The Maori King, Te Arikinui Tuheitia Paki, can trace his position as king back to the 1850s when tribes from all over the country discussed the notion of appointing a king. Rapid European population growth was putting pressure on Maori to sell land, and there was a sense that Maori were losing control of their own affairs.
Potatau Te Wherowhero 1858–60
Matutaera Tawhiao 1860–94
Te Rata 1912–33
Te Atairangikaahu 1966–2006
Tuheitia Paki 2006–
The first king, Potatau Te Wherowhero was selected because he had the mana necessary to hold such a position. His coronation in 1858 established a dynasty. His son Tawhiao became king in 1860, and led the movement during the difficult times of the Waikato War of 1863–4 and land confiscations that followed. These were crucial times for the fledgling movement. Tawhiao, who was also a prophet, led his people into exile south of Te Awamutu, an area now known as the King Country. He managed to keep the Kingitanga together when it was viewed as a direct threat to the authority of the British Crown and to European settlement in general.
In 1894 Tawhiao was succeeded by his son Mahuta. His reign represented a shift in the formal relationship between the Kingitanga and government. Mahuta became a member of the Legislative Council and the Executive Council of Parliament, thus involving the Kingitanga in mainstream politics.
From 1912 Mahuta's son, Te Rata, continued the work of his father by negotiating with the New Zealand government and the British Crown and by seeking redress for grievances. His son Koroki was assisted during his reign (1933–66) by his aunt, Te Puea Herangi. When Koroki died, his daughter Te Atairangikaahu became the Kingitanga's first woman leader.
How to cite this page: 'Introduction - Maori King movement', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/the-maori-king-movement/te-kingitanga/introduction, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012