Te Kooti's war

Page 2 – Clashes of faith

War came to eastern Bay of Plenty and East Coast following the killing of the missionary Carl Völkner at Ōpōtiki in March 1865 by followers of the Pai Mārire religion. A period of civil and inter-tribal warfare erupted after Pai Mārire evangelists ignored a warning not to enter Ngāti Porou territory. The Ngāti Porou chief Mōkena Kōhere instructed his people to remain loyal to ‘their own beliefs’ (meaning the Anglican Church) and to the Crown. He and Rāpata Wahawaha were to be key figures in the fighting.

Ngāti Porou received government assistance in the form of weapons and a small force of military settlers and volunteers. Victory at Hungahungatoroa in October effectively ended the Hauhau threat. From this time Ngāti Porou as a whole supported the government, playing a significant military role until 1872. In providing forces for Crown military operations in other districts, Ngāti Porou was seeking to protect its own tribal estate. The strategy bore fruit when the Crown abandoned plans to confiscate Ngāti Porou land.

Pai Marire / Hauhau

The two common refrains uttered at the end of prayers – ‘Pai Mārire’ and ‘Hauhau’ – became interchangeable labels for the movement. ‘Hauhau’ was the generic name used by Europeans for all Māori opposition forces at this time.

Attention now switched to Poverty Bay, where Pai Mārire had made inroads among Rongowhakaata and Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki. Ngāti Porou reciprocated the backing they had previously received from the government by sending a large force to help besiege a Pai Mārire pā at Waerenga-a-hika, a short distance inland from Tūranga, in November 1865. The clash of rival faiths was as important – if not more so – than traditional tribal animosities. The Hauhau force was defeated with the loss of 71 lives. Hundreds more were taken prisoner.

Among those who fought against Pai Mārire at Waerenga-a-Hika was Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tūruki, one of just a few of his hapū of Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Maru, to have rejected Pai Mārire. Doubts were raised, however, about the exact nature of his involvement at Waerenga-a-Hika. He claimed to have shot two Hauhau during the siege, but the chief Pāora Parau accused him of supplying the Hauhau with ammunition and of firing blanks at the pā (those inside included his elder brother Komene). Te Kooti was arrested on 21 November ‘on suspicion of being a spy’. This could not be proved and he was released.

Te Kooti had by this time made a number of enemies, both Māori and Pākehā. He had earlier been involved with a group of young Māori who had seized settlers’ horses and cattle grazing on Māori land without permission. One Rongowhakaata leader had described him as ‘a terror to the district’. His involvement with two Māori-owned vessels involved in trade with the lucrative Auckland market had made him powerful enemies within the Poverty Bay settler community, in particular John Harris, Captain George Read and John Hervey. Harris even suggested to Donald McLean, the Provincial Superintendent, that Te Kooti should be ‘got rid of’.

In early March 1866 Te Kooti was rearrested. This time he was accused of warning a local Pai Mārire chief, Ānaru Mātete, of impending military action against him. Reginald Biggs, the resident magistrate at Tūranga, sent Te Kooti to Napier with a boatload of Pai Mārire prisoners. His demands for a trial were ignored and on 5 June 1866 he and his fellow prisoners were sent into exile on Chatham Island (Wharekauri).

How to cite this page

'Clashes of faith', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/te-kootis-war/clashes-of-faith, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 26-Oct-2021