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





Te Potangaroa, a tupuna of the Paora Potangaroa described below was also a famous tupuna of the Wairarapa. He was a highly respected chief of the Ngati Kahungunu and his iwi occupied the land that stretches from Porangahau down to Te Rangi-Whakaoma (Castle-Point). As a young warrior his prowess in battle was renowned and he is said to have taken part in the great battle called Te Tarata (at Lake Ferry).

However, he is best remembered for his goodwill to the European colonisers. Almost inevitably led him to become one of the first chiefs to adopt the ways of Christianity. His conversion to Christianity and his encouragement of it amongst his people are what he is most noted for.


Paora Potangaroa was described as the prophet Paul of Te Oreore, a great mystic, a worker of miracles, an extremely religious and tapu man possessing a spirituality and psychic ability or special power which established him as a "Holy Man!"

He was considered a very important person with outstanding attributes and powerful mana.

Christianity had brought a new God, (Te Atua Kaha rawa, Te Matua o te Rangi), to the Maori people which had resulted in the widespread modification and often total abandonment of many of the old beliefs and rituals. Through visions Potangaroa recognised the dangers of this and so continued to proclaim the importance of tribal ritual while also recognising Christianity.

On one occasion in 1881 Potangaroa had a particularly mysterious dream, so he called his people together to interpret it. Three thousand people gathered at Nga Tau E Waru, Te Oreore to observe the interpretation. Potangaroa had even visualised the great numbers of people coming and was able to prepare for the occasion.

The people assembled outside Nga Tau E Waru awaiting Potangaroa's "matakite". The prophecy was in the form of symbols on a flag; "Look at the flag, what does it mean?", said Potangaroa. But the people were sceptical and were awaiting a miracle. Among those attending were Ministers of Religion, Inspectors of Police and people from other religious denominations. No one could interpret the symbolism of the flag. Hundreds of interpretations were offered, yet none entirely satisfactory. The symbolism of the vision was eventually interpreted as relating to the self destruction of Maori culture and to the loss of Maori land.

Thus the importance of this prophecy was the early recognition of the significance of the damaging social and cultural changes brought about by the conversion of Maori people to a Christian and European lifestyle.

In June 1881, after Potangaroa had given his prophecy he died at Te Oreore.