Piripi Taumata-a-kura
(Phillip the Teacher)

Missionary in Ngati Porou

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Piripi Taumata-a-kura
designed by master carver Hone Ngatoto and Ta Apirana Ngata, the baptismal font in St Mary's church, is Taumatakura signifying that when Ngati Porou are baptised they are not only baptised as Christians, but also into the unique whakapapa and whakapono of Ngati Porou.

Picture courtesy of www.ngatiporou.com

In 1823 in a continuing series of vicious raids by Ngapuhi captives were enslaved and taken back to the North, Piripi Taumata-a-kura was one of them, and there, he learned at the mission school at Waimate. In late 1833, he was returned to his people by the intervention of the missionaries. The people believed his return was a good omen and he could assist them as they prepared for war with Whanau-a-Apanui. I will let the words of Keith Newman tell the rest:

Taumata-a-kura preached loudly to the people from the riverbank about the new God, Jesus Christ and his voice reverberated through the valleys.
About 10,000 warriors were gathering for the impending battle from as far away as Heretaunga and Wairarapa.
He initially resisted the invitation to lead them into battle continuing to instruct many in the art of reading and writing. When his efforts to preach peace failed, he agreed to enter the battle but on his terms which were designed to avoid ‘the most evil excesses’ of war.
Fighting would be conducted ‘in accordance with the principles adopted by Christian nations’. While the old tohunga were unhappy the chiefs agreed. There was to be no cannibalism, no fighting on Sundays, prayers morning and night, care for the wounded, and no senseless destruction.
It is said Taumata-a-kura went into the heaviest fighting carrying his musket in one hand and his Bible in the other, and although the musket balls flew thickly around him, he was unscathed. A number of key chiefs who ignored his instructions, and many of those who broke the rules paid with their lives.
His display of faith during the six-month-long Toka-a-Kuku siege at Te Kaha was pivotal in the acceptance of Christianity by iwi and hapü as far south as the Wairarapa. Taumata-a-kura continued teaching and preaching and giving instruction in reading and writing, using short prayers, hymns and texts of scripture written on scraps of paper and on leaves that became highly revered among the people. His display of extraordinary knowledge made a great impression upon his people, who looked upon him as a tohunga.

When missionaries finally came to the East Coast they found a great work had been accomplished without them, they found 1000 people, attending Christian services at Whakawhitira pā.

BORN: pre 1800, Whakawhitira near the Waiapu River, Aotearoa (New Zealand)

DIED:The date of his death is unknown, but a Piripi Taumata signed the Ngati Porou petition to Governor George Bowen in 1868. More importantly 9 of the 15 Maori priests working in the Diocese of Waiapu during the late 1950s were descendants of Taumata-a-kura - "You shall know them by their fruit."

I do not know whether the blood of Taumata-a-kura flows in my vains - but the blood of Ngati-Porou along with that of Wesleyan missionaries, does.