Tohu Kākahi (1828–1907), of the Taranaki tribe Te Āti Awa, was born during the period of great turmoil known as the 'Musket Wars'. Like his relative and fellow prophet Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, also of Te Āti Awa, he was said to have been regarded early in life as a teacher and prophet.
Later he gained a deep knowledge of Christian doctrine. It is claimed that Tohu confirmed Pōtatau Te Wherowhero's son Tāwhiao as the second Māori King, and was for a time his spiritual advisor. Tohu was also said to have participated in the Taranaki wars of the 1860s, but by the mid-1860s he had, like Te Whiti, decided to pursue peaceful but firm resistance to European incursion and the loss of land. By most accounts Tohu moved after the Taranaki wars to the Parihaka settlement where, with Te Whiti, he led the people.
Parihaka became a centre of peaceful resistance and a rallying point for many Māori. Acute Māori discontent focussed on land confiscation and the government's failure to set aside promised reserves. In 1879 the government began to survey 16,000 acres of the confiscated Waimate Plain without setting aside Māori reserves.
In response, Māori, led by Te Whiti and Tohu, began ploughing land occupied by settlers, and building fences across roads that cut through their cultivations. Arrests followed, but the pace of protest continued to grow. Many tribes throughout New Zealand provided the Parihaka people with food and other supplies during this time, trekking from their homes to the settlement. These expeditions became a phenomenon of the Taranaki coast, much to the annoyance of government officials.
On 5 November 1881 a force of almost 1,600 volunteers and Constabulary Field Force troops, led by Native Minister John Bryce mounted on a white stallion, invaded Parihaka. The Māori inhabitants, numbering about 2,000, offered no resistance, greeting Bryce and his men with bread and song. They were dispersed and Tohu and Te Whiti were arrested. The settlement was then systematically wrecked by the soldiers, and Māori tradition speaks of brutality and rape. Tohu and Te Whiti were charged with 'wickedly, maliciously, and seditiously contriving and intending to disturb the peace'. They were held without trial, and were not released until 1883, when they returned to the ruined Parihaka settlement and began to rebuild it. They continued to lead peaceful Māori protest.
Unlike some others at Parihaka, Tohu refused to be influenced by European ways. He advised his people to stay out of debt and away from European vices such as drink. He denounced taxes, which he believed were charged unfairly against the Parihaka people. Tohu died in February 1907. Te Whiti died a few months later.
'Tohu Kākahi', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/people/tohu-kakahi, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Jun-2020First NameTohuLast NameKākahiDate of Birthc. 1828Date of Death4 February 1907