Te Kooti (?–1893) was of Ngāti Maru, a hapu (sub-tribe) of the Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne) tribe Rongowhakaata. He converted to Christianity and, like other Tūranganui Māori, became involved in the coastal shipping trade.
He was also known as a wild and turbulent youth, gaining enemies among Europeans and some of his own people.
In 1865 he 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 (Gisborne) in November 1865. After the fighting he was held on suspicion of being a spy, but these charges were probably trumped up. He appealed to Donald McLean for a hearing of the charges against him, 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. It was at this time that he founded the Ringatū Church, grounded in the Old Testament and in 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 Biggs, the Resident Magistrate at Gisborne, that he and his followers did not want to fight Europeans but to travel to the King Country. There he would strengthen his position as the 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 by November 1868 he controlled much of the Poverty Bay district. His fighting force totalled about 200. It 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 a number of European and Māori prisoners (including women and children) at Matawhero, Poverty Bay, in November 1868 earned him many powerful Māori enemies, as well as the support of some motivated by fear. It also made the government more grimly determined to capture or kill him. A massive £5,000 bounty was placed on his head.
At the battle of Ngātapa, in January 1869, Te Kooti suffered a major defeat by local militia and their Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa and Ngāti Kahungunu allies. Although Te Kooti and some of his followers escaped, a number of his men – perhaps as many as 120 – were captured and executed. Te Kooti launched a raid on Mōhaka (Hawke's Bay) in April, and then retired to the Urewera.
After this, there was a period of extraordinary savagery and destruction. Government forces applied a scorched earth policy so that the Tūhoe tribe could not shelter Te Kooti and the dwindling remnants of his band. Te Kooti became a master of guerrilla tactics, and always managed to evade capture. Over the next four years armed parties constantly crossed the Kāingaroa plains, the Urewera and surrounding districts, pillaging, burning and killing.
The final phase of the war was a bitter campaign in the Urewera. 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 Tawhiao. 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 return to his home at 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.
Adapted from the DNZB biography by Judith Binney
Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki
Nō te hapū o Ngāti Maru, iwi o Rongowhakaata o Tūranganui-a-Kiwa a Te Kooti (? –1893). Ka huri a ia hei Karaitiana, ā, pērā tonu i te nuinga o ngā Māori o Tūranganui, ka kuhu ia ki ngā tauhokohoko ki tai. Ka hau te rongo mōna he mohoao, he wāwāhi tahā. Ka huri ētahi o ngā Pākehā me ētahi tonu o ōna uri tonu ki te whakamau ki a ia.
I te tau 1865, ko ia tētahi o te tokoiti o te hapū o Ngāti Maru i whakakeke ki te kuhu hei Pai Mārire, e ātete ana i te hokonga whenua ki te Pākehā. Ka kuhu kē ia ki te taha o te taua kāwanatanga ka whawhai ki ngā Hauhau i Waerenga-a-Hika i te marama o Nōema 1865. I te mutunga o te whawhai, ka whakapaetia ia he pūrahorua; ko te āhua nei, he mahi hīanga tēnei kia uru ai a Te Kooti ki te raruraru. Ka tono a ia ki a Te Mākarini kia whakawākia ngā whakapae kei runga i a ia; hauwarea. Ka panā ia ki Wharekauri i te taha o ngā mauhere Hauhau.
