Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 55 (June 1966)
– 62 –


All those interested in Maori history will be glad to know that Tuwharetoa is now available in a second edition. Mr J. Te H. Grace's fine history of Ngati Tuwharetoa of the Taupo district was first published in 1959; the book received a warm welcome from readers, and for some years it has been out of print. This new edition is identical in content and format with the first edition.

Tuwharetoa is a work of very wide scope, for it traces the events of some 600 years, from the coming of the Arawa canoe (regarded as having arrived during the fourteenth century) up to the present day. Since Ngati Tuwharetoa was always a prominent tribe which entered into many alliances with its neighbours, events in these surrounding tribes also enter into the story.

The first of the book's three parts deals with the period up to the end of the seventeenth century. With some of the earliest stories, such as the voyage of the Arawa canoe and the romance of Hinemoa and Tutanekai, the author necessarily covers some rather well-trodden ground, but they are stories which can well stand re-telling.

Mr Grace gives a most interesting account of the powerful tribes which inhabited Taupo and the Bay of Plenty at the time of the ‘fleet’ migration of the fourteenth century:

– 63 –

‘Many writers are of the opinion that these peoples were of a peaceful disposition, not warlike, but almost cringing and servile. The fragments of history and tradition that have been handed down do not support such a reputation. Everywhere the extensive and skilfully constructed fortifications … bear witness to the existence of a spirited people in the generations before the fourteenth century, and … of the menace of war and of the need for defensive measures.’

In the fifteenth century the Taupo area was inhabited by two ancient ‘pre-fleet’ tribes, Ngati Hotu and Ngati Ruakopiri. Despite this early date, and despite the fact that their subsequent defeat made it more difficult to obtain information (for as the author notes, there is very often a reluctance to admit descent from a conquered people), Mr Grace has collected a considerable amount of information concerning these tribes. Here again, we are told, the evidence suggests that Ngati Hotu ‘were a very fierce and warlike people. And that it was only after piecemeal destruction, extending over many generations … that this tribe was conquered.’

Tuwharetoa, the eponymous ancestor of Ngati Tuwharetoa, was a chief of high rank who lived in the Bay of Plenty during the sixteenth century. On his mother's side he traced his descent from the aboriginal tribes of the Bay of Plenty, and on his father's side he was a descendant of Ngatoroirangi, the high priest of the Arawa canoe. The traditions say that he was a man of great physical and intellectual capacities, famous as a warrior and as a man of wise counsel. Mr Grace gives a clear picture of the circumstances which led to Tuwharetoa's sons and their followers moving to the Taupo district, and of the complex series of battles, alliances, feuds and migrations which shaped the history of the tribe.

The second section of the book covers the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century, and tells us much about Ngati Tuwharetoa's relations with the tribes surrounding it. This information is also valuable in helping the reader to see the events described in a wider perspective: the newcomer to tribal history, who at first may feel somewhat overwhelmed by so many names, is likely to find this especially useful.

The third section of Tuwharetoa begins with the story of the introduction of Christianity to Taupo. Mr J. Te H. Grace is a grandson of the Rev. Thomas Samuel Grace, the Anglican missionary who worked among the people of Taupo from 1855 to 1863 (his mother was Rangiamohia Te Herekieke, last of the senior female ariki line of Ngati Tuwharetoa), and in describing the events of this period he is able to quote from family records. There are also interesting chapters on the work of missionaries of other denominations.

There are most informative and thoughtful chapters on the later events of the century, and especially on the Maori King Movement, the wars of the 1860s, and Te Kooti. Finally, there is a discussion of the present situation of Ngati Tuwharetoa.

The book's index is excellent, and there is a useful map—though one or two more maps, showing something of the earlier history of the tribe, would have been of much assistance. There is also a generous selection of photographs, including portraits of such famous figures as the paramount chief Te Heuheu Tukino II, and those of his descendants who have followed him in the role.