King Tāwhiao prophesied, ‘Kei te haere mai te wa, ka puta mai i taku pito ake, he wahine, he urukehu, mana hei whakatutuki i tenei oranga.’1 (The time is coming when from my loins a woman will come of fair complexion. She will pave the way to the fulfilment of this recovery.)
A young Princess Piki was crowned Kuini Te Atairangikaahu before Korokī's burial. She became the first woman to lead the Kīngitanga and the first Māori queen. Tāwhiao’s prophecy had come true. She assumed her mother’s name, Te Atairangikaahu, and quickly endeared herself to her people with wise but gentle leadership. Among Waikato people she was also affectionately known as ‘The Lady’, and assumed the Māori title Te Arikinui.
Public life and awards
Te Atairangikaahu’s life of public engagements continued and she welcomed and entertained dignitaries. In 1970 she was made a dame, and she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Waikato University in 1973. She and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first to be inducted into the Order of New Zealand in 1987, and she was made an honorary doctor of laws by Victoria University of Wellington in 1999.
Under Te Atairangikaahu’s leadership and that of her stepbrother, Robert Mahuta, the matter of the raupatu (land confiscations) was finally settled. In 1995 Tainui–Waikato signed a settlement, the Crown compensating the tribe with $170 million, including the return of some land.
When Te Atairangikaahu died on 15 August 2006, she was the longest-serving Māori monarch, having reigned for 40 years. The high regard in which she was held was evident from the many thousands who attended her tangihanga, both Māori and Pākehā, as well as many foreign dignitaries.
During the funeral for Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, Tainui kaumātua Tui Adams asked three times: ‘Ko Tuheitia hei Kingi?’ (should Tūheitia be King?) and three times the people present responded, ‘Ae’ (yes).2 With that Tūheitia was anointed as the seventh Māori monarch. Anaru Tāmihana used the same bible his ancestor Wiremu Tāmihana had placed on Pōtatau’s head in 1859.
Kīngitanga in the 2000s
In the 2000s the Kīngitanga was an enduring institution. Historic traditions such as the poukai (annual visits by the monarch to marae) and the koroneihana (coronation celebrations) continued. The century-old Kauhanganui (Kīngitanga parliament) continued in a rejuvenated form.
In 2015 Tūheitia’s reign continued, embodying the history and traditions of the Kīngitanga.