Page 1: Biography
Ngāpuhi leader, prophet
This biography, written by Judith Binney, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Ani Kaaro was the senior leader of Ngāti Hao, a small, declining hapū of Ngāpuhi from Rangiahua and Waihou in the upper Hokianga district. Her authority derived from her grandfather, Eruera Patuone, pre-eminent leader of the tribe in the early days of contact with Europeans. She was the daughter of his only surviving son, Hōhaia, and his wife, Hārata. The date and place of her birth are not known.
Ani Kaaro emerged as the tribal leader at a time of intense difficulty in Hokianga. While the district was being opened by government policy to European settlement, the Hokianga tribes were simultaneously becoming involved with major movements for Māori unity and political autonomy. Ani was prepared to work through the King movement. In 1885 she persuaded Ngāti Hao to enter into a compact with Tāwhiao, the Māori King, when he visited Waitangi in an attempt to establish a broad Māori unity. But Ngāti Hao and Te Popoto were the only two Hokianga tribes who were prepared to enter into union with the King movement. Ani Kaaro's leadership and support for Tāwhiao's aims led her to be challenged by two rival women, who also claimed direct divine guidance. They were sisters, Maria Pāngari and Rēmana Hane (Rimana Hi), daughters of Āporo Pāngari (Te Houhou) and grand-daughters of Pāngari, Ngāti Hao leader from Ōrira on the northern side of the Waihou River.
Ani Kaaro had already been recognised as a prophet when she made a pilgrimage in May 1885 to Parihaka. Together with her father and her brother, Patu Hōhaia, she became a convert to the faith of the visionary Te Whiti-o-Rongomai. He was a pacifist, and believed that God would ultimately restore authority to the Māori. Ani Kaaro apparently gained the following of Maria Pāngari's supporters after Maria died on the journey to Parihaka. However, in 1886, while Ani was visiting Napier, Rēmana Hane seized the leadership of the religious movement at Waihou and won over Ani's close kin, including her father, mother, and brother. Rēmana claimed to be spiritually married to Te Whiti. She and her followers built a community named Mount Zion, and by 1887 they were involved in extensive feuding with Ani and her followers, which culminated in an armed police expedition against Rēmana Hane.
Ani Kaaro, while maintaining regular monthly religious meetings, stated that she had ceased to identify herself with the 'Hauhau' teachings of Te Whiti, disclaimed the role of prophet, and returned to an acceptance of the 'European' Sunday as the holy day. However, her father retained his belief in Rēmana Hane.
The rivalry between the chiefly women continued for a few years, but Rēmana Hane's following dwindled after the failure of her prediction about the coming of the archangel Gabriel in 1889. Thereafter Ani Kaaro became the unchallenged leader of Ngāti Hao. During the royal visit to Rotorua in 1901, she was the only woman photographed among several leading chiefs. She appears as a short, thickset woman, aged probably in her 40s.
Ani Kaaro's husband was Ngākete Hāpeta, but nothing is known of their marriage and no evidence of children has been found. It is not known when or where she died. Her chiefly leadership derived not just from her descent – she had superseded her father in authority – but also from her abilities. She was a matakite (visionary), but in her search for the 'right path' she always remained within the law, and acted as a responsible leader.