Ngāi Tūhoe

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Ngāi Tūhoe
Iwi of New Zealand
Ngāi Tūhoe.png
Rohe (location) Te Urewera
Waka (canoe) Mataatua, Nukutere
Population 34,890
"United Tribes" number 51

Ngāi Tūhoe (Māori pronunciation: [ˈŋaːi ˈtʉːhɔɛ]), a Māori iwi ("tribe") of New Zealand, takes its name from an ancestral figure, Tūhoe-pōtiki. The word tūhoe literally means "steep" or "high noon" in the Māori language. Tūhoe people also bear the sobriquet Nga Tamariki o te Kohu ("the children of the mist").

Traditional lands[edit]

Tūhoe traditional land is is Te Urewera (Te Urewera National Park) in the eastern North Island, a steep, heavily forested area which includes Lake Waikaremoana. Tūhoe traditionally relied on the forest for their needs. The tribe had its main centres of population in the small mountain valleys of Ahikereru and Ruatahuna, with Maungapohatu, the inner sanctum of the Urewera, as their sacred mountain. The Tūhoe country had a great reputation among the neighbouring tribes as a graveyard for invading forces.[1]

The colonial period[edit]

Tūhoe had little direct contact with the early European settlers.[1] The first major contact occurred when the iwi fought against the settler government in the battle of Ōrākau in 1864. Rewi Maniapoto, who had some tribal links to Tūhoe, visited the Urewera in 1862 and persuaded them to take part in the rebellion against the government; he went against the wishes of some of the elders. Initially reluctant, the Tūhoe gave Rewi ammunition to back the rebellion.[2][page needed] During a cease fire in the Battle of Orakau, under flag of truce, Gilbert Mair, a translator, was shot in the shoulder by a Tūhoe warrior. Nearly all the Tūhoe at the battle were killed.

The following year authorities accused the Tūhoe of sheltering Kereopa Te Rau, a Hau Hau wanted for killing and beheading Karl Volkner, a missionary of the Church Missionary Society, in what was called the Volkner Incident. Initially the Tūhoe had cooperated in tracking down the Hau hau leader and had taken him prisoner. The Tūhoe tried to use him as a bargaining chip but the government demanded Te Rau be handed over for trial. After the Tūhoe released him, Te Rau hid in the Ureweras .[2] As punishment, in 1866 the government confiscated 5700ha or about 7% of Tūhoe land on its northern coastal border. The confiscated Tūhoe land adjoined the land confiscated from Bay of Plenty rebels after the battle of Gate Pā. The Crown took the Tūhoe's only substantial flat, fertile land, which also provided their only access to the coast for kai moana (sea food).[2] The Tūhoe people retained only interior, more difficult land, setting the scene for later famines.[3]

In 1868, Tūhoe sheltered the Māori leader Te Kooti, a fugitive who had escaped from imprisonment on the Chatham Islands. Te Kooti arrived in the area with a large group of escaped convicts, fully armed with modern weapons he had stolen from the ship he had hijacked. It is doubtful that the Tūhoe could have resisted his demands for sanctuary. Some Tūhoe joined his armed Ringatū band, but other Tūhoe told government forces of Te Kooti's whereabouts. Some joined the armed forces to hunt him down. Government forces punished those Tūhoe who supported Te Kooti during the manhunt. Te Ara, the Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand, notes:

"Old enemies of Tūhoe fought on the side of the government; they carried out most of the raids into Te Urewera during a prolonged and destructive search between 1869 and 1872. In a policy aimed at turning the tribe away from Te Kooti, a scorched earth campaign was unleashed against Tūhoe; people were imprisoned and killed, their cultivations and homes destroyed, and stock killed or run off. Through starvation, deprivation and atrocities at the hands of the government’s Māori forces, Tūhoe submitted to the Crown."[4]

Twentieth century[edit]

After the events surrounding the hunt for Te Kooti, Tūhoe isolated themselves, closing off access to their lands by refusing to sell, lease or survey them, and blocking the building of roads.[1]

1916 police raid[edit]

The settlement of Maungapohatu in 1908
Tūhoe prophet Rua Kenana in 1908

Historian Jamie Belich describes the Urewera as one of the last zones of Māori autonomy, and the scene of the last case of armed Māori resistance: the 1916 New Zealand Police raid to arrest the Tūhoe prophet Rua Kenana.[1]

