HENARE WIREMU TARATOA — Noble Warrior by Patricia Brooks (Published by the author, available
from 4 Briannell Valley Rd, Pyes Pa (email@example.com)); $15 (including
postage). Reviewed by GEMMA SINNOTT.
is a fascinating read, primarily due to the pivotal years in which Taratoa lived. His life intertwines with many famous names of 19th century New Zealand, Story of Maori missionary is
including Henry Williams, Bishop Selwyn, Octavius Hadfield, Wiremu Tamihana and the founders of the Kingitanga movement.
Briefly, Taratoa was born in Tauranga but taken to the Bay of Islands as a young man to learn
English and Christianity in Henry William’s missionary school. He moved on from there
to St John’s College in Auckland to continue his study.
During his time at St John’s he took part in a missionary outreach to the Loyalty Islands
in Melanesia, becoming the first Maori Christian missionary to minister overseas.
On his return to New Zealand, Taratoa took up a teaching post at Octavius Hadfield’s school in
Otaki. Among his achievements as a teacher was the production of an arithmetic textbook.
However, discontent was brewing in the north, and Taratoa abruptly left Otaki to return to
his people in Tauranga. The year was 1864.
In her preface to the book Patricia Brooks writes: “He (Taratoa) grew up in a society that generally adjusted well to cataclysmic changes until the tragedy of land confiscation.”
The second half of the story deals with how Taratoa and other leaders (Maori and Pakeha) struggled to check the escalating conflict over land. Eventually Taratoa found himself in opposition to the missionaries who had nurtured him.
However, he retained his Christian faith and values to the end. Patricia Brooks’ story of Henare Wiremu Taratoa would appeal to those with an interest in New Zealand history, particularly the history of the interaction between early missionaries and Maori.
Patricia Brooks is the author of two other books relating to the history of Christianity in New Zealand: With no regrets — the story of Francis Vernon Douglas, and By the Name of Mary: Tauranga Catholic Church 1840–2000.
Gemma Sinnott works at Pompallier Diocesan Centre, Auckland, for Caritas- Aotearoa New Zealand.