John Patrick WARD (1847 – 1914), Author. / Re: TE WHITI-o-Rongomai (1830 – 1907) and TOHU Kākahi (c. 1828 – 1907).
Wanderings with the Maori Prophets Te Whiti & Tohu: (With Illustrations of Each Chief) Being Reminiscences of a Twelve Months’ Companionship with Them, from their Arrival in Christchurch in April 1882 until their Return to Parihaka in March 1883.
Nelson, N.Z.: Bond, Finney, & Co., 1883.
During the New Zealand Wars (1845-72), British colonial entities decimated the Māori civilization, killing their people, decapitating their leadership and stealing their land. Their perfidy and rapaciousness were extreme even by the standards of the time, such that many prominent British figures were scandalized by the behavior of their regime, which violated both the spirit and black letter of British laws.
Yet, some of the Māori of the North Island saw something of a revival under the leadership of two Christian ‘Prophets’, Te Whiti and Tohu, two very dignified and wise men. Te Whiti-o-Rongomai (1830 – 1907), was the son of a minor chief of the Taranaki Māori people, who became a devout Christian upon being educated by missionaries. A life-long pacifist and very compassionate man, he first gained fame, in 1862, for saving the lives of the passengers of the Lord Worsley, a ship which was wrecked on the Taranaki coast, who were about to be slaughtered by Māori warriors. He soon gained a following amongst thousands of displaced Māori who had their lands confiscated during the New Zealand Wars.
Te Whiti joined forces with his close relative, Tohu Kākahi (c. 18928 – 1907). Unlike Te Whiti, in his youth Tohu was a warrior, seeing much action in the Taranaki Wars, conflicts on the North Island which were part of the larger New Zealand Wars. While he was one of the leaders of the Hauhau Movement, a Christian Māori sect that espoused violent means to overthrow colonial oppression, his views evolved to conform more closely with Te Whiti’s pacifism.
In 1866, Te Whiti and Tohu founded the new settlement of Parihaka, in the Taranaki region, one of the most war-ravaged parts of the country, in the southwestern corner of the North Island, as a refuge for Māori fleeing the carnage and displacement of the wars. The community was to adhere to pacificism and was to follow a hybrid of Christian and Māori traditions, being largely self-sufficient, living separately from both the white settler community and the bellicose elements of the Māori population. Parihaka proved enormously successful, and during its heyday in the 1870s, it was home to over 2,000 people, who, by all accounts led healthy, peaceful and productive lives.
When white agents attempted to survey their land or build roads in the area, Te Whiti and Tohu led their followers on campaigns of non-violent resistance that, at least temporarily, stymied these efforts. Significantly, the Parihaka Māori’s methods of peaceful protest was a major influence on the strike movement of Indian workers led by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa from 1893 to 1914.
While the more enlightened British officials looked upon Parihaka favourably, seeing it as perhaps the basis for a viable solution to the horrific conflict between the white and indigenous peoples, many others essentially wanted the Māori to be exterminated, and for white settlers to control every inch of New Zealand.
John Brice, the Native Minister of New Zealand (in office, October 1881 to August 1884), the leader of the anti-Māori hardliners, was determined to destroy Parihaka, which was considered the brightest hope for any future for the Māori. Brice assumed his post when Arthur Charles Hamilton-Gordon, the Governor of New Zealand (in office, November 1880 to June 1882), a man known known to be sympathetic to Parihaka, happened to be abroad on business. This gave him the opportunity to strike.
On the morning of November 5, 1881, Brice led a force of 1,600 troops and cavalry on a stealth attack upon Parihaka, during which its 1,600 residents offered no resistance, being of an unarmed pacifist community. Brice’s men expelled the Māori villagers and destroyed their homesteads, annexing the land for white settlement.
Brice had Te Whiti and Tohu arrested on trumped-up charges that, at best, had a very weak basis in British law and were regarded by many as preposterous. When it became clear that the local court would strike down the charges, Brice had Te Whiti and Tohu sent to be imprisoned for 16 months in Christchurch, in the South Island, far distant from their followers.
