Tupu Atanatiu Taingakawa Te Waharoa was the second son of Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa and Pare Te Kanawa (Wikitoria). They belonged to Ngati Haua, but also had links with Ngati Hinepare (a hapu of Ngati Kauwhata) and Ngati Hikairo. Taingakawa was probably born in 1844 or 1845, at either Te Tapiri, near Matamata, or Maungakawa, overlooking the Thames (Waihou) valley. He had an elder brother, Hotene Tamihana Te Waharoa, usually known as Hote. There were two sisters: Harete Tamihana Te Waharoa and Te Raumako, also known as Te Reo. In his youth Taingakawa was known as Tana Te Waharoa or Tana Taingakawa Te Waharoa; he was later known as Tupu Taingakawa. Taingakawa may have attended the schools built by his father at Te Tapiri and Peria, and may also have attended mission schools.
During Taingakawa's teens and early adult years his people were living in turmoil. Under his father's leadership Ngati Haua had enthusiastically accepted the benefits of literacy, Christianity, agriculture and trading; Europeans regarded them as a progressive people. But political and land pressures led Wiremu Tamihana to associate himself with the King movement in order to oppose European encroachment. Wars in Taranaki and Waikato followed, and by the time of his death late in 1866 many settlers regarded him as a rebel, the architect of an alliance designed to drive Europeans from the North Island.
Although Hote was the elder son and continued to be regarded as a chief by his own people, from 1867 Taingakawa took on a leadership role and was seen by the colonial authorities as his father's heir. His advice to the Tauranga chiefs to join the King's followers inside the aukati (King movement boundary) and his attempts to mediate between the government and Te Kooti in the early 1870s were regarded with suspicion. In 1871 Taingakawa was classed as one of the 'Ngati Haua Hauhaus', and his attempts at rapprochement were regarded as insincere.
Taingakawa probably attended an important hui near Maungatautari in June 1871, at which King movement leaders invited Ngati Haua to come inland and join the King's party, and promoted the policy of isolation from Pakeha. Ngati Haua's response was divided: some were enthusiastic supporters of the King movement; others were neutral; still others were definitely opposed. About 1873 Hote and Taingakawa took their section of Ngati Haua to live at Te Kuiti, then the centre of the King movement. Constantly harassed by Tamati Ngapora, chief adviser to the Maori King Tawhiao Te Wherowhero, they returned to Wharepapa in 1875. From this time for a considerable period Taingakawa was relatively obscure. For nearly 20 years he was merely the son of a great father and one among the leaders of Ngati Haua.
Nevertheless, he remained an important supporter of the King movement, aiding Tawhiao in his efforts to maintain authority over Ngati Maniapoto, in whose territory he was then living. In 1884 Tawhiao petitioned the British government for an inquiry into land confiscation, Maori self-determination, breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi, and other matters. A non-committal response was received in 1885 and discussed at a series of meetings. Taingakawa was a member of a deputation which, on 7 April 1886, interviewed the governor over the issues raised.
During the 1880s Rewi Maniapoto, Wahanui Huatare and other Ngati Maniapoto leaders edged their people out from under Tawhiao's protecting shade and rejected his isolationism. From 1886 Tawhiao turned to new methods to unite Maori under his leadership. In 1889 he moved from Ngati Maniapoto territory to Pukekawa near Mercer, and travelled about raising support for a parliament, called Te Kauhanganui, and a newspaper to be established at Maungakawa, near Cambridge, where Taingakawa was developing a Ngati Haua settlement.
Taingakawa's uncle Te Raihi Toroatai died in 1889, and his elder brother Hote may also have died about this time, so that by the end of the 1880s events had begun to favour the emergence of Taingakawa as the effective leader of the King movement. He was literate in Maori, hard-working, forceful and fully committed to Maori self-government through the kingdom, which he regarded as legitimated by the Treaty of Waitangi and the Constitution Act 1852. His arguments were logical and eloquently stated.
Tawhiao's Kauhanganui (Great Council) probably held its first session on 2 May 1889, a date that commemorated the anointing of the first King. Certainly from 1891, and probably from its inception, Taingakawa was the Speaker of the whare ariki (upper house). He was also described as the tumuaki (leader) of the kingdom, a position similar to that of chief executive or prime minister. Working with T. T. Rawhiti, the secretary of Te Kauhanganui, he organised the affairs of the kingdom through Te Paki o Matariki, the movement's newspaper. He announced the dates of parliamentary sessions, summarised debates and announced Te Kauhanganui's decisions. He set up the Tekau-ma-rua (the twelve), an executive council intended to free the King from the sole burden of carrying out the King movement programme. He set the agenda for Te Kauhanganui to debate; in 1893 it included such matters as decisions concerning the nature of the King movement government's seal, without which its laws would not be binding, and the rate of taxation. In August 1893 the decision was made to set up independent King movement land courts.
