Horeta Te Taniwha


Ngāti Whanaunga (? – 1853)

Iwi map - Horeta Te TaniwhaIWI / HAPU AFFILIATIONS

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Te Horeta, also known as Te Taniwha, was a leader of Ngati Whanaunga, one of the Marutuahu confederation of Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel Peninsula tribes. The names of his parents are not recorded. He may have been born about 1757, for he told Captain James Cook he was aged about 12 when the two met on Cook's visit to Mercury Bay in November 1769. Cook is reputed to have given him a spike nail which he wore around his neck.1

In later years Te Horeta recalled his wonder at seeing these new people. Once others of his people had returned safely from Cook's ship Endeavour, he overcame his fears and ventured on board with other children. He remembered Cook's kindness to him and his companions, and Cook's puzzlement, having asked the men to draw a chart of the coast on the deck, at the concept of reaching the Māori underworld via Te Reinga (Cape Reinga). Cook also gave the people a double handful of potatoes. Te Horeta believed this to be the decisive introduction of the potato into the Coromandel area. The potatoes were kept for seed, and within three years Ngāti Whanaunga were able to hold a feast incorporating the new food.2

Horeta derived his name Te Taniwha from a conflict that took place between Ngāti Tamatera and Ngāti Whanaunga. As Ngāti Tamatera were making their escape in Ngāti Whanaunga canoes, Horeta dove into the stream where the canoes were filling with the enemy and managed to swim under the canoes, avoiding the spears of Ngāti Tamatera warriors.  He leapt into a canoe and drove the occupants into the water. His people watched his feat and named him Te Taniwha, believing he performed this brave act as a sea god and not a human.3


  1. David Mackay, 'Cook, James 1728 - 1779', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, accessed 2 March 2010.
  2. Angela Ballara, 'Te Horeta ? - 1853', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, accessed 2 March 2010.
  3. ‘Death of the Celebrated Native Chief Hook-Nose. (Communicated.) ’, Daily Southern Cross, vol X, Issue 672, 6 December 1853, p 3, Papers Past, accessed 2 March 2010.
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  • Anonymous

    At 7pm on 25 September 2012

    I know of someone some people who are the direct line of chief to horeta Te taniwha and over alls Toko Renata any day .these to mn are the chiefs of hauraki .

  • Amy Cooper, Auckland Art Gallery

    At 1pm on 19 November 2011

    Kia ora Anonymous, this portrait measures 1124 x 763 mm including its frame.

  • Anonymous

    At 1pm on 27 September 2011

    how big is the portrait?

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