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Te Ua Haumēne

by Lyndsay Head


Te Ua Haumēne was the founder and prophet of the Hauhau church, the first organised expression of an independent Māori Christianity. He was born into the Taranaki tribe at Waiaua, in South Taranaki, in the early 1820s. His father, who died shortly after, was Tūtawake, and his mother, Paihaka. Te Ua was probably married and had at least one son. His career as a prophet spanned only the last four years of his life; during this period he discarded his baptismal name, Horopāpera (Zerubbabel). He used the names Tūwhakararo Tūtawake in late 1862, and in 1864 took the spiritual name Haumēne.

Te Ua was captured with his mother in a Waikato raid about 1826 and taken as a slave to Kāwhia. Here he was taught to read and write in Māori by his captors, and became familiar with the New Testament, especially the Book of Revelation. He was baptised by John Whiteley, who had established the Wesleyan mission at Kāwhia in 1834. About 1840 Te Ua returned to Taranaki, and served in the Waimate mission station, under the Wesleyans Charles Creed and John Skevington. Here he took services from time to time, and continued his study of the Bible.

In the 1850s he probably supported the Kaingārara movement, which aimed to remove tapu from places invested with traditional spiritual power. Te Ua associated with leaders of the anti-land-selling movement in Taranaki, driven into political action by the purchase of the Waitara block under terms which contravened Māori customary law. He became a supporter of the King movement, and in 1860 fought against the government, acting also as chaplain to the Māori soldiers.

In 1861 and 1862 Te Ua was a leader of a rūnanga at Matakaha which administered local government and maintained the integrity of the aukati, the boundary of land under the mana of the King. Belief in national deliverance and ill feeling against missionaries were evident among Taranaki Māori during this period. These convictions were to emerge as the central positions of Te Ua's religious teaching; the right to defend territorial boundaries remained the corner-stone of his politics.

The beaching of the mail steamer Lord Worsley, with a rich cargo on board, at Te Namu, in south-west Taranaki, within the aukati, on 1 September 1862 strained Te Ua's dual allegiance to Christian love and to Kingite law, under which enemy trespass was punishable by death. He was living only a few miles away; on 5 September he resolved his conflict in a vision in which the archangel Gabriel announced that the last days described in the Revelation of St John were at hand. The vision assured Te Ua that he was chosen by God as his prophet, commanded him to cast off the yoke of the Pākehā and promised the restoration of the birthright of Israel (the Māori people) in the land of Canaan (New Zealand). This would come about after a great day of deliverance in which the unrighteous would perish.

Te Ua was at first considered mad by his relations as well as by Pākehā observers, but he saw the period after his vision as the trial of faith which validated his calling. Miracles which echoed God's dealings with biblical figures released an energy which enabled him to complete the organisation of a distinctive new church within three months. In October he wrote a prayer to the Trinity which is similar to the prayers in 'Ua rongo pai' (Ua gospel), in which his teaching is recorded. By December a mast was the focus of his ceremonial; on 13 January 1863 the chapter of 'Ua rongo pai' which sets out the organisation and ethical teaching of the Hauhau church was recorded.

'Ua rongo pai' is preserved in a notebook written by Karaitiana Te Korou of Ngāti Kahungunu. It comprises two chapters, the second of which is an account of Te Ua's calling. The notebook also contains the order of service for worship, reports of meetings of the leaders of Hauhau in Taranaki, and a number of drawings of the flag-hung masts which were the badge of Hauhau settlements. The 'Ua rongo pai' notebook is the essential document of the Hauhau church.

Te Ua considered his teaching to be Christianity purified of missionary error. Its guiding principle was the quality of pai mārire, goodness and peace, which he used to describe the nature of God, or works performed within this spirit. Te Ua called his church Hauhau, because Te Hau, the spirit of God in the image of wind, carried the niu (news), or prophecy, to the faithful. His own spiritual name, Haumēne (Windman), underlines the central role of prophecy in the church.

Although praise of the Trinity was a central aspect of Te Ua's worship, Jesus was not addressed independently of the godhead. He appears to have been merged with the archangel Gabriel, who was also called Rura (Ruler) or Tama-Rura (Ruler-Son), in accordance with roles ascribed to Christ and the angel in biblical apocalyptic writings. The archangel Michael, who commanded the hosts of heaven, was known as Riki, a name shortened from Te Ariki Mīkaera (the Lord Michael).

The service of worship devised by Te Ua was believed to fulfil Christ's promise to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Hauhau spoke in tongues and prophesied as they circled the niu, or mast. The service followed a written order, and included lessons composed of lists of English words written in a Māori form and divided into regular verses. These lessons were understood as evidence of Te Ua's gift of tongues. They consist of everyday English words, but political content is evident in the inclusion of the names of foreign peoples. This underscores Te Ua's sense of solidarity with all countries with grievances against England, which he viewed as an international oppressor.

The believing community was ordered by a hierarchy of spiritual authorities, consisting at the local level of priests who led worship and had the gift of prophecy. At a supra-tribal level were the Tuku Pai (Duke of Peace) and Tuku Akihana (Duke of Action), whose respective tasks were to promote peace and respond to Pākehā aggression. The religious duty of the Tuku was to verify prophecy, but their decisions were subject to the authority of Te Pou (The Pillar), who was the national overseer of the faith. Te Ua stood apart as 'the first of the prophets'.

Te Ua's goal was to create a peaceful and righteous society, and the bulk of his gospel consists of exhortations modelled on the parables of Jesus. He made laws to regulate sexual conduct, appealing to the authority of the Old Testament for a return to the custom of plural marriage, although this was denied to his higher clergy. He fostered respect for women by making spiritual the concept of queenship, and encouraged the practice of Māori cultural arts. The practice of traditional customs which damaged the harmony of the community, however, was forbidden.