I te wā e mauhere ana ia i Wharekauri, ka uru he wairua ki roto i a ia. Koinei te auahatanga o te Hāhi Ringatū, i taketake mai i te Kawenata Tawhito me ngā tikanga a te Māori. I te rā 4 o Hūrae 1868 ka aratakina e Te Kooti ngā mauhere kia puta i Wharekauri – 163 ngā tāne, 135 ngā wāhine tae atu ki ngā tamariki – mā runga i te kaipuke Rifleman nā rātou i muru. Nō te 10 o Hūrae ka tau te Rifleman ki te tonga o Tūranganui-a-Kiwa. Ka tukua e Te Kooti tana kōrero ki a Te Piiki (Reginald Biggs), te kaiwhakawā ā-rohe mō Tūranganui, e mea ana kāore a ia me te whakarau i te hiahia whawhai ki ngā Pākehā, ko te hiahia kē o Te Kooti kia haere ki te Rohe Pōtae, ki reira whakaū ai i tōna tūranga hei kaiarataki i te wairua o te iwi Māori. Ka whakahau a Te Piiki kia tukua e te whakarau ō rātou pū ki raro; tē arohia atu. Kātahi ka whāia, ka tomokia rātou e Te Piiki; koinei te tīmatanga o te riri.
I ngā marama ka whai, ka toa a Te Kooti i roto i ngā pakanga, ā, i te marama o Nōema 1868 kei raro te nuinga o Tūranganui i tōna mana. Hui katoa, e 200 ana toa, ngā whakarau mai i Wharekauri me ētahi atu Māori i whakapiri ki a ia – te nuinga nō te iwi o Ngāi Tūhoe o Te Urewera, nō ngā hapū o Ngāti Kahungunu o te taha whakaroto o Wairoa hoki. Nā te kōhuru o ētahi mauhere Pākehā, Māori (he wāhine, tamariki ētahi) i Matawhero i te Nōema 1868, ka mauāhara ētahi rangatira Māori ki a ia. Waihoki, nā te wehi me te mataku, ka tahuri ētahi ki te tautoko i a ia. I tua atu, ka mārō te kāwanatanga ki te hopu, ki te whakamate rānei i a Te Kooti. E rima mano pāuna ka utaina ki runga i tōna māhunga.
I te riri i Ngātapa i te marama o Hānuere i te tau 1869, ka hinga ngā toa a Te Kooti i ngā hōia Pākehā me ngā kūpapa mai i Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa, Ngāti Kahungunu. Ka puta a Te Kooti me ētahi atu i tēnei mate nui. Heoi, ka hopukina, ka whakamatea ētahi o ana toa; e mea ana te kōrero neke atu i te 120 tō rātou tokomaha. I te marama o Āperira o taua tau anō, ka huakina e Te Kooti a Mōhaka (Te Matau-a-Māui); taro ake ka rere whakaroto ia ki Te Urewera.
Kātahi ka tau te mutunga mai o te kino ki runga ki te tangata, ki runga ki te whenua. Ka pāhuatia a Te Urewera e ngā hōia a te kāwanatanga, kia kore e taea te manaaki, te whakamarumaru i a Te Kooti me tana ope iti. He tohunga a Te Kooti ki te kokoti whakamoe. Tē mau i ngā hōia. Mō ngā tau e whā ka whai, i takahia a Kāingaroa, Te Urewera me ngā rohe tata e ngā ope taua; he muru, he tahu, he kōhuru ngā mahi.
Ko te whakamutunga o ngā riri kei roto i Te Urewera. Ka tuku tēnā me tēnā rangatira o Ngāi Tūhoe i a ia ki raro. I te kaha kore o te iwi, ka rere a Te Kooti ki te Rohe Pōtae, ki reira noho ai i raro i te mana o Kīngi Tāwhiao. I konei ka whakairia e ia tana patu me tana pū, kore rawa mō te whakaarahia. Ka noho a Te Kooti ki Te Kūiti i te Rohe Pōtae, kia unuhia ngā whakapae a te ture kei runga i a ia i te tau 1883. Ahakoa tērā, kāore i whakaaetia tana hoki ki tōna kāinga tūturu ki Tūranganui. I tēnei wā ka whakaritea e ia ngā tikanga o te Hāhi Ringatū. Ka tae ki te paunga o te tekau tau atu i 1870, kua horapa te hāhi, kua hau hoki te rongo mō Te Kooti hei matakite, hei tohunga whakaora tangata. Ka mate ia i te tau 1893.