Tawhiao died in August 1894. While his body lay in state at Taupiri, Taingakawa anointed Tawhiao's son, Mahuta, as the third King and 'crowned' him with the Bible used by Tamihana, who had placed a Bible over Potatau Te Wherowhero's head in 1859. The succession did not interrupt his reconstruction of the kingdom. A constitution was promulgated and a cabinet was announced with ministers responsible for various portfolios, and in the following years King movement magistrates, policemen, and a registrar for the kingdom's land court were appointed. Taingakawa announced that he was releasing the movement's followers from Tawhiao's prohibition on schools: the King's government had decided to educate the movement's children. When Premier Richard Seddon visited Waikato in 1894, Taingakawa asked for a greater measure of Maori self-government and other concessions. When these were refused he continued his development of the kingdom regardless, unilaterally assuming powers to charge taxes, including dog taxes, and impose fines. From 1893 Europeans in the kingdom were warned that they too would have to obey the King's laws.
In May 1895 Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui and Tureiti Te Heuheu, in an attempt to unite the King movement with Te Kotahitanga (the movement for a Maori parliament to represent all tribes), brought Kotahitanga deeds of union to be signed at a Taupiri hui. Taingakawa quashed any tendency to unite the two movements, saying that Tawhiao had left his own covenant, which would be signed in the Hauraki district and then circulated throughout New Zealand. In November 1897 Taingakawa visited Wellington at the invitation of the Kotahitanga chiefs. A meeting was arranged with Seddon to discuss the aspirations and grievances of Mahuta and his people. Taingakawa explained that they wished to live at peace under the authority of the Queen, but that their primary aim was to be empowered under the Treaty of Waitangi and the 1852 Constitution Act to administer their own affairs. He reminded Seddon of his petition, which outlined the evil effects of native land legislation on Maori, and asked him to support a bill being prepared by Henare Kaihau that would give effect to his concerns. In reply, Seddon outlined some of his still tentative plans for Maori land boards and limited self-government through councils. On 25 November Taingakawa appeared before the Native Affairs Committee with T. T. Rawhiti and addressed the same issues.
Seddon's plans ultimately became the Native Lands Settlement and Administration Bill of 1898, the provisions of which failed to satisfy Taingakawa. He led a King movement delegation to Papawai, Wairarapa, in 1898, and probably co-ordinated action with the Kotahitanga group opposed to the bill. Like them, he organised a petition, signed by himself and 5,975 others.
The beginnings of a split in the King movement arose from Mahuta's negotiations in 1898 with Seddon, his final acceptance of a seat on the Legislative Council in 1903, and his encouragement of the Waikato District Maori Land Council. Taingakawa was not given to this kind of compromise, and throughout the first three decades of the twentieth century relentlessly pursued the full King movement programme learnt in the 1860s from Tawhiao. About 1906 he resurrected the idea of appealing to the British monarchy as Tawhiao had done in 1884. He discussed the idea with Sir John Gorst, resident magistrate in the Waikato in the 1860s, who revisited New Zealand at this time. Gorst discouraged the idea, but by 1907 a petition to King Edward VII, drawn up by Taingakawa, was being circulated. At the same time he joined the Maori Rights Conservation Association, which championed equal rights for Maori and Europeans, and set up, with T. T. Rawhiti and Hamiora Mangakahia, a federation of the Maori tribes of the North and South Islands which was a revived version of Te Kotahitanga.
The split with Mahuta was never total. The King attended the federation's first conference at Waahi, combined with the usual Kauhanganui session on 2 May. The discussion at this conference led to Taingakawa's major 1909 petition on the violation of land rights guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi. It was presented to the government for forwarding to England, and gave details of a number of specific grievances, including the Little Barrier Island purchase; it demanded full Maori autonomy.
The petition was ignored, but Taingakawa and his followers continued to collect signatures. At the 1910 runanganui (grand assembly) of the federation, Pepene Eketone noted that 29,646 people had signed Taingakawa's petition. At this session a covenant confirmed Taingakawa as tumuaki of the Maori kingdom, agreed to a ban on sales and leases he had imposed over the King movement lands, made him trustee of the lands, and agreed that his assent and seal were required to validate all the rules and laws adopted by the federation's committee. After some questioning, strong support by Hamiora Mangakahia ensured the covenant was adopted.
On 27 December 1911, as leader of Te Kotahitanga, Taingakawa symbolically signed a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi with Te Kahupukoro of Ngati Ruanui. This probably took place at the Christmas hui of the spiritual leader Mere Rikiriki, later the mentor of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana. A year later she prophesied that the unity of the tribes under the Treaty of Waitangi was blessed by God and would be guided by Te Kahupukoro and Taingakawa.
Mahuta died on 9 November 1912. During the tangihanga a debate took place on the succession of Te Rata, Mahuta's son. James Carroll and others advised King movement leaders to abandon the title 'king'. But Taingakawa said it had been conferred by the Maori people on Potatau Te Wherowhero, whose successors had used it, and the title had been made tapu through the blood spilt in its defence. He declared his intention of crowning Te Rata king as he had Mahuta. This was done on 24 November 1912 beside Mahuta's casket.