The Hauhau faith attracted official attention after 6 April 1864, when a government patrol was ambushed at Ahuahu, in Taranaki. The soldiers were killed and their heads were preserved in the traditional manner. Te Ua was subsequently guardian of the heads, which he apparently regarded as a token of the conquest of evil by righteousness. They were, however, widely interpreted by both sides as a symbol of military victory, and the military engagements, led by (perhaps self-styled) prophets, which quickly followed, seemed to confirm Hauhauism as a warlike creed. In April, under the prophet Epanaia Kapewhiti, Hauhau attacked a British redoubt at Te Mōrere, and in May the prophet Mātene Rangitauira fought against loyalist lower Whanganui Māori on Moutoa Island, in the Whanganui River. Te Ua attributed the defeat and death of the two prophets to their misinterpretation of his instructions. It can be assumed that these instructions reflected his teaching that deliverance would be accomplished by supernatural intervention.

For some time in mid 1864 Te Ua lived at Pākaraka, near the Waitōtara River. Here he continued to preach his gospel of peace, and wrote letters of a pacific kind to Pākehā, including the resident magistrate for Whanganui John White, signing himself on one occasion, 'Te Ua a peaceable Jew'. He was in touch with government officials and settlers, and surprised them with his gestures of friendship. However, the pending visit of the second Māori King, Matutaera, to Taranaki, was seen by them as a continuing threat.

Te Ua's message had been embraced by Matutaera, who made an extended visit to Te Ua (who had returned to Taranaki) in the latter half of 1864. On 29 August, at Taiporohēnui (according to some accounts), Te Ua baptised the King and gave him the name Tāwhiao, by which he was subsequently known. Messages were sent out telling the King's followers to stop fighting, and to prepare for deliverance. At Tauranga the millenial character of Hauhau belief was most fully recorded: on 25 December 1864 Ngāi Te Rangi fled into the Kaimai range to pray for deliverance from the destruction of Māori and Pākehā unbelievers.

In December 1864 two messengers, Pātara Raukatauri and Kereopa Te Rau, were instructed by Te Ua to go to Hirini Te Kani of Ngāti Porou, at Tūranga (Gisborne). Disregarding Te Ua's instructions that they proceed peaceably, the party travelled through the central North Island inciting militant action, particularly against missionaries. At Ōpōtiki the Anglican missionary C. S. Völkner had sided unequivocally with the government in the war. Völkner returned to Ōpōtiki from Auckland against advice, and was ritually killed at the instigation of the Hauhau on 2 March 1865.

Pākehā were outraged by Völkner's death, which was perceived as martyrdom, and so the legend of a mad, apostate faith was created. From this time the word Hauhau was used by Pākehā to describe any Māori who opposed the government. The death of Völkner was considered by pro-government Ngāti Porou as the event which brought war to the East Coast, where fighting continued at intervals until 1872.

Convinced of the futility of further military resistance, Te Ua and his Ngāti Ruanui followers entered into peace talks with Robert Parris, the government official. But the negotiations failed; Māori feared invasion by government troops, and were not ready to be enslaved. Further, punitive measures threatening land confiscation reinforced the resolve to resist. Te Ua continued to teach, and to affirm Māori sovereignty over land which had not been sold, but the millenial fervour seems to have departed from the faith. A more historical approach is apparent in the introduction of the observance of sacred days, one commemorating the installation of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, the first Māori King, and the other, Te Ua's vision, while a more realistic outlook is suggested by an emphasis on organisation for the future. A meeting was held at Pūtahi on 24 and 25 December 1865 to consecrate twelve new workers and three new prophets, Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, Tohu Kākahi and Taikōmako; all these men subsequently emerged as religious leaders.

By the end of 1865 Te Ua was living in a village near Ōpunake, a government military strong point. At the beginning of 1866 a military campaign was mounted by the government to destroy remaining Taranaki resistance. On 2 January he signed a declaration of allegiance at Ōpunake: on 2 February he submitted to Major General Trevor Chute and was taken into custody. The governor, George Grey, following a plan formed by Donald McLean, took Te Ua as a prisoner from Whanganui to Auckland, to demonstrate the failure of Hauhau resistance. In Auckland he was held under lenient house arrest with Grey at his Kawau Island home. In June he was allowed to return to Taranaki, where he continued to persuade the people to give up their arms. At this time he was reported to be unwell; in October 1866 he died, at Ōeo, possibly of tuberculosis.

The context of war made it inevitable that Te Ua's revolutionary eschatology could not be contained within the spiritual boundaries of his vision. However, the militance of some Hauhau should not obscure Te Ua's stature as the religious thinker who separated Māori Christianity from dependence on the theology and ritual of the missionary church. It was the root of a tradition of biblical prophecy which has been drawn on by all subsequent Māori religious leaders.

Links and sources


    Clark, P. 'Hauhau'. Auckland, 1975

    Cowan, J. The New Zealand wars. Vol. 2, The Hauhau wars, 1864–72. Wellington, 1923

    Head, L. 'Te Ua and the Hau Hau faith in the light of the Ua rongopai notebook'. MA thesis, Canterbury, 1984

    Te Ua Haumene. 'Ua rongo pai'. GNZMMSS 1. AP

    'Te Ua Horapapera: the founder of the Pai Marire faith'. Daily Southern Cross. 16 March 1866

How to cite this page:

Lyndsay Head. 'Te Ua Haumēne', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 July 2024)