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Story: Raukura, Ēria Tūtara-Kauika

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Raukura, Ēria Tūtara-Kauika


Ngāi Tahupō, Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu; Ringatū tohunga

This biography, written by Judith Binney, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Ēria Tūtara-Kauika Raukura was the leading tohunga of the Ringatū church, founded by Te Kooti Arikirangi. His father, Raukura, from Ngāi Tahupō of Māhia Peninsula, was taken prisoner by Tūhoe after tribal fighting. His mother, Whakatiki Te Momo (Te Moumou), was from Tūhoe and Ngāti Hingana (Ngāti Hinganga) of inland Wairoa. Ēria (Elijah) was born probably in 1834 or 1835 at Te Pāpuni, his mother's community on the upper Ruakituri River, an important inland route into the Urewera.

In October 1866, Ēria was exiled to Wharekauri (Chatham Island) as a result of the fighting on the East Coast between Pai Mārire and government forces. He was sent with the fourth batch of prisoners, those captured at Pētane (Bay View) and Ōmarunui near Napier. He was described as five feet seven inches tall, and without tattoos. Ēria escaped from Wharekauri with Te Kooti in July 1868, and fought alongside the ex-prisoners in their first military engagements of July and August 1868. After the battle on the Ruakituri River, Ēria left the group at Puketapu and went overland to Ōpōtiki. He subsequently rejoined Te Kooti in the Urewera, fighting at and escaping from Te Hāpua on 1 September 1871. He lived with Te Kooti when he took shelter at Te Kūiti; there, in 1881, Te Kooti baptised Ēria in the waters of the Mangaokewa Stream as the principal tohunga of the new faith.

Ēria developed a reputation as a man of formidable authority. He was attributed with the power of makutu, and it was warned of him: 'Never let his shadow fall upon you! He'll kill you!' From 1913 Ēria was a guardian of Rongopai, the great painted meeting house built at Waituhi for Te Kooti in 1887. He was still active there as a guardian and tohunga in the mid 1920s. He was considered a man of singular independence of mind. He interpreted the Ringatū faith as the conjunction of two religious traditions: a Māori belief in the supreme deity, Io, knowledge of whom they brought with them in their migration from 'Canaan', and the Christian teachings they learnt after 1814 in New Zealand. He discussed aspects of this new faith with Colonel Thomas Porter, who published a serialised biography of Te Kooti in 1914, partly based on Ēria's information.

After Te Kooti's death in 1893, Ēria accepted the Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana as the messiah who Te Kooti had predicted would complete his work. Therefore, in 1906 at Pākōwhai, near Rongopai, Ēria baptised Rua with the predicted name, Hepetipa (Hephzibah), in the waters of the Waipaoa River, after Rua had entered Rongopai, the house which Te Kooti had never been able to visit. Later, Ēria ritually married Rua to seven of his wives. He played a pivotal role in converting Tūhoe to Rua's new faith.

By 1913 Ēria had separated from Rua and sustained his own section of the Ringatū, keeping its original name, Te Hahi o te Wairua Tapu (the Church of the Holy Spirit), and its early rituals. In July 1913 Elsdon Best arranged for James McDonald, the Dominion Museum photographer, to take a series of glass-plate photographs of Ēria. Eight magnificent portraits have survived, and they depict Ēria as he wished to be seen: reading the Bible; preaching, with his right hand raised in instruction; wearing vestments of his own design – a black frock-coat edged with gold braid, bearing the words 'Holy Church' on the cuffs and the same words in Māori, 'Hāhi Tapu', on the collar, worked in gold. In 1915 he rode out from Waituhi dressed in these vestments and a hard bowler hat, carrying in front of him on his horse a large portmanteau containing the exhumed bones of elders – victims of a typhoid epidemic – which he was taking home to Waimaha and Maungapōhatu for display and reburial. In 1930 he outlined the seven positions of significance within the Church of the Holy Spirit: poutikanga (the head), ture (keeper of the law), tohunga (religious teacher), tākuta (healer), kaituhituhi (recorder), āpotoro (apostle), and kaitiaki (guardian against 'wickedness'). He described them collectively as a marae of the house of Jehovah, with the independent church as a pā.

Ēria lived at Te Pāpuni and Waimaha, his mother's land, to which he established title. He was a knowledgeable informant on land rights and customary usufruct for the vast hinterland between upper Wairoa and Maungapōhatu, giving evidence to the Native Land Court and government commissions. As a consequence of a local dispute, when he had been accused of practising makutu and thereby causing deaths, he left Waimaha in 1912. He went to Pākōwhai, where he lived in a tent settlement at the community of the chief, Te Miini Kerekere of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki. In 1913 he moved to Ngātapa, where Te Miini gave Ēria land on which to live. There, Ēria and those who joined him earned their living shearing. Together they built the meeting house Nukutaimemeha-a-Māui and beside it Ēria erected a whare kawenata (covenant house) for the Bibles and religious texts. The gifted land was registered as belonging to Te Whānau-a-Ēria. From 1915 to 1918 he was involved in the protracted struggle for the return of Lake Waikaremoana to Māori ownership. The old man petitioned Parliament and undertook long and frustrating journeys to give his evidence, travelling painfully by bus.

Ēria married Huka Huinga o Te Ao (Ngaaikiha Te Kaaho), who had Tūhoe affiliations. They had no issue but brought up several adopted children, including the Tūhoe scholar John Rangihau. Ēria died at Ngātapa on 29 June 1938, and was buried there. He was said to be 103 years old. Two months later Huka died, also at Ngātapa, aged 90. For many, Ēria remains a very tapu man.

How to cite this page:

Judith Binney. 'Raukura, Ēria Tūtara-Kauika', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3r5/raukura-eria-tutara-kauika (accessed 20 May 2024)