Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana to be pardoned over wrongful arrest

Tuhoe prophet, leader and pacifist Rua Kenana is set to be pardoned over his wrongful arrest and imprisonment a century ago.

As part of the agreement, the Government will also apologise to followers of his faith and his descendants over the invasion of Maungapohatu in Te Urewera, between Hawke's Bay and Bay of Plenty.

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell met with Kenana's whanau and descendants of his followers in Rotorua on Wednesday to finalise a pardon to clear his name.

Kenana's great grandson Toko Miki told Newshub at the meeting there was still a lot of healing to do in the community, but said the pardon was a good start. 

On April 2 1916, 70 police stormed the hills of Maungapotu to arrest Kenana. 

His son and another man were killed and others, including police, were injured. Some women and children, including Kenana's daughter, were assaulted following the raid.

Charges against Kenana in relation to the invasion were either dismissed or he was acquitted. But he was jailed for 18 months on an earlier charge of moral resistance to arrest.

The invasion was later deemed illegal. 

Kenana claimed to be the successor to Te Kooti, but unlike Te Kooti, he was a pacifist. 

He declared himself a messiah and his followers the Lost Tribe of Israel, who called themselves Iharaira.

He built a village at Maungapohatu with its own laws and parliament. Hundreds followed the Iharaira faith and lived in the community at its peak. That independence also caught the Government's eye.

After Kenana was arrested, the village turned to ruin and the Iharaira faith went into decline. Mr Miki estimates there are still about 100 followers of the faith.

Rapata Wiri - the great-great-grandson of the second man killed in the invasion, Te Maipi Te Whiu - told Newshub the impacts of the 1916 raid were intergenerational. 

"The faith itself was destroyed and so we're hoping that this process will help rebuild the community," he said.

"The apology is not just to Rua and the descendants of Rua, but to the community, which had been devastated by this invasion."

Mr Wiri says Kenana's trial ran for 47 days and was one of the longest in New Zealand's history. He says paying for the legal costs bankrupted the Maungapohatu community. 

He says institutional racism and the fact Maungapohatu had its own parliament and laws led to the invasion. 

"Here we are four generations later still suffering," he told Newshub. 

Mr Wiri says Kenana is remembered as a great Māori leader, prophet and businessman who worked to better his people during a time when their rights were diminished. 

The pardon aims to restore the mana and reputation of Kenana, and includes an apology to his descendants and followers. 

It will be signed at Maungapohatu on Saturday before being passed as law by Parliament. 

Mr Flavell says the agreement contains much more than the pardon. 

"It acknowledges the lasting effects the events 2 April 1916 had on the descendants of Rua Kēnana and Ngā Toenga o ngā Tamariki a Iharaira and apologises for that," he said.

"It is what his uri (descendants) and followers of the Iharaira faith deserve. It goes some way to putting right a wrong from a century ago."