Te Kooti's War
|Te Kooti's War|
|Part of New Zealand wars|
|NZ Colonial Government
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (December 2012)|
Te Kooti's War was one of the New Zealand wars, the series of conflicts fought between 1845 and 1872 between the Māori and the colonizing European settlers, often referred to as Pākehā. This particular conflict covered most of the East Cape region and the centre of the North Island of New Zealand from July 1868 until mid-1872. It was the longest and in some ways the ugliest and most savage of all the New Zealand Wars with 28 battles and another 19 encounters or minor conflicts.
Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki was born in 1832  into the Ngati Maru sub-tribe of the Māori people in Poverty Bay on the south shore of East Cape. In his early youth he was very wild, causing a great deal of trouble within the tribe and the area. His father rejected him and tried to bury him alive in a kumara pit although some sources say he was buried by his father in a well while clearing sand. He was then adopted by Te Turuki. He argued with local missionaries and together with a group of young Maori terrorized the district. As a result of his lawlessness against both Maori and Pakeha he was driven from the land by a chief of the Te Aitanga a Mahaki in a taua in 1853. He was considered a philanderer and during his life had at least 10 wives. He then became involved in trading, in competition with the Pakeha traders Harris and Captain Reade. A successful trader,he sailed the unlicenced schooner Rua Whetihi up to Auckland .
Unlike most of the Ngati Manu he did not initially convert to Pai Marire or Hau Hauism when that new religion swept through the district in 1865. In fact he opposed it actively during the subsequent civil wars (see East Cape War).
Te Kooti fought on the government's side during the siege of Waerenga a Hika in 1865. However he was accused by one of the Māori chiefs of supplying gunpowder to the besieged Hau Hau, his brother being among them, and was arrested. The charge was dismissed and he was released. He was later arrested in March 1866 and charged with spying. There is a suspicion, but no evidence, that one of his accusers coveted some land that Te Kooti had refused to sell him. Another suggestion,again with no proof, is that the Pākehā traders resented his success as a competitor. It is also clear that many of the kupapa or loyalist Māori wanted him out of the area, seeing him as a dangerous trouble-maker. Under martial law he was shipped off to the Chatham Islands along with Hau Hau prisoners of war. At the time of Te Kooti's imprisonment on Chatham Island, he was one of 43 Hau hau men, 25 women and children who arrived with 26 guards, half of whom were Maori. At the time the term Hau Hau was a loose term meaning Maori rebels who had fought against the government during the late 1860s uprisings. These uprisings were based on quasi religious beliefs invented by the matakite visionary, Te Ua Haumene, that to fight the settlers would hasten the arrival of the New Canaan. The penal colony was under the control of magistrate William Seed. When the prisoner arrived the Chathams was a well established community thanks to the hard work and skill of a handful of European settlers such as Engst, Thomas Ritchie,Robert Shand and Edward Chudleigh who had purchased land, imported sheep and built European style housing. Ritchie in particular had worked closely with island Maori to develop the economy of the islands,eventually running 16,000 sheep. Clearing and working on the farm was back breaking work for the settlers, often in atrocious weather. The prisoners built a stone redoubt which was surrounded by a ditch and wall. A 3 cell stone prison was built but the prisoners lived in a row of ponga whares with their families. They grew their own vegetables and worked for the settlers at one shilling per day. They also upgraded roads and track around the island. Gradually the number of Hau hau prisoners rose to 163 men,64 women and 71 children.
In January 1868,24 year old surveyor, soldier and translator, Gilbert Mair went to the island with the Under Secretary for Native Affairs , William Rolleston. Mair came to the conclusion that the Hauhau were not well housed with some sick. He thought the guards had a poor attitude. Rolleston on the other hand thought the Hauhau so docile he recommended reducing the size of the guard. Mair met Te Kooti and other leaders. He described Te Kooti as having a "powerful influence over the people" and said he was an eloquent speaker. Te Kooti complained about obstacles being put in their way when they wanted to use the church. Later in the course of his pursuit of Te Kooti, Mair would shoot many of the men he interviewed on the Chathams. Mair came away convinced an injustice had been done.
During his time of exile Te Kooti claimed he experienced various spiritual revelations which formed the basis of his new faith, which much later in the 1880s became known as the Ringa Tu, in English, crudely, the Hand Upheld. He began holding religious services for his fellow prisoners and after the departure of the leading chiefs acquired a large following. Initially he preached acceptance but after mid-1868 when the leading chiefs were released and, angry that he was not, Te Kooti seized the opportunity to create a secret resistance movement under his direct control. New Zealand historian Michael King says that if Te Kooti wasn't a Hau Hau when he was captured he certainly was when he escaped.
