Tuhawaiki, known as Hone or John Tuhawaiki, was also given the name of Bloody Jack by the sealers of Foveaux Strait.

Tuhawaiki was a prominent figure during the early years of European contact and as a rangatira (chief) of his Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Māmoe peoples he had huge influence during his lifetime. Unfortunately his untimely death in 1844 deprived the tribe of a significant leader during the turbulent times that were to come.

His birthplace was at Murikauhaka, Tauhinu (now known as Inch Clutha) probably around 1805. Tuhawaiki descends from some of the prominent families of both Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Māmoe. His father was Te Kaihaere and descends from Kaweriri (the famed warrior son of Tūrakautahi) who died in Murihiku (Southland). His mother was Kura and on her side he descends from Honekai and Te Hau-tapu-nui-o-Tū. Kura’s brother Te Whakataupuka was the leading chief of Murihiku up until his death in 1835 and he was Tuhawaiki’s mentor.

Intra-tribal feuds

The twenty year period before his death in 1844 was one of upheaval for Ngāi Tahu. The intra-tribal feuding resulting from the Kaihuānga Feud (1820s) left communities around Kaiapoi and Banks Peninsula in disarray for a decade. By the 1830s attention shifted to Ngāti Toa with their raids on Kaikōura, Kaiapoi and Ōnawe causing further devastation to Ngāi Tahu numbers already decimated by the in-fighting.

With its leadership lost (Tamaiharanui), survivors were fearful of repeat raids and many dispersed to places further south. It would fall to the southern chiefs, of which Tuhawaiki was one, to retaliate to the Ngāti Toa incursion into Ngāi Tahu’s rohe (district). The first of the raids (Tauaiti) was made in 1833 led by Tūtehounuku (son of Tamaiharanui), Tākatahara (of Wairewa) and Mākere of Murihiku.

At Kapara-te-hau (Lake Grassmere) Te Rauparaha narrowly evaded capture, after Ngāti Toa were surprised by the war party. In the ensuing skirmish the Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha was grabbed by a pursuer (several accounts crediting Tuhawaiki with this momentary capture) before he escaped underwater. He evaded further pursuit by hiding out in kelp beds until he was able to swim to a canoe offshore. One unlucky occupant of this canoe found himself flung into the sea and an uncertain fate to ensure a seat for the chief.

Tuhawaiki was not involved in the raid (tauanui) of 1834 led by Taiaroa and his uncle Te Whakataupuka. A third expedition in 1835 was stricken with a measles epidemic in South Otago, killing many of the participants including his uncle. It was at this point in 1835 that Tuhawaiki would succeed to the leadership of southern Ngāi Tahu.

In 1836, a threat occurred much closer to home when Te Pūoho and his Ngāti Tama war party reached Tūtūrau (near Gore) after a gruelling trek down through the west coast. It was Tuhawaiki and other southern chiefs who responded from their base on Ruapuke Island. Reaching Tūtūrau at night they attacked and massacred all but four of the Ngāti Tama party.

Further expeditions occurred in 1838 and 1839 with Tuhawaiki leading the final one. In this expedition events would take place at Peraki following the capture of two Ngāti Toa boys. One was eaten but the other survived with the assistance of Taiaroa. It was here that Tuhawaiki acquired the cutter Mary Ann from George Hempleman.

Iwi focus moved away from Ngāti Toa with this final expedition and Tuhawaiki himself turned to his commercial interests. Many “land sales” were concluded during this period with Europeans in the south, however, whether they were considered by either side as real sales as we know today, is debatable.

Treaty of Waitangi

Tuhawaiki and other chiefs are known to have sailed for Sydney in March 1840. By this time the treaty had been signed at Waitangi and additional copies were being taken around the country. On 9 June 1840, dressed in the regalia of a British aide-de-camp, Tuhawaiki boarded the Herald and signed the treaty under the name John Touwaick.

The next twenty years from 1844 would see the majority of Ngāi Tahu land sold through a number of deals to the Crown. Tuhawaiki was involved in the first of these, the Otago Purchase, signed in July 1844 where he received £900 as his share. Tuhawaiki remained in the vicinity before setting off in early October in a small flotilla of boats.

Untimely death

It was off Paparoa Point now known as Tuhawaiki Point just south of Timaru that Tuhawaiki lost his life. Caught in an unusual sea Tuhawaiki was swept overboard and drowned. His boat was taken to Wakaroa (Pigeon Bay) and eventually destroyed because of the tapu associated with it. He was initially buried at the pā Te Wai-a-te-ruati (near Timaru) before his remains were eventually collected by Topi Patuki (a southern chief) and reburied on his island of Ruapuke in August 1846.

Like many men of his time Tuhawaiki lived his life in close proximity with the sea. As a whaler, mariner and trader he had an intimate knowledge about sailing and maintained a number of boats which were used for trading and raiding up and down the southern coast. And like many others he would end his life in the sea.

His leadership and daring, his intelligence and commercial savvy, his whakapapa and personal presence made him a great Ngāi Tahu figure during a time of great change. His untimely end perhaps saved him from having to experience the challenges of the next stage in Ngāi Tahu’s story - European settlement.


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