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Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki


As a young man Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki was so lawless that a leading chief took a raiding party against his pa because he'd become such a terror to the district. He would become the focus of one of New Zealand's biggest manhunts and would lead a guerrilla war across the central North Island.

In June 1866, Te Kooti was present during the fighting at Gisborne between the Hauhau and the colonial troops and their Ngati Porou allies. Te Kooti was on the government's side but after the battle was accused by his enemies of supplying gunpowder and information to the Hauhau. Without a trial, Te Kooti was exiled with the other prisoners to the Chatham Islands.

Whilst at the Chathams, Te Kooti became ill with fever and started having visions of God speaking to him. It was here Te Kooti became a prophet. Soon he had followers, spoke prophecies and developed a religious movement called Ringatu. The faith would try to give its followers hope and a path to political and spiritual salvation.

In July 1868 Te Kooti masterminded an escape from the Chathams aboard a captured ship. He landed with his followers on Poverty Bay and headed inland. A few months later he attacked Matawhero and over 50 people were killed. Te Kooti took personal revenge against those who had taken his land at Matawhero and profited from his exile.

Te Kooti had a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other. He became a very cruel person but continued to preach his religious beliefs. He was now a fugitive and was pursued through the bush by colonial soldiers and their Maori allies.

In 1869 Te Kooti was involved in a five day battle at Ngatapa. The pa was well protected but supplies soon ran out. The Maori defenders resorted to using melted plates and cups as bullets.

Out of food and water, Te Kooti and his followers escaped at the rear of the pa. They were chased hard and those that were caught were executed and beheaded. This was the first of many escapes that Te Kooti became known for.

Te Kooti was declared an outlaw and was given sanctuary by the Tuhoe tribe in the Ureweras. But government forces sent their allies to attack and plunder the tribe. The Tuhoe was almost decimated.

In 1872, at the invitation of Rewi Maniapoto, he fled with his last few followers to the sanctuary of the King Country where he remained in exile. In 1883 the government gave him an official pardon. He died ten years later, where he is buried remains unknown.


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