As usual this week’s selected topic comes from the Today in History page at nzhistory.net.nz. The New Zealand Collection is located on the second floor of The Central Library. Each week we feature topics in the This Week in History display in the NZ Collection and using available databases and the library collections to illustrate and provide additional information.
2nd April 1916 – The Arrest of Rua Kēnana
Rua called himself the Mihāia (Messiah) and claimed to be the successor whose coming had been predicted by the prophet Te Kooti a generation earlier. By 1907 there were around 600 followers who had joined him and were living at Maungapōhatu, a model community that he had founded on non-violent principles.
Photo Credit: McDonald, James Ingram, 1865-1935. Rua Kenana. Ref: 1/2-019618-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23147416
Rua aimed to blend the best of Pākehā practices with Māori customs. He established a farming co-operative and a savings bank, and promised his people that their land and their mana would be returned. See below an image a bank book from the Maungapōhatu Bank.
Photo Credit:Rua Kenana Hepetipa, 1868?-1937. Kenana, Rua Hepetipa 1869-1937 : Peeke takoranga moni I raro i te mana O Rua Hepeti Maungapohatu. Ref: MSX-3427. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22840724
Many Pākehā saw the Maungapōhatu community as subversive and Rua as a disruptive influence. Māori politicians like Māui Pōmare and Āpirana Ngata believed that traditional tohunga (spiritual leaders) such as Rua held back Māori progress. Rua was summonsed to appear before the local magistrate on 19 January 1916. He excused himself on the grounds that it was harvest time but stated that he would attend the court session scheduled for February. This was viewed as contempt and a new warrant was issued for his arrest. John Cullen, the commissioner of police, began preparations for an armed police expedition to Maungapōhatu. Read an article here from Papers Past published in February of 1916 from The Star to see how Rua was perceived in the Pākehā press
Bourne, George, 1875-1924. Rua Kenana Hepetipa’s wooden circular courthouse and meeting house at Maungapohatu. Ref: 1/2-002915-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22846139
On Sunday 2 April 1916, 57 armed police invaded the remote Ngāi Tūhoe settlement of Maungapōhatu in the Urewera Ranges. They had been sent to arrest the prophet Rua Kēnana.
Photo Credit: Police approaching Maungapohatu, to arrest Rua Kenana. Ref: 1/2-028071-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22835478
Rua was standing unarmed on the marae waiting to greet the approaching police when a shot was fired. In the following exchange of gunfire two of the Maungapōhatu residents were killed, including Rua’s son Toko. Senior police officers claimed they had walked into a planned ambush, but the evidence suggests it was the police who fired first. Rua and others were arrested on a number of charges ranging from resisting arrest to treason. They were taken to Auckland for trial. Rua was sentenced to 12 months’ hard labour followed by 18 months’ imprisonment.
Rua was taken to Auckland and charged with treason. Read here the judges summing up at the end of the trial. A jury found him not guilty, but Judge F.R. Chapman found him guilty of ‘morally’ resisting arrest. He lectured Rua that as a member of a race ‘still in tutelage’ he must learn that the arm of the law reached into ‘every corner’. Eight of the jury petitioned Parliament to have the sentence reduced.
Rua was released from jail in April 1918. The community at Maungapōhatu fell on hard times and by the early 1930s many had left in search of work.
Maungapōhatu, city in the mist. Photo by George Bourne. Auckland Institute and Museum
Rua went to live at Matahī, a community he had founded in 1910 on the Waimana River in eastern Bay of Plenty. He died there on 20 February 1937.
The Māori Collection alongside the New Zealand Collection holds a number of books about Rua Kēnana, the Tūhoe people and their land in the Urewera. The title featured first also looks at connections with the 1916 raid on Maungapōhatu and the 2007 raids on Tūhoe activists and urban anarchist supporters.
The prophet and the policeman : the story of Rua Kenana and John Cullen / Mark Derby.
“In April 1916, John Cullen, the Commissioner of the New Zealand Police Force, personally led a raid on the Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana’s spiritual community at Maungapohatu, deep in the Urewera mountains. The raid, which was based on trumped-up charges, left two of Rua’s followers dead and a number of others wounded, and is often described as the last battle of the New Zealand Wars. The outcome of this raid was disastrous for race relations in this country and a historic low point for the New Zealand police. This book is an account of this dramatic, tragic and profoundly symbolic event in our history, told by recounting the life stories of its two principal antagonists. John Cullen was a farm labourer born in rural Ireland, who rose through the ranks to head the police force and was famously viotent, devious and authoritarian. Rua was notably gentle and inspirational, although often mysterious and contradictory. This is a highly readable, potent and fascinating book of New Zealand history. The two subjects of this dual biography represent two poles of the national character: the archetypal Pakeha no-nonsense conservative who was quite prepared to break the law to serve the interests of the section of society he represented, and the semi-mythical Maori spiritual leader, steeped in mysterious charisma and pre-scientific beliefs. The 2007 anti-terrorist raids on Tuhoe activists and the urban anarchist supporters have given the 1916 Maungapohatu raid a contemporary resonance: a connection that is explored in the conclusion of this book.” (Syndetics summary)
Mihaia : the prophet Rua Kenana and his community at Maungapohatu / Judith Binney, Gillian Chaplin, Craig Wallace.
