Monday, 1 July 2013


Hikairo II was followed by his son Whakamarurangi who was followed by Te Akerautangi. The next Ngati Hikairo chief is Pohepohe. Pohepohe lived at Kawhia during the days of the wars against the British. He was particularly concerned at the loss of Hikairo land to the settlers, so much so that he went to fight the British at Taranaki where the Maoris there took up arms against the sale of their land. The following document is a word-for-word copy of a speech by Mac Bell to the Waitangi tribunal in march, 2013. He was asked to be a keynote speaker in the presence of crown lawyers and hundreds of people. It was a daunting task but the speech he delivered was both spectacular in the way it told the Hikairo story and inspiring in its delivery. He was congratulated by all for the succinctness of his account. The Tribunal hearing was in response to the Hikairo desire to be properly recognised as an independent tribe and not as a subordinate of Ngati Maniapoto. It was also a lead into future land claims. He said later that it was one the greatest things he has done in his life, not for the land claims or Ngati Hikairo's share of compensation monies, but because he was able to tell our story and put the history straight. The following speech is a must-read  for any whanau wanting to know the full story (korero) of Ngati Hikairo during the land wars period.



Pohepohe, son of the Kawhia chief Te Akerautangi, lived at Kawhia during the turbulent times of the 1860's when the Maori were clashing with the British over land. With the ever-increasing flow of settlers into the Waikato the Maoris found their lands disappearing from under them. The government, under pressure to supply land for farms and settlements became increasingly aggressive in their appropriation of Maori land. Pohepohe was among those who actively opposed the government, to the point of taking up arms and joining the fight against the British in the land war at Taranaki.


Mac Bell, our family historian and kaumatua (elder) gave an excellent and historic speech to the Waitangi Tribunal on 25 March 2013.  This speech was given primarily as evidence of the Crown's unjustified confiscation of our tribal lands. However, it also contains an excellent account of Pohepohe. I have included the speech in its entirety because not only is it is packed with information about our tupuna (Pohepohe and others) but as time goes by it will be of significant historical, political and cultural importance with regard to further land claims on behalf of Ngati Hikairo.  




WAI 2351

WAI 1112

WAI 1113

IN THE MATTER of the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 (as


AND Claims in the King Country Inquiry consolidated

under Wai 898

AND the Wai 2351 claim by Frank Thorne on behalf of

himself and for the benefit of Ngati Hikairo

AND the Wai 1112 claim by MANIHERA FORBES and

MERE GILMORE on behalf of themselves and

Ngāti Hikairo

AND the Wai 1113 claim by MANIHERA FORBES and

MERE GILMORE on behalf of themselves and

Ngāti Hikairo



Dated this 25th day of March 2013



P O BOX 461

DX CP 20503


PHONE: (09) 379 5026 FAX: (09) 377 6553

SOLICITOR: Dominic G S Wilson




My name is Pohepohe Mac Bell. I’m generally known as

Mac Bell.(also known as Peter McGruther Bell)

I give this brief of evidence as a kaumātua of

Ngāti Hikairo.

I am retired farmer and live in Pirongia. I have lived here

all my life. I am a tohunga whakairo and am proud to

have been one of the founders of Te Wananga o


My evidence is about the participation of my tūpuna in

the Taranaki and Waikato wars. I want also to provide

this Tribunal with evidence about how complex the

politics of the war times were. Our whānau had to make

tough decisions to survive.

In some ways our whānau kōrero is not fulsome. When

we asked our grandparents about our tūpuna and the

land wars they tended to clam up and didn’t want to talk,

despite our persistent questioning. This was a Christian

ethic in that generation where there were painful things

you were best not to talk about. My parents were similar

about World War II.

We did learn a bit about which tūpuna fought and some

broad kōrero. Much of this evidence comes from my

discussions with Paddy Turnbull, a tribal scholar. He

took me under his wing and told me a number of matters

about Ngāti Hikairo and our histories. He told me some

things about my tūpuna’s involvement in the land wars

and I will recount some of that here.



