Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

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Ruhia Porutu

Died 2 October 1872

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Ruhia was the daughter of Kokiri also known as Kopiri and lived at Waiwhetu early in life. She was awarded Section No. 1 in the Te Momi Maori Reserve. This area had been called Umumamaku before Wakefield had arrived and was cultivated by a group including Ruhia calling themselves Nga Tangata o Waiwhetu. The survey of the reserve was done at the request of Karipa Tawake sometimes called Karipa te Iwi. Others who were granted sections in this reserve included Moturoa’s wife Ramari Ropiha and Rahira Karipa who was Karipa Tawake's wife.

After her marriage to Ihaia Porutu (1821?-1886) she lived at Pipitea. Ruhia became famous for her protection of T.W. McKenzie as a teenager with her cloak as she was already a Christian. The cloak was deposited on loan at Te Papa by Henry Pitt Porutu's descendants. It was worn by one of them, Mairatea Tahiwi, at the opening of the present Ngati Poneke marae. The cloak is an example of a te Kaitaka cloak woven from a special type of flax. It was made in the first half of the 19th century before European technology influenced Maori weaving and probably took about 2 years to make. The two dyes used in making the cloak were probably made from hinau bark and paru for the black and tanekaha bark for the red brown. The cloak is to be part of a public display at Te Papa in 2001. In the photograph opposite Ruhia appears wearing the cloak and also a miniature portrait of her husband Ihaia. Later Ruhia persuaded both her father-in-law and husband to become Anglicans and a whole pew of St Pauls Cathedral was filled by various members of the Porutu family. Ruhia’s husband Ihaia also took services at Pipitea Pa. Ruhia's only child also called Ruhia or Louisa died at the age of 7 but McKenzie was regarded as an adopted son and the cloak placed on his coffin at his funeral.

After Ruhia's death, Ihaia married Helena Brown. After Ihaia’s death Helena remarried and was known as Ellen Toms.

References:
Wellington MB 1 p.31.
Wellington MB 1C p.140-145.4
Wellington MB 10 p. 109
The Book of New Zealand women = Ko kui ma te kaupapa, edited by Charlotte Macdonald, Merimeri Penfold and Bridget Williams. 1991.

References to Te Rira Porutu:
Maori Land Court.
Wellington MB 1 p.38. 5 November 1878.
Wellington MB 1H p.327.
Wellington MB 1C p.53. 12 February 1870.
Priestley, Dinah. Old Thorndon. 1988.
New Zealand Times. 10th December 1886. Obit

Korero o te Wa I Raraunga I Rauemi I Te Whanganui a Tara I Whakapapa