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Māori King movement origins

Page 2 – Overview

The Māori King, Te Arikinui Tūheitia Paki, can trace his position back to the 1850s, when tribes all over the country discussed the idea of appointing a king. Rapid European population growth was putting pressure on Māori to sell land, and there was a sense that they were losing control of their own affairs.

Māori monarchs

Pōtatau Te Wherowhero 1858–60

Matutaera Tāwhiao 1860–94

Mahuta 1894–1912

Te Rata 1912–33

Korokī 1933–66

Te Atairangikaahu 1966–2006

Tūheitia Paki 2006–

The first king, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, had the mana needed for the role. His coronation in 1858 established a dynasty. His son Tāwhiao became king in 1860 and led the movement during the Waikato War of 1863–4 and the land confiscations that followed. These were crucial times for the fledgling movement, which was seen as a direct threat to the authority of the British Crown and to European settlement. Tāwhiao, who was also a prophet, led his people into exile in the area now known as the King Country. He managed to keep the Kīngitanga together. 

In 1894 Tāwhiao was succeeded by his son, Mahuta, whose reign was marked by a shift in the relationship between the Kīngitanga and the government. Mahuta became a member of the Legislative Council and the Executive Council (Cabinet), thus involving the Kīngitanga in mainstream politics. This experiment was largely a failure.

From 1912 Mahuta’s son, Te Rata, continued the work of his father by negotiating with the New Zealand government and the British Crown and by seeking redress for grievances. His son Korokī was assisted during his reign (1933–66) by his aunt, Te Puea Hērangi. When Korokī died, his daughter Te Atairangikaahu became the Kīngitanga's first female hereditary leader.

How to cite this page

Overview, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated