Story: Māori prophetic movements – ngā poropiti

Page 7. Other 20th-century prophets

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Te Mātenga Tāmati

Aside from Rua Kēnana, there were a number of claimants to be Te Kooti’s predicted successor. Mātenga Tāmati from Ngāti Kahungunu of upper Wairoa was actually the first. In 1894 he announced his vision for the tabernacle of David; 12 great logs were cut from the upper Wairoa forests, each named for one of the 12 children of Jacob, the ancestors of Israel. His followers waited for faith to move the logs, and a great flood in 1904 brought the logs (all but one) to the chosen site on the coast, Kōrito. The log dubbed Joseph, who had wandered to a ‘distant land’ some miles along the coast, had to be brought back to join his brothers. The logs await the one who will complete this work.

Mere Rikiriki

Mere Rikiriki was the daughter of Kāwana Rōpiha (Hunia) of Ngāti Apa. She was a descendant of Maata, a renowned medium and healer who flourished around the time of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840). In 1910 Mere baptised herself seven times in the Rangitīkei River. She set up Te Hāhi o te Wairua Tapu (the church of the Holy Spirit). She became recognised as a prophet and her church was Christian-based. In 1912 she foretold the coming of a prophet and then confirmed that it was her nephew Tahupōtiki Rātana. She also prophesied the importance of his two sons, Ārepa (Alpha) and Ōmeka (Omega).

Rātana

Tahupōtiki Rātana was a farmer from Ngāti Apa. While fishing at Whangaehu he saw two whales stranded. When his son Ōmeka became sick and nearly died, Rātana fasted and prayed. On 8 November 1918 he had a number of visions telling him to act as a spiritual leader for the people and turn them aside from the old gods. Besides founding a religious movement Rātana also founded a powerful political movement that went on to hold all the Māori seats in Parliament for many years.

Church of the Seven Rules of Jehovah

Haimona Pātete was from Ngāti Koata and Ngāti Kuia. In the 1890s Pātete incorporated the teachings of Pāora Te Pōtangaroa in the formation of his church, Te Hāhi o te Ruri Tuawhitu o Ihowa (also called the the Church of the Seven Rules of Jehovah). Pātete was said to have cured a girl whom doctors had been unable to help. The church became established in Marlborough and Wairarapa and had up to 18 ministers and bishops in the years 1915–18. The church effectively disbanded with the visit of Rātana to Marlborough in 1921.

Te Haahi o Te Kooti Rikirangi

Wi Raepuku (Wi Horn) from Whanganui was recognised by Te Haahi o Te Kooti Rikirangi as a successor to Te Kooti. This became a distinct church in 1937.

Māramatanga

In the 1930s, Hōri Ēnoka (Te Mareikura) led the Māramatanga faith at Ōhakune and Levin. The faith had been partially inspired by the prophet Mere Rikiriki. After his death in 1946 his brothers (and others) took up the role. Māramatanga recognises all the earlier, major prophets; its leaders undertake missions or pilgrimages associated with the Roman Catholic faith, but at times also perform independent activities.

Hoori Keeti

Hoori Te Kou-o-rehua Keeti was influential as a Ringatū minister from 1942 until his death in 1961 at Ōmaio. He worked as a spiritual healer, using salt water and olive oil to anoint his patients. At Tataiahape in Waimana, in the Urewera, he established a branch of the Ringatū church called Rangimārie (peace), and was closely associated with Tom Te Maro, leader and secretary of the Kōtahitanga of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Alexander Phillips

In 1961 Alexander Phillips founded the Kōtahitanga Building Society Incorporated, to help relieve people from mākutu (curses). At Taumarunui, he built the Manu Ariki Marae complex, including a Kura Wānanga (school of sacred knowledge) and God’s house, Unveiling the Rock of Bethel. In 2007 he celebrated his 90th birthday as the ‘last Māori prophet’; he died in 2008.

Line of descent

These leaders claimed spiritual descent from one another, though some were direct rivals. Almost all were persecuted by governments or police. But the concerns of these leaders were for the well-being of Māori, faced with ill health and land loss for much of two centuries. The common identity the leaders forged for Māori was as Israelites, cutting across tribal divisions while acknowledging them historically. The mana of a leader was seen as a gift of God, held in trust for a generation, then transferred. Thus the line of prophets was regularly renewed.

How to cite this page:

Judith Binney, 'Māori prophetic movements – ngā poropiti - Other 20th-century prophets', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/maori-prophetic-movements-nga-poropiti/page-7 (accessed 18 October 2017)

Story by Judith Binney, published 5 May 2011