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Te whakatuwheratanga o Te Tumu Herenga Waka : 6 Tihema 1986, Poneke, Te Whare Wananga o Wikitoria





Te Kooti Rikirangi of Rongowhakaata is famous as both the founder of the Ringatu Church and also as a talented warrior and leader of men.

Te Kooti first rose to prominence when he was in his forties. This occurred after the battle at Waerenga-a-hika (Gisborne) where a force of Government troops and so-called "friendly Maoris" (including Te Kooti) successfully routed several hundred Hauhaus (see lib) entrenched in a pa there. After the engagement Te Kooti was charged with conspiring with the enemy and was later arrested. He was released several days later because of a lack of evidence. Before this Te Kooti had been regarded by the Pakeha authorities as a petty trouble-maker and it was considered to be expedient to simply include Te Kooti in a group of Hauhau prisoners from the Waerenga-a-hika engagement that were due to be deported to the Chatham Islands. Thus he was sent into exile with the others without anything proven against him and without a trial.

During his captivity on the Chatham Islands he had a severe illness and while he was recuperating he started a study of the bible. He taught his fellow prisoners some of the psalms, compiled prayers and held religious services. All of the prisoners except Te Kooti were Hauhaus who were familiar with the principles of the Pai Marire religion. Te Kooti persuaded them to form themselves into a new faith based on Te Kooti's interpretation of the Bible. Almost all of the prisoners converted to this new faith which retained a vestige of the Pai Marire faith — that of the upraised hand (the Ringatu).

In 1868 after quite a period in which the prisoners had been subjected to ill-treatment from their guards — Te Kooti laid plans to escape from the Chathams in one of the regular supply boats. Te Kooti picked two parties of men, one to attack the military redoubt and the others to attack the schooner. Both groups were successful. Two hundred and ninety eight people escaped.

Once back in New Zealand Te Kooti and his followers embarked on a campaign of revenge in which the people responsible for sending Te Kooti and his followers into exile were killed. A very successful guerilla campaign followed this which continued until 1872. Te Kooti was never captured.

Te Kooti, the tohunga, prophet and faith healer died at Ohiwa in 1893 greatly mourned and venerated by his followers.