Escape and Pursuit
Because the prisoners were well behaved the prison officers had become very casual in their duties. There were only 6 guards on the island at the time of the escape, the remainder having been sent to Hokitika, in April, to put down a threatened Fenian uprising. Normally the prisoners worked on a farm but because of rain they were able to take shelter in the redoubt where they over powered the guards. On 4 July 1868 Te Kooti led a revolt that took over the small stone redoubt, capturing the guards and the armoury. At the same time another party of prisoners captured the supply ship Rifleman, which had just arrived in port. Two people were killed - a particularly disliked guard and one of the prisoners who was said to have co-operated with the guards. The next day the Rifleman sailed for the mainland carrying virtually all the prisoners: 163 men, 64 women and 71 children.
During the voyage the ship was becalmed. Te Kooti claimed that his uncle,Te Warihi, who was sceptical of Te Kooti's claimed mystical powers,was to blame for the becalming, and should be sacrificed. One of Te Kooti's main followers, who later became Te Kooti's main executioner, bound the man and threw him overboard. Historian Ron Crosby sees this as the first of a series of increasingly ruthless orders issued by Te Kooti. The ship landed at Whareongaonga, about 25 km south-west of Gisborne, on 10 July. The prisoners unloaded the ship and Te Kooti paid off the Pākehā crew of the Rifleman. He also gave them a letter exonerating them for any responsibility for his escape. The ex-prisoners then gave thanks to God for their safe return, not on their knees as had hitherto been the custom but by raising their hand at the end of their prayers.
The view of the Chatham Island residents was that Te Kooti was an unprincipled savage and deserved hanging. Chudleigh, who had been almost chocked to death by the escaping prisoners, was especially harsh in judgement.
Two days later, on 12 July 1868, Reginald Biggs, the resident magistrate of Gisborne, sent Te Kooti a message demanding that they surrender their weapons. He promised no more than an investigation into their complaints. On the other hand the prisoners wanted only to make their way peacefully inland to the King Country, the southern Waikato. Te Kooti intended to replace King Tawhiao as the spiritual leader of the Māori people. However when he went to the King Country the King ejected him and his band band of rebels.
The colonial militia led by Biggs tried unsuccessfully to stop this march inland on 20 July at Paparatu near Lake Waikaremoana. This engagement was a complete success for Te Kooti. The militia were routed, losing most of their supplies, weapons and ammunition, and all their horses. At Te Koneke and Ruakituri there were two further battles attempting to stop Te Kooti, but they were unsuccessful and he was able to establish a base at Puketapu Pa north-west of Lake Waikaremoana.
The New Zealand Government made its only serious attempt to negotiate with Te Kooti. A Catholic missionary, Father Reignier, was sent to tell the Ringatu that if they would only surrender their arms every thing could be sorted out, they would not be prosecuted and they would be given land to settle on. He did not deliver the message, and it reached Te Kooti in a garbled form second or third hand.
On 29 October unsurprisingly King Tawhiao rejected the offer to replace him and the Hau hau hi jackers were told that if they entered the Waikato they would be treated as invaders.
The final blow was rejection by the Tuhoe Tribe. "The People of the Mist" could have offered them sanctuary in the Urewera Ranges but they were at best only half-hearted about it. They would not allow him to enter their territory, but they would also not allow the government forces to cross their territory to attack Te Kooti.
Te Kooti was gaining recruits, and by mid October he probably had as many as 250 warriors under his command, many of them disgruntled by the increasing rate of land confiscation. Perhaps because of this his attention turned away from the Waikato and King Movement and focused on local issues. He was to strike savagely at some of the men implicated in the confiscations, both Pākehā and Māori.
Te Kooti Strikes Back
Early in November 1868 Te Kooti led his men back down to Poverty Bay, easily avoiding the government forces based in the area. On the night of 10 November, Te Kooti's men attacked the settlement of Matawhero in Poverty Bay. That night between 51-54 people were killed,with one woman dying later from her wounds. Most of the dead were killed after being captured. Almost the first to die were the magistrate, Reginald Biggs, and his family. According to Judith Binney, it was not random killing - the men who died had all been active in the process of alienating Māori land. However Ron Crosby disputes Binney's interpretation of the killings. Binney says the killed were all of people involved in taking Te Kooti's land on the eastern side of the river at Matawhero. But people were killed on the other western side of the river too. Binney claimed that Te Kooti had "some interest " in this leased land as well. The captured were taken out side one at a time and killed by being hit in the face with a roofing hammer and then mutilated with a tomahawk.. Crosby says the slaughter was indiscriminate and without mercy.  Although repugnant to the British, Te Kooti deemed it appropriate that their families should die with them. Among those who died were also 22 Māori,including 18 chiefs, again specifically targeted. Some of them at least had signed over or sold land that Te Kooti claimed. Later, other Maori who had been taken prisoner, were killed, including a group of Maori women and children that were shot, then bayoneted and stabbed to death with swords . Binney claimed it was normal tikanga for Maori to kill women and children, calling it "ancestral killing" during war but Crosby questions whether this was normal practice 30 years after the "civilizing process of the Treaty and the introduction of Christianity". He says there were few, if any other similar killings at that time and such a large scale and Binney's view is "too extreme".
