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.)
The 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. She assumed the Māori title Te Arikinui and among Waikato people was affectionately known as ‘The Lady’.
Public life and awards
Te Atairangikaahu welcomed and entertained many dignitaries. In 1970 she was made a dame, and in 1973 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Waikato. She and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first people 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 the leadership of Te Atairangikaahu and her stepbrother, Robert Mahuta, the matter of the raupatu (land confiscations) was finally settled. In May 1995 the Crown signed a Deed of Settlement with Waikato-Tainui, the Crown compensating the iwi with $170 million, including the return of a small amount of 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, kaumātua Tui Adams (Tainui) asked three times: ‘Ko Tuheitia hei Kingi?’ (should Tūheitia be King?) and three times the people present responded, ‘Ae’ (yes).2 With that Kīngi Tūheitia Pōtatau Te Wherowhero VII was anointed as the seventh Māori monarch. Tūheitia was the eldest son of Te Atairangikaahu and her husband Whatumoana Paki. Anaru Tāmihana used the same bible his ancestor Wiremu Tāmihana had placed on Pōtatau’s head in 1859.
Tūheitia has generally made public speeches once a year during his reign, but he has also taken part in many important ceremonies with international dignitaries, both in New Zealand and abroad. In 2009 he accompanied former Prime Minister Helen Clark when she was welcomed with a pōwhiri to the United Nations in New York as the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. In 2019 he had a private audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican. He has also taken part in many Māori celebrations around the country. He has taken a particular interest in campaigns aimed at reducing incarceration rates amongst Māori and supporting the reintegration into their communities of former prisoners. In 2014 he revived Te Tekau-mā-rua advisory council, continuing the tradition established by Tāwhiao but for the first time including kaumātua and advisors from outside Tainui.
The Kīngitanga in the 2000s
In the early 21st century the Kīngitanga is an enduring institution. Historic traditions such as the poukai (annual visits by the monarch to marae) and the koroneihana (coronation celebrations) continue. The century-old Kauhanganui (Kīngitanga parliament) continue in a rejuvenated form.
In 2018 celebrations were held at Tūrangawaewae to mark 160 years of the Kingitanga. Thousands of people attended, including iwi and political leaders from around the country. More than 1,000 people took part in kapa haka and sports competitions, and more than 100 waka appeared on the Waikato River as part of the celebrations.