The New Zealand Collection Presents: This Week in History 19th – 25th April

The historic alliance made in 1936 between Rātana and the Labour Party that was to greatly influence the Māori seats is highlighted this week. This week’s selected topic comes from the Today in History page at 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. This week part two of a two part blog about the establishment of the first four Māori seats.

22nd April 1936 Rātana and Labour Seal Alliance

Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana
Raine, William Hall, 1892-1955. Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana – Photograph taken by William Hall Raine. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP-NZ Obits-Ra to Rd-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

The alliance between the Rātana Church and the Labour Party was cemented at an historic meeting between Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana and Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage on 22 April 1936. The links will take you to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography pages that can also be accessed from the library My Gateway page for more details about these two men.

Michael Savage
Michael Joseph Savage. Original photographic prints and postcards from file print collection, Box 1. Ref: PAColl-5471-055. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

In 1928 T.W. Rātana announced his intention to enter politics, referring to the four Māori seats as the ‘four quarters’ of his body. He aimed to win these seats through the voting power of his followers, by 1934 said to number 40,000.

In 1932 Eruera Tirikātene became the first Rātana MP when he won a by-election for Southern Maori. He was instructed to support the Labour opposition. Rātana favoured the Labour Party because it had consulted his supporters when devising its Māori policy. When Labour won a landslide election victory in 1935 the Rātana movement took a second seat, Western Maori.

At the 1936 meeting Rātana presented Savage with four symbolic gifts. Three huia feathers, representing Māori, protruded from a potato, which symbolised the land taken from Māori, leaving them unable to grow the staple crop. A pounamu (jade) hei tiki represented Māori mana (prestige), which had also been lost. A broken gold watch handed down to Rātana by his grandfather represented the broken promises of the Crown. A pin with a star and crescent moon was the symbol of the Rātana Church, Tohu o te Māramatanga. It is said that these items had such a profound impact on Savage that when he died in 1940 they were buried with him.

In 1943 the Rātana–Labour alliance succeeded in capturing all ‘four quarters’ when Tiaki Omana defeated Sir Āpirana Ngata for the Eastern Maori seat. Labour was to hold all the Māori seats until 1993.

Rātana Temple
Ratana temple. Godber, Albert Percy, 1875-1949 :Collection of albums, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/2-018648-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Here is an image of a Rātana membership card with the inscription, “He kororia, he honore, hareruia kia “Ihoa”, Matua, Tama, Wairua Tapu, me nga Anahera Pono – Te Area – Te Omeka – Piri Wiri Tua – Hamuera, me Te Kahui Ariki Wairua i raro ia Ratou, mo Te Mangai hei tautoko ake nei: – Ae”

Ratana Members Card
[Ratana Pa] :He kororia, he honore, hareruia kia “Ihoa”, Matua, Tama, Wairua Tapu, me nga Anahera Pono … Puke-Marama, Ringa-Kaha, Hanuere 25, 1937. He paahi tenei e whakaae ana ahau [Whakapae Tamou] kia [hoata?] te Kororia te Honore … Na T. W Ratana-Mangai-Piri Tua [1937]. Ref: Eph-A-MAORI-Ratana-1937-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Here are some links to Papers Past articles about Tahupotiki-Wiremu-Ratana and the Rātana Church from 1920 and about the Southern Māori By-Election and Rātana Revisted 1924 two years after reports of his first miracles.

Syndetics book coverRatana : the prophet / Keith Newman. Throughout history, certain individuals with a rare passion for justice and a gift of insight have been able to rally and motivate people through periods of great social change, sometimes defying all odds and being greatly misunderstood in the process.Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana was such a man, called to prominence at a pivotal time, with a message for the Māori people and for the wider world. After a profound vision he became a healer of people’s physical ailments and a lifter of ancient curses; and he was also a leader in healing the ‘land sickness’ of the Māori, after decades of land confiscation by the Government and the Crown.As founder of the Rātana Church and the Rātana movement, he led his followers in the quest to unite all Māori under one God, and to restore the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of the nation, giving Māori equal rights to British citizens.Ratana – The Prophet, based on some 20 years of research, distils for a general audience the extraordinary depth of T. W. Rātana’s political, spiritual and social legacy.

Ratana : the Maori miracle man : the story of his life : the record of his miracles / by “Rongoa Pai”.