This devastating attack on a Pākehā settlement gave Te Kooti effective control of the Poverty Bay area. In the days that followed other Māori were captured and then executed. On 12 November he went to Oweta Pā. Its chief, Paratene Pototi, appears to have been largely responsible for Te Kooti's arrest and exile. He had apparently kicked and abused Te Kooti while he was waiting, bound, for transportation. Paratene and six of his chiefs were killed. Te Kooti carried out a lightning raid on largely undefended Mohaka in order to steal more weapons and ammunition which included "a widespread massacre of both Maori and Pakeha ". 65 people were killed. Binney gives the rationale for these killings as an act of revenge for the support these people had given the government against Te Kooti the previous year. Crosby says that given that the support was very limited and largely unsuccessful "it is impossible to to advance this as justification for the killing of large numbers of largely unarmed civilians." He adds that viewed objectively this raid "was ruthless and indiscriminate killing on a massive scale." Te Kooti's escape from the Chatham Islands was accomplished with three deaths, one a hated guard, another a collaborator and the third his own uncle. He not only released the crew of the Rifleman but he paid them and gave them a letter exonerating them. He had taken prisoners during his earlier march inland and released them unharmed. Up until the raid on Matawhero he had ordered the execution of five Māori caught carrying dispatches for the colonial troops, one of them a relative by marriage of his brother. Some of these were revenge (utu) for betrayal. Others were allegedly inspired by God: Te Kooti was becoming increasingly misguided by his visions. The mass killings immediately created a large number of enemies, both Pākehā and Māori, but they also brought him numerous recruits, despite the fact there was now almost no chance of any settlement or peace. Many followers believed Te Kooti wielded divine power along Old Testament lines, but many were also coerced into cooperation on fear of death. When Gilbert Mair's Arawa flying squad started operating in the Ureweras many of these Tuhoe "converts" quickly left Te Kooti's band.
Retreat and Defeat
Although Te Kooti was in control of the Poverty Bay area, strong forces were being assembled against him. Both Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Kahungunu had mobilized as had the Colonial Militia. He made a tactical withdrawal, first to Makaretu and then back to Ngatapa, where they were soon besieged.
Ngatapa was very strong but Te Kooti had taken as many as 800 people there, of whom only about 200 were warriors. Everything was in short supply - food, water and ammunition. On 5 January 1869 they began to evacuate the pa, clambering down the cliffs on the north face and escaping into the bush. Some 270 were captured by the besiegers - of these 120 males were killed immediately in utu by the Maori soldiers. This was not done in the heat of battle, but later, after they had been questioned. The actual killing was done mainly by Ropata Wahawaha and the Ngati Porou,although not sanctioned by the leaders of the Militia, Colonels Whitmore and Richmond,they would have been hard pressed to prevent it as nearly all the soldiers were Maori. They did at least try to prevent the killing of the women and children. Many of the men killed were probably present only because they had been Te Kooti's prisoners, captured during his raid on Poverty Bay. The laws of utu, the Māori concept of revenge and/or payment are very complex, and often substitute victims were acceptable if they were related to the hapu or iwi of the original offender. To Maori utu was deemed necessary to bring closure to a grievance.
The defeat at Ngatapa crippled Te Kooti. It did not end the conflict or the threat of conflict, but afterwards Te Kooti was never more than the leader of a dangerous guerilla band. Despite this, he would have one more chance to rekindle the flames of war over the North Island.
For the New Zealand Government it was a major victory for two reasons. First, it was their first success against Te Kooti, always important psychologically. But even more importantly, the Government had another war on its hands over on the west coast, in Taranaki. Here Titokowaru was fighting a separate but very dangerous war against the Government. The defeat of Te Kooti provided a respite which enabled the troops to be transferred from one theatre of war to another - see Titokowaru's War.
The First Retreat to the Urewera Mountains
Te Kooti and his remaining followers retreated into the Urewera Mountains, the territory of the Tuhoe, where he had a mixed reception. While some of the Tuhoe welcomed him, others anticipated correctly the trouble he would bring to the region and its people.
On 9 March 1869 he launched a raid into the Whakatane region, the northern side of East Cape, hoping to gain supplies and recruits. Although initially successful he was forced to retreat again by the end of March, when the militia and Maori kupapa forces under Captain Gilbert Mair were mobilized.
