Tupu Atanatiu Taingākawa Te Waharoa was the second son of Wiremu Tāmihana Tarapīpipi Te Waharoa and Pare Te Kanawa (Wikitōria). They belonged to Ngāti Hauā, but also had links with Ngāti Hinepare (a hapū of Ngāti Kauwhata) and Ngāti Hikairo. Taingākawa was probably born in 1844 or 1845, at either Te Tāpiri, near Matamata, or Maungākawa, overlooking the Thames (Waihou) valley. He had an elder brother, Hōtene Tāmihana Te Waharoa, usually known as Hote. There were two sisters: Harete Tāmihana Te Waharoa and Te Raumako, also known as Te Reo. In his youth Taingākawa was known as Tana Te Waharoa or Tana Taingākawa Te Waharoa; he was later known as Tupu Taingākawa. Taingākawa may have attended the schools built by his father at Te Tāpiri and Peria, and may also have attended mission schools.
During Taingākawa's teens and early adult years his people were living in turmoil. Under his father's leadership Ngāti Hauā had enthusiastically accepted the benefits of literacy, Christianity, agriculture and trading; Europeans regarded them as a progressive people. But political and land pressures led Wiremu Tāmihana to associate himself with the King movement in order to oppose European encroachment. Wars in Taranaki and Waikato followed, and by the time of his death late in 1866 many settlers regarded him as a rebel, the architect of an alliance designed to drive Europeans from the North Island.
Although Hote was the elder son and continued to be regarded as a chief by his own people, from 1867 Taingākawa took on a leadership role and was seen by the colonial authorities as his father's heir. His advice to the Tauranga chiefs to join the King's followers inside the aukati (King movement boundary) and his attempts to mediate between the government and Te Kooti in the early 1870s were regarded with suspicion. In 1871 Taingākawa was classed as one of the 'Ngāti Hauā Hauhaus', and his attempts at rapprochement were regarded as insincere.
Taingākawa probably attended an important hui near Maungatautari in June 1871, at which King movement leaders invited Ngāti Hauā to come inland and join the King's party, and promoted the policy of isolation from Pākehā. Ngāti Hauā's response was divided: some were enthusiastic supporters of the King movement; others were neutral; still others were definitely opposed. About 1873 Hote and Taingākawa took their section of Ngāti Hauā to live at Te Kūiti, then the centre of the King movement. Constantly harassed by Tāmati Ngāpora, chief adviser to the Māori King Tāwhiao Te Wherowhero, they returned to Wharepapa in 1875. From this time for a considerable period Taingākawa was relatively obscure. For nearly 20 years he was merely the son of a great father and one among the leaders of Ngāti Hauā.
Nevertheless, he remained an important supporter of the King movement, aiding Tāwhiao in his efforts to maintain authority over Ngāti Maniapoto, in whose territory he was then living. In 1884 Tāwhiao petitioned the British government for an inquiry into land confiscation, Māori self-determination, breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, and other matters. A non-committal response was received in 1885 and discussed at a series of meetings. Taingākawa was a member of a deputation which, on 7 April 1886, interviewed the governor over the issues raised.
During the 1880s Rewi Maniapoto, Wahanui Huatare and other Ngāti Maniapoto leaders edged their people out from under Tāwhiao's protecting shade and rejected his isolationism. From 1886 Tāwhiao turned to new methods to unite Māori under his leadership. In 1889 he moved from Ngāti Maniapoto territory to Pukekawa near Mercer, and travelled about raising support for a parliament, called Te Kauhanganui, and a newspaper to be established at Maungākawa, near Cambridge, where Taingākawa was developing a Ngāti Hauā settlement.
Taingākawa's uncle Te Raihi Toroatai died in 1889, so that by the end of the 1880s events had begun to favour the emergence of Taingākawa as the effective leader of the King movement. He was literate in Māori, hard-working, forceful and fully committed to Māori self-government through the kingdom, which he regarded as legitimated by the Treaty of Waitangi and the Constitution Act 1852. His arguments were logical and eloquently stated.
Tāwhiao's Kauhanganui (Great Council) probably held its first session on 2 May 1889, a date that commemorated the anointing of the first King. Certainly from 1891, and probably from its inception, Taingākawa was the Speaker of the whare ariki (upper house). He was also described as the tumuaki (leader) of the kingdom, a position similar to that of chief executive or prime minister. Working with T. T. Rāwhiti, the secretary of Te Kauhanganui, he organised the affairs of the kingdom through Te Paki o Matariki, the movement's newspaper. He announced the dates of parliamentary sessions, summarised debates and announced Te Kauhanganui's decisions. He set up the Tekau-mā-rua (the twelve), an executive council intended to free the King from the sole burden of carrying out the King movement programme. He set the agenda for Te Kauhanganui to debate; in 1893 it included such matters as decisions concerning the nature of the King movement government's seal, without which its laws would not be binding, and the rate of taxation. In August 1893 the decision was made to set up independent King movement land courts.
