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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 7 (October 1, 1934)

Te Whiti's Career

Te Whiti's Career.

It is a classic name, Te Whiti-o-Rongomai. It means the flight across the sky of the shining one Rongomai, the god whose visible form was a meteor. Rongomai was one of the deities of the Taranaki and other West Coast tribes. The son of the Mountain who was to become the most revered leader of his people was a descendant of the famous pair, Takarangi and Rau-mahora, whose love-story, written for Sir George Grey by a Taranaki chief, was so poetically paraphrased by the Governor in his “Polynesian Mythology.” When he was a young man he distinguished himself by assisting the shipwrecked people of the steamer “Lord Worsley” when that vessel was wrecked on the Taranaki coast, and he and his fellow-chiefs Arama Karaka and Wiremu Kingi Matakatea (not the Wiremu Kingi of Waitara fame) metaphorically cast their garments of protection over the pakehas on a hostile shore. They procured carts for them and saw them all safely conveyed to New Plymouth. Te Whiti accompanied his fellow-warriors of Taranaki in the early fighting against the British forces on the coast, but after 1864 he fought no more, and steadfastly devoted himself to the study of his Bible and the doctrines of peace.

Like many a pakeha preacher he gave strange and twisted interpretations to some of the Scripture chapters over which he pored. His favourite book was Revelations. (Te Kooti, in exile, went to the Psalms and Isaiah for his passages of promise and consolation.) He developed a strong belief in the affinity of Jew and Maori. “We came from the land of Canaan,” he told me. “Kenana was our first Hawaiki; our last Hawaiki was Rangiatea.” (This is Ra'iatea, in the Society Islands; the chief seat of sacred Maori learning was on that island.)