Then early in April Te Kooti struck southwards. Ngati Kahungunu were searching for his base beyond Lake Waikaremoana, leaving their Pā at Mohaka vulnerable. Te Kooti attacked on 10 April and overwhelmed the defenders. Some 64 people were then slaughtered, women and children, Māori and Pākehā, and great deal of loot was seized. Then, on the retreat, they successfully ambushed the returning Ngati Kahungunu warriors.
Meanwhile Colonel Whitmore and his troops had returned from Taranaki. He quickly realized that to deal with Te Kooti he needed to occupy the Urewera Mountains, a truly formidable task. Until then few Pākehā had even penetrated the ranges of steep valleys and thick bush-clad hills frequently hidden by mist. Furthermore the local Māori, the Tuhoe, were already hostile to the government and fiercely protective of their land.
The hunt for Te Kooti in the Ureweras began in early May. Three columns of government soldiers were deployed; coming from the north,under Lt Colonel St John and William Mair, from the west ,under Major Roberts,Gilbert Mair and George Preece and the south-west under Colonel Herrick. The latter column got bogged down around Lake Waikaremoana and made no further progress. However the other two columns were more successful and reached their objective, Ruatahuna, on 8 May. The plan was to deny Te Kooti ,the Hau hau escapees and their Tuhoe supporters supplies and support. The government troops systematically destroying enemy crops and houses and removing all women and children to the coast near Matata. Ron Crosby says with these steps the Tuhoe support for the Hau hau " started to evaporate" even though there had been few Tuhoe killed or wounded.
Many of Te Kooti's remaining supporters now pressured him to seek to eject Europeans from the country. This aim coincided with his own dream that he could be the Maori leader,with help from the Kingitanga in "expelling the Europeans".
Meanwhile Te Kooti was camped on the north shore of Lake Waikaremoana waiting for the south-western column. When it became apparent that it was going nowhere, the Hau hau forces began moving towards Ruatahuna, hoping to persuade the other columns to advance and attack them. However the Government forces were in trouble. Their Māori allies had refused to advance beyond Ruatahuna. Food supplies were running out and dysentery was spreading through the troops. They also knew that Te Kooti would have chosen a very strong position to wait for them.
Te Kooti and King Tāwhiao
All the Government forces had withdrawn from the Ureweras by 18 May. Despite this the campaign was partially successful, the Tuhoe having had enough of their violent guest. In early June Te Kooti and about 150 of his supporters left the area moving towards Lake Taupo in the center of the North Island.
At Opepe, just short of Taupo, they ran into a small party of Militia, who mistook them for their Māori allies: a costly mistake as nine of them were killed with no loss to Te Kooti. The Hau hau then continued on to Taupo and as far as Te Kuiti, where King Tāwhiao was based.
In July -August 1869 Te Kooti sought Maniapoto's help in restarting the rebellion against the government. He was not successful.For various reasons there was very little military activity between June and September 1869. The Government was still very keen to capture Te Kooti, but not at the cost of renewing the war with the King Movement and this was where Te Kooti was heading. Over the next few weeks Te Kooti tried very hard to persuade the King Movement to become involved in his war, but King Tāwhiao refused to see him. They did not meet at this time . Some of the Kingite leaders were for involvement, either active or passive. Others were strongly against it, feeling that the tribes had already suffered enough. Te Kooti still had a small following with a core group of about 40 men and his record for violence was appalling having already been involved in the murder of some one hundred and forty people. Rewi Maniapoto, the warlike leader of Orakau, was in favour of supporting Te Kooti, but even he stopped short of becoming involved in any actual hostilities,realising the days of hoping to beat the New Zealand army in open rebellion were over.
Disgruntled by this lukewarm response, Te Kooti and his people, maybe by now as many as 800, returned to Tokaanu on the southern shore of Lake Taupo on 18 August, and then a few kilometres further south to Te Porere five km south west of Lake Rotoaira, where he began to build himself an earthern gunfighter style Pā.
Meanwhile the enemy forces were gathering - both Pākehā and Māori armies were moving towards Lake Taupo from all directions.
McDonnell had been appointed by the government to lead the forces against Te Kooti. With a force of Armed Constabulary from Wanganui, he rode north to the Rangipo Desert where he met up with a contingent of Tuwharetoa warriors who were opposed to Te Kooti. Here he learnt that two mounted columns were coming up from Hawkes Bay, a Māori one and Militia column, and third force was coming by a more roundabout route. Meanwhile yet another force, of Armed Constabulary and Arawa, was already on the eastern shore of Lake Taupo. Finally two more groups were being organized in Wanganui to arrive later, including Kepa te Rangihiwinui, Major Kepa.
The Kahungunu led by Henare Tomoana were the first to meet the Ringatu forces. They were moving south down the lake shore when a sudden storm forced them to make camp. Here the Ringatu attacked them: they made off with their horses but that was all they achieved. After a desultory siege lasting two days Te Kooti's forces withdrew. They retreated away from the lake and all the way back to Te Porere. This allowed the government forces to advance right down the lake and establish a base at Tokaanu.