On 2 April 1916, a 70-strong, and heavily armed, police party arrived at Maungapohatu to arrest Rua Kenana for sedition. Because Rua's village was so remote, the police had to take a lot of equipment and camped on the way.[5][better source needed] The police conducted the raid "like a military operation" entering alien territory.[6] They moved like a small army with wagons and pack-horses. So as not to alert the Maungapohatu village of their intention to spring an attack they did not wear their police uniforms till just before the raid. They were convinced that when they reached Maungapohatu there would be an ambush. In fact there was no violent resistance from Rua.[5][better source needed]

There are conflicting versions of what took place at Maungapohatu. Rua refused to submit to arrest, and his supporters fought a brisk half-hour gun battle with the police. In this exchange, Rua's son Toko and a Māori bodyguard were killed and two Māori were wounded. Four constables were wounded. After the battle ensued for half an hour, Rua was arrested and transported to Rotorua, his hair and beard removed. From Rotorua, with six other Māori prisoners including Whatu, Rua was transferred to Auckland and sent directly to Mount Eden prison. Rua was held, at first, on a nine months sentence imposed for the 1915 charges and now increased by his default of fines. After a trial on sedition which lasted 47 days, New Zealand's longest until 1977, he was found not guilty of sedition but sentenced to one year's imprisonment for resisting the police.[7]

The need for development[edit]

Significant European penetration did not occur in the Urewera district until the 20th century. A road was built by the government from Rotorua to Ruatahuna in 1901 to end the isolation of Tūhoe by opening up the first motor road.[1]

Tūhoe did eventually realise, especially in the Great Depression, that to develop their local economy they needed good roads to the outside world. They donated some land for road rights of way. As early as 1906, Tūhoe had given land for roads and offered free labour to assist in the construction, but building arterial roads in the Ureweras had a low government priority. In the early 1900s traces of gold were found in the Ureweras and Rua Te Kanana tried to sell illegal mining rights to raise money. At the same time Rua wished to sell very large areas of land to the government to raise funds for his new Jerusalem, but despite having a petition signed by every Tūhoe adult, the government insisted that he stick to the law.[citation needed]

In the 1920s Gordon Coates, Minister of Public Works, went to the area to check its suitability for a railway and to discuss roads. The land was very steep with the Poverty Bay Herald describing the gradient as "one in nothing". Coates knew that by this time, Tūhoe refused to make any contribution to the road at all. The mountainous terrain was daunting for farming. Tūhoe could not accumulate any capital to develop land they had cleared from 1907. Instead they sold all their sheep and cattle to pay for legal costs. These debts were not paid until 1931.[citation needed]

In the early 1930s the government helped develop Tūhoe land at both Ruatoki and Ruatahuna. It understood that, like many New Zealanders in the Great Depression, Tūhoe had hard times. In 1934 a teacher wrote that "they have no money apart from what is given by government as Family Allowances and Old Age Pensions".[2] A 1936 report noted that land development at Maungapohatu Mountain (a Ringatu stronghold) "would be a social success if undertaken". The report pointed out that the venture would probably fail if Tūhoe were required to pay back both the interest and the capital. In 1937, after several other studies, the government decided that it was uneconomic to invest in roads or settlements. By this time, the isolated Maungapohatu settlement had collapsed anyway.[2]

Social deprivation[edit]

The Tūhoe population was always small and living conditions were poor. School records from the 1920s and 1930s show very high death rates, especially of children. 75% of those who died were people under 25. The main causes of death were infectious diseases, such as influenza, gastroenteritis, typhoid fever and whooping cough. Between 1924 and 1936, the Depression period, 57 people died in a community of 30 families.[2]

Tūhoe today[edit]

Tūhoe people have a reputation for their continued strong adherence to Māori identity and for their unbroken use of the Māori language, which 40% of them still speak (2001 figure).

Of the Tūhoe people, estimated to number between 33,000 and 45,000,[8] about 19 per cent still live on their tribal lands; most of the rest live in towns on the fringes of Te Urewera and in the larger North Island cities. At least 5,000 live in Australia.[9] Subtribes of Tūhoe include Ngāti Koura.

The Tūhoe continue to maintain camps in Te Urewera and help run conservation programmes for endangered birds, such as the North Island brown kiwi and the North Island kōkako. Many Tūhoe return to their homelands every two years for the Te Hui Ahurei ā Tūhoe (Tūhoe Festival), which features kapa haka, debates, sports competitions, and fashion shows. The event provides an important opportunity to maintain ties with friends and relatives.

