Tangata Whenua

The people who inhabited the Rangihoua pa in the Bay of Islands (tangata whenua) were Ngati Rehia, a subtribe of the Ngati Pou of Whangaroa where the Boyd massacre took place in 1809. Subsequent to the death of the Chief Te Pahi, leadership passed to Ruatara who was responsible for inviting the Rev. Samuel Marsden to establish his mission alongside his own home.


Marsden first came into contact with the New Zealanders soon after arriving in Sydney in 1794. Those he met were serving as crew on whaling or trading ships. In 1805, he hosted the Bay of Islands Chief, Te Pahi, in his Parramatta home and two years later, he met Te Pahi's nephew, Ruatara. It was then that Marsden and Ruatara first discussed the establishment of a mission station under the protection of Ruatara's people.


Ruatara was quick to realize the advantages that could be provided for his people by having a group of missionaries living close by. Marsden, seeking to bring Christianity to the New Zealanders, also saw this as an opportunity to establish a foothold in New Zealand. Eventually, after many a delay, the way was clear to go ahead with the mission station. On 22nd December 1814 Marsden and his three missionary families, Hall, Kendall and King, together with a support team which included Hansen family members, sailed into Rangihoua Bay on the brig Active, Captain Hansen.


In 1814, Rangihoua pa was the dominant centre of population with Ruatara and Whare Poaka both living there. The famous Hongi Hika, a Nga Puhi, lived in his own Kororipo pa at nearby Kerikeri. The imposing Rangihoua pa dominated the landscape and had commanding views of the whole district and harbour. Through a narrow valley on the northern side of the pa, the freshwater Oihi creek ran down to the beach and the mission settlement was established on the steep slopes opposite and under the shadow of Ruatara's pa.


The missionaries may have looked with longing at the flat land that Te Puna offered on the southern side of the pa but it was not a possibility for them at that stage and Marsden approved of Ruatara's choice. It would be another 18 years before pioneer missionary John King would have the opportunity to shift his location to Te Puna. The relationship that existed between the missionaries and their neighbours in the following years could best be described as one of inter-dependence with each providing services or functions that the other required.


First of all, the missionaries required land for their houses and for growing food supplies if they were to become self sufficient. The Ngati Rehia possessed the land around the Oihi creek. It could only be purchased with their free agreement. On 24th February 1815, Marsden purchased 200 acres (80 hectares) on behalf of the Church Missionary Society for which he paid 12 axes. This was the first recognized purchase of land made by Europeans in New Zealand.


Secondly, there needed to be some form of guarantee of safety for the missionaries and their families. At Rangihoua, it came from the personal protection of Ruatara who declared the mission station tapu. The value of this status was seen when William Hall, contrary to Marsden's instructions, took his family over to the more favourable location of Waitangi. He was soon forced back to Rangihoua when natives broke into his house and ransacked it.


In order to cut down trees for milling and clear the land for farming, a large labour force was needed. This was provided mainly by the Rangihoua people who were eager to receive a nail or a fish hook in payment for their services. Their method of agriculture, prior to the arrival of the Europeans, was a subsistence system where only enough food was produced to meet everyday needs. Shortages of food, which often brought about illness and death during winter months, were quite common.


During Ruatara's visits to Australia, he had observed the European agricultural systems and realized the advantages that they presented if they could be transported to New Zealand. It would mean that food could be obtained all year round and that food shortages would be a thing of the past.


In terms of tools and technology, the New Zealanders were a stone age people. Tools took a long time to produce and were not very efficient compared to steel tools. Missionaries were seen as a source of axes, knives, chisels and other steel implements. If there was a European settlement near Rangihoua pa, visiting ships were more likely to anchor in their bay; another source of trade.


Another key item of trade was the musket. While Marsden did forbid his missionaries to trade with muskets, they all did so at one time or another. Kendall openly defied him and supplied muskets to the New Zealanders. Sometimes the natives would only supply their labour if they were paid with muskets. They had no problem with trading in muskets with visiting ships' captains. Having a mission station located next to Rangihoua pa added immense mana to Ruatara, his successor and the Ngati Rehia people.


Ron Martin raised an interesting question in The First Family. It relates to the 22 grandchildren of Captain Thomas Hansen, all of whom were born in New Zealand between 1815 and 1837 which was three years before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. There are interesting implications of this place of birth before the Treaty. New Zealand was not governed from Australia, it was not yet a colony of Britain; sovereignty lay with each tribal group. In international law a child adopts the nationality of the place where he or she is born. Therefore we must assume that this first generation of Kings and Hansens born in New Zealand were all tangata whenua, sovereign inhabitants of New Zealand by birth. They had land at the discretion of the people of Rangihoua (whangai). There was no other way of obtaining land. They were accepted by the people of Rangihoua. They belonged to a particular place. If the Europeans and others who were born in New Zealand after 1840 are tangata Tiriti (Treaty people) then Captain Hansen's grandchildren could perhaps with justice be called tangata whenua.


Image credit:

Lewin, John William, 1770-1819. [Lewin, John William] 1770-1819 :[A Hoodee o Gunna, chief of Ranghee Hoo. Between 1815 and 1819].. Ref: A-237-042. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/22336444

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1814 Hansen Family Society Inc.
Auckland, New Zealand

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