The Kīngitanga or King movement

King Tāwhiao, by Gottfried Lindauer (click for image credit)

King Tāwhiao, by Gottfried Lindauer (click for image credit)

It is an appropriate time to promote our recent entry on the Kīngitanga, given that the annual Koroneihana (Coronation) commemoration which attracts thousands from Waikato and around New Zealand each year, has just finished.

The Kīngitanga or King movement has been in existence for over 150 years. The origins of the movement can be found in land tensions of the 1850s where Pākehā sought to buy land from Māori who were increasingly unwilling to sell.  The hope was that a Māori king might be able to bring unity for those Māori attempting to stave off demands for land. From 1853 Mātene Te Whiwhi and Tāmihana Te Rauparaha began the search for a king. The final selection was the great Waikato chief Pōtatau Te Wherowhero.

Pōtatau Te Wherowhero died in 1860 and was succeeded by his son Tāwhiao. His reign was perhaps the most eventful of all the Kīngitanga monarchs.  In 1863 his people suffered an invasion by the Crown, followed by the confiscation of 1.2 million acres of Waikato land. In 1881, Tāwhiao and followers symbolically laid down their arms and declared they would never take up arms in warfare again. In the 1890s the Kauhanganui, the parliament of the Kingitanga, was set up. The iconic Lindauer painting of Tāwhiao with full facial tattoo shows an impressive, chiefly figure.   It was his image that was used on the first banknotes issued by the Crown.

Following Tāwhiao was his son Mahuta, who was king from 1894 to 1912. Mahuta was in turn succeeded by Te Rata, who was king from 1912 to 1933. However, in the first half of the 20th century a dominant figure in the Kīngitanga was Te Puea Hērangi, known as Princess Te Puea. She opposed Waikato men going to fight in the First World War, as King Tāwhiao had stated in 1881 that Waikato would never again take part in war. She was the driving force behind the establishment of Tūrangawaewae at Ngāruawāhia and the partial settlement of Waikato’s land grievances in 1946.

In 1933, King Korokī succeeded his father, Te Rata. Like his father, he was supported by Te Puea during his reign. In 1953 Queen Elizabeth II visited Tūrangawaewae marae and Korokī’s daughter, Princess Piki, took a prominent role in escorting the Queen. In 1966 Princess Piki succeeded her father and became Te Arikinui Te Ātairangikaahu. She was the first Māori Queen and among Waikato people was known as ‘The Lady’. A particular success under her watch was the settlement in 1995 of the Tainui-Waikato claim which was spearheaded by her step-brother Sir Robert Te Kotahi Mahuta. When Te Ātairangikaahu passed away in 2006 she was the longest serving Māori monarch. She was succeeded by her son, King Tūheitia Paki.

The Kingitanga is still a strong force today. As well as the annual Koroneihana, the Kauhanganui parliament continues to meet, and annual meetings are held on marae affiliated to the Kīngitanga which are known as poukai.

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