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  • Writer's pictureBrent Kerehona Pukepuke-Ahitapu

Chief Enoka's taiaha returned to Ngai Te Rangi - the author's role in this repatriation

Updated: 5 days ago

A taiaha that belonged to the Ngai Te Rangi chief, Enoka Whanake (and used at the Battle of Gate Pa or Pukehinahina), who gifted it to a European trader and goldmine owner, Nathan Goldwater, in Tauranga in the 1860s - has been returned to the Ngai Te Rangi iwi (tribe).

The author is both humbled and overjoyed to have played a role in this significant taonga (artefact/cultural treasure) returning to its people..

Around 5 years ago, Aaron Goldwater contacted me to discuss this taonga, and we had countless conversations regarding it over the next few years. I contacted Puawai Cairns, a Maori curator with ties to Ngai Te Rangi, and the process to repatriate Enoka's taiaha was set in motion. Discussions with the leaders of the Ngāti Kuku and Ngāi Tūkairangi hapu (subtribes) of Ngai Te Rangi followed, and this led to the return (after a delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic) of this priceless taonga to the people of Ngai Te Rangi; when Goldwater was first welcomed by Ngai Te Rangi, on 20th April 2024, and an agreement to hand over possession was signed by both parties. Goldwater was gifted a carved tewhatewha (chiefly weapon) as a display of gratitude.

Photos 1, 3 & 9 courtesy of Herewini Waikato (April 2024),

photo 2 is courtesy of Sarah Webb (April 2024), and

photos 4-8 & 10 courtesy of Arohanoa Matthews (April 2024).

“Words fail me in a way because it is a gift to me to be able to return it and it is something that feels right it is the right thing to do. It came to me from my father, it came to him from his father, from his father, and from his father who was Nathan Goldwater. Nathan Goldwater was gifted it in 1867 by Enoka and it has been passed down the family to me,” fourth-generation recipient Aaron Goldwater said.

“I felt the taiaha was calling me to have it returned home and now, being close to its waters, its mountains and its people, I am elated- so is the taiaha if you know what I mean,” Goldwater said.

Along with the taiaha was a document written at the time of the gifting to explain the taiaha was used in the Pukehinahina battle and that it took the lives of many Pākehā soldiers.

The taiaha and document lay in the ancestral house Rauru Kī Tahi at Whareroa Marae, from the 20th April, and was formally presented to the people of Ngai Te Rangi on April 29, at Pukehinahina, to commemorate the 160 years since the Gate Pā battle.

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