The Story of Rua Kēnana, 1916

A DigitalNZ Story by National Library of New Zealand Topics

Rua Kēnana established his religious community at Maungapōhatu in the Urewera Region in 1907, and was arrested there in 1916. The Rua Kēnana Pardon Bill signed into law in 2019 aimed to restore his mana and reputation. SCIS no. 1966471

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Story: Rua Kēnana Hepetipa

Story: Rua Kenana Hepetipa -

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Huruharama Hou, Maungapohatu

Alexander Turnbull Library

Rua and followers. Maungapohatu.

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira

Pinepine Te Rika - Biography

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Rua Kenana

Alexander Turnbull Library

Typhoid camp, Maungapōhatu

There was a typhoid outbreak in the winter of 1924 at Maungapōhatu. Sister Annie Henry helped to set up a camp with the Health Department. She was particularly impressed with the way Rua Kēnana went about rebuilding homes and sanitation facilities to help combat the disease. This photo shows Annie (Matekoraha) Miki, her husband Hemi Tawa (with accordion), and her brother Paetawa (centre) at the typhoid camp in Maungapōhatu.

Typhoid camp, Maungapohatu

Alexander Turnbull Library

Rua Kēnana and the Reverend John George Laughton

Rua and Presbyterian missionary Laughton stand on the steps of Rua’s new home at Maai which was said to be built from the timbers of the demolished council chamber, Hiona. When Rua returned from prison in 1918, he found the Presbyterian mission has established itself in his community at Maungapōhatu and started a school. Laughton, although not a trained teacher was in charge of the school. Rua finally decided to support the school, on condition that the Presbyterians would not build a church on his land.

Rua Kenana and the Reverend John George Laughton, possibly at Maungapohatu

Alexander Turnbull Library

The charge against Whata Rua

Whata Rua or Whatu Rua, was arrested along with his father Rua Kēnana in April 1916, when police raided the Ngāi Tūhoe settlement of Maungapōhatu. He was charged with harming two constables with his axe. However, because of contradictions in police evidence, the judge decided there was no case to put before the jury. Whatu was acquitted. It was at this raid that Rua lost his other son Toko, when he was shot by a constable.

CHARGE AGAINST WHATA RUA (Otago Daily Times 7-10-1916)

National Library of New Zealand

Pinepine Te Rika

Pinepine Te Raka was the first wife of Rua Kēnana Hepetipa. They were married in the 1880s. It is said they had 17 children. In this image (taken around the time Rua was on trial) she holds her grandson Kami Biddle. Pinepine was wahine tapu, the sacred wife who went with Rua to the mountain, where he was shown the diamond by Christ and Te Turuki. She had her own house inside the tapu (sacred) enclosure in Maungapōhatu. Before entering her house, people had to purify themselves with water kept at the doorway, so as not to contaminate her. She was not allowed to enter the kitchens or handle food until very late in life when Rua freed her from tapu.

Pinepine Te Rika, wife of Rua Kenana Hepetipa

Alexander Turnbull Library

Hiona – Te Whare Kawana(House of the Governor)

Hiona was a circular building modelled on the ancient Hebrew temple, the Dome of the Rock. The upper chamber was for Rua, his wives and two chiefs. This served as a courthouse which had its entrance via the staircase. The lower hall was the meeting house where Rua’s twelve disciples met the people for hearings and judgements. Hiona was painted white, with diamonds in yellow and clubs in blue. It was built from timber with a split-paling roof. The building deteriorated after 1916 when Rua was imprisoned. It was eventually demolished.

Rua Kenana Hepetipa's wooden circular courthouse and meeting house at Maungapohatu

Alexander Turnbull Library

Maungapohatu School, formerly Rua Kēnana's whare kanikani

Initially, Hiona was used for traditional dances. Later around 1914 a separate whare kanikani (circular dance hall) was built near Hiona. It was also used for indoor games by the children of Maungapōhatu. This whare later was turned into a schoolhouse for Rev John George Laughton’s mission school. The whare was probably still a school in 1921 when this photo was taken, because of the muddy slide made by children.

Maungapohatu School, formerly Rua Kenana's whare kanikani

Alexander Turnbull Library

Whakapapa (TMCC6)

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