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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



(c. 1848–?)

Apocalyptic prophet.

A new biography of Te Mahuki appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Te Mahuki, or Mahuki of the Red Plume, was born about 1848. He lived at Te Kumi, about 3 miles from Te Kuiti, and was a minor chief of the Ngati Kinohaku subtribe of Ngati Maniapoto. In the late 1870s he went to Parihaka where he was deeply influenced by Te Whiti's teachings. He was one of Te Whiti's ploughmen and was among those imprisoned. When the Government expelled the Waikatos from Parihaka, at the time of Te Whiti's arrest, Te Mahuki returned to the Waikato, declared himself to be Te Whiti's representative, and transformed Te Kumi into a replica of Parihaka.

Te Mahuki then founded a new religion based on the Old Testament and the Book of Revelations and closely allied to Te Whiti's doctrines. He taught that the Maori could never oust the Pakeha by force, but that by the correct interpretation of scriptural signs and by the careful observance of divine commands the faithful would yet triumph. His sect called themselves Tekau-ma-rua (the “twelve apostles”). Because he accepted Te Whiti's views on the Maori land question, Te Mahuki gained many followers among the extreme anti-Pakeha faction of the “King” tribes. In March 1883, at Te Uira, Te Mahuki stopped Hursthouse's survey of the proposed Main Trunk railway. A little later, in an effort to win the “King” tribes from Tawhiao, he attempted to occupy Alexandra (Pirongia) by force. This proved unsuccessful and the prophet received 12 months' imprisonment. His experiences in Mount Eden gaol led him to advocate imprisonment as a convenient form of martyrdom.

Early in 1890 Te Mahuki prophesied that the Maori millenium would dawn on 2 November 1890. Accordingly, on 21 October he and his followers “occupied” Te Kuiti in anticipation of that day. The Government acted promptly and a police party went to Te Kuiti and arrested him. He was tried in Auckland on 9 December 1890 and was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment with hard labour, which cured him of his predilection for this form of martyrdom. Moreover, the failure of his prophecy discredited him in his followers' eyes.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1883, G.1
  • Auckland Tribune, 25 Oct 1890
  • New Zealand Herald, 23 Oct


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.