Page 1: Biography
Kapa, Mutu Paratene
Te Aupouri and Waikato leader, sportsman, Anglican priest
This biography, written by Manuka Henare, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 4, 1998.
Mutu Paratene Kapa was an elder, Maori scholar, sportsman, priest and noted orator. He was born probably in 1870 at Ohinepu, Te Kopua, near the sacred mountains Pirongia and Kakepuku. Kapa’s mother was Waimarama Pene Ruruanga, who was from a senior line of Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto. His father was Paratene Katene Kapa of Te Aupouri, a farmer, the son of Hemi Reweti Te Kapa and Ruta (Ruth) Te Kapa. Hemi Reweti, known as Te Kapa, was, according to Te Aupouri tradition, the first Maori to become a Christian and one of the first Maori missionaries in the Tai Tokerau area. Kapa was also a nephew of Eparaima Te Mutu Kapa, MHR for Northern Maori (1891–93), a great grandson of Patuone, and a descendant of Mirupokai. He was an ‘uncle’ to the fifth Maori King, Koroki, and to Te Puea Herangi.
In his young days, Kapa was outstanding in rowing, rugby, soccer, hockey, tennis and wood-chopping. He attained national prominence as a New Zealand single sculls champion in rowing and was a 1905 All Black trialist. His first visit to his relatives in Te Tai Tokerau came when he was about 17. While attending a rowing regatta in Takapuna, he was recognised by his father’s uncle who took him to Kaikohe. Many years later, when his father was ill, the Kapa family moved to Te Kao in the Muriwhenua area, where their Te Aupouri relatives lived.
Kapa married Makarita Kaimanu Wikitahi Renata Wi of Riumakutu hapu of Te Aupouri, probably at Te Kao on 17 October 1900. They had nine surviving children: six boys and three girls. Kaimanu died on 15 August 1919, and on 14 September 1920, also in Te Kao, Kapa married Matehaere (also known as Matekino) Popata; they had no surviving children.
In fulfilment of promises made by their ancestors and by early Maori Christian communities, the people of many northern communities were committed to providing priests for the Anglican church. Kapa was encouraged by leaders such as his great-grandfather Te Kapa, his uncle Hohepa Matiu Te Kapa, an Anglican priest, and others to consider training for the ministry. He studied at Te Rau Theological College, Gisborne, for five years, a contemporary of Reweti Kohere and Edward Ellison. He was ordained a deacon in 1907 and a priest in 1911.
Kapa served at parishes throughout Waikato, and at Ahipara and Waitara before being stationed at Tuakau from 1936 to 1960. He served under five bishops of the Auckland diocese and was for many years from 1940 honorary chaplain to the bishop of Auckland. He also served under the first two Maori bishops of Aotearoa. After his 90th birthday he still assisted other clergy in taking services. He was well versed in the Anglican Prayer Book and Biblical texts and could recite these at great length; he had a special love of the Psalms. At his retirement in 1960 he was the oldest practising Anglican priest.
Kapa was appointed an MBE in 1964. He refused to attend the official ceremony at Government House, requesting that the honour be bestowed on him at his own marae at Te Kao. The governor general, Sir Bernard Fergusson, and Lady Fergusson made a special visit to Te Kao on 3 February 1965 where Kapa received the honour at Waimirirangi marae. A Pakeha sculptor made a bust of Kapa around the time of this honour.
Like his father and uncles, Kapa was an elder of Te Whananaki hapu of Te Aupouri, and was also recognised by them as a rangatira. He had a deep knowledge of the oral traditions and tribal histories and genealogies of Waikato, Ngati Maniapoto and Te Aupouri, and of the teachings of the old whare wananga. A noted orator, he could speak for hours without notes. He was also a well-known performer of waiata. In 1952 he assisted at the burial of Te Puea.
Kapa’s Te Aupouri and Tainui connections came into conflict during the centennial celebrations for the Treaty of Waitangi in 1940. He was the fugleman (the leader and organiser) of the commemoration canoe, Nga-toki-mata-whao-rua, a canoe central to Tai Tokerau identity. After initial support, his King movement relatives boycotted the celebrations.
Kapa continued to maintain his family and tribal tradition of promoting the significance of the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1943 he and other elders petitioned Parliament concerning Te Aupouri and Te Rarawa’s claim to the ownership of Ninety Mile Beach. He again requested an inquiry in 1946. Together with Hoera Wi Kanara of Te Kao he provided the primary customary evidence when the claim came before the Maori Land Court and the Supreme Court in the 1950s. He served on the Te Aupouri Maori Trust Board from 1958.
Mutu Kapa died in Auckland on 10 November 1968, aged 98. Waikato and Te Aupouri argued vigorously over where he should be interred. Waikato was chosen, and he was buried at the cemetery near Te Puea Memorial Marae, Mangere. He lies alongside his colleague, Wiremu Panapa, the second bishop of Aotearoa. Kapa was survived by his second wife, two sons and a daughter.