Tāwhiao died in August 1894. While his body lay in state at Taupiri, Taingākawa anointed Tāwhiao's son, Mahuta, as the third King and 'crowned' him with the Bible used by Tāmihana, who had placed a Bible over Pōtatau Te Wherowhero's head in 1859. The succession did not interrupt his reconstruction of the kingdom. A constitution was promulgated and a cabinet was announced with ministers responsible for various portfolios, and in the following years King movement magistrates, policemen, and a registrar for the kingdom's land court were appointed. Taingākawa announced that he was releasing the movement's followers from Tāwhiao's prohibition on schools: the King's government had decided to educate the movement's children. When Premier Richard Seddon visited Waikato in 1894, Taingākawa asked for a greater measure of Māori self-government and other concessions. When these were refused he continued his development of the kingdom regardless, unilaterally assuming powers to charge taxes, including dog taxes, and impose fines. From 1893 Europeans in the kingdom were warned that they too would have to obey the King's laws.
In May 1895 Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui and Tūreiti Te Heuheu, in an attempt to unite the King movement with Te Kotahitanga (the movement for a Māori parliament to represent all tribes), brought Kotahitanga deeds of union to be signed at a Taupiri hui. Taingākawa quashed any tendency to unite the two movements, saying that Tāwhiao had left his own covenant, which would be signed in the Hauraki district and then circulated throughout New Zealand. In November 1897 Taingākawa visited Wellington at the invitation of the Kotahitanga chiefs. A meeting was arranged with Seddon to discuss the aspirations and grievances of Mahuta and his people. Taingākawa explained that they wished to live at peace under the authority of the Queen, but that their primary aim was to be empowered under the Treaty of Waitangi and the 1852 Constitution Act to administer their own affairs. He reminded Seddon of his petition, which outlined the evil effects of native land legislation on Māori, and asked him to support a bill being prepared by Hēnare Kaihau that would give effect to his concerns. In reply, Seddon outlined some of his still tentative plans for Māori land boards and limited self-government through councils. On 25 November Taingākawa appeared before the Native Affairs Committee with T. T. Rawhiti and addressed the same issues.
Seddon's plans ultimately became the Native Lands Settlement and Administration Bill of 1898, the provisions of which failed to satisfy Taingākawa. He led a King movement delegation to Pāpāwai, Wairarapa, in 1898, and probably co-ordinated action with the Kotahitanga group opposed to the bill. Like them, he organised a petition, signed by himself and 5,975 others.
The beginnings of a split in the King movement arose from Mahuta's negotiations in 1898 with Seddon, his final acceptance of a seat on the Legislative Council in 1903, and his encouragement of the Waikato District Māori Land Council. Taingākawa was not given to this kind of compromise, and throughout the first three decades of the twentieth century relentlessly pursued the full King movement programme learnt in the 1860s from Tāwhiao. About 1906 he resurrected the idea of appealing to the British monarchy as Tāwhiao had done in 1884. He discussed the idea with Sir John Gorst, resident magistrate in the Waikato in the 1860s, who revisited New Zealand at this time. Gorst discouraged the idea, but by 1907 a petition to King Edward VII, drawn up by Taingākawa, was being circulated. At the same time he joined the Māori Rights Conservation Association, which championed equal rights for Māori and Europeans, and set up, with T. T. Rawhiti and Hāmiora Mangakāhia, a federation of the Māori tribes of the North and South Islands which was a revived version of Te Kotahitanga.
The split with Mahuta was never total. The King attended the federation's first conference at Waahi, combined with the usual Kauhanganui session on 2 May. The discussion at this conference led to Taingākawa's major 1909 petition on the violation of land rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi. It was presented to the government for forwarding to England, and gave details of a number of specific grievances, including the Little Barrier Island purchase; it demanded full Māori autonomy.
The petition was ignored, but Taingākawa and his followers continued to collect signatures. At the 1910 rūnanganui (grand assembly) of the federation, Pēpene Eketone noted that 29,646 people had signed Taingākawa's petition. At this session a covenant confirmed Taingākawa as tumuaki of the Māori kingdom, agreed to a ban on sales and leases he had imposed over the King movement lands, made him trustee of the lands, and agreed that his assent and seal were required to validate all the rules and laws adopted by the federation's committee. After some questioning, strong support by Hāmiora Mangakāhia ensured the covenant was adopted.
On 27 December 1911, as leader of Te Kotahitanga, Taingākawa symbolically signed a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi with Te Kahupūkoro of Ngāti Ruanui. This probably took place at the Christmas hui of the spiritual leader Mere Rikiriki, later the mentor of Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana. A year later she prophesied that the unity of the tribes under the Treaty of Waitangi was blessed by God and would be guided by Te Kahupūkoro and Taingākawa.
Mahuta died on 9 November 1912. During the tangihanga a debate took place on the succession of Te Rata, Mahuta's son. James Carroll and others advised King movement leaders to abandon the title 'king'. But Taingākawa said it had been conferred by the Māori people on Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, whose successors had used it, and the title had been made tapu through the blood spilt in its defence. He declared his intention of crowning Te Rata king as he had Mahuta. This was done on 24 November 1912 beside Mahuta's casket.
