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Published 22 September 2023

The Forgotten Prophet: Tāmati Te Ito and His Kaingārara Movement

The Forgotten Prophet, Dr Jeffrey Sissons

Dr Jeffrey Sissons has released a new book on a little-known Taranaki prophet named Tāmati Te Ito Ngāmoke, who led the Kaingārara movement in the 1850s

Te Ito’s vision was one of pan-tribal unity; he wanted to bring together all the people of Taranaki ‘from Mokau to Pātea’.

Tāmati Te Ito Ngāmoke led the prophetic Kaingārara movement in Taranaki from 1856. Te Ito was revered by tribal leaders as a prophetic tohunga matakite; but others, including many settlers and officials, viewed him as an ‘imposter’, a ‘fanatic’. Despite his influence and leadership, Te Ito’s historical importance remains largely unrecognised today.

By the time war broke out in 1860, Te Ito and his followers had established a school and a court system in Taranaki. Striving for the ‘fulfilment of the divine order’, the Kaingārara movement initiated the ‘Taranaki iconoclasm’, discarding tapu objects associated with atua (ancestral spirits, which often took the form of reptiles) into massive bonfires. Te Ito was a visionary adviser to Te Ātiawa chief Wiremu Kīngi Te Rangitāke, and played a crucial role in the conflicted region, both before and after the wars of the 1860s. Initially perceived as a rival to the Parihaka leaders, Tohu Kākahi and Te Whiti o Rongomai, he eventually joined the Parihaka community.

Jeffrey Sissons’s account illuminates this tumultuous chapter in Aotearoa’s history.

Additional information: "The Forgotten Prophet", Bridget Williams Books

Additional information: New book shines light on largely forgotten legacy of Taranaki prophet