te kooti

Members of the Māori Battalion’s C Company perform a haka for the King of Greece at Helwan, Egypt, on 25 June 1941.

The four men in the foreground are, left to right: John Manuel (from Rangitukia, later killed in action), Maaka (Bill) White (Wharekāhika, killed in action), Te Kooti (Scotty) Reihana (Rangitukia, wounded), Rangi Henderson (Te Araroa, killed in action).

Members of C Company perform the haka Ruaumoko on the 25th of June 1941 for the King of Greece in Helwan, Egypt.

Pictured here from left to right: unknown, John Manuel (from Rangitukia, later killed in action), Mark (Bill) White (Wharekahika, killed in action), Te Kooti (Scotty) Reihana (Rangitukia, wounded) and Rangi Henderson (Te Araroa, killed in action).

In the Māori oral culture, myths were the imaginative source from which the larger social values derived; they provided the governing, but underlying, ideas of the people’s lives. Consequently, explanations of events — in “history” — were interpreted by these, their “structures of significance” (Sahlins 1981:8). Myth and history were not exclusive. History, or the actions and decisions which were seen to be important in the times of the ancestors, was recorded and transmitted by an oral tradition wherein notions of causation derived from the myths. In the Ringatū tradition, the faith and the body of thought engendered by Te Kooti Arikirangi in the later 19th century, new myth-narratives evolved. They were narratives which recorded events, but which interwove into the perceptions of these events both the traditions of matakite ‘foresight’, and the hermeneutic principles of explanation of the Scriptures. These oral narratives are structured and patterned accounts, with their own criteria of relevance, sequence and causation.

The purpose of many of the myth-narratives was to provide the means of identifying, legitimising, and so giving authority to the new prophet leaders. These men (and women) could claim, through the divine nature of their authority, an influence which was more extensive than that of the hereditary communal chiefs, whose influence was local, and fragile, when faced with extensive European institutions. Equally the mana of the prophets was more potent than that of the Māori mediators, who were being fostered by the Pākehā. They were the alternative, sometimes disruptive centres of power in a fractured society.

The myth-narratives affirmed the autonomous nature of the authority of the prophet leaders because it was derived from God. This conviction gave to the colonised the faith that they possessed a power equal or superior to — but essentially separate from — that of the colonisers. The prophet leaders based all their actions, and the justification for those actions, on this autonomous structure of thought. For many of the Māori people, in the times of great difficulty in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the continuing use of myths as a separate knowledge system was life-giving. To outsiders, the myth systems of explanation could sometimes appear as the inner exile of the powerless and the dispossessed. But for those who are within, the myth-narratives, carrying their promise of divine fulfilment, are the tohu ‘proof’ of ultimate redemption.

—  judith binney, “myth and explanation in the ringatu tradition: some aspects of the leadership of te kooti arikirangi te turuki and rua kenana hepetipa” (journal of the polynesian society, volume 93 no. 4, p. 345-6)

During the powhiri, Prince William experienced the wero (challenge), an ancient part of the ritual of encounter and coming together. The warrior placed a dart called a rake tapu at his feet, which he picked up while maintaining eye contact with the warrior to show that he came in peace.

“They evoke a response which reveals the nature of the guests’ arrival, and are also an acknowledgment of the mana of the guest.”

Worrall thought the royals did very well. He said the Duchess of Cambridge gracefully received a hongi, a traditional Māori greeting where noses are rubbed together, from Maori elder Lewis Moeau (a descendant of rebel chief leader Te Kooti, who famously fought the British Crown). “The hongi is about the sharing of breath, the life force.”