Te Peeti Te Awe Awe (c1820-1884) was a notable Rangitane chief and the paramount chief of the district. He is honoured with a statue in the Square, which was unveiled in 1907. He had a big impact on settlement in the area, both as a warrior chief and through laying the foundations for peaceful European settlement and coexistence.
G Hansen, a Norwegian settler who arrived in February 1871, spoke highly of the Maori. While not even having doors on their first huts, they were able to, “lay down to rest at night without the slightest apprehension…[despite being] entirely at their mercy.” (p.24 of Bradfield A G S, 1956, Forgotten Days: Pioneering Experiences of the Early Citizens of Palmerston North and Settlers of the Manawatu, Levin : Kerslake, Billens and Humphrey) It is worth placing this in context. The environment at that time was such that very different rules of behaviour could be observed. Here is a letter co-authored by Peeti Te Awe Awe and published in the Evening Post, Volume IV, Issue 212, 17 October 1868 (from PapersPast):
FROM THE LOYAL WANGANUI NATIVES. Wanganui, 14th October, 1868.
To Dr. Featherston, to Mr. Fox, to Mr. Richmond, and to the Members of the General Assembly.
FRIENDS! we salute, you the recipients of the bounties of our common Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Long may you live to enjoy the protection of our Sovereign Lady, the Queen.
This is to inform you of the arrival of Kawana Hunia and Peeti Te Awe Awe and their tribes the Ngatiapa and Rangitane at Wauganui, with the intention of proceeding to, Wereroa and Patea, for the purpose of driving back Tito Kowaru and preventing him carrying fire and sword into the settled districts, and slaying the Europeans settlers and friendly natives, dwelling in quietness under the protecting shadow of the Queen. Great is the audacity of that man, Tito Kowaru, who has both killed and eaten the whiteman. Friend, Mr. Fox, our advice is that this tribe, the Ngatiruanui, should be exterminated. Not one should be left alive to create fresh trouble in this island. Do you consent to this proposition, viz: — let the women be preserved as slaves for the Europeans, and all the children be killed, lest they should grow up and destroy and eat more Europeans and Natives.
This is another word respecting our women and children, whom we have left behind without protection. We want you to appoint some of the Militia to guard them, in case Wi Hapi and the Hau Haus who fought against us at Otapawa in General Chute's and Dr. Featherston’s campaign, should take advantage of our absence and come and kill them. Do you agree to this — for we have lent a willing ear to commands of the Government, and are hastening to obey the order now given to proceed to the seat of war.
From Kawana Hunia Te Hakeke and Peeti Te Awe Awe
In recognition of this military service a flag was presented to the Rangitane:
The first time it was flown in the Square was at the 1907 unveiling of the statue of Te Peeti Te Awe Awe: