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Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki
Resistant, religious leader, founder of the Ringatu church

Te Kooti was born approximately 1832, in the Gisborne area of New Zealand. He was a member of the Rongowhakaata tribe from Poverty Bay. Although born of a good family, he was not of chiefly rank. He rose, however, to become the most feared and hated of warriors due not only to his fierce fighting, but also to his powerful personality.

In his childhood Te Kooti attended an Anglican Mission school, the Whakatao School, of the Church Missionary Society. He was baptised with the name of Te Kooti. His ancestral name was Te Turuki, which was taken from his uncle.

As Te Kooti grew, he earned a living by trading with the Poverty Bay area Europeans. He came to know and understand the "pakeha" well. In 1852 he became notorious in the area when he joined forces with a group of other young Māori and began seizing settlers' property, in revenge for grievances.

These actions aroused the wrath not only of the "pakeha" settlers, but also of Te Kooti's own chiefs. A "taua" was led against Te Kooti by the Te Aitanga a Mahaki in 1853, in reprisal for Te Kooti terrorising the area.

The arrival of the Pai Maarire, or Hauhau religion to the Poverty Bay area in 1865 also brought the civil war to the area. Two of the larger tribes, Rongowhakaata and Te Aitanga a Mahaki converted to the new faith. Although the large number of converts who joined Pai Maarire did so with the aim of defending their land, they did not see themselves as having turned against either the "pakeha" or the Government.

Image : [Meade, Herbert (Lieutenant)], 1842-1868 : Pai Marire karakia, held by the Te Hau fanatics at Tataroa, New Zealand, to determine the fate of their prisoners. January 27th, 1865.
Pai Marire
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mätauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any reuse of this image.

click here for a larger version (40k)

The image shows a group of Māori circling around a flagpole which flies three native flags (including a red flag representing the war god Riki). At the right two guards stand beside the seated and bound figures of Herbert Meade and his guide Hemipo, and there is a campfire in the right background. The whole is in a clearing circled by eight Māori dwellings, and there are trees and bush in the background.

The participants who circle the flagpole, are waving long sticks above their heads.The top flag on the pole is a long red triangular pennant with a red cross on it. The bottom one is also a red triangular pennant, but the white cross on it is diagonal. The centre flag is black on the left half and blue on the right, and there is a white cross (Christian?) in the left half.

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Te Kooti, who did not join the Pai Maarire movement, fought alongside Government forces and pro-government Māori in the siege of Waeranga-a-Hika, against Pai Maarire Hauhaus. However, he was accused of supplying ammunition to the insiders of the pa at Waerenga a Hika. Te Kooti's brother, Komene, a Pai Maarire adept, was inside the pa at the time.

These suspicions led to Te Kooti being arrested, but he was later released due to lack of evidence. Although Te Kooti had never actually taken up arms against the Government, he was re-arrested in 1866 on spying charges, and deported to the Chatham Islands (off the South Island coast). This was also a time when the Government was endeavouring to carry out large scale land confiscation - yet Te Kooti's enemies were not only European - he had also made bitter enemies among his fellow Māori.

In 1867 during his confinement on the Chathams, Te Kooti founded the Ringatu movement, which was based on Hauhauism. Te Kooti had seen two visions ; a lizard, and a flame which did not burn. The lizard was feared in ancient times, as it was considered to be the vehicle of Whiro, the god who personified all that is evil. In ancient Māori mythology, should the gods wish to kill a person they would invoke a lizard to enter into the person's the body. The lizard would eat away the main body functions, and the person would die. As a counteraction to the lizard, the non-burning flame in Te Kooti's vision was seen as life giving, and therefore transforming.

Ringatu stood for "The Upraised Hand". This referred to Te Kooti and his followers practice of raising their right hands after prayers. Ringatu was also born of a mixture of Old Testament beliefs. The Ringatu followers identified themselves with the Israelites escaping from Pharaoh, and returning to their promised land. Most of Te Kooti's fellow prisoners became converted to the Ringatu cult. Te Kooti was considered to be the spokesman of God.

On 4th July 1868 Te Kooti escaped from the Chathams by an ingenious and well organised plan. On this same day the schooner "Rifleman" laid anchor at the Chathams, to deliver supplies. Te Kooti and his fellow prisoners overcame the Island guards, and captured "The Rifleman", taking the crew completely by surprise. There was reportedly only one European casualty during the take-over.

"The Rifleman", now under Te Kooti's command, left the Chathams with nearly all prisoners aboard and set sail for Whareongaonga, on the east coast, to the south of Turanga. They arrived here on 10th July, whereupon Te Kooti released the crew of "The Rifleman", reportedly without harm. On hearing of Te Kooti's escape, the army officer who had originally deported Te Kooti to the Chathams sent a message ordering Te Kooti and his men to surrender. Te Kooti, who had warned that he would not fight unless attacked himself, declined the offer of surrender. He and his followers were now well armed with ammunition taken from "The Rifleman".

A group of Europeans and pro-government Māori were then gathered with the aim of capturing Te Kooti.

(Great Britain decided to withdraw the British Imperial troops from New Zealand. The last of these troops left in 1870. The British Government had decided that the Governor of New Zealand, Governor Grey, was incapable of quelling the Māori rebellion. The British Government felt that the Wars would simply continue indefinitely, and become too costly for a far off nation to maintain. After the withdrawal of the British troops, colonial militia with pro-government Māori allies made up the fighting force in New Zealand.)

According to the Telegraph Service, which had just opened between Napier and Wellington, 40 military settlers and 80 pro-government Māori made their way on 14th July 1868 to Turanga (Gisborne) where Te Kooti and his followers had settled. While trying to take Te Kooti during a battle at Matawhero, the officer leading the raid, along with a number of European and Māori were killed.

Te Kooti subsequently captured around 300 local Māori during raids which followed around the district. After more raids, and continually on the run, Te Kooti finally remained between the years of 1873 and 1883 at Te Kuiti, in the King Country, where he was protected by the Māori King Tawhiao.

(Tawhiao was declared King on the death of his father, Te Wherowhero. Te Wherowhero is the family name of Māori kings. Tawhiao, full name Matutaera Te Pukepuke Te Paue Te Karato Te-A-Potatau Tawhiao Te Wherowhero, born 1825, fought in battles against the Europeans during the land wars. He died in 1894.

During the 1850's, growing discontent with the continuing sale of land led to the uniting of a group of tribes in the Waikato area, forming a federation. In 1858 a King was elected, Te Wherowhero, who became known as King Potatau. The federation became known as the King Movement, and was based in what became known as the King Country. )

In 1883, the Government formally pardoned Te Kooti, and from this date Te Kooti lived at Otewa, between Kihikihi and Te Kuiti - but he was not happy here. He wanted land that he could claim as his own. In 1891 the Government finally gave Te Kooti an area of land at Wainui, where a marae for the Ringatu church was established after Te Kooti's death at Te Karaka, on 17th April 1893.

Between 1860 - 1861 the Taranaki War took place in this area. The British hoped to break the King movement, seeing it as a threat to British sovereignty. The battle of Puketakauere was a major battle during the Taranaki War.

Main source for research :
"Redemption Songs" - Judith Binney
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Related Links
 The New Zealand Wars - Official site
Te Kooti, the Guerilla fighter from Includes articles on specific historical events and broad trends from around the world. Additionally contains a searchable archive of important events, famous births and deaths spanning thousands of years
The battle of Gate Pa
New Zealand's 19th Century Wars


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