One of New Zealand’s most enduring political institutions, the Kīngitanga (Māori King movement) was founded in 1858 with the aim of uniting Māori under a single sovereign. Waikato is the seat of the Kīngitanga, and the early years of King Tāwhiao’s reign were dominated by the Waikato war of the 1860s. The longest-serving Māori monarch was the beloved Queen Dame Te Ātairangikaahu, who reigned for 40 years until her death in 2006.
Excerpts from Story by Rahui Papa and Paul Meredith
In 1856, at Pūkawa, on the shores of Lake Taupō, the Waikato chief Pōtatau Te Wherowhero was nominated as king. At first he refused, but later agreed. In 1858 he was declared king at Ngāruawāhia.
Pōtatau died in 1860 and his son, Tāwhiao, became king. In 1863 government troops invaded the Waikato, and war followed. Waikato were defeated, huge areas of their land were confiscated, and Tāwhiao and his followers retreated into the King Country.
Mahuta became king in 1890 after the death of Tāwhiao, his father. In the 1890s the Kīngitanga tried unsuccessfully to unite with the Kotahitanga (Māori parliament) movement.
Te Rata and Te Puea
Mahuta died in 1912 and his son, Te Rata, became king. Te Rata was often ill. In 1914 he and three others travelled to England. He met King George V, but was told that the land confiscations were an issue for the New Zealand government.
Te Rata’s cousin, Te Puea Hērangi, became a Kīngitanga leader. She opposed participation in the First World War, and worked to rebuild an economic base and to establish Tūrangawaewae marae at Ngāruawāhia.
Korokī reluctantly became king in 1933 after his father, Te Rata, died. At Tūrangawaewae he hosted important visitors, including Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
After Korokī died in 1966, his daughter, Piki, was crowned as Queen Te Ātairangikaahu, the first Māori queen. She was made a dame in 1970. One of the most important achievements during her reign was when Tainui–Waikato signed a settlement with the government in 1995 over the land confiscations. Te Ātairangikaahu died in August 2006. She was the longest-serving Māori monarch.
Te Ātairangikaahu’s son Tūheitia became king in 2006.