Some our people fought in the wars in Taranaki from

about 1860. They went to the wars to support their

relations, but most of all I think they joined as they could

see the wider politics of what was happening. They

could see the Pākehā trying to get the Māori land and

felt sympathy for their Taranaki relations losing their

lands. I believe they saw that their lands were next in

line and they had to stop the spread of the Pākehā.

It had been a time when the iwi had experienced

positives and negatives along with Pākehā settlers. In

the early times we had good trade and sharing of

knowledge, but our people began to see the land being

taken and we saw the vice of alcohol entering our


I will talk of my tūpuna Pohepohe Te Ake and Toataua

Te Ake at Taranaki. They were brothers, sons of the

chief Te Akerautangi.

I remember seeing Pohepohe’s musket with whānau

some years back and have a photo somewhere. It had

a star carved in the butt. It had been hidden in Kawhia

after Pohepohe returned from Taranaki. It is a

significant taonga to the whānau as we know some

kōrero surrounding it. At a battle in Taranaki Pohepohe

was part of the last contingent surviving and was

retreating. With ammunition exhausted he used his

musket as a taiaha and managed to escape. In

recognition of that event he gave his wife the name Karo

tepenete – Parry the Bayonet. She is more commonly

known as Karopeneti.

When Pohepohe returned he came some hours ahead

of his brother Toataua. Back in Kawhia Pohepohe went

to Toataua’s whānau to let them know that Toataua was

well and was on his way some hours behind. He arrived

to find the tangi of Toataua’s wife was happening. It had

been going for over four days and nights. Pohepohe

requested the whānau to keep the tangi going as

Toataua was to arrive shortly. Toataua arrived at

Kāwhia and swam across the harbour from pipi bed to

pipi bed to arrive home to the tangi. The tangi had been

going for five days and five nights when Toataua

reached his whānau. In commemoration of Toataua’s

efforts in the wars in Taranaki and to memorialise the

tangi, his whānau changed Toataua’s name to Pōrima - meaning five nights.

This is now a well-known name among the Ngāti Hikairo




When the Crown forces saw our Ngāti Hikairo at

Rangiriri I think they felt more disposed to killing. Ngāti

Hikairo already had a warlike reputation from their

fighting in Taranaki. I was told that the Crown forces

definitely considered that Ngāti Hikairo were dangerous

and should be killed because they had fought in


Our whānau kōrero is that Te Akerautangi and his sons

Pohepohe and Toataua all fought at Rangiriri. We are

not certain, but there is kōrero that Te Akerautangi was

captured and held prisoner on a ship off Kawau Island

and then escaped.



My tūpuna lived at Waiari. It was an ancient pā for Ngāti

Hikairo. They lived alongside Ngāti Puhiawe and the

whakapapa lines became merged there.

When the fighting occurred at Waiari a number of Ngāti

Hikairo fought. I believe my Tupuna Te Akerautangi

(also known as Te Whakaea, Wiremu Te Akerautangi,

or Wiremu Te Ake Kārewa) fought there. He was quite

old at that stage but still fought alongside his two sons

Pohepohe Te Ake, and Toataua Te Ake. Te Mūnu

Waitai and his daughter Rangiāho Waitai were also

there (and they also fought at Pāterangi).

The fighting was not at all easy. They were short on

everything. Our kōrero is that they were short on food

and ammunition and were ultimately outnumbered. I

understand this was a pattern for all of the land wars for

our people.

We have kōrero that they were using stones and even

wood pieces in their muskets. We also understand that

there was a mix of fighting skills among the persons who

were present. A number were not tested warriors at all.

Pohepohe and Toataua also fought at Hairini.



In my view the confiscation took the best quality lands

from Ngāti Hikairo and other iwi of Te Rohe Pōtae. I

have farmed for many years at Waimiha, Pārāwera,

Mangati, Pirongia, and Waiari and have some

knowledge about the quality of lands for farming and

horticulture. Much of the lands that were confiscated in

the south of the district were the most fertile and rich in

the Waikato region. Our farm at Waiari was only about

60 acres, and it was difficult to manage such a small lot,

but it was really good land. The loss of such lands was

a huge loss to Ngāti Hikairo and the other iwi and hapū

of Te Rohe Pōtae.

