Te Kooti

From Academic Kids

Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (c.1820 - 1891) was a Maori leader and the founder of the Ringatu religion.

Te Kooti's early years are obscure. He was born in the Gisborne region. In 1865 Te Kooti fought for the government forces suppressing the local Maori Pai Marire. However, he was arrested as a spy and exiled to the Chatham Islands, together with the rebels he had been fighting against.

While in exile Te Kooti experienced visions and became a religious leader. On July 4, 1868 Te Kooti led a dramatic prison break, and together with 168 other prisoners seized a sailing ship and set off back to the North Island. Upon their arrival Te Kooti asked the King movement and the Tuhoe tribes for refuge but was rejected.

On November 10, 1868 Te Kooti and his followers attacked a local settlement. Some 54 people were slaughtered, including women and children. The dead included some local Maori chiefs as well as European settlers. This was probably a revenge attack, motivated by Te Kooti's false imprisonment as a spy.

Te Kooti was then pursued by colonial and Maori forces. His community was surrounded at Ngatapa, but Te Kooti and his warriors managed to escape. Those he left behind were rounded up and all the men summarily executed. Te Kooti escaped into the Urewera and made an alliance with the Tuhoe leadership.

From 1869 to 1872 Te Kooti and his followers raided throughout the central North Island while being pursued by their colonial and Maori enemies. His power was only broken once his Tuhoe allies were systematically conquered by his enemies. But once again Te Kooti managed to escape, this time to the King Country where he spent the next decade under the protection of the Maori King. Te Kooti used this time to develop his religion.

In 1883 Te Kooti was pardoned by the government and began to travel New Zealand. His followers grew and he decided to return to his old home. However, his past deeds had not been forgotten and the local magistrate arrested him and imprisoned him, citing an anticipatory breach of the peace. Te Kooti was released on the condition that he never again try to return to his old home. Te Kooti appealed this decision, and was initially successful, but in 1890 the Court of Appeal ruled that the terror and alarm that Te Kooti's reappearance would have entailed justified the magistrates decision. No doubt the Court was influenced by Te Kooti's preferred mode of transport, a white charger, and his large entourage.

See also Te Kooti's War

Te Kooti is the subject of an excellent biography by Judith Binney, Redemption songs: a life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, Auckland, 1995 and also Maurice Shadbolt's novel Season of the Jew.

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