From the late 1990s, some Tūhoe started identifying as the "Tūhoe nation".[3] Observers note that Tūhoe and the Crown have long had a strained relationship, with widespread Tūhoe rejection of what they call Pākehā rule.[10] Some Tūhoe people say they have never signed the Treaty of Waitangi and never gave up their sovereignty.[10]

Waitangi Tribunal claim and Treaty settlement[edit]

Tūhoe and other local iwi have brought the Urewera claim to the Waitangi Tribunal, a commission of inquiry set up in 1975 to compensate Māori for past land-confiscations on the part of the New Zealand government. The Urewera tribunal, set up in 2002, accepted submissions until 2005 and was expected to report in 2007.[11]

In October 2012, the Crown offered to settle Tūhoe's claim in the Waitangi Tribunal with an offer that includes "financial, commercial and cultural redress valued at approximately $170 million; an historical account and Crown apology; [and] the co-governance of Te Urewera lands".[12][13]

The settlement was signed in March 2013.[14] Under the deal, Tūhoe will get compensation and more control over policy and operations at Urewera National Park. As at March 2013, the deed was yet to be ratified by all Tūhoe members.[15] Tamati Kruger has been the Tūhoe Chief Negotiator.

2007 Urewera police raids[edit]

A major armed-police raid in the Ureweras on 15 October 2007 focused attention on the Tūhoe people, and claims emerged that some Tūhoe had run terrorist training-camps in the Ureweras.[16] The New Zealand Police arrested 17 people nationwide and charged them with firearms offences.[17] Solicitor-General David Collins rejected a bid by police to lay charges of terrorism against 12 of those arrested because of concerns over inadequacies of the Terrorism Suppression Act, but said the raids had stopped some "very disturbing activities".[18]

Michael Cullen, Attorney-General at the time, drew attention to Mr Collins' statement that the police had acted appropriately but the threshold was very high.

"Anybody who claims this is some kind of vindication for all those involved is misreading what the Solicitor-General said."[18]

Police Commissioner Howard Broad publicly apologised for the actions of his officers during the raid, acknowledging they had set back relations between police and Tūhoe people. He said:

"We regret the hurt and stress caused to the community of Ruatoki and we will seek an appropriate way to repair the damage done to police-Maori relations. History tells us that episodes such as this can and do take decades to heal."[19]


  1. ^ a b c d e James Belich (1986). The New Zealand Wars. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-011162-X. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Stories without End. J. Binney. Bridget Williams. 2010.
  3. ^ a b Laugesen, Ruth (21 October 2007). "A Brief History of Tūhoe". The Sunday Star-Times. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Ngāi Tūhoe", Te Ara Encyclopedia
  5. ^ a b TipunaProfiles
  6. ^ Peter Webster, Rua and the Maori Millennium, 1979, as quoted by Belich. Rua had been illegally brewing whiskey. During the attempted arrest, a gun battle broke out. Rua was jailed for 2 years.
  7. ^ Mihaia : the prophet Rua Kenana and his community at Maungapohatu (Judith Binney with Gillian Chaplin and Craig Wallace. Oxford University Press, 1979), pages 119-124)
  8. ^ "2006 Census for Tūhoe",
  9. ^ Ihaka, James (18 October 2007). "Q & A: Who are the Tuhoe people?". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Catherine Masters and Patrick Gower (20 October 2007). "Guerrillas in the mist". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Tuhoe have sense of injustice", The Press, October 17, 2007[dead link]
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ "Tuhoe's plans for $170M settlement". 3 News NZ. March 20, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Govt and Tuhoe sign $170m settlement". 3 News NZ. X March 22, 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ "Govt and Tuhoe sign $170m settlement". 3 News NZ. 22 March 2013. 
  16. ^ "Claims of Maori separatist plot begin to unravel", London Independent, October 23, 2007
  17. ^ Trevett, Claire (14 November 2007). "Raids hikoi due at Parliament". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  18. ^ a b Claire Trevett and Alanah Eriksen (9 November 2007). "Why terror law failed in face of 'very disturbing activities'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  19. ^ "Sufficient and proper basis for investigations under Terrorism Suppression Act" New Zealand Police website, 18 December 2007.

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