Hakopa Te Ata o Tu


Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Raki Whakaputa

Iwi map - Hakopa Te Ata o TuIWI / HAPU AFFILIATIONS

Hakopa Te Ata o Tu was a descendant of Tahu Potiki, founder of the Ngāi Tahu people of the South Island and son of rangatira Te Momo Kakahu. He was born at Kaiapoi Pa,1 south of Christchurch. According to evidence given by Hakopa in 1869 at a court hearing protesting the alienation of tribal land, he stated he had four children. 'Two go to school. After this I won't send my children to school, because the land will be taken from the children'.2

Held in high regard as a warrior, Hakopa was captured by Te Rauparaha after a hand-to-hand combat in which Ngāti Toa chief Te Peehi Tahau, was killed. The incident that caused the dispute was an argument over a block of pounamu, of which Ngāi Tahu Poutini are considered kaitiaki. To avenge the death of Te Peehi, Te Rauparaha mounted an attack against Ngāi Tahu, and both Hakopa Te Ata o Tu and his wife Te Ao Paki were captured. They were transported to Waikanae north of Wellington to become slaves to Te Rauparaha. Hakopa was later liberated when his captors embraced Christianity, and he returned to his homelands in Canterbury.

Hakopa was considered to be an expert on working pounamu (greenstone) as given by this 1881 account by Rev. James W. Stack, when Hakopa was reputed to be 83 years old:

I have just received from an old Māori chief, Hakopa te Ata o Tu, at Kaiapoi, the following replies to a translation of the questions forwarded to me by Dr. von Haast. I attach great value to them, as the writer is a very intelligent man, who occupied a leading position in the Māori community here at the time of Rauparaha's invasion. James W. Stack.3

Hakopa's responses to Rev. Stack reveal that he did not observe heitiki being made during his childhood. Rather, they were made in the North Island. Only natural materials were used to shape pounamu. Māori did not worship heitiki; they were considered mementoes of deceased persons.  Some of the names Hakopa gave for pounamu include:

(a) Hauhunga [hauhunga = frost, cool]
(b) kawakawa
(c) inanga
(d) kahurangi
(e) tangiwai
(f) matakirikiri - greenstone pebbles
(g) aotea - a counterfeit greenstone, opaque; often mistaken when in the river-beds by the unskilful.4

Hakopa is remembered as a skilled pounamu carver and he died at his birthplace Kaiapoi Pa in 1883. In 1980, New Zealand Post produced a set of stamps honouring key Māori identities from history. They include Hakopa Te Ata-o-Tu, Sir Apirana Ngata, Princess Te Puea, Kamariera Te Hau Takiri Wharepapa and Tukino Te Heuheu.


  1. Hillary and John Mitchell, Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka: A History of Māori of Nelson and Malborough. vol 1, (Wellington, N.Z. : Huia Publishers in association with the Wakatū Incorporation, 2004)
  2. Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961, vol 24, 1891, p 515, accessed 28 January 2010.
  3. Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961, vol 24, 1891, p 515, accessed 28 January 2010.
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