Wiremu Te Tauri

Rangitira and Missionary in Wanganui


early New Zealand, Richard Taylor drawing
Wiremu Te Tauri
Rangitira and Missionary in Wanganui
Image:Early New Zealand drawing by Richard Taylor, Missionary.

Picture courtesy of Richard Taylor

His full name was Wiremu Eruera Te Tauri, He was a rangatira (chief) of Ngāti Te Rangi-ita, Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, and a descendant of Tūwharetoa. Te Tauri was enthusiastic about Christianity from a young age and was made a lay-reader in Taupō, where he was born. After his marriage he moved to Whanganui.

On the 23 May 1840 in Wanganui, Te Tauri became a signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi.

When Henry Williams and Octavius Hadfied of the Church Missionary Society travelled to Whanganui they were asked to provide a missionary for the area. Whanganui already had many Christians and Te Tauri was acting as their teacher. Richard Taylor became the Whanganui missionary in 1843 and developed a close friendship with Te Tauri. He and his son went on mission tours with Taylor.

In 1846, Te Tauri and Taylor held a burial service for those killed in a landslide at Waihī, beside Lake Taupō, when a natural dam burst. Later that year, Te Tauri gave his Sunday clothes to Te Manihera and Kereopa, who were about to set off for what proved to be their last pilgrimage. He was at their tangi (funeral) in 1847 after they were shot dead as utu (revenge/payback) for the earlier killing of some Ngāti Tūwharetoa. He argued against utu for their deaths, stating that:

A minister was like a lofty Kahikatea tree full of fruit, which it sheds on every side around, causing a thick grove of young trees to spring up; so that although the parent tree may be cut down, its place is thus more than supplied by those which proceed from it.

Wiremu Te Tauri was taken back to Taupo before his death. He is noted for his contribution to the spread of the gospel in Wanganui. In a poi chant by Archdeacon Kingi Ihaka which commemorates those Maori who were the first bearers of the gospel throughout Aotearoa: he is noted as the first to introduce Christianity in Wanganui.

BORN: Date Unknown, Taupo, Aotearoa (New Zealand)

DIED: Unknown, Aotearoa (New Zealand)