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  • Te Amorangi Heremaia-Flavell

Kiingitanga: Part Two

 With the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840, Maaori sought protection of our lands, culture, and autonomy. There were concerns that these things were in danger of being lost or challenged, and the Kiingitanga played (and still plays) a crucial role in uniting Maaoridom and the various hapuu and iwi in response. 

The wharenui Mahinaarangi at Tuurangawaewae Marae
Mahinaarangi at Tuurangawaewae Marae

The Kiingitanga was established in 1858 as a way to bring Maaori together. Its primary goals were to stop the sale of land to Paakehaa, stop inter-tribal warfare, and provide a springboard for the preservation of Maaori culture in the face of Paakehaa colonisation. 


Our tuupuna were determined to provide a platform for collective decision-making, and to foster solidarity among iwi Maaori for cultural preservation, land rights and addressing common challenges. This would not have been an easy achievement, yet the Kiingitanga brought a unified Maaori voice to dealings with the British Crown.  


In the ensuing years, the history of Waikato iwi has become inseparable from the Kiingitanga.


Each monarch has played an integral part in uniting the people and has shown leadership to navigate through challenging times.


Kiingi Pootatau, te kiingi o te tika

Kiingi Pootatau, the first Maaori King, reigned from May 1858 to June 1860. He united all iwi to work together against colonisation and put a halt to the sale of Maaori lands. He was appointed by several iwi across the motu essentially because of his whakapapa to all iwi – he was connected to all seven waka. He was also a well-known fierce warrior and feared leader. Another reason was the abundance of food in the the Waikato rohe meaning we had the ability to feed the masses of people for gatherings.  It was a short reign for Kiingi Pootatau but an important beginning to a much larger kaupapa.


Kiingi Taawhiao, kiingi o te maungaarongo

Kiingi Taawhiao, the second Maaori King, reigned from July 1860 to August 1894.  His birth name was Tukaaroto, his Christian name was Maatutaera, and he became known as Taawhiao when he was appointed as our Kiingi. Arguably, he reigned during the most turbulent time in our history. In response to the threat of advancing colonial troops, Kiingi Taawhiao declared an aukati (a line not to be crossed) at the Mangataawhiri Stream in the northern part of our Waikato rohe. Under orders of Governor Grey, on 12 July 1863, troops crossed the aukati and invaded the Waikato.  Armed conflict and the Raupatu ensued.


Our people then suffered the impacts of the land wars and invasion of many of our paa, the most notable being Rangiriri and Oo-Raakau. The land wars ultimately led to the confiscation of 1.2 million acres of our lands, our awa, our home and our way of life. This had devastating intergenerational effects on the economic, social, cultural, and environmental health and well-being of our people; impacts that we continue to suffer today.


Despite having to retreat to the King Country for more than 20 years, Kiingi Taawhiao provided leadership and guidance during a very challenging and traumatic time for our people. It was during this period that many of the tongikura (sayings) attributed to him emerged. These sayings provided a philosophical and ideological base from which our people and his followers attempted to seek salvation. One such tongikura is:


Ko Arekahaanara tooku haona kaha

Ko Kemureti tooku oko horoi

Ko Ngaaruawaahia tooku tuurangawaewae.


Alexandra (Pirongia) will ever be a symbol of my strength of character

Cambridge a symbol of my wash bowl of sorrow

Ngaaruawaahia my place to stand.


Hence the significance of Tuurangawaewae Marae today as the official headquarters for the Kiingitanga. In 1885 Kiingi Taawhiao established Poukai, the Kiingi’s annual visits throughout the rohe, for te pouaru, te rawakore me te whaanau pani (the widowed, the destitute and the bereaved).


Kua whakatuuria e au teenei taonga hei aawhina i te pani, i te pouaru, i te rawakore. He kuuaha whaanui kua puare ki te puna taangata me te punakai.I have instituted this gathering to feed the widowed, the bereaved and the destitute. It is a doorway that has been opened to the multitudes of people and the bounty of food.


Kiingi Taawhiao continued to seek redress to compensate for the loss of lands and was continually denied justice from the New Zealand government. In 1884, Kiingi Taawhiao led a deputation to England with a petition to Queen Victoria. When asked of the reason for his journey, he replied:


E haere ana ahau ki te kite i te Kuini o Ingarangi, kia whakamana te Tiriti a Waitangi.


I am going to see the Queen of England to honour the Treaty of Waitangi.

Upon his return he as asked by his followers what the outcome of his journey was. Taawhio replied.

 his return he was asked by his followers what the outcome of his journey was. Taawhiaoe

 I haere Maaori atu, i hoki Maaori mai.


I went as a Maaori and came back as a Maaori.


This tongikura indicated that he and his delegation were unsuccessful in seeking an audience with Queen Victoria. Kiingi Taawhiao left a legacy of tongikura from which our people would draw future dreams for our iwi: being a self-sufficient economic base, supported by the strength and stability of our people.


Kiingi Mahuta – Kiingi o te rangimaarie

In September 1894, Kiingi Mahuta was anointed as the third Maaori King. He reigned until November 1912. When Kiingi Mahuta succeeded to the throne, a lot of lands were being made available for settlers across the motu, various committees were being set up in regions to facilitate these processes, and infrastructure was being built. 


Economic pressures were rising, which meant poverty, disease and impacts to populations in many areas. Some tribes would cope by selling or leasing land, but the confiscations meant Kiingi Mahuta had none to spare. This put a lot of economic pressure on Waikato and Kiingi Mahuta had to attempt to find redress by other means. 


