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Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana

(1873—1939) Maori political and religious leader


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(b. 25 Jan. 1873?, d. 18 Sept. 1939).

Maori spriritual and political leader A Maori Methodist farmer who in November 1918, when Maoris suffered from an influenza epidemic, had an apparition of God, telling him ‘I have travelled around the world to find the people upon whom I can stand. I have come back to Aotearoa to choose you, the Maori people…Cleanse yourself. …Unite the Maori people.’ During the 1920s, his message of Maori unity and God's choice of the Maori people provided an important boost to Maori confidence and self-belief. Encouraged by his healing powers, a community began around his house, Ratana Pa, and it developed into the Ratana Church, which by 1988 had 36,000 members.

 From 1922, the Ratana Movement became preoccupied with politics, gradually displacing the Young Maori Movement in its appeal. It won its first parliamentary seat in 1932, and in 1943, the party gained Ngata's Eastern Maori seat, thus representing all four Maori constituencies. In 1935, it joined an alliance with the Labour Party, which under Muldoon and Fraser passed significant legislation such as the introduction of the secret ballot for Maori electors, equal unemployment benefits, better housing opportunities, and improved health and educational provision. Yet its alliance with Labour deprived it of potential influence in the governments of the National Party, which was in power for most of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In the 1970s, the political influence of the movement declined, and in 1979 a group of younger Maori politicians, impatient with the Labour/Ratana alliance, founded a new party, Mana Motuhake.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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