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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 6 (October 2, 1933)

The Prophet of the Urewera

The Prophet of the Urewera.

The Maoris of that wild and beautiful forest land the Urewera Country, still live very much to themselves, though the population of the mountain villages has dwindled considerably, because of the attractions of dairying and maize-growing out on the plains at Ruatoki. The principal kaingas are Mataatua, the ancient page 51 heart of the Tuhoe or Urewera tribal district, and Maungapohatu, near the base of the great rocky mountain of the same name. There are always numerous families there who prefer their bush-girt valleys to the outer plains, and with them some of the old ways are conserved. The name and mana of Ruatapu, the prophet, is still strong there. Rua, as he is usually called for short, made some lively history seventeen or eighteen years ago. Nowadays he lives a quiet life, but he holds his place as the temporal and spiritual head of Tuhoe.

Not much has been heard of Ruatapu for some time, but lately I received a note from Maungapohatu which described some of the ways of the prophet and his disciples. Rua appears to be an influence for good among his people. For one thing, he inculcates habits of industry, like his prototype, Te Kooti, who though forty years dead, is still revered by these people and thousands of others along the Bay of Plenty coast.

“Rua,” says my correspondent, “has been up here at Maungapohatu, but these high places are too cold for him now in winter, and he is out now on his farm lands at Matahi and Otane, down in the Waimana Valley. He was here with his wives; there are only four now (instead of the mystic number seven of former years), and two of these wahines he left here when he returned to his Matahi quarters. He is working to get his Otane farm well developed; houses are being built, he milks eight or ten cows, and spends a good deal of time supervising things. Rua usually has a crowd of young people in his household, and when they are all here more work is done than during the rest of the year. Everyone has a job, and that job must be done.”