Hongi Hika (1772 - 1828) MP

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Birthplace: Te Tahuna, Kaikohe, Northland, New Zealand
Death: Died
Managed by: Jason Scott Wills
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Hongi Hika

Hongi Hika translates to " Fish Smell"

Hongi Hika (c.1772–1828) was a New Zealand Māori rangatira (chief) and war leader of the Ngapuhi iwi (tribe).

Hongi Hika used European weapons to overrun much of northern New Zealand in the first of the Musket Wars. He also encouraged Pākehā (European) settlement, patronised New Zealand's first missionaries, introduced Māori to Western agriculture and helped put Te Reo (the Māori language), into writing. He travelled to England and met King George IV. Hongi Hika's military campaigns, and the other Musket Wars were one of the most important stimuli for the British annexation of New Zealand and subsequent Treaty of Waitangi with Ngapuhi and many other iwi. He was a pivotal figure in the period when Māori history emerged from myth and oral tradition and Pākehā began to settle rather than just visit.

Hongi Hika was born at Kaikohe into one of the chiefly families of the Ngapuhi, being a son of rangatira Te Hotete. Hongi Hika once said he was born in the year explorer Marion du Fresne was killed by Māori—in 1772—though other sources place his birth around 1780. His name can mean fish smell (this does not have an offensive connotation in Māori).

[edit] Early campaigns, 1806–1814

Hongi Hika rose to prominence as a military leader in the Ngapuhi campaign, lead by Pokaia, against the Te Roroa hapu of Ngāti Whātua iwi in 1806–1808. In over 150 years since the Maori first begun sporadic contact with Europeans, firearms had not entered into widespread use. Ngapuhi held trials with small numbers of them in 1808, and Hongi Hika was present later that same year on the first occasion that muskets were used in action by Māori. This was at the battle of Moremonui, and was not a success—the Ngapuhi using them were overrun by the opposing Ngāti Whātua while reloading. Those killed included two of Hongi Hika's brothers and Pokaia, and Hongi Hika and other survivors only escaped by hiding in a swamp until Ngāti Whātua called off the pursuit as an act of mercy.

Within the next four years Hongi Hika became Ngapuhi's war leader, and in 1812 he led a large taua (war party) to the Hokianga against Ngāti Pou who had eaten some of his relations. Despite his earlier experiences he seems to have become convinced of the value of muskets after experimenting with them during this campaign.

[edit] Contact with Europeans and journey to Australia, 1814–1818

Ngapuhi controlled the Bay of Islands, the first point of contact for most Europeans visiting New Zealand in the early 19th century. Hongi Hika protected early missionaries and European seamen and settlers, arguing the benefits of trade. He befriended Thomas Kendall—one of three lay preachers sent by the Church Missionary Society to establish a Christian toehold in New Zealand.

In 1814 Hongi Hika and his uncle Ruatara, the then-leader of the Ngapuhi, visited Sydney, Australia, with Kendall and met the local head of the Church Missionary Society Samuel Marsden. Ruatara and Hongi Hika invited Marsden to establish the first Anglican mission to New Zealand in Ngapuhi territory. Ruatara died the following year, leaving Hongi Hika as protector of the mission. In 1819 he sold land at Kerikeri to the Church Missionary Society. He personally assisted the missionaries developing a written form of te reo. Hongi Hika himself never converted. In later life, in exasperation with teachings of humility and non-violence, he described Christianity as “a religion fit only for slaves”. He protected the Pākehā Māori Thomas Kendall when he effectively “went native”, taking Māori wives and participating in Māori religious ceremonies. Though Hongi Hika encouraged the first missions to New Zealand, virtually no Māori converted to Christianity for a decade; large scale conversion of northern Māori only occurred after his death.

While in Australia Hongi Hika studied European military and agricultural techniques and purchased muskets and ammunition. From 1818 he introduced European agricultural implements and the potato, using slave labour to produce crops for trade.

[edit] Wives

Hongi married the famous, blind Turikatuku, who was an important military advisor for him. He later took her sister Tangiwhare as additional wife. Both bore at least one son and daughter by him. It is uncertain if he had other wives.

[edit] Bay of Plenty campaign, 1818–1819

In 1818 Hongi Hika led one of two Ngapuhi taua against East Cape and Bay of Plenty iwi Ngāti Porou and Ngaiterangi. The taua returned in 1819 carrying nearly 2,000 captured slaves.

[edit] Journey to England, 1819–1821

In 1820 Hongi Hika travelled to England on board the whaling ship New Zealander. He spent 5 months in London and Cambridge where his mokoed visage made him something of a sensation. During the trip he met King George IV who presented him with a suit of armour. He continued his linguistic work, assisting professor Samuel Lee who was writing the first Māori–English dictionary. Written Māori maintains a northern feel to this day as a result—for example the sound usually pronounced "f" in Māori is written "wh" because of Hongi Hika's soft aspirated northern dialect.

