Arapata Hohepa Te Au Reuben – Ngai Tuahuriri

Ngai Tahu Canterbury Purchase Agreement 1848

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The purchase agreement had devastating consequences for Ngai Tahu. The Ngai Tahu rangatira who signed the agreement thought that their mahinga kai at Tautahi and Puari would be set aside for them as stated in the Maori text of the deed,  however the meaning of the words ‘mahinga kai’ were translated differently in the te reo Maori and English versions.

Arapata Reuben

Ngāi Tahu believed that with the Treaty of Waitangi would come material benefits. However, one purpose of the treaty was to facilitate the Crown’s purchase of land from Māori, to sell to settlers or commercial interests. From 1844 to 1863 Ngāi Tahu sold their lands to the Crown in a series of nine purchases. The largest of these was the Canterbury purchase of 1848, negotiated by Henry Tacy Kemp, which saw 20 million acres (about 8 million hectares) sold for £2,000.

It soon became apparent to Ngāi Tahu that the Crown would not honour the transactions, as they understood them. The tribe believed larger reserves should have been surveyed, their food-gathering places set aside, and schools and hospitals located within the villages.

The first formal statement of Ngāi Tahu grievances about the land purchases was made as early as 1849 by Matiaha Tiramōrehu. In the 1870s, Hōri Kerei Taiaroa began the pursuit of the Ngāi Tahu claim in Parliament. Subsequently almost every Ngāi Tahu leader until the 1990s was active in the cause.

Te Maire Tau. 'Ngāi Tahu - The Ngāi Tahu claim', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 22 September 2012

  • Image: Heritage New Zealand
  • James Edward Fitzgerald, watercolour. Canterbury Museum. 1938.238.37
  • Dr A C Barker drawing, Canterbury Museum. 1949.29.18
  • J.T. Thomson, Canterbury Plains, 1856, watercolour on paper
  • E.M. Hocken after Alfred Charles Baker, Christchurch, Decmber 1852, watercolour on paper