Three Religious Faiths
This present decade marks the centenary of the emergence of three venerable religious movements which in their early days played an important part in New Zealand's history. That each of these faiths survives into its second hundred years is evidence of its past significance and continuing religious vitality.
The oldest, Pai Marire, was promulgated by Te Ua Haumene of Taranaki in 1862, but it was not until two years later that zealous missionaries spread versions of the faith throughout the central part of the North Island. As the oldest of three faiths, Pai Marire is specially interesting because in it we see the first major attempt to join together elements of the old pagan religion and the new Christian religion to form a fresh, specifically Maori faith independent of the Pakeha churches.
Te Whiti and Tohu
In 1868, after the military defeat and moral decline of Pai Marire, Te Whiti O Rongomai and his brother-in-law Tohu Kakahi proclaimed a new faith of love and peace at a meeting in Parihaka, the village at the foot of Mount Egmont. Within a decade Te Whiti and Tohu had followers throughout the central part of the North Island, in the Wellington and Sounds districts and in the Chatham Islands.
The year 1868 also saw the arrival back in New Zealand from exile of another leader of a new Christian denomination—Te Kooti, founder of Ringatu. This religious movement spread rapidly throughout the East Coast and neighbouring areas and was fostered by its energetic leader after his long years of military
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struggle were at an end.
The 1961 religious census has some interesting facts about these historic faiths.
The first point of interest is their very survival, despite declining support, in the greatly changed world of to-day.
The figures are:
|Followers of Te Whiti||386||41||28|
The adherents of Ringatu constituted 6% of the Maori population in 1926 and 3% in 1961, while for members of the Hau Hau faith the corresponding figures are 0.9% in 1926 and 0.1% in 1961.
The relative strength of Ringatu is striking. The census figures help to explain this.
Same Districts as a Century Ago
The census reveals clearly the local character of each of these faiths, and that these localities are much the same as they were 100 years ago.
Of the 5,275 Ringatus, fully 3,871 (73%) are found in the Whakatane County and Borough and in the adjacent Counties of Opotiki, Waikohu, Cook and Wairoa. In addition, a small sect the Church of Te Kooti Rikirangi, presumably an offshoot, has 37 of its 39 members in the Whakatane County.
In contrast to this East Coast faith, half the followers of Te Whiti recorded in the census live in the Taranaki province, while about a quarter live in Hawkes Bay. Scattered members live in the East Coast, Wellington and Marlborough areas. This pattern closely conforms to the historical spread of Te Whiti-ism.
The Pai Marire adherents are found in the heart of the old Maori kingdom. Of the 199 recorded Hau Haus (the difference between this and the earlier figure arises from the inclusion here of all Hau Haus, including those of less than half Maori blood) 79% live in the adjoining counties of Franklin (in-
cluding the towns of Pukekohe and Tuakau), Raglan and Waikato. These counties surround Ngaruawahia, capital of the Maori King, where 56 Hau Haus are recorded.
Clearly the spread of European settlement into the areas where these faiths were strongest has meant their rapid decline. European settlement has been intensive in Taranaki and the Waikato, whereas the greater remoteness of much of the East Coast has provided better conditions for the Ringatu communities to remain together, united in the practice of their faith.
What of the Future?
Will these faiths survive? No man can prophesy, but plainly the answer must be ‘yes’ for a long time to come. The statistics show that since 1936 Ringatu has dropped steadily in proportion to Maori population, that Pai Marire and Te Whiti-ism have been declining rapidly in numbers as well as in proportion to the population. But two things should be said: firstly, of the larger denominations among Maoris — Anglican, Ratana, Methodist, Catholic and Latter Day Saints—only the last two have grown in proportion to population since 1936. Secondly, many more people accept the teachings of these faiths than have indicated their allegiance in the census. Some belong to the orthodox churches of European origin; others have probably declined to state their religion. (In 1936 5% of Maoris objected to stating their religion, while in 1961 13% objected).
Whatever the future holds for them, let us salute these venerable faiths as their centenaries pass or draw near, for each of them has in the past contributed much to the spirit of the Maori people, and in their ceremonies still they preserve the memory of important events in the history of the New Zealand nation.
Mr R. T. Te Kowhai of Rotorua, mace-bearer to the Mayor of Rotorua, Mr A. M. Linton, is believed to be the only Maori mace-bearer in New Zealand.
An attempt is to be made to bring out a 52ft Maori canoe which has lain in rugged bush country near Lake Rotoiti, Rotorua, for 60 years.
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