Iwi challenge the colonial myths that surround Te Kooti – symposium at Te Papa

On 8 September, Te Papa and Te Tira Whakaari Trust will co-host Te Kooti: Ngā Reo o Te Motu (Te Kooti: Voices from the Iwi), a symposium to activate discussion around the legacy of influential leader Te Kooti on iwi.

The 19th century Māori prophet and leader Te Kooti Rikirangi Te Turuki has long been portrayed in New Zealand history as a rebel and murderer who was pursued relentlessly by colonial forces for nearly four years.

During the one-day symposium, speakers from a number of iwi will challenge the myths and share kōrero about his positive influence in their lives over generations. Some of these stories have not been shared publicly before.

Puawai Cairns, Head of Mātauranga Māori at Te Papa and an MC of the symposium, is pleased that these vital stories will be shared in a public forum at the national museum.

“It’s important that cultural archives like Te Papa provide platforms for the multiple perspectives of our history, and where necessary help communities to tell their stories to set records straight,” she says.

Rikirangi Moeau, a descendent of Te Kooti and project manager for Te Tira Whakaari Trust, says the symposium portrays the perspective of iwi who maintained a close and intimate relationship with Te Kooti and his faith Te Haahi Ringatū, despite his vilification and pursuit by colonial forces.

“As a result of their allegiance to Te Kooti many iwi suffered greatly,” he says. “However, relationships have endured over time and this symposium provides space for the voices of the iwi to be heard after generations of silence. These are their stories, as told by them.”

With the symposium Te Papa is recognising the 150-year anniversary of the Ringatū faith, the religious movement founded by Te Kooti.

As a descendant of Rongowhakaata, Te Kooti’s story is a key component of Te Papa’s current iwi exhibition Ko Rongowhakaata: The Story of Light and Shadow. Within the exhibition, curated by the small Gisborne iwi, are several taonga that belonged to Te Kooti: including his prayer book from 1866, which he wrote during his wrongful imprisonment on the Chatham Islands; a flag designed by him; and whale bone kotiate (hand weapon) made for him by master carver Raharuhi Rukupō. There is also a video work featuring Te Kooti’s direct descendants describing his legacy.

The symposium will begin with a pōhiri in front of Te Hau ki Tūranga whare, the central taonga of the Ko Rongowhakaata exhibition. Guests will be welcomed by members of the Te Tira Whakaari Trust, Te Papa, mana whenua, Rongowhakataa, and Ngā Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi Settlement Trust.

Speakers at the symposium:

With MCs:

  • Puawai Cairns (Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi)

  • Matai Smith (Rongowhaakaata, Ngāi Tāmanuhiri)

Symposium programme:

8.30amPōwhiri led by Rongowhakaata Iwi in Residence and Mana Whenua, Te Hau ki Tūranga whare, Ko Rongowhakaata exhibition, Level 4
8.30amPōwhiri led by Rongowhakaata Iwi in Residence and Mana Whenua, Te Hau ki Tūranga whare, Ko Rongowhakaata exhibition, Level 4
9.15amMorning tea
9.45amMove to Soundings Theatre, Level 2
10amKarakia, welcome and introductions
Arapata Hakiwai, Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongowhakaata, Ngāi Tahu; Kaihautū, Te Papa
10.15amTaiarahia Black, Ngāi Tūhoe
Te Kahautu Maxwell, Te Whakatōhea
Rikirangi Gage, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui
12pmLunch, Icon, Level 2
1pmTe Ngaehe Wanikau, Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, Ngāti Tuwharetoa
Maisey Rika, Ngāti Awa, Te Arawa, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Tūhoe
Shane Te Ruki, Ngāti Maniapoto
3pmAfternoon tea, Icon, Level 2
3.30pmLayne Harvey, Ngāti Awa
4.10pmQ&A and kōrero
5pmSymposium closes

Entertainment will be provided by Maisey Rika.

Tickets cost $20 (includes lunch and afternoon tea) and are still available.

Book tickets online


For further information and to arrange an interview please contact:

Rikirangi Moeau (Rongowhakaata, Ruapani, Mahaki, Ngāi Tamanuhiri)
0272 617777

Note to the editors

Te Tira Whakaari Trust is a charitable trust set up in 2012. It was established by Ngā Uri o Te Kooti Rikirangi, Rongowhakaata, and Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Affiliates to educate and increase public appreciation of the history of Te Kooti Rikirangi.

Tai Kerekere, Exiled, 2017. Photo by Norm Heke