Eruera Te Puke Mahurangi and Kuramai-i-tera

Updated 14 January 2020

Eruera Te Puke Mahurangi and Kuramai-i-tera were Wakaiwa Rāwinia’s parents.

Very little is known about Eruera’s background. We do not know of his parents or when or where he was born. Some researchers have referred to him as a leading Ngāti Te Whiti rangatira. While there is no whakapapa available for him, evidence that he belonged to Ngāti Te Whiti is confirmed in the results of a census organised by Donald McLean in 1847.

Eruera was identified as one of the Ātiawa rangatira who gave some support to the Tainui/Ngāpuhi amiowhenua taua in 1819-20 when they were under siege at the Pukerangiora Pā (Smith, 2010 p362-363). That may indicate that Eruera shared some kinship ties to the northern tribes as did Kuramai-i-tera.

Kuramai-i-tera’s whakapapa in contrast is well-established and very impressive. Through her father, Tautara, Kuramai’s whakapapa tracks back to seven of the great waka that arrived in Aotearoa around 1350 (see Wakaiwa Rāwinia’s whakapapa in the family tree links page), and to several other iwi to the north and east of Taranaki. Tautara was known to belong to the Puketapu and Ngāti Rahiri hapū.

Eruera and Kuramai appear to have lived within or close to the area now known as Rotokere/Barrett’s Domain, probably at the nearby Ratapihipihi Pa or Manahi Kainga. They allocated land in that area to Dicky Barrett for his use following his marriage to Rawinia in 1828 (later known as Barrett’s Reserve C & D). Members of the Ngāmotu hapū were recorded as living at Ratapihipihi at the 1878 census of the Māori population.

Eruera and Kuramai had two other daughters, Horata Pikia and Horata Waikauri. Harata Pikia married but had no issue of her own. Some time following the siege of Otaka Pā Herata Waikauri was taken by the Waikato as a slave. Following her release she did not marry and she died in Auckland in 1887.

Kuramai-i-tera was also taken as a slave by the Tainui in a follow-up attack in 1833 and was not released to return to Ngāmotu until late 1839, joining her husband again at the time the Barrett’s were again resident at Ngāmotu.

Wakaiwa Rāwinia’s parents were part of the 300 or so who choose to remain at Ngāmotu to maintain ahi kā as opposed joining the migration south in 1832. Their lives from then until the return of Barrett and his family eight years later can only be described as being utter misery. Their bravery and perseverance deserve to be remembered.

Conditions for those who remained in and around Ngāmotu were very harsh. Ernst Diefenbach estimated only about 20 people remaining near Ngāmotu in November 1839, and that they ‘… lived a very agitated life, often harrassed by the Waikato, and seeking refuge on one of the rocky Sugar Loaf Islands, at times dispersed in the impenetrable forest at the base of Mt Egmont, sometimes making a temporary truce with their oppressors, but always regarded as an enslaved and powerless tribe’ (History of Taranaki, B Wells, Chapter 12).

One can imagine emotions being high at the sight of Dicky, Rāwinia and family at that time. Dieffenbach observed that, ‘On our arrival being known, they assembled around Mr Barrett, and with tears welcomed their old friend. In a singing strain they lamented their misfortunes and the continual inroads of the Waikato. The scene was truely affecting, and the more so when we recalled that this small remnant had sacrificed everything to the love of their native place’.

By late 1839, at the time that the NZ Company agents, including Barrett and his family, arrived back at Ngāmotu to conduct land sale negotiations, only a small residual of the original 300 remained.

Given his brave perseverance in maintaining ahi ka at Ngāmotu it is hardly surprising that Eruera was initially opposed to selling his land to the NZ Company (Caughey, 1998:134). As noted in the posting covering Barrett’s role on land sales, it was not until Barrett threatened to leave Ngāmotu once again with his family that Eruera was coerced into signing the deed of sale.

Eruera and Kuramai saw out their years living near the Hongihongi stream, close to the Barrett family at Ngāmotu. We do not know when Kuramai died. Eruera appears to have outlived Kuramai, Barrett and Rāwinia given that Poharama Te Whiti noted in his letter to Donald McLean dated 16th February 1851 that: “our elder, Eruera, who has died, and will not return as friend or guide for me and our good friend, Hone”.

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