Taingakawa declared in Te Paki o Matariki in January 1914 that his organisation, which he styled Te Kotahitanga Maori Motuhake, would act only under the authority of the King. By this time he was beginning to develop Rukumoana pa, near Morrinsville, as its new centre. He was proceeding with his plans to take his petition to England, and called on supporters to contribute £1 each. At a hui in April 1914, in spite of advice to the contrary from Apirana Ngata, the decision was made to go. Te Rata, Taingakawa, Mita Karaka and Hori T. Paora (George G. Paul), the latter two acting as secretaries and interpreters, arrived in London in May 1914. They met with Sir John Gorst, but were disappointed in their hopes of assistance from him. On 4 June, dressed very correctly in frock coats, the group was received by King George V and Queen Mary. Compliments and gifts were exchanged, but no redress for grievances was forthcoming. A photograph taken on this occasion shows Taingakawa looking very distinguished, with grey hair and a dark moustache, the obvious leader of the group, seated beside a very young-looking Te Rata. The party sailed for New Zealand on the Nestor on 11 August 1914.
The First World War had commenced while they were still in London, and on their return Taingakawa and Te Rata were immediately embroiled in the issue of Maori military service. In 1915 Te Kauhanganui decided that no Waikato men should volunteer. By 1916 the King movement leadership was angered at what they saw as the persecution of the King's brothers. At a Waahi hui in November 1916, attended by the minister of defence, James Allen, Taingakawa declared that Waikato were reluctant for their young men to volunteer because their grievances dating from 1861 had not been addressed, and repeated the movement's official position that it was a matter for the young men concerned to decide. This prevented Te Rata or Taingakawa from being arrested for discouraging enlistment while making their position clear to their followers. The war ended without decisive measures being taken against the King movement's leaders, although police and defence reports made it clear that Taingakawa was among those regarded as responsible for Waikato intransigence.
As the influence of Te Puea Herangi, Te Rata's cousin, and other younger King movement leaders increased, Taingakawa continued to build up Rukumoana as an alternative centre of power, establishing his parliament house there, building a church, and erecting a monument to King Mahuta. He also began to emphasise again the central importance of the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1919 he requested the prime minister, William Massey, to have it placed on record as an imperial document.
T. W. Ratana was, by now, becoming increasingly influential, and Taingakawa turned to him for help. His reliance on Ratana deepened the split with Te Puea. In 1920 Taingakawa led a delegation of King movement people to Ratana pa and appealed to Ratana to deal with Maori land grievances. Although he did not sign the Ratana covenant, he induced his own Ngati Haua and a significant faction of Waikato to support Ratana candidates in elections. In 1923 he presented a petition to the government asking for a commission of inquiry into the land confiscations of the 1860s. Like his 1909 petition, this laid great emphasis on Maori rights derived from the Treaty of Waitangi.
Taingakawa's petition was adopted and sponsored by Ratana from 25 May 1923 in the name of the United Maori Welfare League of the Northern, Southern and Chatham Islands. Taingakawa claimed that the petition and league were supported by 34,750 Maori, all desiring the unity of Maori under Jehovah. In 1924 Taingakawa and the prime minister of his Rukumoana parliament, Rewiti Te Whena, joined Ratana's group travelling to London. They had two aims: to extend Ratana's ministry to England while raising funds for it, and to present Taingakawa's petition. They hoped to persuade the League of Nations to intervene.
An attempt to get an interview with the secretary of state for the colonies failed, so the delegation arranged to be invited to a garden party at St James's Palace at which the prince of Wales was also a guest; he had met Taingakawa in New Zealand in 1920. The chiefs were presented to the prince, and gave him precious cloaks and an address. These were returned to the high commissioner, Sir James Allen, with a stiff note explaining that the prince could not receive gifts unless forwarded through the proper channels and recommended by the New Zealand government. Protests were made at the insult of returned gifts and the petition was sent to the Colonial Office, but the group was able to achieve little more in England.
In New Zealand in later years, Taingakawa's petition was often credited with having helped bring about the royal commission of 1927, which investigated the confiscations, acknowledged some government faults, and recommended monetary compensation for them. Taingakawa also influenced Ratana into making ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi by the New Zealand government a central plank of his party's policy in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Tupu Atanatiu Taingakawa Te Waharoa died on 24 June 1929 in Awanui Private Hospital, Auckland, aged 84. His wife, Rakapa, had predeceased him, but he was survived by a son, Tarapipipi, who became the third kingmaker and crowned Koroki in 1933. At Tupu Taingakawa's death Rukumoana was falling into decay, and Te Puea's faction had moved the kingdom on to new paths. Ngata told Peter Buck that a new generation of leaders knew little of Taingakawa. Yet his work ensured the survival and the continuity of the kingdom and forced officialdom to show wary respect for the successive Maori Kings. His insistence on ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi and his demands for the redress of grievances foreshadowed events of the late twentieth century.