Violent history behind MTG taonga
In the MTG Hawke's Bay collection is a very plain, rather flat hei tiki.
This seemingly unimposing taonga once belonged to Te Rauparaha (Ngati Hikairo and Ngati Toa) from Kawhia – his original hau kainga, place of home.
Te Rauparaha subsequently became the chief of Ngati Toa, when their chief died. There is a carving of Te Rauparaha inside the Ngati Hikairo meeting house at Kawhia, although in his homeland Te Rauparaha, along with his Ngati Toa followers, is not held in high regard due to his warmongering ways.
This hei tiki was with Te Rauparaha when he raided the South Island in the late 1820s and early 1830s, including Akaroa.
In the case of Akaroa, Te Rauparaha had the advantage of the musket against taiaha. He persuaded Captain John Stewart of the merchant brigg (ship) Elizabeth to transport him and his warriors from his home on Kapiti Island to Akaroa to attack Ngai Tahu.
Arriving in Takapuneke Akaroa under the false pretence of trading flax for the Pākehā market, Captain Stewart invited local Ngai Tahu chief Te Tama i Haranui, also known as Te Maiharanui, his wife and their daughter on board ship, only to have Te Rauparaha imprison them.
Te Tama i Haranui killed his daughter and cast her body overboard rather than let her be taken slave by Te Rauparaha.
With the Ngai Tahu chief imprisoned, Te Rauparaha and his warriors went ashore, slaughtering in excess of 450 local Ngai Tahu men, women and children. He had previously massacred 1400 Ngai Tahu on a prior raid south.
Captain Stewart then offered the use of his large whaling pots on board the Elizabeth for Te Rauparaha to cook his victims and feast in celebration of his success.
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Te Rauparaha took Te Tama i Haranui and his wife back to Kapiti Island where they were slowly tortured to death by Tiaia, the wife of a Ngati Toa chief, Te Pehi, who was killed in an earlier skirmish down south when Te Pehi attacked Ngai Tahu.
We also have in our collection a taiaha belonging to Kereopa. Kereopa received his name when baptised a Catholic in the 1840s by Catholic missionary Father Eulogue Reignier who bestowed the biblical name Cleophas on him, which translates into Kereopa.
Kereopa was tried in Napier prison on December 1871 and convicted for the murder of Carl Volkner.
He was hung by the Crown on January 5, 1872 and pardoned by the Crown in 2014 – albeit a bit late. Kereopa's purpose was preaching the bible. He was himself a Pai Marire Hauhau leader. Pai Marire meaning peace and goodwill, and Hauhau the breath of God.
This did not stop Kereopa from eating the eyes of Volkner, however, earning him the name Kai Whatu, eater of eyes.
Kereopa was from Te Arawa Rangiwewehi, Rotorua. However the government, upon the arrest of Kereopa, duly confiscated the land of the Whakatohea people in Ōpōtiki and also Tuhoe, despite Kereopa being totally unrelated and largely unknown to them.
This was the general policy of Donald McClean at the time, under his designation as Chief Land Purchase Commissioner, with the aim to transfer land to Crown ownership.
Both these objects, the hei tiki and taiaha, represent a volatile past. Māori against Māori, Ngati Toa attacking Ngai Tahu, and the British Crown taking land from Māori for settlers. This matches the general attitude of Queen Victoria's time toward the indigenous native globally - they and their possessions are interesting spectacles to be viewed and marvelled at, nothing more.
■ Te Hira Henderson is curator of Taonga Maori at MTG.
Jazz Gala: Gregg Bissonette, Louis Dowdeswell & Glenn Walter in concert with the Rodger Fox Big Band. MTG Century Theatre, Sunday, June 2, at 8pm. Tickets available through Ticketek.
Exhibition Talk. Join social history curator Gail Pope for an insightful tour of House of Webb: A Victorian Family's Journey to Ormondville and learn more about the family and their lives. Tuesday, June 4, 11am-12pm. All welcome, meet in MTG foyer. Free event.
Exhibition Talk. Join social history curator Gail Pope for an in-depth look at Silver: Heirlooms from the Collection. Tuesday, June 4,12.30pm-1pm. All welcome, meet in MTG foyer. Free event.
Workshop: experience the art of poi making and waiata. Local artists and poi makers from Kahurangi Māori Dance Theatre will guide you through the process of making your own poi, and teach a traditional waiata. MTG Education Suite, Saturday, June 8, 10am-12pm. All welcome, please register on Eventfinda. Free event.