Tāmihana’s peace covenant 155 years on


On this day, May 27, 1865, Wiremu Tāmihana Tarapīpipi Te Waharoa laid down his taiaha before British Brigadier General G. J. Carey at Tamahere.

It was Tamihana’s ‘te maungarongo’ (covenant of peace) and like so much of the legendary Ngati Haua leader’s peaceful efforts it was misinterpreted.

Wiremu Tāmihana Tarapīpipi Te Waharoa is depicted laying down his taiaha before British Brigadier General G. J. Carey at Tamahere on May 27, 1865.
(Image: Archives NZ)

The scene that played out on land now bordering Bruntwood Rd (where there is a commemorative signboard) was captured by an unknown artist, whose descriptive drawing is now held by Archives NZ.

After years of warfare between the colonial government and Māori forces fighting for sovereignty and land, Tamihana’s peaceful effort was a powerfully-symbolic act.

“Among Pākehā this act was described as a surrender,” writes historian Evelyn Stokes, but “Tāmihana described it in a letter to [Governor George] Grey as ‘te maungarongo’ (the covenant of peace), indicating that arms had been laid down on both sides.”

As NZHistory notes, Tāmihana became concerned at growing European encroachment, land purchases and the government’s failure to support Māori social and political structures. He believed that a pan-tribal movement would not only provide protection against European settlement but also develop its own system of laws and maintain peace among the tribes.

Tāmihana took a leading role in the formation of the King Movement and the election of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero as the first Māori King. Accordingly, he became known as ‘Kingmaker’. When Te Wherowhero was confirmed as king in May 1859, Tāmihana placed a Bible over his head. Tāmihana’s descendants still perform this ritual when Māori monarchs are crowned.

When war broke out in Taranaki in 1860 he acted as mediator. But the government remained suspicious of his motives and hostile to the Kīngitanga, and 1863 Governor George Grey ordered a British army to cross the Mangatāwhiri River and invade the lands of the Kīngitanga.

The lead up to the scene shown above included correspondence between Tamihana and government officials, and a letter from Grey in January 1865 that suggested a meeting, which was not immediately arranged. In April, Tāmihana submitted a petition to Parliament outlining a Māori view of the causes of the war, and seeking redress for the confiscations. There was no immediate response, but in May Tāmihana followed up earlier moves to meet Brigadier General G. J. Carey.

Sadly, during his work to smooth out the peace process after May 27, Tāmihana died (on December 27, 1866). He was “a man of peace forced into war.”

Read more about Tamahere’s major historic figure here and here.

4 thoughts on “Tāmihana’s peace covenant 155 years on

  • May 28, 2020 at 10:52 am

    I got in touch with the Historic Places Trust about this a couple of weeks ago. They said it is in process

    • June 4, 2020 at 11:18 am

      Do you have a contact at the Historic Places Trust? If so would appreciate it as we would like to make a contribution if there is to be a better recognition of the event. Philip and Jenny Moon

  • May 28, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Fascinating history and well written. Interesting to learn more about the local area. THANKS

  • May 28, 2020 at 9:36 am

    The display board on Bruntwood Road is in a poor condition and the roadside an unkempt dumping ground for fast food containers. The board needs to be replaced with something that better symbolises this significant historical moment and meaning. Philip Moon


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