Today our whānau have no lands outside of Kāwhia

moana. I don’t believe our tūpuna were awarded any

lands from within the confiscation district. When I

farmed in Waiari it was on land I had to purchase myself.

So it is confiscated and then you have to buy it back.

The impacts of the confiscation were absolutely

disastrous on our people. Many researchers have

discussed the matter of “urban drift” as a key cause of

problems within Maoridom, but in my view some of the

worst situations for Ngāti Hikairo, and other iwi of Te

Rohe Pōtae, had existed well before those times. The

confiscation saw lots of our people focused in little areas

which were absolute hell-holes. Numerous whānau

were crammed into kainga surviving on small stretches

of river ways. There was drinking and many associated

problems. Our culture was slipping away. It was hell for

some whānau. I am sorry to say that Te Whatiwhatihoe

was such a hell-hole for a period.

The generations after the confiscation worked hard with

what little they had. Still our whānau were always

struggling in poor housing and without running water.

Many resorted to stealing to keep up and this became a

way of life. I really do believe that the loss of land was a

key source of these troubles.


The Land Wars: A time of confusion and contradictions

It is well known that Ngāti Hikairo was divided during the

times of the land wars. We were quite split up. Our

people have seen statements that factions of Ngāti

Hikairo were “rebels” and factions were “loyalists”. It is

so much more complex than that.

It is true that a number of whānau and individuals took

quite different positions about the land wars. Some

fought against the Crown forces, some left the area,

some remained in the region but didn’t fight, and some

sought to show support for the Crown and Māori.

In our iwi kōrero we know of no Ngāti Hikairo who fought

for the Crown against Māori during the land wars. Some

persons did provide assistance with diplomacy or acted

as guides to the Crown.

My evidence to this Tribunal is that there was so much

pressure on our people that the iwi didn’t act as one

during the land wars. The pressure forced some

individuals and whānau to make their own decisions

about what they needed to do to survive.

Many of our whānau were seriously tested during the

wars. I think a number of factors worked against us.

Our rohe included some of the very desirable and fertile

lands from Pirongia maunga to the east and north. We

occupied Kāwhia Moana which was a transport and

trading hub and which was rich in marine resources.

We experienced some of the earliest interaction with

Pākehā at Kāwhia. I think the Crown forces advanced

relatively quickly to the south in 1863 and our kōrero is

that some within Ngāti Hikairo started to fear the worst

from an early time. Indeed some of the iwi had seen

first-hand what the Crown was capable of in the wars in

Taranaki. I think all these factors were part of a

pressure that the Crown exerted and applied on us.

Our customary ways were all about sticking together.

The first reaction was to fight together, but we began to

find that we could not drive Pākehā into the sea. In fact

they seemed to be growing in numbers after the wars in

Taranaki began. Our people had to make decisions as

a matter of survival and tikanga was tested.

Some of our whānau decided that to survive they should

fight the Crown forces. Others decided that survival

required some sort of support for both the Crown and

Māori. I say support for both Crown and Māori as the

question is not clear cut. It wasn’t a case of Māori being

against Māori but more a situation where some whānau

saw their fate as Māori hinging upon their relationships

with both Māori and Pākehā.

Some among Māori call those who fought with the

Crown “Kūpapa”. The term is nearly always derogatory.

It is sometimes applied to any Māori who chose not to

fight against the Crown forces and sought to remain

somewhat neutral. Again, the term is usually derogatory

even when used this way.

I understand that Kūpapa means to be neutral in an

argument. In fact, Kūpapa can mean a person who

actively tries to peacefully resolve an argument. I

understand the term can therefore be either positive or

derogatory. In our kōrero the term Kūpapa comes from

“Kū” - a pigeon. In Christian thought the dove

represented peace. This was the positive meaning.

However, when a pigeon became fat we considered that

it had become fat by cooperating with the enemy. This

was the derogatory thinking behind the term.

The tupuna of my whānau chose to fight against the

Crown forces. I know of some Ngāti Hikairo whānau

who chose to keep a relationship with the Crown and

Māori. I think most of those who kept a good

relationship with the Crown acted as intermediaries

between the warring parties and tried to broker peace. I

would like to hope that today they can be looked at as

neutral brokers of peace – using the more positive

meaning of Kūpapa.

