Kereopa Te Rau

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Kereopa Te Rau (? – 5 January 1872) was a leader of Pai Marire (Hauhau), a Māori religion.

Kereopa was baptised by the Catholic missionary Father Euloge Reignier in the 1840s and was given the Christian name of Kereopa, the Māori pronunciation of the Biblical name Cleopas. He may have served as a police officer in Auckland during the 1850s. He is known to have fought for the King Movement during the Invasion of the Waikato in 1863.[1] His wife and two daughters were killed in the attack by government forces on the unfortified village of Rangiaowhia near Te Awamutu in 1864, and his sister was killed in defence of the Hairini Line a few days later.

Shortly afterwards he met up with the prophet Te Ua Haumēne and converted to the Pai Marire. In December 1864 he was sent on a mission to the tribes of the East Coast. His instructions were to go in peace and avoid confrontations with the Pākehā.[1] While he was at Opotiki the missionary Carl Volkner was seized, tried, hanged and decapitated by his own congregation[2] in what became known as the Volkner Incident. Immediately afterwards Kereopa preached a sermon from Volkner's pulpit during which he gouged the missionary's eyes out of his head and ate them.[1]

Kereopa and his Pai Marire followers went on to Gisborne, and then to the Urewera mountains to preach to the Tuhoe people. In 1865 he tried to return to the Waikato but was repulsed by a war party of Ngāti Manawa and Ngāti Rangitihi loyal Maori, who supported the government. Following the resulting battle Kereopa is said to have eaten the eyes of three of the slain enemy. For this and the eating of Volkner's eyes, he was nicknamed Kai Whatu (Eye Eater). He then retreated to the Ureweras where he found refuge and remained in hiding for the next five years.[1]

In the early 1870s government forces searching for Te Kooti entered the Ureweras. The Tuhoe were conquered and law and order established. Tuhoe handed over Kereopa to Major Ropata Wahawaha, who led the government forces.[1]

Kereopa was tried for Volkner's murder in Napier on 21 December 1871. He was convicted and was hanged on 5 January 1872.[1] His iwi Ngati Rangiwewehi say that the trial had a predetermined outcome and was a miscarriage of justice. Kereopa was posthumously pardoned as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement in 2014.[3][4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Oliver, Steven (30 October 2012). "Te Rau, Kereopa". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. 
  2. ^ Stokes, Evelyn (30 October 2012). "Völkner, Carl Sylvius". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. 
  3. ^ Stone, Andrew (21 June 2014). "Pardoned at last: Chief cleared of 1865 murder". The New Zealand Herald. 
  4. ^ Ngāti Rangiwewehi Claims Settlement Bill, April 2014.


  • Cowan, J. (1922) The New Zealand Wars. New Zealand Government Printer.
  • Lyall, A. C. (1979) Whakatohea of Opotiki. AH & AW Reed.
  • Chapter 5: The Völkner and Fulloon Slayings, in The Ngati Awa Raupatu Report. Waitangi Tribunal, 1999.