The Maori Monarchs
Pōtatau Te Wherowhero: 1858–1860
Mahuta Tāwhiao: 1894–1912
Te Rata Mahuta: 1912–1933
Korokī Mahuta: 1933–1966
Te Ātairangikaahu: 1966–2006
Tūheitia Paki: 2006 – present
First New Zealand Parliament & Governor General sits 1854 – The King Movement 1853-1858
The Māori King movement – or Kīngitanga as it is now universally known – came about through a Māōri response to the relentless drive and expansion of colonialism out of Great Britain, particularly under its monarch Queen Victoria.
Many Māori had visited London and were absolutely overawed by the power, authority, majesty, organisation and wealth clearly demonstrated during the Victorian era. Many determined the only way Māori could respond to the relentless appetite of a colonial power of this size and magnificence was to form a Māori counter response.
Between the years of 1853 to 1858, several hui were held up and down the country as Māori attempted to seize on a leader who could bring unity to Māori, and thereby add a counterweight to the mighty reach of the British Empire.
Ultimately in 1858, Pōtatou Te Wherowhero was crowned king, with the support of several Māori leaders solely on the basis of his ability to relate by whakapapa to each one of these senior chiefs.
The strength of Kīngitanga lay in the Tainui Federation, supported through the Tauranga Moana area, into the East Coast and across to the Taranaki. It cannot be said, however, that the Kingitanga movement therefore was a national one embracing all Māori.
It is salutary to note, that whilst the first king was anointed in 1858, New Zealand had got its first Governor-General in 1854 and was now a colony in its own right and no longer under rule from New South Wales.
That’s why as a consequence of this long history, the Kīngitanga movement is deeply embedded in the hearts, souls, minds and bloodlines of tens of thousands of Māori today.
During a time of Māori people’s gravest and darkest moments, the Kīngitanga stood as an unfaltering beacon of hope – a safe guiding lighthouse providing a glimmer of direction in the worst of storms.
Kīngitanga is dynastic in that only those who have been a direct descendant of the first king have been able to rule, or alternatively have been appointed to rule.
The capacity to organise themselves and the desire of settler peoples to acquire land from the Tainui-Waikato people came to a flashpoint when on July 12, 1863, the Crown crossed the Mangatawhiri Stream, sparking the invasion of Waikato and the Kīngitanga.
Their lands were highly sought after and their organisation under a pan tribal grouping had to be attacked by the Crown because they did not approve of land sales and were able to deploy a large number of armed warriors.
It is important to also note that as a consequence, the Kīngitanga to many Māori is an office requiring of deep and abiding respect.
It is not about the person that presently holds and personifies the office of the king or queen. It has always been about the consistent genealogical connection, the consistent loyalty and support of the Kīngitanga movement to those whose forbears committed to it.
The recent adverse publicity around Kīngitanga speaks more about the individuals involved in bringing the office of Kīngitanga into disrepute.
The settling of scores by former Kīngitanga adviser Tukoroirangi Morgan and Rangi Whakaruru as well as others must been seen for what they are – in my opinion a despicable little act by those wanting to curry favour for their own self-interests, as opposed to acknowledging the deep and reverent way in which thousands and thousands of Māori uphold the office of Kingitanga.
I was privileged to act as a solicitor and adviser to the present king’s mother Dame Te Ātairangikaahu. She ascended the throne following the death of her father Korokī Te Rata Mahuta Tāwhiao Te Wherowhero in 1966 and was laid to rest regretfully 40 years later in 2006.
My father is of Ngāti Porou ki Hauraki and tithed to the Kīngitanga. He was not a Kīngitanga man but was deeply respectful of the institution.
At no time would Dame Te Ātairangikaahu or her father ever become overtly embroiled in politics or in making injudicious comments about others.
He was, and she was also, well served by outstanding uncles, aunties and cousins, that would take onto themselves any matters of risk which could bring her or her father or the office of the Kīngitanga into disrepute. Her father was served by the late great Princess Te Puea.
I have personally witnessed a number of Kīngitanga people, who at no time could be held responsible or liable for matters that might bring the Kīngitanga movement into disrepute, take on to themselves all liability.
So to sacrifice themselves, as opposed to having the dignity and humility of their ancestors questioned on the basis of the actions of others and any perceived possible reputational damage to Kīngitanga, they stepped up and claimed responsibility.
Regretfully the Kīngitanga movement has recently begot a number of people that are more interested in the tribe’s Treaty settlement bank account rather than the dignity and humility of the office of the Kīngitanga.
The office of the Kīngitanga has a value that can never be estimated or determined. The value of the Kīngitanga rests in the massive losses suffered by those who saw fit to commit to the Kīngitanga movement to defend their lands, their families, their communities, their culture and their very essence.
These are the things that make the value of Kīngitangaa inestimable and these are the things that greed shown in recent events have been placed above the requirement for respect, dignity and humility.
The honouring of six generations of Kīngitanga who had ensured the retention of all of that Tainui history and whakapapa has been besmirched.
No one should ever sweep under the carpet wrongdoings, but no one should allege wrong doing merely to settle petty personal scores and no one should bring the Kingitanga into disrespect because of that pettiness.
It is a great institution and will outlast the present king and any poor adviser to the Kīngitanga.