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From 'Te Kooti', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/people/te-kooti-arikirangi-te-turuki, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 11-May-2020
Te Kooti (died 1893) was of Ngāti Maru, a hapū (sub-tribe) of the Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne) tribe Rongowhakaata. During a wild and turbulent youth, he made enemies among Europeans and some of his own people. He converted to Christianity and, like other Tūranganui Māori, became involved in coastal shipping.
In 1865 Te Kooti was among the few Ngāti Maru who did not convert to the Pai Mārire religion, which opposed the sale of land to Europeans. Instead he joined the government forces which fought 'rebel' Pai Mārire (Hauhau) at Waerenga-a-Hika (near Gisborne) in November 1865. After the fighting he was held on suspicion of being a spy, a charge which was probably trumped up. He appealed to Donald McLean for a hearing, but was ignored. He was exiled to the Chatham Islands with a number of Hauhau prisoners.
While on the Chathams Te Kooti experienced spiritual visions and founded the Ringatū Church, which was grounded in both the Old Testament and Māori custom. On 4 July 1868 Te Kooti led an escape of the Chatham Island prisoners – 163 men and 135 women and children – on the Rifleman, a vessel they had seized. They landed just south of Poverty Bay on 10 July.
Te Kooti told Reginald Biggs, the resident magistrate at Gisborne, that he and his followers did not want to fight Europeans but to travel to the King Country, where he hoped to strengthen his position as a spiritual leader of the Māori people. Biggs demanded that Te Kooti's party give up their arms. When they did not, he pursued and attacked them, and war began. During the next few months Te Kooti was successful in a series of battles, and for a few weeks in November/December 1868 he controlled much of the Poverty Bay district. His fighting force of about 200 consisted of the Rifleman group and a number of other Māori who joined him later – mostly members of Tūhoe from the Urewera, and Ngāti Kahungunu from inland Wairoa.
The execution of about 70 Pākehā and Māori (including women and children) at Matawhero, Poverty Bay, on 10 November earned him many powerful Māori enemies, but also the support of some motivated by fear. The government became all the more grimly determined to capture or kill him. A massive bounty of £5,000 – equivalent to $580,000 in 2015 – was placed on his head.
At the battle of Ngātapa, in January 1869, Te Kooti suffered a major defeat by Pākehā troops and their Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Kahungunu allies. Although Te Kooti and some of his followers escaped, up to 120 of his men were captured and executed by Ngāti Porou. Te Kooti launched a raid on Mōhaka (northern Hawke's Bay) in April and then retired into the Urewera. Government forces applied a scorched earth policy so that the Tūhoe tribe could not shelter Te Kooti and the dwindling remnants of his band, but he always managed to evade capture. Armed parties constantly crossed the Kāingaroa plains, the Urewera and surrounding districts, pillaging, burning and killing. One by one the Tūhoe leaders were forced to surrender. Stripped of his main support, Te Kooti took shelter in the King Country under the protection of King Tāwhiao. From then on he avoided the path of war.
Te Kooti lived at Te Kūiti, in the King Country, until he was pardoned in 1883. However, he was never allowed to go home to Tūranganui. During this period he developed the rituals of the Ringatū Church. By the late 1870s the faith had spread widely, and his reputation as a prophet and healer grew rapidly. He died in 1893.Date of Birthc. 1832Date of Death17 April 1893
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