Te Kooti’s own sayings, about quests to be fulfilled, ensured that later leaders in his traditions would emerge. After his death in 1893, a number of prophets claimed to be his successor – his ‘Son’ or the Mihaia (Messiah). The most well known was Rua Kēnana Hepetipa, from Tūhoe.
Rua goes to Gisborne
In 1906 Rua was baptised Hepetipa (Hephzibah) to fulfil Te Kooti’s prediction that his successor would be so named. Rua rode with ‘80’ chiefs of Tūhoe and Ngāti Awa to Gisborne to meet King Edward VII; this was a predicted number of completion. In an exchange of gold (or diamonds), he planned to buy back the land from the son of Queen Victoria. When the king did not arrive, Rua announced the inner meaning of the pilgrimage: ‘I am the King. Here I am, standing on the wharf, and with all my people.’1
Rua took his people back to Maungapōhatu, at the base of Tūhoe’s sacred mountain, and built a new community. The two main buildings in 1908 were his interpretations of the Bible’s Hiona (Zion) and Hiruhārama Hou (the new Jerusalem) in the city of David. Committed to the ‘long abiding peace’ (maungarongo), the community refused to volunteer for the First World War.
Rua was arrested in April 1916 for the illicit sale of alcohol, a trumped-up charge. His son, Toko, and Toko’s close friend, Te Maipi, were shot by the police during a raid. Seven charges against Rua were thrown out, but he was imprisoned on one charge of ‘morally’ resisting arrest (on an earlier occasion).
Rua was seen as Christ by his followers. His son, Mau, quoted him: ‘“If you don’t kill me with one shot, that to let you people know that I am the Son of the living God.” So they shoot him all right. … I myself have been bathing that wound ever since.’2
Released, Rua reconstructed Maungapōhatu in 1927 to prepare for the end of the world in a shower of falling stars. When God did not appear, he explained it was the fault of the people. The millennium would occur at another time. Rua died in 1937, predicting his resurrection.