On 25 September there was another skirmish at Pouto where a forward base had been established, just east of Te Kooti's base. The Ringatu attacked and the Arawa attacked right back at them and drove them from the field. Since the Ringatu had the advantage of rifle pits and numbers while Te Arawa were attacking up hill it was not an impressive performance by Te Kooti's men. Possibly because of this a decision was made that may have changed the history of New Zealand.
Rewi Maniapoto had accompanied Te Kooti as an observer on behalf of the King Movement. Of all King Tawhio's advisers he had been the one most inclined to support the Ringatu. He had now seen them in action twice and he was not impressed; he turned his back on them and returned to the King Country. This finally closed the door on any possibility of an alliance between the King Movement and the Ringatu. It has since been suggested that this was the last moment when there was any possibility of the King Country remaining as an independent state.
At Te Porere, Te Kooti had constructed a defensive position, one built in the style of a European redoubt than a Māori Pā. He moved his people into it in late September.
The Colonial forces were gathering in strength and could probably have attacked at any time except that one important component was missing: Kepa (Major Kemp) and the Wanganui had not arrived, and Colonel McDonnell was not about to start a battle without his friend Kepa.
They waited, possibly in some of the worst conditions an army ever did have to wait for battle. For several days it snowed heavily. Furthermore the campaign was being fought on the slopes of an active volcanic field and one of them, Ngauruhoe, was in full eruption, spewing out vast quantities of volcanic ash to mix with the snow. Then the snow turned to freezing rain.
Eventually Kepa turned up and the day of the attack was appointed, 4 October 1869. The battle plan was very basic - to advance with 540 men en masse and overwhelm the defences, the preliminary rifle pits, a small redoubt by the stream, more rifle pits and then the main earth redoubt 400 metres further south up the hill. One contingent was told that if they could they should work their way around to back to cut off any possibility of escape. Gilbert Mair , an experienced soldier and Maori speaker, visited the site in later life with Raupena Waurehu one of the surviving defenders. Waurehu claimed that at the time of the attack Te Kooti and most of the man were at the lower pa, on the valley floor, possibly sheltering from the poor weather. When forced to retreat by the overwhelming fire they ran back uphill, skirting the upper pa 400m to the south and entering the bush. They then turned and supported the pa occupants until it fell. Waurehu took Mair along a track 400m into the bush and showed him where Te Kooti's main camp had been.
At times attacking colonial troops had been decimated by well-placed Māori forces fighting on the defensive. Obviously the commander, McDonnell, knew more about the situation than we can now understand because his plan worked. The attacker stuffed the musket loopholes with pumice so the defenders had to expose themselves to fire. Within a few minutes they had taken all the external defences and were up against the main walls of the redoubt, hacking at it with whatever came to hand. Then two of the commanders found the back door to the fort and began to attack it, but both were promptly shot dead. This appeared to drive the Wanganui warriors into a berserk rage. They simply swarmed over the wall and descended and began killing the Ringatu.
The battle was soon over. Te Kooti, who had been shielded and disguised by a group of women, and a few of his men escaped but many were killed and many more made prisoner. The allied militia casualties were amazingly light, four killed and four wounded. Considering they had attacked a walled fort occupied by some 250 men and women, all firing at them from a very close range.
The low casualty rate was due to the method of construction. Instead of digging the earthworks from the outside to make the ditch deeper, Te Kooti built it from the inside, which meant that his men had to expose themselves to be able to fire on the approaching troops. Also, the pa was built on a hill that had sloping ground angled in such a way that his enemies could crawl up the hill and not be able to be hit by rifle fire. Te Porere was the last time that a rebel force opposed a government force from a Pa or earth fortress. Comparing the sketches at the time of the battle to the vegetation now shows that it has changed little partly due to the extreme climate of the area in winter.
Te Kooti and his men fled west and north and invaded the King Country, in December, where the Armed Constabulary could not follow them - this would have been seen as a declaration of war.Te Kooti's intension was to depose the King and put in place his own set of laws, however, Kepa and the Wanganui Māori could do so and were just acceptable to the King and his advisors. They continued the pursuit, officially sanctioned by the Government to do so. Gradually Te Kooti was forced north, reaching Taumarunui on 7 January 1870. Myth says at some stage he was joined by Kereopa Te Rau,(although he died in 1868) the infamous eyeball-eater from the Volkner Incident, and between them they mustered about 110 supporters. When Te Kooti told the kingites he had come to take their mana, Tawhaio told him to sheath his sword and Te Ra karepe poked out his tongue and dared him to seize his mana. Tawhaio had greeted him with the insult that "you are the monkey of Tai Rawhiti,come to bow before your king."
