The European Arrival in Kerikeri


To choose a date for when it all began, we could say 1803. At that time the Ngapuhi dominated the north and among the various hapu, Te Pahi from Te Puna in the Bay of Islands was pre-eminent. In his ability to accept new ideas and in his power to assimilate them, Te Pahi, along with Ruatara and Hongi were striking examples of the height to which the Maori race could attain.


In Britain, the excesses of the French Revolution had led to a reaction among the upper classes and made them think more seriously about their responsibilities. The last years of the old century saw William Wilberforce, the great philanthropist, having already recruited one Samuel Marsden as chaplain for the New South Wales penal colony, persuading the English parliament to abolish the slave trade.


Back in New Zealand, Te Pahi and his sons, eager to learn more about the world outside their home lands, visited New South Wales in 1803 and there met Samuel Marsden. Marsden was at once excited at the prospect of finding a people who, in keeping with the sentiment of the times, must be brought into the fold of Christ.


Years were to pass before active steps could be taken, but the new-born project never died within him. For Te Pahi, contact with the Europeans eventually cost him his life. His enemies conspired against him and in 1809 whalers stormed his island fortress in the mistaken belief that he had been involved in the "Boyd" massacre at Whangaroa. Te Pahi was wounded but escaped only to be killed soon after by the real perpetrators of the "Boyd" tragedy.


Ruatara, Te Pahi's young nephew, became the high chief of his tribe. Like his uncle, Ruatara was anxious to travel and see the world. The outside world treated him badly and Ruatara was repeatedly beaten and robbed, finding great difficulty in ever locating a ship to take him back to his home lands.


In 1807, Marsden was once again in London pacing the Strand promoting his ideas for the welfare of the many races in which he was interested. He appealed for a mission to the Maoris but he wished it to be an industrial mission. He proposed that artisans should be sent out who would prepare the way for ordained clergy. Men of sound piety and a lively interest in the spiritual welfare of the native inhabitants. Carpenter William Hall and shoemaker John King were chosen and given further training in ship-building and rope making .