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Story: Broughton, Rangiāhuta Alan Herewini Ruka

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Broughton, Rangiāhuta Alan Herewini Ruka


Ngā Rauru; tohunga, Anglican priest, university lecturer

This biography, written by Pou Temara, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Rangiāhuta Alan Herewini Ruka Broughton was born on 21 April 1940 at Whanganui. His father was Ruka Rākei Broughton of Ngāti Hine, a hapū of Ngāti Ruanui; his mother was Rēhia Bella Toherangi Whiu of Ngāti Maika, a hapū of Ngā Rauru. Ruka had a brother, Toherangi, and a sister, Taihape. His father successfully farmed Rēhia’s land holdings at Maxwell, north of Whanganui.

Ruka attended Maxwell School, Wanganui Technical College and Te Aute College in Hawke’s Bay, where he excelled in Māori and piano. At a very young age he became interested in Māori tradition through his great-aunt, Taihape Rimitiriu Te Hurahanga Unahi, who had seen such people as Tītokowaru, Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, Tohu Kākahi and Te Kooti. This interest drew him to Rākei Taituha Kīngi, a tohunga from Ngā Rauru, who had been taught at a whare wānanga on the Whanganui River. Because Rākei was considered tapu, few people associated with him, not even his own family. He appreciated the company of the young and inquisitive Ruka and began to impart his knowledge to him. This included the history of Ngā Rauru, Taranaki and Whanganui, waiata, whakapapa, karakia, and combat techniques, especially the use of the taiaha. Most of the teaching took place in the bedroom of Rākei’s house at Pākaraka marae, never in other areas of the house. Later, Ruka built an ahurewa (sacred place) in a depression on their farm at Maxwell, where he laid out sacred stones in a circle. Here he practised what he had been taught by Rākei. He took great delight in recounting that his first and most attentive audiences were sheep and cows.

Ruka accompanied Rākei and his Ngā Rauru iwi to many hui. At 14 years old and at the instigation of Rākei, he delivered his first whaikōrero (oration) at Ngāruawāhia, much to the consternation of the Taranaki elders who, in whispered tones, condemned such arrogance from one so young, and especially on the King’s marae. But they were restrained from outwardly condemning him by the presence of the forbidding Rākei.

His growing knowledge in Taranaki history and whakapapa made Ruka a respected participant in iwi affairs even at that very young age. This knowledge enabled him to acquire the stewardship of Te Āwhiorangi, the sacred adze said to have hewn out the Aotea canoe. By similar means he gained Panipanipoapoa, a significant taiaha, as well as greenstone mere and many other artefacts. These were stored in a steel safe at Kaitarakihi, the family homestead at Maxwell.

When Rākei died in 1963, Ruka was accepted as a tohunga and the authority on Ngā Rauru and Taranaki history. His parents, adherents of the Rātana church, did not approve of his interest in Māori tradition, and especially his association with Rākei, who had taught values that clashed with the doctrines of Rātana. Despite their objections, he maintained his ground but compromised by joining the Anglican church. Much later he was to defend his mother’s wish to sell Kaitarakihi and the family farm. He disinterred his great-aunt’s son, who had been buried in a vault next to Kaitarakihi, and reburied him at Pākaraka. He also removed the sacred stones from his ahurewa, and just before the sale removed the threshold of Kaitarakihi to signify the end of ownership by his family.

On 21 May 1960, at Maxwell, Ruka Broughton married Mary Mereiwa Whakaruru of Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Kahungunu, a woman who had been trained in karanga (welcoming) and waiata. A formidable couple, they were to have three boys and two girls, who all grew up speaking Māori.

In 1961 Broughton began theological studies and in 1966 was the first Māori priest to be ordained at St Paul’s Cathedral, Wellington. He spent 12 years as an Anglican priest at Feilding (a predominantly Pākehā parish), Wairarapa, Ōhakune, and Pūtiki. In all these places he and Mary raised awareness of Māoritanga in the community and were constantly called upon to take part in marae and iwi affairs.