North was the only direction open to them: they crossed the Waikato River and reached the vicinity of Matamata by 15 January. Te Kooti arranged to meet Josiah Firth,who was leasing land from Ngati Haua. Firth Told Te Kooti he had no power and had come only to listen. Te Kooti restated his previous position that he would not surrender but just wanted to be left alone. The government sent a telegram saying that if he surrendered they would give him safe passage to Auckland. Shortly after this meeting Te Kooti received a large quantity of gunpowder (7 kegs) and a 2 feet high bag of bullets from a Coromandal chief. Te Kooti had "predicted" the exact day and time the ammunition resupply would take place suggesting it had been prearranged. He also may have got ammunition from other sources such as Fenians or Irish Independence supporters who were gold mining in Coromandel . A Fenian named Michael O'Conner had previously been in contact with both Te Kooti and Tawhaio and had supplied primer caps to Te Kooti before the battle at Te Porere. Gilbert Mair discovered that Te Kooti had again "predicted" he would be given "50 packets of caps,7 tins of powder,7 packages of ammunition and one revolver at Peria(near modern Matamata) at 2pm." From here the refugees moved south and east, back towards the Rotorua area. Te Kooti also had a network of exiled Ngati Porou Hau Hau supporters at Kennedy Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula. He had a stream of messengers going to a from that area and had received ammunition from them at least twice previously and kept in constant touch. His enemies were close behind and occasionally he turned and snapped at his pursuers, causing a few deaths, but always he kept retreating.
On 7 February he approached Ohinemutu, now a part of Rotorua but then a major Arawa settlement. Based at Ohinemutu there was normally a force of about 200 Arawa fighters commanded by Gilbert Mair. But they had been posted many kilometres away to the west to assist in the search for the men now approaching their home. In fact they had been very unhappy about this and once it became obvious that Te Kooti had slipped through the net they had insisted on returning to their home base. They traveled in haste through most of the night of 6 February. As dawn rose over the Rotorua area they encountered the trail of Te Kooti and his band. Their forced march then became a desperate race.
Meanwhile Te Kooti was approaching Ohinemutu. It is unclear what his intentions were - despite the white flag they were assumed to be hostile as he had previously used the same flag to approach settlers, soldiers and loyal Maori before suddenly attacking them. Thirdly, the Arawa were the main government Maori troops being used to hunt down Te Kooti and it had been Te Kooti's common pattern to extract utu from those who opposed his cult. Fourthly, Te Kooti claimed he had one of his followers had written a letter asking for permission to pass through Arawa land but as he had been in Arawa land for some time already without permission, this was seen by Mair as a ruse. Mair also had several original letters written by Te Kooti with him, so he knew the letter to the Arawa was from Te Kooti himself. Mair and about 30 of his warriors arrived at a run at the last and most dramatic moment. They discarded the white flag being held by an Arawa elder and began shooting at the approaching Ringatu. This was the beginning of a running battle that lasted 24 hours and ended only when Te Kooti fled the area, retreating once again into the Urewera Mountains. He had lost many, including two of his senior lieutenants and quantities of supplies, food, bedding and ammunition.
Te Kooti was now quite definitely a refugee. In reality he had been a hunted man since Te Porere four months previously, but following Ohinemutu his movements were dictated far more by his pursuing enemies than by his own wishes or plans.
A few days later Colonel McDonnell was relieved of his command. Headquarters were very upset over the paucity of his communications, and the Minister of Defence had seldom known where he was or what was happening. Instead the job of catching Te Kooti was contracted to the various Māori war chiefs who would be paid by results, according to the number of Ringatu heads or prisoners they brought in. Both Kepa, now Major Kepa Rangihiwinui, with his Wanganui Warriors, and Major Ropata Wahawaha and Ngati Porou accepted the task. Later Arawa also joined the chase but only after they had negotiated better terms, i.e. more cash for the job.
The task of catching Te Kooti was entrusted to the Māori allies of the Government. Only one Pākehā was allowed to continue the hunt: Ropata had requested Colonel Tom Porter as his second in command. Apparently they had already soldiered together for quite a long time.
Ropata and his men left Gisborne on 28 February 1870. On the same day two Ringatu war parties struck a Māori settlement, Opape, on the other coast of East Cape, near present-day Opotiki. In addition to capturing arms and ammunition they took 170 prisoners, mostly female. They were possibly seen as hostages, because when Kepa descended on the village looking for the raiders the men were uncooperative and the village suffered all over again.
Early in March Kepa began moving south into the Ureweras. The people of the area, the unfortunate Tuhoe, were given a simple choice - cooperate or suffer a great misfortune. Since Kepa was backed up by about 400 armed warriors the nature of the misfortune was fairly obvious and, grudgingly, information about Te Kooti and his whereabouts began to emerge. Later Ropata reinforced the grudging treaty even more forcefully.
