Tawhiao Matutaera Potatau Te Wherowhero


Ngāti Mahuta (c.1825 - 1894)

Iwi map - Tawhiao Matutaera Potatau Te WherowheroIWI / HAPU AFFILIATIONS

The second Māori King, Tawhiao, of Ngati Mahuta, was the paramount chief of the Tainui tribes of the Waikato.  He was known as a man of peace and a visionary whose goal was economic self-sufficiency and stability for Māori.

Tawhiao was descended from the rangātira of both the Tainui and Arawa canoes.  Born at Orongokoekoe, in Northern Taranaki, Tawhiao's mother was Whakaawi and his father, the first king, Potatau Te Wherowhero. He had children to three of his wives as well as other offspring.  The children of his principal wife, Hera, were Tiahuia, who was the mother of Te Puea famed for her leadership in forming the Turangawaewae marae at Ngaruawahia; Mahuta, whose comments appear in the Lindauer Māori Visitors Book and who succeeded him as king; and Te Wherowhero.1

Tawhiao reigned from 1860 until his death in 1894 at Parawera.  Te Kingitangi (the Māori King movement) began in the 1850s with the purpose of halting the sale of land and promoting Māori sovereignty.2 The colonial government resisted it strongly and in 1863, Tawhiao led the Waikato tribes in revolt against the military.  Conflict did not cease until 1881, and during that 20 year period Tawhiao's people stayed in exile in the King country area near Te Kuiti.  An early newspaper article relates how in June of that year, the King went with the military leader Major Mair to the telegraph office in Alexandra (Pirongia) and 'had a chat over the telephone with Rewi, at Kihikihi, and some other chiefs. Everything was definitely settled on that occasion that there should in future be peace between the Māori and the Pākeha in the Waikato.'3

Continuing to push for the end of land confiscation, Tawhiao regularly corresponded with Sir George Grey on this matter and led a deputation in an attempt to meet Queen Victoria in England in 1884 to present a petition on the obligations of the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi.4

In notes on how the portraits of Māori came to be painted by his father, Victor Wilhelm Lindauer wrote that the artist photographed Tawhiao when he visited him at Whatwhatihoe , accompanied by Walter Buller.5 Several portraits were painted from this photograph including the one in the Partridge Collection.  Partridge arranged for his commissioned work to be shown as one of the ten paintings exhibited at the St Louis World Fair in 1904.6



  1. Steven Oliver, 'Te Wherowhero, Potatau ? - 1860', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, accessed 26 February 2010.
  2. Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, 'Waikato - The King movement', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 4 March 2009, accessed 2 March 2010.
  3. ‘Some Waikato history: When Tawhiao came in: War dance at Alexandra: Followers lay down arms’ fMS papers 1619 Folder 049/1, Seddon Family Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library, Wellington.
  4. For example, see Grey NZ Maori Autograph 780, 12 May 1886, Auckland City Libraries, where Tawhiao complains to Grey about the inconsistencies re land confiscation and his distress for the prospect of his people’s future without land.
  5. MS Papers 4369 E.M. Lindauer, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library, Wellington.
  6. ‘Louisiana Purchase Exposition’, Wikipedia – the Free Encyclopedia, accessed 28 January 2010.
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