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Titokowaru

Riwha Titokowaru (c. 1823 - 1888) was a Maori leader in the Taranaki region and one of the most successful opponents of British colonisation.

Titokowaru was a leader of the Ngati Ruanui iwi in South Taranaki. There is some mystery about his early life, but he is known to have become a Methodist in 1842. He joined the king movement and fought in the Taranaki wars in 1860-61.

In 1865-66 British troops conducted a punitive campaign throughout Taranaki, destroying villages who had supported the Maori king movement. 1867 was declared by Titokowaru to be a year of peace. However, continual land grabbing by settlers proved intolerable, and in 1868 Titokowaru went to war.

In June 1868 Titokowaru's forces destroyed a colonist blockhouse at Turuturumokai, near Hawera[?]. The colonial response was to send a large contingent to destroy Titokowaru's stronghold. On 7 Septemeber 1868 the colonial forces were defeated, with heavy casulties. Amongst the dead was the famous Prussian adventurer Gustavus von Tempsky.

Titokowaru then advanced south, and defeated a second colonial force at Moturoa. He then stopped at Tauranga Ika and proceeded to build another fortress. Its strength was never tested, as most of Titokowaru's followers abandoned him before the colonials could attack it. The reasons for this remain unclear.

Titokowaru escaped the colonial pursuit, and later became a leading figure for peace in his later years, reputedly selling grass seed to settlers for a tidy profit.

Titokowaru's remarkable story lapsed into obscurity before being popularised by New Zealand historian James Belich[?] in his works on the Maori wars. He is also the subject of a Maurice Shadbolt novel.



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