Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, of Ngāti Apa and Ngā Rauru, was born at Te Kawau, near Bulls, in 1873.
In November 1918 he described a vision of the Holy Spirit, which had come to him in the form of a strange whirlwind-like cloud. After this he was known as the Māngai (mouthpiece) of the Holy Spirit, and was said to have the gift of healing through prayer. His reputation spread rapidly, and a village grew where he lived, becoming known as Rātana pā (midway between Whanganui and Marton). In 1921 and 1922 he travelled throughout New Zealand. Thousands attended his meetings, and many became his followers.
During the early 1920s the Rātana religious movement became more organised and political. An office was set up at Rātana pā, and members began publishing a newspaper, Te Whetū Mārama o Te Kotahitanga. In 1924 Rātana took a petition to London, signed by more than 30,000 Māori. They called for the return of confiscated lands, and implementation of the Treaty of Waitangi. He was not allowed to speak with King George V. A member of the group also tried and failed to present the petition to the League of Nations in Geneva. But Rātana’s actions did help persuade the New Zealand government, in 1926, to set up a commission of inquiry (the Sim Commission). It was to investigate land confiscation, and it later upheld many Māori grievances over land.
The Rātana Church was formally established in 1925. In 1928 Rātana became involved in politics. He referred to the four Māori seats as the four quarters of his body, which he aimed to win through the voting power of his followers – who were said to number 40,000 by 1934. Rātana favoured the Labour Party, who had consulted Rātana supporters in devising their Māori policy.
In 1932 Eruera Tirikātene became the first Rātana MP (representing Southern Māori), with instructions to support Labour. A Rātana candidate also won the Western Māori seat in 1935. In 1936 Rātana and his family declared themselves Labour Party members. At an historic meeting in 1936 he presented the Labour leader, M.J. Savage, with gifts symbolising the partnership between Rātana and Labour. By 1943 all four Labour seats were held by the Rātana/Labour alliance. Rātana died in 1939.
Adapted from the DNZB biography by Angela Ballara
Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana
Ka whānau mai a Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana i Te Kawau, e pātata ana ki Te Ara-taumaihi (Bulls) i te tau 1873. Ko ōna iwi ko Ngāti Apa, ko Ngā Rauru.
I te marama o Nōema o te tau 1918 ka whakaaturia mai te Wairua Tapu ki a ia, hei tāna, he pēnei i te kapua āwhiowhio te āhua. Nō muri ka mōhiotia whānuitia ia ko te Māngai o te Wairua Tapu. Ka taea e ia te whakaora tangata mā roto i te karakia. Kāore noa i roa ka hau whānui te rongo mōna, ka tipu tētahi hapori i tōna kāinga, mōhiotia ai ā tōna wā ko Rātana pā (tata ki te tāone o Marton). I ngā tau o 1921 me 1922 ka takahia e ia te mata o te whenua. Ka muia ana hui e te tini me te mano, taka tonu te rahi ki raro i ana tohutohu.
I te tōmuatanga o te tekau tau atu i 1920 ka whakatikatika te Hāhi Rātana i a ia, ka ruku ki ngā kaupapa tōrangapū. Ka whakatūria he tari ki te pā o Rātana, ka whakaputahia he nūpepa, ko Te Whetū Mārama o Te Kotahitanga. I te tau 1924 ka heria e Rātana tētahi pitihana ki Rānana, e 30,000 te hunga haina. Ko te whāinga o tēnei pitihana kia whakahokia ngā whenua o te Māori i raupatutia, kia whakamanatia te Tiriti o Waitangi. Kāore i whakaaetia kia tūtaki ia ki a Kingi Hōri V. Nā tētahi o tōna rōpū i heri te pitihana ki Geneva, me kore e taea te tāpae ki te aroaro o te Rīki o ngā Iwi o te Ao; hauwarea. Heoi, nā te pitihana i whakakorikori te kāwanatanga o Aotearoa kia whakatū kōmihana (te Kōmihana o Sim) hei rangahau i ngā mahi raupatu whenua. Ka whakaae te kōmihana nei ki ētahi o ngā nawe i whakaarahia e pā ana ki te whenua Māori.
Nō te tau 1925 ka tū te Hāhi Rātana hei hāhi whai tikanga i raro i te ture. I te tau 1928 ka kuhu a Rātana ki te ao tōrangapū. Ka whakaritea e ia ngā tūru Pāremata e whā o te iwi Māori ki ngā wāhanga e whā o tōna tinana. Ka whai a Rātana kia riro aua tūru e whā, mā te tohutohu ki ana pononga me pēhea tā rātou tuku i ā rātou pōti. Tae atu ki te tau 1934 e 40,000 te rahi o ana pononga. Ka hiahia piri a Rātana ki te rōpū Reipa, he haere pea nō Reipa ki te kōrero ki a Rātana i te whakahiatotanga o ā rātou kaupapa here ka pā ki te iwi Māori.
I te tau 1932 ka pōtitia a Eruera Tirikātene ki te Pāremata mō te tūru Māori o Te Waipounamu; ko ia te mema Rātana tuatahi; ko ngā tohutohu atu ki a ia kia tautoko i a Reipa. Ka riro i a Rātana te tūru Māori o Te Tai Hau-ā-uru i te tau 1935. I te tau 1936 ka pānuitia e Rātana tā rātou kuhu ko tana whānau hei mema o te Rōpū Reipa. I tētahi hui whakahirahira i te tau 1936, ka tukua e Rātana ētahi taonga ki te kaiārahi o te rōpū Reipa ki a Te Hāwiti (Savage), he tohu i te mahinga tahitanga a Rātana rāua ko Reipa. Tatū ki te tau 1943 kua taka ngā tūru Māori katoa ki raro i te hononga Rātana/Reipa. Kei te mau tonu rāua ki taua ritenga i ēnei rā. Nō te tau 1939 ka mate a Rātana.