Spreading the word
Foot Artillery Sword, United States Army; 1839; Ngati Toa Rangatira; Springfield Armory. Te Papa,
1839, Te Papa
Issuing a challenge
This sword belonged to influential Māori chief Te Rauparaha, of the Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Ngāti Raukawa tribes. He used it in 1848 to challenge his people to support the building of Rangiātea church in Otaki, atop ancient soil from their Pacific homeland.
The aged Te Rauparaha had just returned from 18 months in prison. Governor George Grey had detained him – without trial – after conflicts between Māori and government troops over land. During the chief’s captivity, Grey gave him this sword.
Perhaps Te Rauparaha’s support of the church recognised the changes in his community as Māori increasingly adopted Christianity. The church opened in 1851, though Te Rauparaha did not live to see it. He died in 1849.