Te Whakatohea are the tangatawhenua.
There was a large village, Pa Kowhai, and a thriving agricultural
activity. Produce was carried to Auckland in ships owned by the Iwi
(i.e.Local Tribe). Missionaries settled in the township in 1839
[Anglican 1839 & Roman Catholic 1840]
Seven local chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. Hiona Church was built for the Anglican Maori worshippers of Opotiki in 1862 from materials they supplied. Pressures from Pakeha settlement brought land war trouble to the area in the 1860's. In March 1865 the Missionary Volkner [Pastor of Hiona church] was killed when local Maori came under the influence of the religious and political doctrine, Pai-marire, of the Hauhau.see. sub page Land Wars
A-Z of Surnames
Opotiki became a military settlement as some of the soldiers elected to remain in the area after hostilities ceased. However the original tangatawhenua (inhabitants) had their lands confiscated as punishment for supporting the rebellion even though some fought on the Government side in the conflict.
Commercial activity established a thriving township adjacent to the wharf. The Opotiki Public School was opened in 1873 and the Opotiki Cemetery at the corner of Duke street and State Highway 2 was in use by 1875. Hiona Church was re-dedicated in 1875 as St Stephen's the Martyr. By 1900 Opotiki Township was serving a wide area of the country side.