Te Rauparaha’s Account of the Wairau Affray
The Wairau Affray, as it has become known, resulted in the deaths of twenty-two Europeans, including Arthur Wakefield and Henry Thompson. Four Māori are known to have died: Te Rongo, Te Ahuta, Hopa and Te Whiunui.
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"Mr Spain you have heard the Pakeha's story - not mine. Listen I will tell you how it all began ...
Rangihaeata persisted in going to Wairau, which we did. We told the surveyors not to work any more and go away; that we would not allow them to do anything more till we were paid for our land but they took no notice of us.
We went again to their stations and told them to take their things out of the house. They would not - but we did, and put them in their boat, burnt the house and took the white people to the entrance of the river and left them at the Pa."
Te Rauparaha's account continues:
"We went up to the river to a creek Tua Marina and were there clearing the land for potatoes when I saw the Victoria laying off the mouth of the Wairau. Next morning when we had done eating some of my men said there were Pakeha coming towards us. We assembled men, women, and children on the bank of the river to see and hear what the Pakehas wanted. They all got on the brow of a fern hill and stood.
Then part of them came to the bank of the river and called for a canoe which was given them. Mr Thompson, Capt.Wakefield, Capt. England, Mr Cotterill, Mr Tuckett, Brook the interpreter, the Constable and others came over to us.
I told him [Thompson] I burnt nothing of theirs; it was my own; the grass and wood that grew on my land! And I would not go with him. It would be good to talk of the matter there - what odds if it did occupy two or three days - I would let them have the land when they paid me for it.
He [Thompson] would not listen to me he turned away to the constable and got handcuffs, and then came to me taking me by the hand. When I found what he wanted I snatched my hand away from his. He got very angry and said if I did not come he would fire on us. I said don't be foolish we don't want to fight" ...
Puaha (Rawiri) rose with a testament in his hand saying to the Pakehas: "Don't fire on us; we are Christians and do not want to fight".
Te Rauparaha went on to state:
"When the Pakehas got to the top of the hill they waved a white handkerchief to make peace. I could not get up the hill fast - the young men ran before me, shooting and cutting down Pakehas as they ran away. I called to them to spare the gentlemen, but Rangihaeata coming up behind me at the time said "why save them - they have shot your daughter." When I heard that my voice failed me. Rangihaeata got up the hill and all the Pakehas were killed."
For Te Rangihaeata, the utu was not just retribution for losing his wife and others that day, but for the accumulated wrongs they felt they had suffered from the Crown and the New Zealand Company.
This story is a paraphrased version of an article written by Steve Austin, 2008, Chief Executive of the Marlborough Museum and published in Wild Tomato.
Updated April 2020
Sources used in this story
- Spain, W. Commissioner Spain's report on the Wairau incident. [Held Alexander Turnbull Library; Marlborough Museum]
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Further sources - Te Rauparaha’s Account of the Wairau Affray
- Allan, R. (1965) Nelson: A History of Early Settlement. Wellington, N.Z. : A H & A W Reed.
- Andrews, J.L. (1999) Wairau massacre : mindsets of the 1840s. Blenheim, N.Z. : J.L. Andrews.
- Broad, L. (1976) The jubilee history of Nelson from 1842 to 1892. [Nelson, N.Z.]: Capper, p.45-70
- Burns, P (1989) Fatal Success. Auckland, N.Z. : Heinemann Reed.
- Burns, P (1983) Te Rauparaha. Auckland, N.Z. : Penguin Books
- Dillon, C. (1954) The Dillon letters, the letters of the Hon. Constantine Dillon, 1842-1853, Wellington, A.H. & A.W. Reed, pp.20-4.
- Domett, A. (1844-46) Petition to Parliament for the recall of Governor Fitzroy, together with, A narrative of the Wairau massacre .[N.Z.?] : New Zealand Company
- McAloon, J. (1997). Nelson a regional history. Whatamango Bay, Queen Charlotte Sound, N.Z : Cape Catley Ltd in association with Nelson City Council, p. 29-35
- Mitchell, H. & J. (2004) Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka: A History of Māori of Nelson and Marlborough, vol.1 The people and the land . Wellington, N.Z. : Huia Publishers in association with the Wakatū Incorporation, pp70, 71, 302-303, 424-426.
- Mitchell, H. & J. (2007) Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka: A History of Māori of Nelson and Marlborough, Vol 2. The new society. Wellington, N.Z. : Huia Publishers in association with the Wakatū Incorporation, pp245, 247, 251, 373-375
- Prickett, N. (2002) Landscapes of conflict : a field guide to the New Zealand wars. Auckland, N.Z. : Random House New Zealand
- Saunders, A. (1896) History of New Zealand. Christchurch , N.Z. : Whitcomb and Tombs
- Bowden, G.R. (1981) Wairau - a massacre? Journal of the New Zealand Federation of Historical Societies, 1(11), p.3-7
- Davies, J. (1995) Kakapo Bay. Marlborough's Past & Present,3, p.8-9
- Kidd, R. (1988) Te Rangihaeata : a personal analysis. Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, 2, n.2:p.26-29
- Martin, T. (1991) What was the basis of Māori strategies in the inter-racial conflicts of the 1840s, and what was their significance for race relations? Selected Essays (Massey University. Department of History), p.18-24
- Narrative of the Wairau massacre, and proceedings connected therewith (1843). Supplement to the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle.
- Ogilvie, G (1995, Jan) An affray at the Wairau. New Zealand Historic Places, n.51:p.7-9
- Rauparaha (1845, June 7) Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 4(170), p 55
- Remarks on the Causes and consequences of the massacre (1843, December 23). Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle,2(94), 23, p.10
- Scenes from the life of Te Rauparaha (1902, May 21) Otago Witness ,p. 60
- Wairau Massacre (1844, June 22) Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 3(12), p. 62.
Unpublished Sources - held Nelson Provincial Museum
- Barnicoat, J W: Diary. Barnicoat Papers HLD ; includes letter dated 23.8.1843 recounting details of the fray, published "Nelson Examiner" 26.8.1843.]
- Saxton, J W: Diary 1841-1851. Bett Collection qMS SAX typescript.
- Ballara, Angela.(updated 2007, June 22) Te Rangihaeata ? - 1855. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 13 November 2008 from:
- Hocken Collection: Reference Guides: Researching the New Zealand Wars: Part one - 1840's [bibliography and guide to research in the collection; full bibliography of the Wairau Affray]
McLintock, A.H. (Ed.)(1966) Te Rauparaha. Updated 18-Sep-2007. Retrieved from An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand : Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand:
- McLintock, A.H. (Ed.)(1966) Wairau Affray. Updated 18-Sep-2007. Retrieved from Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand:
- Oliver, S.(2007, June 22) Te Rauparaha ? - 1849. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 13 November 2008 from:
- Rore Pukekohatu's Account of the Wairau Incident (n.d). Retrieved13 November 2008 from Marlborough Online:
- Taylor, R. (1855) Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants :Chapter XXII. - Te Rauparaha and Rangihaeata. [N.Z] : Wertheim and Macintosh. Retrieved from NZETC:
- Today in history 17 June 1843: Wairau Incident (n.d). Retrieved 13 November 2008 from New Zealand History Online:
- Tonk, R.V. (2007) Spain, William 1803 - 1876 Dictionary of New Zealand Biography