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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)



Long after the wars shots were again fired in the heart of the Urewera Country (1916). This was an unfortunate affray arising out of the arrest of Rua Kenana (Canaan), otherwise Ruatapu, on charges of breaches of the liquor law. Rua posed as a kind of Messiah; he assumed the role of prophet in succession to Te Kooti, and built a curious round timber temple of worship at a kainga which he called the “New Jerusalem,” at Maunga-pohatu. He had seven wives, a privilege for which he took Biblical sanction, and he wore his hair long in imitation of the Israelites. Rua obtained great influence not only over the Urewera, but over other tribes in the neighbourhood and as far away as Rotorua and Gisborne. His flouting of the law when an attempt was made to arrest him led to an armed police expedition in 1916. Commissioner John Cullen and a force of between fifty and sixty men, twenty of whom were armed with rifles and the rest with revolvers, went in from Rotorua via Te Whaiti and Ruatahuna, and marched into the Maunga-pohatu settlement on Sunday, 2nd April. Rua attempted to evade arrest, and when he was seized some of his people opened fire on the police with rifles and shot-guns. A lively skirmish followed, lasting for about half an hour. One of Rua's sons and another Maori were shot dead, and four constables were wounded. The Maori resistance, however, was not premeditated; otherwise, Rua's men, had they been so minded, could have successfully ambuscaded the force in many places on the bush track between Ruatahuna and Maunga-pohatu. They took to their arms on impulse when they saw their prophet and “Messiah” felled and handcuffed.

Rua was tried in Auckland on the charge of resistance to the police and was sentenced to imprisonment. On his release he behaved admirably by assisting the Government to raise recruits for the Maori Pioneer Battalion in the Great War.

Kenana, Rua's father, was one of Te Kooti's warriors, and was killed in November, 1868, in the fighting at Makaretu, on the Wharekopae River, near Ngatapa.