Ngāti Maniapoto and the Ringtū Church have reaffirmed bonds at the reopening of Te Tokanganui a Noho meeting house in Te Kūiti. The followers of the church founded by prophet Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki attended the dawn blessings of the house following its closure last year for renovation.
The prayers that rung out across Te Kūiti township at dawn signified the bond.
Rongonui Tahi of Ngāi Tūhoe described how that bond was formed while Te Kooti lived in the King Country under exile, "Our ancestors came to build the house and work on its carvings. They were followers of the prophet. In turn they later went to Ruatāhuna to help when the Te Whae o te Motu meeting house was being built.”
The prophet and his followers sheltered in Te Kūiti with the sanction of paramount chief Rewi Maniapoto.
"I applaud my ancestor,” said Rovina Maniapoto.
“He told [Governor Grey], ‘If you let Te Kooti return home to his people, in other words pardon him, then I will let you build the railway.”
The carvings in the meeting house bear the colourful style that Te Kooti is renowned for, some of which were touched up with new colour during the restoration.
“The colours are the very same used in all the houses built by Te Kooti,” said Isaiah Wallace, who was part of the renovation team.
“He built houses as he travelled the country. Orange, black and white were used in most of them.”
Maniapoto Māori Trust Board Chair, Tiwha Bell congratulated the project team who were assisted by Heritage NZ adviser Jim Schuster and Te Whānau-a-Apanui artist, the late Cliff Whiting, "I think it was our people and the taha wairua were there to ārahi them along and get the job done."
Bell hopes that the results of the project and the reaffirmed kinships will encourage Maniapoto youth living away to return more.