Story: Rāwhiti, T. T.

Page 1: Biography

Rāwhiti, T. T.

1851?–1927

Ngāti Hauā; King movement secretary and administrator

This biography, written by Stuart Park,  was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996. It was updated in March, 2019. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

T. T. Rāwhiti was closely associated, for some 30 years, with demands for Māori autonomy and self-sufficiency. He was born in Kāwhia in about 1851, and later lived at Tauwhare, near Cambridge. He had affiliations with Ngāti Hauā. The names of his parents are not known, and his own personal names are not recorded: he preferred to be known simply as T. T. Rāwhiti, was occasionally referred to as P. T. T. Rāwhiti or T. T. Rāwhiti Maaka, and is probably the Maaka Rāwhiti whose name is recorded in electoral rolls in 1908 and 1919.

Rāwhiti may have been a native agent in the King Country in the late 1880s; he appears in the court records in 1887. He became a close associate of his brother-in-law Tupu Taingākawa, Speaker of the upper house of Te Kauhanganui (the King movement's parliament); Rāwhiti was its secretary. The published list of laws passed at the 1892 and 1893 sessions of Te Kauhanganui appeared over his name and he was the author of many of the published reports on its proceedings.

Rāwhiti played a prominent role in many of the activities of the King movement between 1892 and 1922, although his alliance with Taingākawa put him out of favour with the movement's leaders from time to time. Rāwhiti played a major role in Te Peeke o Aotearoa, the bank established by King Tāwhiao in 1886; he was probably its organiser and manager. He signed the only two cheques known to have been issued on the bank, in 1894, although his involvement may well have lasted longer than that: the bank operated from 1886 until about 1905.

In June 1895 he served on a joint committee of Te Kotahitanga and King movement representatives, which apparently considered a suggestion for the union of the two movements. In the same year he vigorously defended the King movement's right to impose its own dog taxes. He visited Wellington with Tupu Taingākawa in November 1897. They asked Premier Richard Seddon to support a bill prepared by Hēnare Kaihau, MHR for Western Māori, which would let Māori administer their own affairs. They made the same plea before the Native Affairs Committee of Parliament. In June 1898 Rāwhiti was a leading member of the delegation sent by the Māori King, Mahuta, to the Kotahitanga parliament at Pāpāwai. Here he was elected to a committee that decided on the wording of an amendment to the Native Lands Settlement and Administration Bill, then before Parliament. He later gave evidence at the committee hearings on the bill.

By 1900 Rāwhiti was acting as private secretary to King Mahuta; at a hui at Waahi, near Huntly, he stated Māori objections to the Māori Lands Administration Act 1900. He represented Waikato at the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch in 1906. In 1907 he was prominent in the revival of Te Kotahitanga, which included a petition to King Edward VII to treat Māori and European equally in terms of the Treaty of Waitangi. He attended a meeting of 3,000 people at Waahi in May 1907 to discuss treaty issues, and described its aim as being to present a united Māori front to the government. He wanted Māori to have the power to manage their own affairs according to their own customs, although the Māori government would act in harmony with the general government.

In 1909 a government delegation met with Mahuta and his supporters at Waahi. The ensuing conference agreed to allocate land in the King Country for Pākehā settlement, and to provide reserves, land for Māori farms and land for Mahuta. James Cowan wrote of 'Big Te Rāwhiti, the suave and smiling secretary' of the King movement, playing a prominent role at this hui. Taingākawa and Rāwhiti disagreed with Mahuta's acceptance of the government's terms. At a hui in April 1910 at Waharoa, north of Matamata, they announced the formation of a federation of the Māori tribes of New Zealand, under the Treaty of Waitangi. Nevertheless, Rāwhiti's involvement in Te Kauhanganui continued, as secretary, treasurer and a participant in debates; he was also involved in other tribal meetings.

Rāwhiti continued his involvement with Taingākawa's organisation during and after the First World War, continuing to act as treasurer until at least 1920. He was still active in King movement affairs in 1922, when he spoke at a hui at Waahi, and he played a crucial role during the visit of T. W. Rātana to King Te Rata, Mahuta's successor, in October 1922. He died in April 1927 and was buried at Rukumoana Marae near Morrinsville. 

How to cite this page:

Stuart Park. 'Rāwhiti, T. T.', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996, updated March, 2019. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3r6/rawhiti-t-t (accessed 12 April 2021)