Taingākawa declared in Te Paki o Matariki in January 1914 that his organisation, which he styled Te Kotahitanga Māori Motuhake, would act only under the authority of the King. By this time he was beginning to develop Rukumoana pā, near Morrinsville, as its new centre. He was proceeding with his plans to take his petition to England, and called on supporters to contribute £1 each. At a hui in April 1914, in spite of advice to the contrary from Apirana Ngata, the decision was made to go. Te Rata, Taingākawa, Mita Karaka and Hori T. Paora (George G. Paul), the latter two acting as secretaries and interpreters, arrived in London in May 1914. They met with Sir John Gorst, but were disappointed in their hopes of assistance from him. On 4 June, dressed very correctly in frock coats, the group was received by King George V and Queen Mary. Compliments and gifts were exchanged, but no redress for grievances was forthcoming. A photograph taken on this occasion shows Taingākawa looking very distinguished, with grey hair and a dark moustache, the obvious leader of the group, seated beside a very young-looking Te Rata. The party sailed for New Zealand on the Nestor on 11 August 1914.
The First World War had commenced while they were still in London, and on their return Taingākawa and Te Rata were immediately embroiled in the issue of Māori military service. In 1915 Te Kauhanganui decided that no Waikato men should volunteer. By 1916 the King movement leadership was angered at what they saw as the persecution of the King's brothers. At a Waahi hui in November 1916, attended by the minister of defence, James Allen, Taingākawa declared that Waikato were reluctant for their young men to volunteer because their grievances dating from 1861 had not been addressed, and repeated the movement's official position that it was a matter for the young men concerned to decide. This prevented Te Rata or Taingākawa from being arrested for discouraging enlistment while making their position clear to their followers. The war ended without decisive measures being taken against the King movement's leaders, although police and defence reports made it clear that Taingākawa was among those regarded as responsible for Waikato intransigence.
As the influence of Te Puea Hērangi, Te Rata's cousin, and other younger King movement leaders increased, Taingākawa continued to build up Rukumoana as an alternative centre of power, establishing his parliament house there, building a church, and erecting a monument to King Mahuta. He also began to emphasise again the central importance of the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1919 he requested the prime minister, William Massey, to have it placed on record as an imperial document.
T. W. Rātana was, by now, becoming increasingly influential, and Taingākawa turned to him for help. His reliance on Rātana deepened the split with Te Puea. In 1920 Taingākawa led a delegation of King movement people to Rātana pā and appealed to Rātana to deal with Māori land grievances. Although he did not sign the Rātana covenant, he induced his own Ngāti Hauā and a significant faction of Waikato to support Rātana candidates in elections. In 1923 he presented a petition to the government asking for a commission of inquiry into the land confiscations of the 1860s. Like his 1909 petition, this laid great emphasis on Māori rights derived from the Treaty of Waitangi.
Taingākawa's petition was adopted and sponsored by Rātana from 25 May 1923 in the name of the United Māori Welfare League of the Northern, Southern and Chatham Islands. Taingākawa claimed that the petition and league were supported by 34,750 Māori, all desiring the unity of Māori under Jehovah. In 1924 Taingākawa and the prime minister of his Rukumoana parliament, Rewiti Te Whena, joined Rātana's group travelling to London. They had two aims: to extend Rātana's ministry to England while raising funds for it, and to present Taingākawa's petition. They hoped to persuade the League of Nations to intervene.
An attempt to get an interview with the secretary of state for the colonies failed, so the delegation arranged to be invited to a garden party at St James's Palace at which the prince of Wales was also a guest; he had met Taingākawa in New Zealand in 1920. The chiefs were presented to the prince, and gave him precious cloaks and an address. These were returned to the high commissioner, Sir James Allen, with a stiff note explaining that the prince could not receive gifts unless forwarded through the proper channels and recommended by the New Zealand government. Protests were made at the insult of returned gifts and the petition was sent to the Colonial Office, but the group was able to achieve little more in England.
In New Zealand in later years, Taingākawa's petition was often credited with having helped bring about the royal commission of 1927, which investigated the confiscations, acknowledged some government faults, and recommended monetary compensation for them. Taingākawa also influenced Rātana into making ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi by the New Zealand government a central plank of his party's policy in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Tupu Atanatiu Taingākawa Te Waharoa died on 24 June 1929 in Awanui Private Hospital, Auckland, aged 84. His wife, Rakapa, had predeceased him, but he was survived by a son, Tarapīpipi, who became the third kingmaker and crowned Korokī in 1933. At Tupu Taingākawa's death Rukumoana was falling into decay, and Te Puea's faction had moved the kingdom on to new paths. Ngata told Peter Buck that a new generation of leaders knew little of Taingākawa. Yet his work ensured the survival and the continuity of the kingdom and forced officialdom to show wary respect for the successive Māori Kings. His insistence on ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi and his demands for the redress of grievances foreshadowed events of the late twentieth century.