As a result, he joined the Legislative Council which looked into the land confiscations and provided the beginning of a collaboration with a settler government to address the wrongs of our history. While there was some work that explored the idea that Maaori could manage their own lands, there were too many restrictions for the ideas to become effective.


Disillusioned, Kiingi Mahuta returned home and focused on establishing his own parliament, Te Kauhanganui, and for the first time, mana motuhake was being realised to some extent He had raised enough money to buy land in Ngaaruawaahia, and to set aside funds for the construction of his parliament house.

 Kiingi Te Rata, ko te taupoki whakamaarie o te taapenakara o te whakaoranga o taa te atua i pai ai

Our fourth Maaori King, Kiingi Te Rata, was anointed in November 1912 and reigned until October 1933. Kiingi Te Rata is said to have been well educated, had considerable talent for diplomacy and had a lot of knowledge of Paakehaa affairs. 


In 1913, he travelled to England and presented a petition seeking redress for the restoration of confiscated lands. He was given an audience with King George V and Queen Mary, but the British government reiterated its position that Maaori must look to the New Zealand government to redress the grievances. While the expedition was perceived to be a failure, his audience with the British royal family was significant. He was the first Maaori King to meet a reigning British monarch and this was a momentous occasion. 


In March 1919, a new building for Kiingi Te Rata’s parliament was opened in Ngaaruawaahia. Shortly after, with the support of Te Puea Herangi, further lands were purchased on the eastern banks of the Waikato River, where Tuurangawaewae sits today.


Kiingi Korokii – te mana motuhake o ngaa waka katoa o te motu nei

Kiingi Korokii was reluctant to take the mantle of King, but despite his resistance, he was crowned in October 1933 and reigned until May 1966. At the start of his reign, Kiingi Korokii’s daily routine was filled with official engagements. At Tuurangawaewae Marae, he entertained visiting VIPs, Polynesian royalty, prime ministers, governors general and Ministers of the Crown. He was supported by many advisors at the time, including Te Puea Herangi, Pe Te Hurinui Jones and Piri Poutapu.


Many of the controversies during Kiingi Korokii’s reign related to the constant battle to uphold recognition of the Kiingitanga and seek redress for the Raupatu. By the 1940s, there was a partial resolution of the Raupatu claim with the establishment of the Tainui Maaori Trust Board and an annual government grant of $15,000.


While Kiingi Korokii lived primarily at Waahi Paa, he commuted daily to take up residence in Tuurongo House at Tuurangawaewae Marae where he ultimately passed away. 


Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu – naa te ao kaatoa


Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu was the first woman chosen to lead the Kiingitanga. She served as the longest reigning monarch for 40 years from May 1966 to August 2006. Te Arikinui was groomed for leadership from a very young age. She became a prefect at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls, took part in a range of sports, learnt piano and loved poetry and literature. However, her home was Waahi Paa and she was always connected to her whaanau and her marae responsibilities.


Affectionately known as ‘The Lady’, Te Arikinui hosted numerous gatherings and significant events during her reign. She travelled across the motu, around the world and provided leadership on critical kaupapa that affected all iwi, such as the revitalisation of te reo, the establishment of Koohanga Reo, and launching of Maaori Television amongst many others.


On 30 December 1953, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were welcomed at Tuurangawaewae on their first visit to New Zealand. Princess Piki, as she was known at the time, invited the Queen and Duke inside. The brief visit was a symbolic recognition of the mana of the Kiingitanga and the beginnings of a strong relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and Te Arikinui.


In fact, Te Arikinui was instrumental in personally inviting Queen Elizabeth II to open the new dining hall, Kimiora, at Tuurangawaewae Marae on 8 February 1974. 


The signing of the Waikato Raupatu Settlement on 22 May 1995, the first treaty settlement in New Zealand, was a key event during Te Arikinui’s reign. It was controversial at the time with factions amongst our iwi members questioning whether it was the right thing to do. However, the settlement created hope and optimism for the iwi to grow, prosper and thrive. It should be noted that the Waikato Raupatu Settlement is the only settlement signed by Queen Elizabeth II herself.


I was lucky enough to have been able to see Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu. She was a great leader to our people, to our iwi and the motu. She was softly spoken, and exuded grace, elegance and warmth. I recall her tangihanga, which was huge. More than 100,000 people came to Tuurangawaewae Marae to pay their respects. Queen Elizabeth II also offered her condolences with a special message sent through to Te Arikinui’s family.


Kiingi Tuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII

Kiingi Tuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII is our current reigning monarch. I have been lucky enough to have attended almost every one of Kiingi Tuheitia’s koroneihana and they have always been memorable occasions.  


In my view, the Kiingitanga remains even more relevant today as a symbol of unity, strength, and representation. It continues to advocate for the rights and interests of iwi Maaori, our respective communities addressing contemporary issues including land rights, social justice, and cultural preservation. The Kiingitanga serves as a platform to foster connections among iwi, maintain cultural heritage, and influence discussions on iwi rights and interests. The most recent example is the championing of these issues at the recent hui-aa-motu. 


In early December last year, Kiingi Tuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII issued a Royal proclamation, Te Paki o Matariki, convening a hui at Turangawaewae Marae.

The focus for the hui aa motu was how mana motuhake o te iwi Maaori contributes to kotahitanga as a nation.

Nā Te Amorangi Heremaia-Flavell


 * Te Amorangi uses double vowels. Here at NAIA we normally use a tohutō or macron to indicate a longer vowel sound. Doubling the vowel instead of using a tohutō is widely used in some iwi, most strongly in Waikato.

** This is the second part of a series in which Te Amorangi explains the history of the Kiingitanga and its significance.



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