John Eldon Gorst arrived in New Zealand in 1860. He taught at a Maori mission school at Hopuhopu, Waikato, before being appointed Waikato Resident Magistrate by Governor Browne in 1862. He later became Resident Magistrate in the Waikato, and tried to work with moderate elements in the Kingitanga (King Movement). Gorst sympathised to some extent with the Kingitanga and its political aspirations, which he felt stemmed from no more than a Maori desire to set up their own administrative structures in the absence of adequate legal and other institutions within which they could participate.
Wahanui Huatare, of Ngāti Maniapoto, was born in the late 1820s. Raised as a Christian, he also became a notable tohunga (Maori spiritual expert) and an influential chief. In the 1850s he organised a mail service between Te Awamutu and Napier, and set up a system of tribal administration and law enforcement which was admired by John Gorst, the Waikato resident magistrate. Near the end of the 1850s Wahanui became opposed to further European settlement, and became a key figure in the growing King Movement. He fought in the Waikato war of 1863–64, and was wounded.
The first part of Te Wherowhero's adult life was spent almost constantly at war as his Waikato tribe drove Te Rauparaha's Ngāti Toa out of its Kāwhia homeland, defended its own land against repeated attacks from Northland's Ngā Puhi and made repeated attacks on the Taranaki tribes. (Read more about the 'Musket Wars').
The Ngati Kahungunu chief Henare Matua first came into contact with Europeans in the 1840s, when he arranged some land leases for European squatters. Although he signed the Waipukurau land deed in 1851, he later opposed the sale of further land.
Although Matua had an early link with the King Movement, and opposed land sales, in the 1860's he supported the government against the Hauhau – members of the Pai Marire religion who opposed the sale of land to Europeans. However, he did not become directly involved in the fighting.
Rewi Maniapoto was of the Ngāti Paretekawa hapu (sub-tribe) of Ngāti Maniapoto. He was trained in the traditional customs of his people, and learned to read and write at the Wesleyan mission station at Te Kōpua.
Henare Kaihau, of Ngāti Te Ata, was born some time between 1854 and 1860 on the southern Manukau Harbour. In his youth he acquired a vast knowledge of tribal tradition and whakapapa. By his mid-twenties he had become deeply interested in Māori politics. Later he strongly supported the King movement, and was a principal adviser to Mahuta, the third Māori King.
The Maori King movement came into existence in the late 1850s as an attempt to unite the tribes, prevent land sales and make laws for Maori to follow. Potatau Te Wherowhero became the first Maori King in 1858, but died two years later.
Three settlers were killed near Ketemarae, Hawera, by Nga Ruahine warriors acting on the spiritual leader's orders. The deaths marked a change in strategy in the response to the confiscation of Maori land.
Princess Piki, the daughter of King Koroki, was selected as the sixth Maori monarch − and first Queen − during her father's funeral, in accordance with Kingitanga protocol. She assumed her mothers name, Te Atairangikaahu.