Pai Mārire defeated at Sentry Hill, Taranaki

30 April 1864

Sentry Hill, Taranaki, c. 1880s
Sentry Hill, Taranaki, c. 1880s (Alexander Turnbull Library, PA1-q-183-31)

In one of their first armed operations, several hundred Pai Mārire fighters attacked a British redoubt at Te Mōrere (Sentry Hill) in Taranaki. About 35 were killed and many more wounded.

Buoyed by their easy success in an ambush at Te Ahuahu on 4 April, the attackers may have been over-confident that appropriate rituals would protect them from rifle and artillery fire. A plan to lure troops out of the stockade by driving off cattle may also have come unstuck.

The new religious faith was spawned in 1862 by the conflict over land in Taranaki. It was the first organised expression of an independent Māori Christianity. Te Ua Haumēne based the new religion on the principle of pai mārire – goodness and peace. He called his church Hauhau: Te Hau (the breath of God) carried the news of deliverance to the faithful. The terms Pai Mārire and Hauhau became interchangeable labels for the followers of this religion.

Pai Mārire disciples travelled around the North Island in the mid-1860s. Against a backdrop of war and land confiscation, the founding principle of Pai Mārire was often subverted by violent elements. Local civil wars broke out as factions within iwi contested its spread. Some Māori opposed Pai Mārire because, as a pan-tribal movement seeking to unify Māori, it implicitly challenged the sovereignty of iwi and hapū.

As land continued to be confiscated, Pai Mārire continued to attract converts. Its adherents aimed to drive Pākehā from Māori land and supported efforts to create a Māori nation under the Māori king, Tāwhiao.