Jun 25

the First Maori King of New Zealand

King Pootatau Te Wherowhero
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Tawhiao Potatau Te Wherowhero
by Gottfried Lindauer
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"There is but one eye of the needle, through which the white, red and black threads must pass.” ~ Pōtatau Te Wherowhero (c. 1860)

Pōtatau Te Wherowhero was a New Zealand Māori warrior, leader of the Waikato iwi (tribes), the first Māori King and founder of the Te Wherowhero royal dynasty. In the early 1850s, a movement to establish a Māori King developed both to unite the Māori people and to act as a counterbalance to Queen Victoria but mostly, to halt the sale and alienation of Māori land by the Pākehā Government. The search for a King eventually settled on Pōtatau, who by then elderly, expressed initial reluctance, but agreed in April 1857 at Rangiriri. He was installed as king at Ngaruawahia in June 1858 and reigned for two years, dying June 25, 1860 and was succeeded by his son. This tribute tartan uses the blue and gold of the Kiingitanga (the Maori monarchy) with the gold stripes representing the seven waka (canoes that carried the Maori to New Zealand from the South Pacific in the 13th century.

This tartan was designed to pay homage to King Pootatau Te Wherowhero (1858-1860) the first Maori King. 

 

Pōtatau Te Wherowhero (died 25 June 1860) was a Māori warrior, leader of the Waikato iwi (tribes), the first Māori King and founder of the Te Wherowhero royal dynasty. He was first known just as Te Wherowhero and took the name Pōtatau after he became king in 1858. As disputes over land grew more severe Te Wherowhero found himself increasingly at odds with the Government and its policies.

 

In March 1840 Te Wherowhero was living at Awhitu in the western ManukauCaptain William Symonds brought a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi to Manukau for chiefs to sign, but Te Wherowhero refused. However, he was friendly towards the colonial government and not opposed to Pākehā presence in areas he controlled. Initially Te Wherowhero favoured the Pākehā arrivals in his territory: his daughter, Tiria, married the trader John Kent

In the early 1850s, a movement to establish a Māori King developed. This aimed to unite the Māori people and to act as a counterbalance to Queen Victoria. But above all the King Movement wanted to halt the sale and alienation of Māori land by the Pākehā Government.   The search for a King eventually settled on 

Pōtatau, who by then elderly, expressed initial reluctance, but agreed in April 1857 at Rangiriri.  He was installed as king at Ngaruawahia in June 1858.

Pōtatau himself wished to continue to work in co-operation with the British Government, but many of his followers adopted a much more independent position. Gradually the two sides polarised and grew apart, culminating some five years later in warfare (see Invasion of the Waikato and New Zealand Land Wars).

Pōtatau died at Ngaruawahia on 25 June 1860 and is buried on Mount Taupiri, a mountain close to his royal residence in Ngaruawahia. His son, Matutaera Tawhiao, succeeded him.

 

Colours: blue and gold represent the colours of the Kiingitanga (the Maori monarchy) with the gold stripes representing the seven waka (canoes that carried the Maori to New Zealand from the South Pacific in the 13th century); and red, white and black to represent the King’s comment, “There is but one eye of the needle, through which the white, red and black threads must pass.”

For more portraits of the Maori during this time period, click the portrait of Tāwhiao Pōtatau Te Wherowhero by Gottfried Lindauer (bet. 1874-1903).  He predominantly worked from studio photographs in addition to painting from life, and most of his striking Māori portraits were painted posthumously.

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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