The Māori 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 Māori to sell land, and there was a sense that Māori were losing control of their own affairs.
Pōtatau Te Wherowhero 1858–60
Matutaera Tāwhiao 1860–94
Te Rata 1912–33
Te Ātairangikaahu 1966–2006
Tuheitia Paki 2006–
The first king, Pōtatau 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 Korokī was assisted during his reign (1933–66) by his aunt, Te Puea Herangi. When Korokī died, his daughter Te Atairangikaahu became the Kingitanga's first woman leader.
How to cite this page: 'Introduction - Māori King movement', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/the-maori-king-movement/te-kingitanga/introduction, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 11-Jul-2014