“Rua Kenana was one of many Maori prophetic leaders of the 19th and 20th centuries. He called himself Te Mihaia hou, the new messiah, and was the leader of a section of the Tuhoe at a time when their land, the Urewera country, was threatened by possible prospecting and milling. Withdrawing to Maungapohatu, in the heart of Urewera, he established a community. This work is a history of Rua and his people, of the destruction of the community, by the government during World War I, and the struggle to start all over again.” (Syndetics summary)
Beyond betrayal : trouble in the promised land – restoring the mission to Māori / Keith Newman.
“Beyond Betrayal delves into New Zealand’s pioneering history, and asks why such promising partnerships descended into decades of distrust. After the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, a succession of governors resisted missionary advice, despite their local knowledge and peacemaking skills, and influenced a raft of misunderstandings that provoked violent outbreaks across the country. The rise of Maori prophetic movements, and an intense desire for Maori to have a unified political voice, saw allegiances split between those supporting the government and those frustrated at failed Treaty promises. The pressure to surrender tribal lands had the same impact – a shattered economy and a dispossessed people. The thrilling follow-up to Keith Newman’s bestselling Bible & Treaty, Beyond Betrayal looks behind the events that led to the first Maori land protests, and follows the unfolding drama through the stories of the early missionaries and Maori heroes of the faith. These dramatic and heartrending tales of injustice, sacrifice and redemption form an important and often misunderstood backdrop to the wider New Zealand story – one of the most turbulent periods in our history, told with skill, sensitivity and heart.”–Back cover.
Stories without end : essays 1975-2010 / Judith Binney.
“Judith Binney’s work spans nearly forty years of historical endeavour that began with the award-winning biography of the missionary Thomas Kendall, The Legacy of Guilt (1968). Her magisterial publication of 2009, Encircled Lands, is the culmination of many years’ work on the history of the Urewera – a great scholarly enterprise that began with a visit to Maungapohatu in the late 1970s. The questions that presented themselves, in that place about that history, led to what Judith Binney has called ‘the unanticipated trilogy’: Mihaia (the biography of Rua Kenana); Nga Morehu (oral histories of women connected to the Ringatu church); and prize-winning biography of Te Kooti, Redemption Songs. Around this central core of remarkable books stands a ring of essays, exploring sidepaths, offering other stories, presenting glimpses tangential to her historical narratives. The people of these ‘stories without end’ are those we meet in the books: Rua and Te Kooti, their wives and their descendants; the leaders of the Urewera; the schoolteachers from Maungapohatu; those early missionaries; the government men. Oral history brings its particular resonance to some essays; a discourse on symbols and maps lends insight to another; taking this very specific history, located in the Urewera, to readers outside New Zealand gives a new slant. The stories in this collection are just that: narratives that flow one into another, filling out histories, bringing people out of the shadows, bringing scholarship to life. They are ‘stories without end’, from a writer who is also one of New Zealand’s greatest scholars.” (Syndetics summary)
Tūhoe : portrait of a nation / text by Kennedy Warne ; photographs by Peter James Quinn.
“Tūhoe: Portrait of a Nation explores the relationship between Tūhoe and Te Urewera, the people and the land. It is the result of a multi-year project by acclaimed documentary photographer Peter James Quinn and Kennedy Warne, founding editor of New Zealand Geographic. The two journalists circled the ‘encircled lands’ – the tribal domain that stretches from the forest fortress of Lake Waikaremoana to the coastal valleys of the Bay of Plenty – and collected the stories of Tūhoe. From tribal leaders to possum hunters, traditional healers to tourism operators, Tūhoe shared their words, their culture and their lives. At once an exquisite photographic showcase – incorporating dramatic landscapes, documentary-style reportage and portraiture – and the most up-to-date retelling of Tūhoe history, here is a portrait of an iwi and its encounter with a unique and treasured land. Listening to the past through the voices of today, the book asks, and answers, the question: What does it mean to be Tūhoe?”–Publisher information.
Te Manawa o Tuhoe : the heart of Tuhoe / photographs by Terry o’Connor ; introduction by Hirini Melbourne.
A collection of black and white images.