In the spring of 1865 a combined force of Ngāti Porou and settler troops defeated a Pai Mārire force near Tūranga (Gisborne). One member of this force was Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tūruki, who was accused of spying for Pai Mārire during the siege.
The initial charge was unproven, but when Te Kooti was accused again in early 1866 he was exiled without trial to Chatham Island (Wharekauri). Here he experienced a ‘spiritual awakening’ in 1867. In July 1868 Te Kooti orchestrated an escape and returned to Poverty Bay with nearly 300 prisoners whom he named the whakarau (exiles or ‘unhomed’).
For nearly four years Te Kooti waged a guerrilla war unlike any previous conflict in the New Zealand Wars. Māori and colonial troops pursued him across the central North Island and Te Urewera until he was granted sanctuary by the Māori King, Tāwhiao, in 1872.
Te Kooti was officially pardoned in 1883 but was never allowed to return to Poverty Bay. As historian Judith Binney observed, he ‘lived always in exile’; while he was protected and claimed by many, ‘in reality he belonged to no one’. He was one of the most significant Māori leaders of the 19th century and his influence continues to be felt in the eastern Bay of Plenty and East Coast, where his Ringatū faith remains strong.