The two war parties rampaged through the Urewera Mountains for about a month. Meanwhile Te Kooti was resting in the Maraetahi region. Life in the Ringatu camp was not happy: food was short and discipline fierce, the slightest infractions being punished by instant death. The captives and the rank-and-file Ringatu feared Te Kooti and his lieutenants almost as much as the approaching war parties.
For they were approaching, Kepa from the south and Ropata from the north in a well-coordinated pincer movement. They reached Maraetahi on 25 March 1870. Ropata arriving first, immediately made a successful surprise attack. As the Ringatu fled upstream they ran right into Kepa and his men. Te Kooti escaped with four women and about 20 men, but the rest of the band were killed or captured, about 300 people altogether. The majority of these were the unfortunate captives Te Kooti had taken at Opape in February but it also included the bulk of the Ringatu. Nineteen of the most senior of these were executed immediately, the rest were taken back for Pākehā trial and imprisonment.
This was the end of Kepa's war. He and his men had pursued Te Kooti right across the North Island for seven months. They were operating far from their own territory, fighting on behalf of the Government against an enemy who had never threatened his own people. They felt they had done enough. The New Zealand Wars were over and it was time to go home.
But the pursuit of Te Kooti was not over, for it was to continue for another two years. Ropata, Porter and Ngati Porou were joined by another force, Gilbert Mair and George Preece leading a taua (war party) of Arawa. Together they ranged through the Urewera Mountains, subjugating the Tuhoe and forcing them to hand over any fugitives they were sheltering. One welcome catch who fell into Ropata's hands was Kereopa, Volkner's murderer - he was worth 1000 pounds to his captors.
Te Kooti had many narrow escapes, but he managed to stay ahead of his pursuers until mid August 1871 when the Arawa forces unexpectedly came upon his camp, which was taken after a brief skirmish. When in camp Te Kooti usually slept some distance away from his followers. This habit had saved him at Maraetahi and it did so again. He was almost killed but another man intercepted the bullet. He fired one shot and fled, naked, into the bush, and the hunt continued.
Early in February 1872, Preece received good information about the whereabouts of Te Kooti, at the junction of the Waiau and Mangaone Streams. On 13 February they found a camp that had been occupied only a few days previously. The next day they found a camp with a fire still burning and then spotted a group of people climbing the cliff on the opposite side of the flooded stream. One of them was Te Kooti. Shots were exchanged and the chase was on. Later the same day Nikora te Tuhi spotted Te Kooti in the distance and fired two shots at him. They both missed but they were the last shots fired in the New Zealand Wars.
Te Kooti continued to elude the pursuers. On 15 May 1872 he crossed the Waikato River and once again entered the territory of the Māori King, Tawhiao. This time he approached the King as supplicant and was granted asylum.
Pardon and Later Years
In 1883, the Government formally pardoned Te Kooti as part of a deal with Tawhiao to put the Main Trunk Line through the King Country,.Almost immediately Te Kooti showed his gratitude by rescuing a surveyor,Wilson Hursthouse who had been taken prisoner,stripped and chained up by Te Whiti o Rongomai's men from Parihaka. However Te Kooti remained unrepentant and belligerent. He went about armed with a revolver and threatened to take his gang back to Poverty Bay. He travelled extensively holding meetings to spread the ringatu message. He was often accompanied by large groups of supporters to places such as Whakatane and Opotiki. An observer noted 1,000 people gathered to hear him and the resident magistrate commented that for once Te Kooti was sober. Te Kooti was still far from popular with all Maori and was accused by chiefs of practicing maketu(black magic) to kill senior chiefs who he had previously opposed him. Chiefs were concerned that groups such as Ngati Awa and Ngati Pukeko would hand over the land to Te Kooti without any authority. The chiefs wrote to parliament to complain that Te Kooti was claiming mana over their land and instructing that the land should not be bought before the Native land Court. The chiefs were also concerned that the supplies of the communities were being drained by massive hui leading to the people being ill prepared to face winter. Chiefs complained that Te Kooti was forcing his adherents to raise money for him by selling family crops and animals. School teachers and native officers sent report to the government that this was resulting in children being malnourished.  Bush, the local magistrate, became concerned about "Te Kooti-ism" -Te Kooti was telling his followers that confiscated land would be returned by driving the Pakeha from the country. This alarmed the government and the people of Poverty Bay. In February a telegram signed by 20 chiefs went to parliament saying they would rise up if Te Kooti did not turn back. The government was keen to keep the peace. The Minister of Defence was concerned that Te Kooti had been directly threatened by his old adversaries Ropata and the Ngati Porou. The Prime Minister arranged a meeting in Auckland between himself, Te Kooti and the Native Minister where he was offered government land if he stayed away from Gisborne. Although cordial, Te Kooti told the officials that he determined to return. As a token of his peaceful intentions he surrendered a small revolver that he normally carried.The government shipped troops and artillery to Gisborne to form a military force of 377 under Major Porter in early 1889. Rumours of threats continued until the force went to Waioeka Pa and found Te Kooti drunk with 4 of his wives and some 400 supporters, who were arrested. He was bound over to keep the peace but as he could not afford the fine or bond he was taken to Mt Eden jail in Auckland where he was persuaded by the Ladies Temperance Movement to take the pledge against drinking alcohol and imprisoned for a short time before being released. Te Kooti wrote a letter of apology to the government explaining that his recent conduct had been caused by drink.Eventually in 1891 the government gave him an area of land at Wainui, where a marae for the Ringatu church was later established. Te Kooti died in 1893 in a cart accident while on his way to the land the government had given him.