In Ōhakune, Ruka met the last tohunga of the Whanganui River, Rangimotuhia, with whom he debated esoteric lore, history and whakapapa, and the interpretations of ancient karakia and waiata. On one occasion, at a hui at Rānana, Rangimotuhia challenged his knowledge. In a four-hour debate, both tohunga recited canoe traditions, even naming their paddles, paddlers and seats, and gave extensive whakapapa linking the canoes to the present. Rangimotuhia then paid tribute to Ruka’s knowledge, declaring that he was a true tohunga. Broughton encouraged Rangimotuhia (whose elder brother, Tamakehu Kātene, had taught Rākei Kīngi) to impart his knowledge to the people of Te Maungārongo marae at Ōhakune.

Broughton saw no conflict between his calling as an Anglican priest and his Māori beliefs, although this drew criticism from his parish and from Māori, who challenged him at every opportunity. This led him to remove his minister’s collar whenever he was about to chant karakia. He had a passion for traditional waiata and an impressive repertoire. He was also a composer, and his waiata about his impending death, which he wrote for Te Herenga Waka marae at Victoria University of Wellington, is considered a classic.

In 1975 Broughton left active ministry and took up carving and research in Whanganui. Two years later, in 1977, he attended Wellington Teachers’ College on a one-year course for Māori-language speakers. He also began studies at Victoria University that year. His deep knowledge of Māori language and custom caught the attention of Hirini Mead, professor of Māori. He offered Ruka a lectureship, commencing in 1978. Together with Wiremu Parker they began negotiating with the university for a marae on campus, which was approved in 1985. Ruka took responsibility for the Māori history that formed the narrative of the project’s carvings. He was not to see the opening of the meeting house in December 1986.

During this period Ruka reawakened interest in traditional karakia, which had previously been suppressed or confined to Waikato, and later created controversy when he urged Māori to give up Christianity and return to the Māori gods. He rationalised that the introduced religions had not favoured Māori and that they could do no worse by a return to traditional beliefs. This call was taken up with enthusiasm by university students and by small groups of people in Whanganui, Taranaki and the Bay of Plenty and provoked debate among Māori, including those who were prominent in the established churches. The issue gathered pace with the exhibition, Te Māori, which toured the United States in 1984; it brought about a widespread acceptance of traditional karakia and Māori dawn openings of institutions, both Māori and Pākehā. Ruka was an officiating tohunga at the opening of Te Māori in New York. He also ritually opened the Pipitea marae at Wellington and many others around the country.

In 1979 Ruka conducted a ceremony at Te Maungārongo marae to examine two of his students in the use of the taiaha. He established his credentials as a teacher by detailing his connection with Rākei Kīngi and reciting whakapapa that linked Rākei to the ancestor of the students being examined. He then conducted the examination, which ended with the ancient ritual of having the students dive into a freezing stream while Ruka recited the appropriate karakia. Broughton also conducted several marriages with traditional karakia.

He had an impressive library of manuscripts and whakapapa books: Māori families who considered such books tapu did not want to keep them and gladly gave them to Broughton. In 1979 he gained an MA after writing a thesis on Ngā Rauru, presented entirely in Taranaki Māori. He was completing a doctoral thesis on Tītokowaru when ill health overtook him. (This was published posthumously in 1993.)

Broughton’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1978, and he married Dolly Sadie Matewhiu Pene (née Morgan) of Te Arawa on 19 December 1979 at Wainuiomata. They had two daughters. He died on 17 April 1986 at his home in Wainuiomata, survived by Dolly and his seven children. He lay at Te Herenga Waka marae before being taken back to Pākaraka, where his tangihanga was attended by thousands. He was buried at Pākaraka. An hour before he died he had asked for holy communion.

How to cite this page:

Pou Temara. 'Broughton, Rangiāhuta Alan Herewini Ruka', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5b44/broughton-rangiahuta-alan-herewini-ruka (accessed 15 June 2024)