The Old High Court – Te Whiti and Titokowaru

After what was reported as “Serious Native Aggression at Manaia” Te Whiti o Rongomai (the Prophet of Parihaka), Riwha Titokowaru and eight followers appeared in the Old High Court in October 1886 charged with forcible entry and riot. 

In July that year an estimated 500 Māori with 150 horses entered onto land that had been claimed by Mr Hastie who had settled there with his family.  They erected a whare and 18 tents and brought firewood onto the site to cook dinner.  Some of the white men were invited to dinner including Constable Franklyn but most declined.  The whites from Hawera began to arrive in more force and soon they were almost equal in number to the natives. 

White horsemen rounded up 65 of the horses and 20 cattle belonging to the Māori.  Some used their stock whips both on the natives and on the cattle.  Many settlers used their clubs freely and two or three natives had their heads severely cut.  The horses and cattle were driven to the pound some distance away.

Later in the afternoon able-bodied Europeans greatly outnumbered the natives. Special constables were sworn in and the men leading the natives were arrested.  The remaining natives offered no resistance and left the area.

“Seeing the bad plight in which some of the Maoris were likely to be for want of horses to take food to the nearest kainga, one or two of the settlers offered to subscribe a pound or two to help them to release some of them.  The natives, however, said they would take no money until they had talked over the affairs.  The night will be cold, and many of them will probably be exposed all night with little shelter or clothing.”

“Your reporter rode seven miles in under half an hour with the object of getting this message away in time for the telegraph.” The Evening Post, 6 October 1886      

Inspector Pardy who was the officer in charge of the area took control of the prisoners. 

In October 1886 Te Whiti, Titokowaru and eight followers appeared in the Old High Court in front of Chief Justice Prendergast. Te Whiti’s offence was that of having incited the other prisoners to enter upon the land claimed by Mr Hastie.  After some discussion with the judge they all pleaded guilty.


Detail from a drawing by Walter Jefferson Leslie at the trial of Te Whiti [Wellington]. The Evening Press 1886. Ref: B-034-015 Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. Titokowaru (left) Te Whiti (right)

The Chief Justice then permitted Te Whiti to address the court.

Te Whiti “I am the original owner of the land.  You, the white-faced people, came in a cloud, or army, and turned me off the land.  When I got sufficient courage to re-enter, my hand was put forth again.  We and others were expelled from the land.  We were not expelled peaceably, but by the guns of the Government.  When I rose from the ground, the pain of the blow I received was still great, but I still put out my hand.  I was then tried by law, but those who turned me from the land were not tried.  That is all I have to say to your Honour – not many words.”

Te Whiti was sentenced to imprisonment for three calendar months and fined 100 pounds.  The others were sentenced to imprisonment for one calendar month and fined 20 pounds.


The above account is taken from newspaper reports of the event and the court case which appear on the National Library website in the Papers Past section.

Serious Native Aggression at Manaia, The Evening Post 19 July 1886

The Maori Rioters in Court, The Evening Post 6 October 1886

The trial of Te Whiti, drawing by Walter Jefferson Leslie, The Evening Post 1886,

Alexander Turnbull Library - Item link:



Information sheet Te Whiti and Titokowaru (PDF, 289 KB)