Te Pahi medal on display at Te Papa

19 May, 2017

The Te Pahi medal, given to the Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Awa chief, Te Pahi, by the Governor of New South Wales, Phillip Gidley King, is on display at Te Papa.

This is the first time the precious taonga is on display in Wellington, after it was purchased jointly by Te Papa and Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira at an auction in Sydney 2014.

The display of the medal was unveiled and blessed today [Friday, May 19] by a representative of Te Papa, and was attended by descendants of Te Pahi, along with Te Papa staff.

Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai says while the silver medal itself is stunning to look at, its full significance is discovered through the stories behind the medal.

“Te Pahi was an entrepreneurial chief from the Bay of Islands who struck up a strong friendship with the Governor of New South Wales, Phillip Gidley King in the early 1800s when he visited Government House in Sydney.”

Te Pahi went with goal of establishing and firming up trade with the new Australian colony, and was one of the first Māori chiefs to establish such a relationship, Dr Hakiwai says.

“The visit saw Te Pahi learn about sheep farming and agriculture, and he made a strong impression on Phillip Gidley King as well as Samuel Marsden who following this began his Christian mission to New Zealand.”

The medal was lost in an attack on Te Pahi’s islands more than a century ago. It was put up for auction from private collection in Sydney. Te Papa and Auckland Museum jointly spent $300,000 on the taonga with the aim to return the medal to New Zealand. Each museum will be given equal time to display the taonga; most recently it was exhibited at Te Kongahu Museum of Waitangi when the museum opened last year.

Descendant of Te Pahi, Dr Deidre Brown says: “The Te Pahi medal tells an important story about the recognition of Māori sovereignty by the Crown before the signing of the Te Titiri o Waitangi. It speaks of the mutually beneficial relationship that formed between Te Pahi and Europeans through their early trading relationships. We are delighted that these stories can be shared with other New Zealanders and international visitors to our country through the exhibition of this important taonga.”

As part of the medal’s display on Level 4 of Te Papa, a short documentary by filmmaker and direct descendant of Te Pahi, Komako Silver, is being screened. Tippahee: the medal’s rescue and return home was co-funded by Te Papa and Auckland Museum, and tells the story of the medal’s repatriation to Aotearoa New Zealand.