land to the Crown.

Special thanks to Mr Iwi Nicholson for corrections and additional information for this article.