J W Giles (Artist), George French Angas

Nene or Tamati Waka, Chief of Hokianga

Nene or Tamati Waka, Chief of Hokianga by J W Giles, George French Angas

Artwork Detail

Angas's description:



NENE, or, as he is now more generally known by his baptized name - Thomas Walker - (Tamiti Waka,) is the principal man of the Nga-ti-toa Tribe, which, in common with many others, is comprised in the great northern division of tribes usually called Nga Pui.

The residence of this celebrated man is near the Wesleyan Mission Station, on the banks of the Hokianga River, where he fully established his character as the friend and protector of Europeans, long before the regular colonization of New Zealand.

In common with most of his countrymen, Nene was, in his younger days, celebrated for his expertness in acts of petty pilfering; and he will himself laugh heartily if now reminded of his youthful tricks. On one occasion when visiting one of the Missionaries at Waimate, a fine gander attracted his attention, and he secretly ordered it to be seized and prepared for his dinner in a native oven - to prevent detection, the bird was cooked with the feathers on - however, it was soon missed, and a vigorous enquiry instituted by its owner, but without success, until certain savory steams rising from Nene's camp excited suspicion. To tax him with the theft would have been contrary to all rules of Māori etiquette, and the mystery of its disappearance was not unravelled until the following morning, when, after Nene's departure, the ill-fated gander was found concealed amongst the bushes, it having proved too tough even for a New Zealander's powers of mastication. But Nene is no longer the thoughtless, mischievous New Zealander; for many years he has been playing another part in the serious game of life, and his conduct has deservedly gained for him an undying reputation.

About the year 1839, the body of an European was discovered on the banks of one of the tributary streams of Hokianga, under circumstances which led to the suspicion that he had been murdered by a native called Kete, one of Nene's slaves; a large meeting was convened on the subject, and the guilt of Kete being fully established, Nene condemned him to die; he was accordingly taken to a small island in the river called Motiti, and there shot! - so rigid were Nene's ideas of justice. When Captain Hobson arrived, and assembled the chiefs at Waitangi, to obtain their acquiescence in the Sovereignty of the Queen over the Islands of New Zealand, he was received with doubt, and his proposals rejected, until Nene and his friends made their appearance; the aspect of affairs was then changed; Nene, by his eloquence, and by the wisdom of his remarks, turned the current of feeling, and the hitherto dissentient voices were hushed; and Nene stood recognized as the prime agent in effecting the treaty of Waitangi.

After the flagstaff at the Bay of Islands was cut down by Heki, Governor Fitzroy proceeded to the disaffected district, with a considerable body of military, thinking, by a display of power, to overcome the rebellious natives; a large concourse of chiefs was gathered, and many speeches were made, but amongst all of them the words of Nene were conspicuous for their energy. "If," said he, "another flagstaff is cut down, I shall take up the quarrel." Most nobly has he redeemed his pledge; during the whole course of the rebellion, up to the present period, he has steadily adhered to his purpose, and has, on numerous occasions, rendered the most essential services to the military; he has had several engagements with the rebels, and each time has proved himself as superior in courage and conduct in the field, as he is in wisdom and sagacity in the council. The settlers in the northern parts of New Zealand, are under the greatest obligations to this noble chief; but for him and his people, many a hearth at present the scene of peace and happiness, would have been desecrated, and defiled with blood; many a family now occupying their ancient homes, would have been driven from their abodes, and exposed to privation and misery. Those settlers living near the disaffected districts, but remote from the influence, and out of the reach of the protecting arm of Nene, have been driven as houseless wanderers to seek safety in the Town of Auckland; and such would probably have been the universal fate of the out-settlers, but for the courage and loyalty of this deserving chief."

Nene or Tamati Waka, Chief of Hokianga
J W Giles, George French Angas
Production date
hand-coloured lithograph
425 x 279 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1961
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
New Zealand Art
Display status
Not on display

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