Enter John Patrick Ward & His Account of his ‘Wanderings’ with Te Whiti and Tohu
Not long after Te Whiti and Tohu arrived in the Addington Goal in Christchurch, in April 1882, an Australian-born British solider, John Patrick Ward (1847 – 1914), was made their warden. Ward’s biography did not, on the surface, suggest that he would be well-disposed to the Māori prophets. Born in Sydney to a military family, he immigrated to New Zealand, in 1864, whereupon he joined the army. He saw frontline service in several of the major battles of the latter stages of the New Zealand wars. Upon leaving the military, he worked as a gold prospector for some years, before joining the civil service. However, his experiences fighting against the indigenous peoples and as a frontiersman concealed a personal sympathy for the Māori people. Notably, unlike most of his colleagues, Ward had a decent knowledge of Māori customs and had learned to speak the Māori language, and for these reasons he was given the unexpected assignment of being the ‘minder’ of Te Whiti and Tohu. While given the paltry annual salary of only £145, Ward was nonetheless honoured to be the Interpreter and “minister plenipotentiary” to the prophets, as he put it.
While Te Whiti and Tohu initially confined to the prison, the local magistrates in Christchurch decided that they could freely tour the South Island if they remained under Ward’s close supervision. It seemed that the more enlightened figures the British regime regarded their arrest to be an injustice, and while the legal process played out, they could at least be afforded a comfortable experience. Moreover, as they were far from home, it was reasoned that the security risk of them inciting protests would be minimal. Ward was given a stipend for travel, food and accommodation, and he and his distinguished charges embarked upon a nearly year-long excursion across much of the South Island.
Ward’s sympathetic account comes in the form of a very engagingly written diary. Its great value is in that it gives a highly authentic, unvarnished account of the characters of Te Whiti and Tohu, and an insight into what became a positive and mutually respectful friendship between a former anti-Māori warrior and two of the great luminaries of modern Māori civilization. Ward and the prophets visited Timaru, Dunedin, Central Otago and even cruised the West Coast fjords aboard the Stella. Recorded are Te Whiti and Tohu’s reactions when encountering such unfamiliar things as railways, factories, restaurants, a gorilla (in the zoo) and fossils.
While men of relatively few words, what they do say to Ward reveals them to have been highly intelligent, dignified and observant. While Ward was still very much a colonialist of his era, with some of the incumbent prejudices, he comes to have an increasingly great respect and affection for his “friends” Te Whiti and Tohu, such that the reader seems to feel that if they were left to discuss and determine New Zealand’s future, the course of history would have been much more harmonious.
In March 1883, Brice’s legal efforts to persecute Te Whiti and Tohu failed, and they were released from crown custody. The final chapter concerns the prophets’ emotional return to Parihaka, in the presence of Ward. Sadly, the community was a shadow of its former self, but at least the prophets were free (for the time being) to begin the process of rebuilding, a prospect that they greeted with much enthusiasm.
A highlight of the work is the plate featuring portraits of Te Whiti and Tohu. Importantly, very few images of the prophets of any kind exist, as for spiritual reasons, they were opposed to being photographed.
In the preface Ward writes:
“The two illustrations that probably form the chief attraction of this volume, are worth of a word or two. Te Whiti or Tohu never sat for their photos, though often asked to do so, nor would they entertain the idea of a photographer or his appliances coming near them. I was determined to surmount this and I did. The result is before you. But ‘my friends’ now, as I write this, are as unconscious that the faithful camera has depicted their awe-stricken and phlegmatic countenances as I am of befoming ‘Emperor of the Flowery Land’. The senior prophet, Te Whiti, is a faithful representation of his awe-stricken countenance at a wonderful tale I am telling him. Tohu’s is not so good in detail, though faithful in features …”
The present work was printed in Nelson, a small but vibrant port city in the northern part of the South Island, by the firm of Bond, Finney, & Co., the publisher of the town’s daily newspaper, The Nelson Colonist. An interesting feature are the numerous pages of advertisements for local business that give a charming insight into colonial life.
The present work is rare in commerce, although several example can be traced in institutions.
References: Library of New Zealand: 922.83 WHI 1883 [Bagnall 5869]; British Library: 8154.e.6.(9.); Widener Library (Harvard University): BL2615 .W37 2002; Princeton University: BL2615.xW3; University of California Los Angeles: DU411 .W213w;
OCLC: 1071167496, 154176461; Bronwyn ELSMORE, Like Them That Dream: The Maori and the Old Testament (2011), p. 148; TE MIRINGA Hohaia, Gregory O’BRIEN, Lara STRONGMAN, Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance (2006), p. 229; Keith SINCLAIR, Kinds of Peace: Maori People After the Wars, 1870-85 (2013), p. 1959. Cf. Bernard GADD, ‘The Teachings of Te Whiti o Rongomai, 1831-1907’, The Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 75, no. 4 (1966), pp. 445–57; Jane STAFFORD, ‘‘E Kore Aia e Tikaia’: Darwin, Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, and Reading the Bible’, Journal of New Zealand Literature, no. 36:2 (2018), pp. 19–32.