[edit] Campaigns against Ngāti Whātua, Waikato and Rotorua, 1821–1825

Hongi Hika returned to the Bay of Islands in July 1821. En route he sold the gifts he was given in England and used the money to purchase gunpowder, 300 muskets and other weapons for his iwi. Using these within months of his return he led a force of 2,000 men to attack a pa (Māori fort) at Tamaki, killing 2,000 warriors and their women and children. Deaths in this one action outnumber all deaths in 25 years of the sporadic New Zealand Wars.

In early 1822 he led his force up the Waikato river where after initial success he was defeated by Te Wherowhero, before gaining another victory at Orongokoekoe. Te Wherowhero ambushed the Ngapuhi carrying Ngāti Mahuta women captives and freed them. In 1823 he made peace with the Waikato iwi and invaded Te Arawa territory in Rotorua. In 1824–5 Hongi Hika attacked Ngāti Whātua again, losing 70 men, including his eldest son Hare Hongi, in the battle of Te Ika a Ranganui. According to some accounts Ngāti Whātua lost 1,000 men—although Hongi Hika himself, downplaying the tragedy, put the number as 100. In any event the defeat was a catastrophe for Ngāti Whātua—the survivors retreated south.

They left behind the fertile region of Tamaki Makaurau with its vast natural harbours at Waitemata and Manukau—land which had belonged to Ngāti Whātua since they won it by conquest over a hundred years before. Hongi Hika left Tamaki Makaurau almost uninhabited as a southern buffer zone. Fifteen years later when Lt. Governor William Hobson wished to remove his fledging colonial administration from settler and Ngapuhi influence in the Bay of Islands, he was able to purchase this land cheaply from Ngāti Whātua, to build Auckland, a settlement that has become New Zealand’s principal city.

Although Māori population had always been, to some extent, mobile in the face of conquests of land, Hongi Hika altered the balance of power not only in the Waitemata but also the Bay of Plenty, Tauranga, Coromandel, Rotorua and Waikato to an extent which seems unprecedented within the memory of his contemporaries. Although he did not usually occupy conquered territory his campaigns and those of other musket warriors triggered a series of migrations, claims and counter claims which in the late 20th century would add to the disputes over land sales in the Waitangi Tribunal—not least Ngāti Whātua's occupation of Bastion Point.

[edit] Waimate to Whangaroa, 1826–1827

In 1826 Hongi Hika moved from Waimate to conquer Whangaroa and found a new settlement. In part this was to punish Ngāti Uru and Ngāti Pou—who Hongi Hika displaced—for burning the ship Mercury and sacking the Wesleyan mission. However this shift soon split his followers into two factions, those who stayed in Waimate quarrelling with the colonists at Whangaroa.

[edit] Injury and death, 1827–1828

In January 1827, Hongi Hika was shot in the chest during a minor engagement in the Hokianga. He invited those around him to listen to the wind whistle through his lungs and some claimed to have been able to see completely through him. Hongi Hika lingered for 14 months before dying of infection from this wound on 6 March 1828 at Whangaroa. The site of his burial was deliberately kept secret and news of his death was suppressed for some time. Hongi Hika was survived by 5 children.

[edit] Legacy

The extent of Hongi Hika's plans and ambitions are unknown. Although he said during his visit to England, "There is only one king in England, there shall be only one king in New Zealand", this is likely bravado. In 1828 Māori lacked a national identity, seeing themselves as belonging to separate iwi. It would be 30 years before a Māori king would be acclaimed—in imitation of the English the Kingite movement opposed. That king was Te Wherowhero, a man who built his mana defending the Waikato against Hongi Hika.

Hongi Hika never attempted to establish any form of long term government over iwi he conquered and most often did not attempt to permanently occupy territory. It is likely his aims were opportunistic, based on increasing the mana Māori accorded to great warriors.

Hongi Hika is mostly remembered as a warrior, although the smaller but better recorded New Zealand Wars have tended to overshadow the Musket Wars he started. History has generally attributed Hongi Hika’s military success to his acquisition of muskets, comparing his military skills poorly with the other major Māori conqueror of the period, Te Rauparaha. However Hongi Hika had the foresight to acquire European weapons and pioneered the tactics of using them in Māori warfare—something which was a nasty surprise to British and colonial forces in later years. Hongi Hika's military conquests may not have endured, but his importance lies not only in his campaigns and the social upheaval they caused, but also his encouragement of early European settlement, agricultural improvements and the development of a written version of Māori.

Hongi Hika's whānau would continue to have a say in both settlement and warfare. Twelve years after Hongi Hika’s death, his nephew Hone Heke placed the first signature on the Treaty of Waitangi, legitimating British annexation. Five years later the first of the New Zealand Wars began when Heke turned on the European settlers with the weapons they had sold him and burned the settlement Hongi Hika had promoted at Kororareka.

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Hongi Hika's Timeline

1772
1772
Te Tahuna, Kaikohe, Northland, New Zealand
1803
1803
Age 31
1804
1804
Age 32
1805
1805
Age 33
1828
March 5, 1828
Age 56
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