In June 1840, twelve Ngāti Awa Chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Pohaturoa in Whakatāne. Prior to 1864, Ngāti Awa whanau and hapū were autonomous and economically prosperous. The production and sale of commodities such as flax, vegetables and pigs was well established and trade with other iwi was commonplace. Ngāti Awa hapū continued to assert sovereignty over their lands and ancestral resources while European settlers and the British Government began to exert increasing pressure on Ngāti Awa to acquire more land.
Outright conflict between the Crown and Ngāti Awa began in earnest in 1864 when some members of Ngāti Awa joined a force of Tairawhiti chiefs and warriors intending to journey to Waikato, and assist the Waikato tribes in resisting the illegal invasion of their lands by Crown forces and European settlers. The Tairawhiti force was prevented from going to Waikato by a combined force of Crown and allied iwi soldiers. The Tairawhiti force was eventually turned back at the well known battle of Te Kaokaoroa.
Throughout 1864 and 1865 a number of key events occurred which further polarised the relationship between the Crown and Ngāti Awa. These events included:
In October 1865, over 30 men (including Ngāti Awa) were arrested for the killing of James Fulloon and related offences. Many were found guilty by Court Martial and sentenced to death. They were re-tried before the Supreme Court in Auckland. All were found guilty of at least one charge and were sentenced to imprisonment or execution. Two men were subsequently executed for the murder of Fulloon and three others died while in prison.
In 1866, by Order in Council pursuant to the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863, the Crown confiscated approximately 245,000 acres of land from Ngāti Awa. Additional lands were also confiscated from other neighbouring iwi during this time. The raupatu or ‘confiscation’ affected all Ngāti Awa who subsequently bore the stigma of being labelled tangata hara or ‘rebels’ despite the fact that many hapū had not been involved in any conflict.
The raupatu had devastating effects on Ngāti Awa who had lost rangatiratanga over their resources. Hāmiora Pio, a paramount chief and tohunga of Ngāti Awa described the effect of the raupatu as follows:
Approximately 77,000 acres were eventually returned to Ngāti Awa through the compensation process. In many cases, these lands were returned to individuals rather than hapū, and in some cases hapū received lands that had been previously occupied by other hapū. From the 1870s the Court also allocated lands previously held by Ngāti Awa to other iwi. Further land was lost through a combination of alienation through individual owners and public works legislation. The traditional tribal structure of Ngāti Awa hapū would never fully recover from the devastating effects of the raupatu.
© TE RŪNANGA O NGĀTI AWA 2009