Te Ua Haumēne had been influenced by Christian missionaries following his capture by Waikato Maori in 1826. He was taught to read and write in Māori and became familiar with the New Testament, especially the Book of Revelation. By the 1850s he was actively involved in Māori opposition to land sales, and he fought against the government in 1860 when war broke out in Taranaki. In 1862 Te Ua had a vision of the archangel Gabriel who instructed him to lead his people in 'casting off the yoke of the Pākehā'. The birthright of Israelites (the Māori people) would be restored in the land of Canaan (New Zealand), and following a day of deliverance the unrighteous would perish.

Pai Mārire was a perfect illustration of Māori agency combining aspects of European society and culture with Māori needs and practices. References to notions of deliverance were especially attractive to Māori in this period of great upheaval.

Armed conflict

Pai Mārire disciples travelled around the North Island in the mid-1860s. Against a backdrop of war and land confiscations, its founding principle were often subverted by violent elements. Other followers like the pacifist leader of Parihaka, Te Whiti o Rongomai, stressed the need for peace, but Pai Mārire seemed constantly drawn into armed conflicts. Civil wars broke out as factions within iwi opposed its spread. Some Māori opposed Pai Mārire because they believed that it represented a pan-tribal movement that, in seeking to unify Māori, challenged the sovereignty of iwi.

An example of this was the fighting that erupted on the Whanganui River in May 1864. Lower-river Māori defeated a Pai Mārire force at Moutoa Island. Relieved settlers in Whanganui erected New Zealand's first war memorial in what became known as Moutoa Gardens. The inscription on this memorial reads:

To the memory of those brave men who fell at Moutoa 14 May 1864 in defence of law and order against fanaticism and barbarism.

Despite this defeat Pai Mārire continued to attract converts, especially when the government began to confiscate Māori land. From 1865 to the 1870s civil war raged on the east coast of the North Island between two factions within Ngāti Porou. Pai Mārire converts aimed to drive Pākehā from Māori land. They wanted the support of the Kīngitanga in creating a Māori nation under the Māori king, Tāwhiao.

'Repugnant to all humanity'

In the minds of many Europeans, Pai Mārire was synonymous with violence. They saw it as a fundamentally anti-European religion. The fact that other Māori fought against this new religion was seen as further evidence that Pai Mārire represented a radical fringe.

The government was concerned not only about the violence associated with Pai Mārire but of its potential to unite Māori opposition to European settlement. The Government supported anti-Pai Mārire factions in the tribal conflicts that broke out. In 1864 Governor George Grey declared Pai Mārire practices to be 'repugnant to all humanity' after the severed head of Captain Lloyd was paraded around the North Island by Pai Mārire supporters. Pai Mārire was to be suppressed by force if necessary.

How to cite this page

'Te Ua Haumēne', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/pai-marire/te-ua-haumene, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 11-Jul-2014