Timeline: The Te Pahi Medal

The Te Pahi medal is a taongataonga treasure of national importance: the first official state gift given to a Māori chief.

Explore the history of the Te Pahi Medal (in English and te reo Māori) in this timeline.

 

Read this page in te reo Māori

January 1806: The medal is gifted

The Governor of New South Wales, Philip Gidley King, had the medal made to mark Te Pahi’s three-month visit to Sydney. John Austin, a convict silversmith, probably crafted it from two watch cases.  

King hoped to secure resources for his colony from Te Pahi, and protection of whalers and traders in the Bay of Islands. Te Pahi aimed to establish trade ties and acquire new technology.

Philip Gidley King

Caption

Philip Gidley King, Governor of New South Wales, had the medal made for Te Pahi ‘to give him some proof of the estimation he was held in’.

Philip Gidley King, about 1800, artist unknown. State Library of New South Wales (IE204307)

About 1810: The medal disappears

In 1810, tragedy struck in Northland. A local chief’s son had been flogged on the Boyd, a cargo ship. In retaliation, his tribe massacred all on board. Te Pahi was wrongly blamed.

Revenge was swift – British whalers sacked Te Pahi’s island fortified village, killing up to 60 Māori. Te Pahi was fatally wounded. During the turmoil, the medal vanished.

Painting of Ranghe Hue

Caption

Te Pahi’s rohe surrounded Rangihoua Bay in the Bay of Islands. It included Rangihoua Pā, shown in this landscape 11 years after his death.

Ranghe Hue [Rangihoua] a New Zealand Fortified Village, The Residence of Warri-Pork [Wharepoaka], 1827, by Augustus Earle. National Library of Australia (T178 NK12/141)

1810–2014: Where was the medal?

Te Pahi’s medal all but disappeared between 1810 and 2014. It was only mentioned once, in an Australian will dated 1899. How it got to Australia from the Bay of Islands is a mystery.

April 2014: The medal reappears

In 2014, the medal resurfaced at Sotheby’s Sydney auction house. Te Pahi’s iwiiwi tribe, Ngāpuhi, explored a legal challenge to its sale, fearing the taongataonga treasure could be lost to a private collector.

On auction day, Ngāpuhi performed a hakahaka defiant chant outside the sale venue. Meanwhile, Te Papa and Auckland Museum, with Ngāpuhi’s endorsement, put in a joint bid – and won.

November 2014: The medal returns

Te Pahi’s descendants welcomed his medal back to the Bay of Islands in November 2014. Afterwards, it was handed into the care of Te Papa and Auckland Museum, its new co-owners.

Currently, Te Papa is custodian of the Te Pahi medal – a tribute to a leader of great manamana prestige, and a symbol of friendship between two peoples.

Gallery

The medal

Medal with text engraved that reads Presented by Governor King to Tippahee a Chief of New Zealand during his visit at Sydney NS Wales January 1806

Caption

Te Pahi Medal (front), 1806, New South Wales, by John Austin. Collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira. Purchased 2014. Te Papa (GH024416)

Medal with text engraved that reads In the 46th year of the Reign of George the Third by the Grace of God King of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland

Caption

Te Pahi Medal (back), 1806, New South Wales, by John Austin. Collection of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira. Purchased 2014. Te Papa (GH024416)