Tūhoe: A history of Resistance

This article outlines the history of Ngāi Tūhoe, the raupatu (confiscation) and the current Treaty Settlement Process through Te Kotahi ā Tūhoe. (Work in progress)

Ngāi Tūhoe - Nga Tamariki o te Kohu (the Children of the Mist)

Te Rohe Pōtae o Tūhoe, the Tūhoe nation, lies in Te Urewera in the eastern North Island of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Tūhoe has lived in their forest for generations dating back further than the arrival of the Mataatua waka (canoe) from Hawaiiki. They descend from Nga Potiki, Te Maunga (the mountain) and Hinepukohurangi (the mist maiden); Te Tini o Toi whose ancestor was Toi Kau Rakau (Toi the wood eater); and Te Hapu Oneone.

Raupatu - Confiscation

In 1866, 448,000 acres (181,000 hectares) of land belonging to Tūhoe, Te Whakatōhea and Ngāti Awa were confiscated by the government. This area was subsequently reduced to 211,000 acres (85,387 hectares), of which Tūhoe lost 14,000 (5,700 hectares). Tūhoe was subjected to a scorched earth policy, in which their crops and buildings were destroyed. Ōpouriao and Waimana were taken, their only substantial flat lands, and their only access to the coast through Ōhiwa Harbour. The Tūhoe people were left with harsh, more difficult land, setting the scene for later famines.

The famous haka "Ko te pūru" comes from that period as a response to the encroachment of the colonial invasion of the British Empire.

Te Kooti

In June 1866, Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tūruki, of the Te Rongowhakaata tribe, was exiled to Wharekauri (Chatham Islands) on suspicion of being a spy for the Hauhau. Two years later in July 1868, following prophetic visions, he led a mass escape of 298 captives and returned to the East Coast of the North Island and began a guerrilla war against colonial troops.

Clashes with militia on the East Coast culminated in a bloody and unsuccessful attempt by Te Kooti to take Poverty Bay. Te Kooti and his followers turned inland to the forests of Te Urewera. He waited on the eastern Te Urewera borders for permission from Tūhoe to enter the territory. In March 1869, at a meeting at Tāwhana in the Waimana valley, Tūhoe committed themselves and their lands to Te Kooti.

The pursuit of Te Kooti

The government waged a bitter campaign in Te Urewera in its search for Te Kooti and his followers. Old enemies of Tūhoe fought on the side of the government; they carried out most of the raids into Te Urewera during a prolonged and destructive search between 1869 and 1872. In a policy aimed at turning the tribe away from Te Kooti, a scorched earth campaign was unleashed against Tūhoe; people were imprisoned and killed, their cultivations and homes destroyed, and stock killed or run off. Through starvation, deprivation and atrocities at the hands of the government’s Māori forces, Tūhoe submitted to the Crown. The whereabouts of Te Kooti, however, were never revealed.

In 1872 Te Kooti escaped to the King Country where he remained in exile. In 1883 he received an official pardon from the government. Although best remembered as a guerrilla fighter, he was for Tūhoe a spiritual leader in their time of need, and the founder of their pre-eminent faith, Te Hāhi Ringatū.

The Urewera District Native Reserve Act 1896 made provision for ‘the Ownership and Local Government of the Native Lands in the Urewera District’. But it also facilitated extensive land sales to the government.

Rua Kenana - Maungapohatu 1916

Rua Kenana, a Tūhoe prophet, started setting up a community at Maungapohatu in the Urewera in the early 20th century. Through his personal vision his messianic religion promised the return of Māori lands and mana to Māori, and the end of their subjection to pākehā rule. On 2 April 1916, 70 officers heavily armed police party arrived at Maungapohatu to arrest him for sedition. Because Rua's village was so remote, the police had to take a lot of equipment and camp on the way. They moved like a small army with wagons and pack- horses. So as not to alert the Maungapohatu village of their intention to spring an attack they did not wear their police uniforms till just before the raid. They were convinced that when they reached Maungapohatu there would be an ambush. In fact there was no violent resistance from Rua.

Rua refused to submit to arrest. In a brisk half-hour gun battle with the police, his son and a supporter were killed and two others were wounded. Four constables were also wounded. Rua was arrested and transported to Rotorua, his hair and beard removed. From Rotorua, with 6 other Maori prisoners including Whatu, Rua was transferred to Auckland and sent directly to Mount Eden prison. Rua was held, at first, on a nine months sentence, imposed for the 1915 charges and now increased by his default of fines. After a trial on sedition which lasted 47 days, New Zealands longest till 1977, he was found not guilty of sedition but conveniently sentenced to one year's imprisonment for resisting the police.

"I weep for what has just happened at Maungapohatu in Tuhoe. The Police raid seems to be about punishing Kenana for questioning the Crown and will only take us back in the mists of fear and doubt…I wonder if we will ever stop worrying when it might happen again." - Karaitiana Rarere, Ngäti Kahungunu, 1916.

National Park or Tūhoe Nation?

Crown-acquired lands had proved unrewarding for either farming or mining, and those lands, consolidated by 1925, formed the basis of Te Urewera National Park, which was established in 1954. It was enlarged in 1957, 1962, 1975 and 1979.

Today, of the Tūhoe people, estimated to number between 33,000 and 45,000, about 20 per cent still live on their tribal lands in places like Ruatoki, Waimana, Ruatahuna and Waikaremoana.

Te Manamotuhake o Tūhoe

Tūhoe nation describes the culture, language and identity of a people who still have a memory, through oral tradition, of pre-european Tūhoetanga and remember that free people don’t volunteer to be slaves. - Te Mana Motuhake ō Tūhoe: A united front. Liberation for all!

Links: Te Mana Motuhake ō Tūhoe | Te Kotahi a Tūhoe | Tūhoe: History of resistance | Maori Independence Site | Aocafe