A word for you. Cease travelling on the roads; stop forever the going on the roads which lead to Mangamanga, lest you be left on the roads as food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the field, or for me, because I have eaten the European, as beef, he was cooked in a pot; the women and children partook of the food. I have begun to eat human flesh, and my throat is constantly open for the flesh of man. I shall not die; I shall not die. When death itself is dead I shall be alive.
Titokowaru was a Maori General in the New Zealand Land Wars. This was a conflict between some native New Zealand tribes and the British colonists (who were assisted by other Maori tribes). It was a bitter war, but a largely neglected one historically until recently. There has been a major revision of the conflicts spearheaded by the historian James Balich.
Titokowaru was born in approximately 1823. His father was one of the leading chiefs of the Ngati Ruanui tribe and saw to it that Titokowaru was trained in both European and Maori traditions. His mother was one of the survivors of the Pukaikai massacre, and this was probably a foundation for Titokowaru’s mistrust of Europeans.
Titokowaru was trained as a Methodist missionary. He was well educated and wrote English and Maori with much skill. His training was not all European however. Titokowaru had undergone extensive education in the ways of maori as well. His father’s position of importance meant that he was destined to lead in some way. It has been suggested by James Balich that he was trained as a priest. Wherever his training came from, Titokowaru gained much mana (respect) from his learning and was respected by maori.
Titokowaru utilised both violent and non-violent tactics in his struggle against land confiscation. The only thing which linked the Titokowaru of peace, and the Titokowaru of war was the cunning and effectiveness of his actions.
During peacetime, Titokowaru’s resistance came in the form of ploughing parties,
steeling surveyors equipment, and demonstrations. His most famous and successful
non-violent action was his hikoi, a march of peace. He advocated restraint on the
maori side, “As for the lands let them go I wish to leave in peace.” and constantly
appeased the Europeans. At many points he showed respect for Queen Victoria by
marching his followers around flagpoles, and drinking to her health.
When these peaceful tactics were exhausted, Titokowaru completely changed his
tactical direction, choosing one of war, and committing himself to that path whole
Titokowaru was a brilliant military tactician. His strategies showed maori warfare at
its finest. His aims during conflict were to inflict as many casualties on the enemy as
possible. The Europeans, by contrast, wished to crush the maori resistance, and
would attack any maori fortification with an assault with large numbers of men.
Titokowaru used this to draw his enemy into attack. He knew that if he could get the
colonialists to attack first, he would win.
But what set Titokowaru apart were his wartime propaganda tactics. These were
designed to both terrify the enemy and to enrage it, provoking it to attack. In one
conflict, the colonialists would not attack his pa (maori fortification). He responded by building more pas,
each time closer to the enemy’s position, taunting them with inflammatory letters.
However his most famous propaganda tactic was that of ritual cannibalism.
Titokowaru knew how disgusted and enraged the colonialist would be when he ate
their comrades. ‘I have eaten the European, as beef, he was cooked in a pot,’ read one
letter, “the women and children partook of the food.” Although only a selected few
partook in the ritual, he mentioned this to further sicken his adversary.
The success’s in Titokowaru’s campaigns were vast, and had they continued could
have ended the confiscation of maori land.
When Titokowaru started his armed campaign, he had a small following of less then
one hundred men. He fought successive battles using the aforementioned tactics with
great success. Without suffering defeat, and inflicting large numbers of casualties on
the colonial armies, his following grew exponentially.
By the time his pa at Tauranga-ika was about to be attacked, Titokowaru’s following
had grown to over one thousand warriors, and for the first time he had comparable
numbers of troops to his enemy. There was also the possibility that the maori king
movement would support his cause, bolstering his force even further. His pa,
according to the commander of the colonialists, Whitmore was ‘beautifully built’,
‘without a doubt the strongest Pah I have ever seen.’
Despite the tremendous power in his hands, Titokowaru evacuated his pa at
Tauranga-ika before it was to be attacked, and his army was disbanded. The has been
much speculation as to why this happened. The most plausible theory is based on the
writings of Kimble Bent, suggesting that Titokowaru had ‘a liaison with another
man’s wife,’ and that this led his army to be expelled from the reigon by the chiefs of
the area. What ever the causes, the abandonment of Tauranga-ika ended Titokowaru’s
Titokowaru was an incredible important figure in New Zealand history, and has only recently been re-discovered. Had he not abandoned Tauranga-ika, he could have conceivably stopped land confiscation, even splitting New Zealand.