Page 1: Biography
Rawhiti, T. T.
Ngati Haua; King movement secretary and administrator
This biography, written by Stuart Park, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996, and updated in March, 2019.
T. T. Rawhiti was closely associated, for some 30 years, with demands for Maori autonomy and self-sufficiency. He was born in Kawhia in about 1851, and later lived at Tauwhare, near Cambridge. He had affiliations with Ngati Haua. 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. Rawhiti, was occasionally referred to as P. T. T. Rawhiti or T. T. Rawhiti Maaka, and is probably the Maaka Rawhiti whose name is recorded in electoral rolls in 1908 and 1919.
Rawhiti 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 Taingakawa, Speaker of the upper house of Te Kauhanganui (the King movement's parliament); Rawhiti 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.
Rawhiti played a prominent role in many of the activities of the King movement between 1892 and 1922, although his alliance with Taingakawa put him out of favour with the movement's leaders from time to time. Rawhiti played a major role in Te Peeke o Aotearoa, the bank established by King Tawhiao 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 Taingakawa in November 1897. They asked Premier Richard Seddon to support a bill prepared by Henare Kaihau, MHR for Western Maori, which would let Maori administer their own affairs. They made the same plea before the Native Affairs Committee of Parliament. In June 1898 Rawhiti was a leading member of the delegation sent by the Maori King, Mahuta, to the Kotahitanga parliament at Papawai. 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 Rawhiti was acting as private secretary to King Mahuta; at a hui at Waahi, near Huntly, he stated Maori objections to the Maori 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 Maori 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 Maori front to the government. He wanted Maori to have the power to manage their own affairs according to their own customs, although the Maori 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 Pakeha settlement, and to provide reserves, land for Maori farms and land for Mahuta. James Cowan wrote of 'Big Te Rawhiti, the suave and smiling secretary' of the King movement, playing a prominent role at this hui. Taingakawa and Rawhiti 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 Maori tribes of New Zealand, under the Treaty of Waitangi. Nevertheless, Rawhiti's involvement in Te Kauhanganui continued, as secretary, treasurer and a participant in debates; he was also involved in other tribal meetings.
Rawhiti continued his involvement with Taingakawa'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. Ratana to King Te Rata, Mahuta's successor, in October 1922. He died in April 1927 and was buried at Rukumoana Marae near Morrinsville.