Life and legacy of Rua Kēnana honoured during symposium 

By Jessica Tyson

The life and legacy of Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana was honoured with a symposium at Tuapou Marae at Waimana over Easter weekend.

The symposium was hosted by Ngā Toenga o ngā Tamariki o Iharaira Charitable Trust and manager Nika Rua says it was “an absolute success,” with more than250 people "from all walks of life including our koroua, kuia, tamariki, mokopuna and everyone in between.”

Rua is the great, great, grandson of Rua Kēnana and says the symposium was an opportunity not only for the descendants of Rua Kēnana but also for the wider public.

“Last Saturday marked 105 years since the invasion of Maungapohatu and 105 years later the uri and the wider public in general still don’t understand the atrocities that happened to Maungapohatu and to Rua and his people. So it’s delivering and sharing the historical and tribal narratives so that this kōrero is not lost,” Rua says.

In April 1916, armed police invaded Maungapōhatu to arrest Kēnana in an unlawful raid that killed Kēnana’s son and another family member.

The symposium last weekend came a year after a pardon was issued for the supposed crimes that led to the armed raid on Kēnana's Maungapōhatu kainga in 1916 and his subsequent wrongful arrest. 

“The symposium celebrated and focused on three ley millennium moments, the first of them being the Rua Kenana Pardon Bill, which was signed in 2019 with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reedy, who travelled to the heart of Te Urewera, Maungapōhatu, to grant the bill's royal assent, the first of its kind in the history of New Zealand.”

The symposium also included an exhibition of taonga and the release of four booklets of research collated by PhD students, at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

Nika says the booklets, “document and reflect his life and legacy that he left for us as his uri, his descendants, which is crucial because it documents the details of what he envisioned for his people.”

Nika says Kēnana was a millennial thinker.

“He didn’t just think about the immediate future but what the next 1000 years looked like for his people," Nika says.

“He envisioned a future bigger, better, brighter and more prosperous of which came a kōrero ‘Kotahi te ture mō ngā iwi e rua’ one law for two peoples, and it was through this kōrero he built the hopes and aspiration for his people because he foresaw the difficulties his people would face.”

Nika says the date for the next symposium is still to be set.