The Last of the Ngapuhi Warrior Chiefs
The war chiefs, Hongi Hika and Hone Heke whose homes were at Kaikohe were exceptions. Hongi was well known to the missionaries, who recorded with regret many occasions when Hongi’s war parties were mustering to exact revenge on southern tribes. The busy trade in muskets and powder in the north had given Hongi and his men a lethal advantage in their expeditions south.
Hongi Hika was born in Kaikohe and was a leading chief of one of the principal hapu there, Te Uri-O-Hau. After his death in Whangaroa in 1828 his bones were taken by his warriors to his pa Pakinga (Kaikohe) and then carried to the burial place of his ancestors at Wharepaepae, two miles south of Kaikohe.
Similarly, Hone Heke was of the Kaikohe district. His influence extended over Te Ahu Ahu, Waimate, Pakaraka, Oromahoe, Kaikohe, and Te Tii, Waitangi.
In addition his mana included the Tautoro district, at one time known as Hikurangi, and Ohaeawai (Taiamai). Unlike Hongi who chose to make his home in various different locations at Waimate and Whangaroa as well as Kaikohe, Hone Keke’s home territory was in the Kaikohe area. During the 1840’s both Henry Williams and Rev R Burrows visited him there, attempting unsuccessfully to persuade him of the errors of his ways.
In July 1845 the undefeated defenders of Ohaeawai pa retired in an orderly fashion to Kaikohe. Colonel Despard’s Maori troops followed, but after the peace efforts of Richard Davis the only action they took was to burn Heke’s pa, at that time unoccupied.
Wounded in skirmishing at Pukenui, Heke had retired to Tautoro to recover and had taken part in defence of Ohaeawai pa. However, in early Janurary 1846, after eluding Taonui, who had been detailed to watch him and report his movements, Heke slipped out of his pa at Tautoro and travelled overland to Waiomio. On 9th Janurary Heke with about 60 men joined forces with Kawiti at Ruapekapeka pa. The story of Ruapekapeka is well known.
In the words of one of his contemporaries: “Heke was a man of many thoughts.” Cunning in war, courageous and resourceful, Hone Heke was perhaps the last of the great Ngapuhi fighting chiefs.
Another man of the Kaikohe area has earned a place in history for a different reason. Although he was a great warrior who accompanied Hongi on several of his southern expeditions, including the great battle of Te-Ika-a-Ranginui in1825, Rawiri (David) Taiwhanga of Ngati Tautahi, became the first high ranking Maori to convert to Christianity and also became a farmer in the European way in Kaikohe.