In May 2013, at the tangi of MP Parekura Horomia,the Tuhoe iwi, who had initially supported Te Kooti and the rebel Hau Hau movement in their 19th century war against the government, gave a gift to Ngati Porou to end nearly 150 years of bitterness between the tribes. Ngati Porou had provided many of the soldiers who tracked down the notorious murderer, hijacker and guerilla leader in the late 1860s and had numerous conflicts with Tuhoe Hau Hau. During one conflict 120 Tuhoe Hau hau were captured and killed. Tuhoe leader Tu Waaka said he did not want successive generations to be encumbered by the events of the past.
- Maurice Shadbolt's novel Season of the Jew is set during Te Kooti's War
- The movie Utu is based very loosely around some incidents from Te Kooti's War
- Redemption Songs.J Binney.p P152-153 Map 4. Auckland University Press. Auckland. 1996
- Binney 1995, p. 16
- Being Pakeha Now. M. King. Penguin 2004. P202.
- Stories without End.Judith Binney.Bridget Williams.2010 P121.
- NZETC Te Kooti.
- Moriori. M. King.Penguin 2000. Pp 100-107
- Gilbert Mair.p67-68. R. Crosby. Reed. 2004
- Moriori.Michael King. Penguin.2000. P106.
- "The Battle of Addisons Flat, 1868", Te Ara
- "The Fenian Arrests At Hokitika", Otago Witness , Issue 854, 11 April 1868, Page 14
- Moriori.M. King. Penguin .200 P105- 106.
- Gilbert Mair.p66. R. Crosby. Reed 2004.
- Moriori.M. King. P 107
- Redemption songs . p 120-121.
- Gilbert Mair.p71.
- Gilbert Mair. p71.
- Redemption Songs. p 121-122
- Gilbert Mair. p71-72.
- Gilbert Mair.p75-76.
- Gilbert Mair. p77-78. R Crosby. Reed. 2004.
- Gilbert Mair.p78.
- Stories Without End.Binney.p133.
- Redemption Songs. J. Binney. Auckland University Press. 1996. p187.
- Gilbert Mair.p33-34.R.Crosby.Reed.2004.
- Redemption Songs. p187.
- Redemption Songs p188.
- "In making the loopholes ... we made them straight (horizontal), and could not depress the muzzles of our guns to fire into the ditch."
- Stories Without End. J. Binney. P 133-134.
- Redemption Songs. p201-202.
- "How Te Kooti Gained a Pardon", Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, Joseph Angus Mackay
- "The Main Trunk Railway", The New Zealand Railways Magazine
- redemption Songsd .p312.
- Redemption Songs.p 384
- Redemption Songs.J Binney. Auckland University Press.1996.pp 282-285.
- Redemption Songs. p391-393.
- Redemption Songs. p 390.
- Redemption Songs.p410.
- Redemption Songs.p413.
- Waikato Times May 3 2013
Literature and references
- Belich, James (1988). The New Zealand Wars. Penguin.
- Belich, James (1996) Making Peoples. Penguin.
- Binney, Judith (1995). Redemption Songs: A Life of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki. Auckland: Auckland University Press.
- Crosby, Ron (2004). "Gilbert Mair, Te Kooti's Nemesis". Reed.
- Cowan, J., & Hasselberg, P. D. (1983) The New Zealand Wars. New Zealand Government Printer. (Originally published 1922)
- Maxwell, Peter (2000). Frontier, the Battle for the North Island of New Zealand. Celebrity Books.
- Simpson, Tony (1979). Te Riri Pakeha. Hodder and Stoughton.
- Sinclair, Keith (ed.) (1996). The Oxford Illustrated History of New Zealand (2nd ed.) Wellington: Oxford University Press.
- Stowers, Richard (1996). Forest Rangers. Richard Stowers.
- "The people of many peaks: The Māori biographies". (1990). From The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol. 1, 1769-1869. Bridget Williams Books and Department of Internal Affairs.