Tane Tinorau was a Maori chieftain and explorer in New Zealand. Tinorau was born around 1827, and probably grew up in the Kawhia area of King Country, North Island, New Zealand. His parents were probably Maori royalty as well. Little is known about his early years, but he would have been educated in traditional Maori houses of learning, which were exclusively reserved for those of leadership lineages. These houses of learning were called whare wananga. In his youth, Tane Tinorau would have participated in tribal warfare rituals, that would serves as educational precursors to actual raiding parties. He would later marry twice, and had 16 children by his second wife.
The Kawhia Tribe, to which Tane Tinorau was Chief, is located on the North Island in the Tasman Sea, in the Waikato Region of New Zealand. One day, Chief Tane Tinorau decided to lead a war party to subdue another local tribe, Ngai Hau in Waikato. The attack was successful and, as they started occupying the land, they sent one of their hunters to find food. Along with the food, he discovered a cave entrance that served as a den for wild dogs. Upon learning of this, Chief Tane Tinorau took charge and trapped the wild dogs. He later explored the caves, which later became famously known as the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
Chief Tane Tinorau discovered the Glowworm Caves in the Waitomo area, which later become a tourist attraction. Later, an English surveyor by the name of Fred Mace joined him in a full exploration of the glowworm-populated, subterranean caves. Many times, both men returned to the cave and, on one occasion, Tane Tinorau found another entrance that was located above ground. The most unique feature of these caves are their glowworms, which live on these caves' ceilings. Another chamber features stalactites and stalagmites of varying colors. In 1889, Chief Tane Tinorau saw a need for sharing the beauty of the Glowworm Caves, and opened them up to be viewed by paying tourists.
Tane Tinorau and his people would have faced the same obstacles that most other Maori tribes of his era would have dealt with in their day-to-day lives. War parties would have been a normal occurrence in their daily affairs, and it was an experience characterized by either attacking or being attacked in order to stay a free man rather than to become a slave. At the turn of the century, when many British missionaries worked with the Maori tribes in New Zealand, tribal warfare started to dwindle as many were converted to Christianity. Education was then became the top priority for the Maori people. In fact, in the Twentieth Century, many converted Maori tribes opened their villages to tourists and earned revenues as a result. This allowed them to further improve their lives financially, while maintaining their unique cultural heritage at the same time.
Death and Legacy
Tane Tinorau and his wife, Huti, acted as cave guides to those tourists who desired to see the Glowworm caves. They both worked towards helping their people as well. Tane Tinorau was by then in his mid-70s and, after a life of leading his tribe into the Twentieth Century, he passed away in May of 1905. A year later, in 1906, the New Zealand government took over the Glowworm Caves. However, in 1989, the New Zealand government returned the administration of the Glowworm Caves to his Maori descendants. Today, Tane Tinorau is remembered as the man who discovered and shared the beauty of the Glowworm Caves, along with Englishman Fred Mace.