Te Kirihaehae Te Puea Hērangi
Te Kirihaehae Te Puea Hērangi
This hook explores the impact that Tainui leader Te Puea had on her community before and after the First World War.
Te Kirihaehae Te Puea Hērangi (1883–1952) was an influential leader who played a key role in the Tainui opposition to government conscription. Her grandfather was Tāwhiao Te Wherowhero, the second Māori King.
In 1917, Māori conscription was introduced because the Native Contingent committee was unable to reach its quota of enlisting 150 men every four weeks. Rather than conscripting Māori from throughout the country, the government used the new policy to target Tainui–Waikato because their community had led the opposition to Māori participation in the war. Tainui had suffered extensive land confiscation during the New Zealand wars of the 1860s, and they still felt this loss and its impact keenly. As a follower of the Māori King Te Rata, Te Puea saw little point in her people fighting on a behalf of a British king. Fighting would also have gone against the words spoken by King Tāwhiao when he made peace with the Crown in 1881:
Te Puea encouraged Waikato and Maniapoto men who were eligible for conscription to gather at Te Paina pā (Mangatāwhiri) to support each other. When police invaded the pā and arrested the men, Te Puea chose non-violent resistance and allowed the men to be taken.
Five hundred and fifty Tainui men were called up for service. Of these, only 74 wore a uniform and 111 were imprisoned for their resistance. Because of the prison’s conditions, four men died while incarcerated.
To provide encouragement and comfort to the prisoners, Te Puea would travel to Auckland and sit near the barracks. Twenty-two-year-old Here Mokena said: “Just to get a glimpse of her we would invent a reason to go to the whare mimi. The fact that she was there gave us … heart to continue.”1
After the First World War, Te Puea continued to play a key leadership role, particularly during the influenza pandemic. She worked hard to improve the health and living conditions of her community and demonstrated the relevance of the Kingitanga movement.
Possible discussion questions
What impact did Te Puea’s actions have on the prisoners and on her community?
Which attributes of a leader did Te Puea best exemplify? What do you think motivated Te Puea as a leader?
Why might the Native Contingent been unable to meet its four-weekly quota?
Why was the response of Waikato iwi to the First World War different to that of East Cape iwi? What were some consequences of this different response?
Why did Māori leaders such as Āpirana Ngata (Ngāti Porou) and Māui Pōmare (Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Toa) encourage Māori to enlist? How did Māori enlisting influence the relationship between Māori and Pākehā?
In 1965, Professor John Pocock described Te Puea as “possibly the most influential woman in our political history”. Why do you think he gave Te Puea this accolade? Who do you consider to be the most influential woman in our political history? Why?
1 Te Puea: A Life by Michael King (Raupo Publishing (NZ) 2008) pages 94–95.