Sunday, May 11, 2014

Narratives of history.

Thinking of Mother's Day today, and how that takes me back through the narrative history of my family. How much of that history is able to be found in patches, often intersecting patches. And how many spaces there are in between.

So, in honour of Mother’s day I wish to pay tribute all the way back to my grandmother’s great-grandmother Tiraha Papa Harakeke, 1808-1885. 


Tiraha was born at Utakura, Hokianga, daughter of Papaharakeke and Kopu. Kopu (her mother), was born in 1775. Tiraha was third cousin and adopted daughter of Tamati Waka Nene, kinswoman to Patuone, Muriwai, and Hongi Hika. Tiraha’s father, Papaharakeke was killed by Tuhourangi at Motutawa Island on the encouragement of Te Rauparaha, who wanted revenge for a relative lost during Ngapuhi's capture of Te Totara pa. Ngapuhi chief, Hongi Hika had a patu made to avenge his death, and attacked Te Arawa at the height of the musket wars, instigated by Hongi and a tragic time for Maori, but the patu was not used. In 1933 Sir Apirana Ngata presented the patu, known as Papaharakeke, to Te Arawa as a tohu (token of friendship) from Ngapuhi. The patu is owned by the Arawa trustboard, and for 70 years was held in the Auckland Museum. In 2007, I believe, it was returned to Rotorua.

Tiraha married English Battle of Waterloo veteran, later carpenter, and then whaler, William Cook in a Christian ceremony at Paihia 13th March, 1848, though they had been together for many years as a couple and already had ten children.

They would have twelve in all.


The ceremony was conducted by Te Wiremu (Rev. Henry Williams) he of the controversial translation of the Treaty of Waitangi. A prayerbook given to the couple after their wedding is now in the Russell Museum, as is this photograph of Tiraha. Tiraha passed away 1st September,1885, and is buried somewhere in the Russell churchyard, as is Tamati Waka Nene. Unfortunately, Tiraha’s grave, though it is entered in the parish registry, is unmarked. William Cook had died at Waikare in 1874. One of their sons, George Howe Cook was born on a whaling brig – the Independence. The Cook family of Whangamumu became famous as whalers, before finally ceasing operations in 1931.




This tribute speaks through my mother, Alice June Martha Maitu,1928-1995, and my grandmother, Hannah, 1901-1994. It also honours Hannah's mother - Ada - and Ada's mother - Martha, and all the wahine toa in my whanau's history. And finally, all due respect to the descendents of the many tupuna noted in this post.

The patu - Papaharakeke. (Te Arawa Trustboard)

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