Te Whareumu was the most important chief in the Kororakeka area in his day. He was a warrior chief of the highest mana in pre-European times and well respected by the early missionaries and traders, to whom he provided the greatest protection. Te Whareumu quickly realised the advantage of trading with the many ships visiting the Bay.
Born in the late 18th century, possibly about 1770-80, into a high ranking family, Te Whareumu was the son of Te Arahi and Te Ruru. He was closely related to Te Ruki Kawiti and Pōmare I (also called Whetoi) and related to most of the northern chiefs. Te Whareumu assumed control of the tribe after the passing of Tara. Also known as Uruti and 'King George'.
One of Te Whareumu's wives was Moehuri, daughter of Mohi Tawhai, an important chief of the Mahurehure tribe. Another wife was Whakakati, mother of Hori Kingi Tahua and at least three more children. He also married the wife of Tara, who was called Mrs Go-Shore, a term brought about from her boarding the ships in the harbour and telling them to come ashore.
Koriwhai of the Ngāpuhi had been murdered by some members of the Ngāti Whātua and Ngāti Maru tribes. This murder bought back memories of the defeat that the Ngāpuhi had suffered at the battle of Moremonui. So Hongi Hika decided to help Te Whareumu, to whom Koriwhai was related, and at the same time use the opportunity to wipe out their warlike neighbours of the Kaipara. So the Ngāpuhi assembled under Hongi Hika 500 strong and after the usual haka, the taua (war party) proceeded by way of the Mangakahia Valley. With them was the Roroa chief, Te Hihi-o-tote, who was related to the Ngāpuhi and to the Ngāti Whātua. Te Hihi managed to stop Hongi Hika from destroying his relatives by presenting the warrior with a fine old mere (greenstone weapon). Hongi turned back and when Te Whareumu found out, he was very angry and immediately set out to sea with his own taua. He landed at Mangawhai with nearly 200 men and marched inland to confront the enemy. Meanwhile, Hongi Hika had started out again with 300 warriors overland, within this party were many different chiefs of the Ngāpuhi, including Te Ahu, Patuone, Tāmati Wāka Nene, Te Morenga and others.
The battle was fought in open land near a stream called Waimako, close to Kaiwaka. The Ngāpuhi taua, led by Te Whareumu and Hongi Hika, were armed with many muskets and Hongi must have looked impressive in his suit of armour, given to him by King George IV. On the other side of the field were the Ngāti Whātua and allies, numbering over a 1,000 men, though they lacked the firepower of the Ngāpuhi combine. On spotting their rivals, the Ngāti Whātua launched a full assault met by Te Whareumu and his tribe. The fighting was fierce and bloody and just when it looked like the superior numbers of the Ngāti Whātua would overwhelm them, in came Hongi Hika, the guns blazed unmercifully and the Ngāti Whātua retreated to the forest edge, but they were rallied again by an old chief and once more charged the Ngāpuhi ranks, only to die in a rain of bullets. Then Te Whareumu and Hongi charged the Ngāti Whātua lines and the slaughter commenced, the bodies of over 700 Ngāti Whātua and their allies were spread all over the field and the remaining survivors fled for their lives, being chased all the way by members of the Ngāpuhi.
The slaughter was so great that the Waimako stream ran red with blood and while the Ngāti Whātua suffered large losses, the Ngāpuhi also lost several chiefs including Te Ahu, Te Puhi, Hare Hongi (Hongi Hika's son). Te Ruki Kawiti took a number of Ngāti Whātua captive and refused to hand them over to Hongi Hika, preferring instead to return them to their own people to whom he was related.
As the triumphant victors returned home they saw enemy heads stuck on posts by celebrating members and one captured woman was eaten at a certain point by members of the hapu of Patuone and Tāmati Wāka Nene. This was the last time those two participated in the eating of human flesh, such was the bloody nature of the time. Te Whareumu was well satisfied with his utu (revenge) but Hongi Hika went straight into another fight with Ngāti Pou at Whangaroa.
Te Whareumu was killed in 1828, in the Waima district of the Hokianga. There had been outbreaks of fighting in the Hokianga, in the days preceding his death. The fighting commenced following the death of Tiki, a son of Whetoi (Pomare I), who was in the Hokianga seeking redress for earlier offences. The dispute involved the Te Mahurehure, a tribe from South Hokianga and from which Te Whareumu's wife Mohuri was descended. When Tiki felt offended by the theft of some pigs by members of the te Mahurehure tribe, he went to their land seeking redress, in this case sweet potatoes, and Tiki was shot while removing them. When news of Tiki's death reached the Bay of Islands, a large taua (war party) was immediately assembled, Pōmare II (nephew of Pōmare I, originally called Whiria, also called Whetoi) and his party reached the Waima first and negoiated as to what was the appropriate redress for the death of Tiki. When Te Whareumu arrived he was most displeased and took to deriding the Waima tribal leaders, especially Muriwai. Things quickly turned ugly and in the ensuing chaos, Te Whareumu was shot twice. On seeing the mighty leader fall, Patuone and Nene from the Hokianga took up his body and made great lamentations. In normal Maori tradition his body was cleaned and the bones placed in a secret burial cave. Hongi Hika had prophesied Te Whareumu's death, when on his own death bed just two weeks earlier, Hongi said that Te Whareumu was shortly to follow.
Rev. Henry Williams was asked to mediate between the combatants. The fighting escalated following the death of Te Whareumu, however as the chiefs did not want the fighting to continue, a peaceful resolution was achieved.
A somewhat different account of the death of Tiki and Te Whareumu ("King George") is given by Augustus Earle who was living under Te Wharemu's protection at the time. Earle makes no mention of Henry Williams, instead attributing the peace to Maori themselves, specifically "Georges relation, Rivers". Earle is scathing in his denunciation of the missionaries and their lack of charity.
Te Whareumu was survived by two of his wives and at least two children, a son, Hori Kingi Tahua and a daughter Kohu.