I have headed this section of my evidence “a time of

confusion and contradictions”. I would like to give some

examples why simple terms like “rebel”, “loyalist”, or

“kūpapa” are really meaningless at this time.

For example there was our chief Hōne Te One. He

fought alongside Māori at Taranaki at Māhoetahi

and was injured and captured by Crown forces.

Hōne Te One, along with Te Akerautangi, Kikikoi,

Pikia, Te Au Makoare and other chiefs, placed the

lands of Ngāti Hikairo under the Kīngitanga.

However, when the Crown brought the land wars to

Waikato he chose not to fight with Māori but worked

between the Crown and Māori to broker peace.

Because of his decisions on this issue he was

exiled from Kāwhia to Aotea Moana (to his other

whanau connections) and stayed for the most part

of the wars at Mōtakotako. For parts of the wars he

lived at Pukerimu (a hill between Te Rore and

Pikopiko) right within the war zone and Crown

forces occupied his lands at one stage. While still

at Mōtakotako, Hōne Te One invited Tawhiao to

assure him that Ngāti Hikairo remained in full

support of the Kīngitanga. It was also during his

time at Mōtakotako that Hōne Te One worked with

the Crown building roads in the Aotea harbour

region. Later, it was he, along with Pikia, and Hōne

Wetere, who invited Tawhiao to live at

Whatiwhatihoe – onto lands he had personally been

awarded after the confiscation. He himself lived at

Pirongia at Whatiwhatihoe for some time. So Hōne

Te One did not shrink from fighting for his people,

but later promoted a relationship with the Crown

and Māori which he believed was necessary for

survival. It can be seen that the situation is simply

not clear cut.

Now I think of my tupuna Pohepohe. He fought

against Pākehā in Taranaki and in the Waikato.

Pohepohe hated Pākehā. At Taranaki he fought

against Mr McGruther, a Scottish member of the

Crown’s forces. This same McGruther was later to

marry Pohepohe’s daughter at Kāwhia. Pohepohe

went from a deadly foe to a father-in-law. This is

another example of the times and the contradictions

that it created.

I think also of Rangiāho Waitai, the daughter of Te

Mūnu Waitai. Both her and her father had fought at

Waiari and Pāterangi. Later she joined the whānau

exiled in Mōtakotako and was a wife to Tawhiao.

So, she had consistently fought against the Crown

and was to become a wife of Tawhiao, but she lived

among the exiled Ngāti Hikairo at Mōtakotako.

In the above examples I am trying to show that the

situation on the ground was complicated. Simple

explanations don’t explain the complicated layers of

customary relationships coupled with war and rapid

change. It is therefore difficult to brand any particular

whānau of any iwi with a label.

One label that was branded against Ngāti Hikairo as a

whole was “rebel”. I’m told our iwi was listed as a rebel

iwi by the Crown at the end of the wars. In those

turbulent times you did what you could to survive, but

above all you defended yourself from the Crown’s

invasion. We fought to defend not to rebel.



My tūpuna fought against the Crown and lost life and

property. Some of our Ngāti Hikairo whānau chose a

different path for their survival. It was a complicated

time of change and the Crown created various

pressures. Ultimately, we all suffered through the wars

and confiscation. Many years after the wars and

confiscation I believe our people continue to suffer

today. It is not just the land loss. Our people still hold

the pain of the wars on their shoulders.

Our iwi lost its very best lands. In the grand scheme of

things we did not lose a huge quantity of land, but we

lost our best quality lands. I know this applies to Ngāti

Apakura and Ngāti Maniapoto hapū along with Ngāti


I’m told there are a few small blocks of Ngāti Hikairo

land remaining within the confiscation district around

Pirongia Maunga. I don’t believe that any of our whānau

have any lands at all in this area. All we have are small

plots our lucky few have been able to buy back on the

open market. We now only have whānau land in

Kāwhia Moana (and much of those lands are the subject

of perpetual leases to others).





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