Story: Broughton, Rangiahuta Alan Herewini Ruka

Page 1: Biography

Broughton, Rangiahuta Alan Herewini Ruka


Nga Rauru; tohunga, Anglican priest, university lecturer

This biography, written by Pou Temara, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2000.

Rangiahuta Alan Herewini Ruka Broughton was born on 21 April 1940 at Wanganui. His father was Ruka Rakei Broughton of Ngati Hine, a hapu of Ngati Ruanui; his mother was Rehia Bella Toherangi Whiu of Ngati Maika, a hapu of Nga Rauru. Ruka had a brother, Toherangi, and a sister, Taihape. His father successfully farmed Rehia’s land holdings at Maxwell, north of Wanganui.

Ruka attended Maxwell School, Wanganui Technical College and Te Aute College in Hawke’s Bay, where he excelled in Maori and piano. At a very young age he became interested in Maori tradition through his great-aunt, Taihape Rimitiriu Te Hurahanga Unahi, who had seen such people as Titokowaru, Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, Tohu Kakahi and Te Kooti. This interest drew him to Rakei Taituha Kingi, a tohunga from Nga Rauru, who had been taught at a whare wananga on the Whanganui River. Because Rakei was considered tapu, few people associated with him, not even his own family. He appreciated the company of the young and inquisitive Ruka and began to impart his knowledge to him. This included the history of Nga Rauru, Taranaki and Whanganui, waiata, whakapapa, karakia, and combat techniques, especially the use of the taiaha. Most of the teaching took place in the bedroom of Rakei’s house at Pakaraka marae, never in other areas of the house. Later, Ruka built an ahurewa (sacred place) in a depression on their farm at Maxwell, where he laid out sacred stones in a circle. Here he practised what he had been taught by Rakei. He took great delight in recounting that his first and most attentive audiences were sheep and cows.

Ruka accompanied Rakei and his Nga Rauru iwi to many hui. At 14 years old and at the instigation of Rakei, he delivered his first whaikorero (oration) at Ngaruawahia, much to the consternation of the Taranaki elders who, in whispered tones, condemned such arrogance from one so young, and especially on the King’s marae. But they were restrained from outwardly condemning him by the presence of the forbidding Rakei.

His growing knowledge in Taranaki history and whakapapa made Ruka a respected participant in iwi affairs even at that very young age. This knowledge enabled him to acquire the stewardship of Te Awhiorangi, the sacred adze said to have hewn out the Aotea canoe. By similar means he gained Panipanipoapoa, a significant taiaha, as well as greenstone mere and many other artefacts. These were stored in a steel safe at Kaitarakihi, the family homestead at Maxwell.

When Rakei died in 1963, Ruka was accepted as a tohunga and the authority on Nga Rauru and Taranaki history. His parents, adherents of the Ratana church, did not approve of his interest in Maori tradition, and especially his association with Rakei, who had taught values that clashed with the doctrines of Ratana. Despite their objections, he maintained his ground but compromised by joining the Anglican church. Much later he was to defend his mother’s wish to sell Kaitarakihi and the family farm. He disinterred his great-aunt’s son, who had been buried in a vault next to Kaitarakihi, and reburied him at Pakaraka. He also removed the sacred stones from his ahurewa, and just before the sale removed the threshold of Kaitarakihi to signify the end of ownership by his family.

On 21 May 1960, at Maxwell, Ruka Broughton married Mary Mereiwa Whakaruru of Ngati Awa and Ngati Kahungunu, a woman who had been trained in karanga (welcoming) and waiata. A formidable couple, they were to have three boys and two girls, who all grew up speaking Maori.

In 1961 Broughton began theological studies and in 1966 was the first Maori priest to be ordained at St Paul’s Cathedral, Wellington. He spent 12 years as an Anglican priest at Feilding (a predominantly Pakeha parish), Wairarapa, Ohakune, and Putiki. In all these places he and Mary raised awareness of Maoritanga in the community and were constantly called upon to take part in marae and iwi affairs.

In Ohakune, Ruka met the last tohunga of the Whanganui River, Rangimotuhia, with whom he debated esoteric lore, history and whakapapa, and the interpretations of ancient karakia and waiata. On one occasion, at a hui at Ranana, Rangimotuhia challenged his knowledge. In a four-hour debate, both tohunga recited canoe traditions, even naming their paddles, paddlers and seats, and gave extensive whakapapa linking the canoes to the present. Rangimotuhia then paid tribute to Ruka’s knowledge, declaring that he was a true tohunga. Broughton encouraged Rangimotuhia (whose elder brother, Tamakehu Katene, had taught Rakei Kingi) to impart his knowledge to the people of Te Maungarongo marae at Ohakune.

Broughton saw no conflict between his calling as an Anglican priest and his Maori beliefs, although this drew criticism from his parish and from Maori, who challenged him at every opportunity. This led him to remove his minister’s collar whenever he was about to chant karakia. He had a passion for traditional waiata and an impressive repertoire. He was also a composer, and his waiata about his impending death, which he wrote for Te Herenga Waka marae at Victoria University of Wellington, is considered a classic.

In 1975 Broughton left active ministry and took up carving and research in Wanganui. Two years later, in 1977, he attended Wellington Teachers’ College on a one-year course for Maori-language speakers. He also began studies at Victoria University that year. His deep knowledge of Maori language and custom caught the attention of Hirini Mead, professor of Maori. He offered Ruka a lectureship, commencing in 1978. Together with Wiremu Parker they began negotiating with the university for a marae on campus, which was approved in 1985. Ruka took responsibility for the Maori history that formed the narrative of the project’s carvings. He was not to see the opening of the meeting house in December 1986.

During this period Ruka reawakened interest in traditional karakia, which had previously been suppressed or confined to Waikato, and later created controversy when he urged Maori to give up Christianity and return to the Maori gods. He rationalised that the introduced religions had not favoured Maori and that they could do no worse by a return to traditional beliefs. This call was taken up with enthusiasm by university students and by small groups of people in Whanganui, Taranaki and the Bay of Plenty and provoked debate among Maori, including those who were prominent in the established churches. The issue gathered pace with the exhibition, Te Maori, which toured the United States in 1984; it brought about a widespread acceptance of traditional karakia and Maori dawn openings of institutions, both Maori and Pakeha. Ruka was an officiating tohunga at the opening of Te Maori in New York. He also ritually opened the Pipitea marae at Wellington and many others around the country.

In 1979 Ruka conducted a ceremony at Te Maungarongo marae to examine two of his students in the use of the taiaha. He established his credentials as a teacher by detailing his connection with Rakei Kingi and reciting whakapapa that linked Rakei to the ancestor of the students being examined. He then conducted the examination, which ended with the ancient ritual of having the students dive into a freezing stream while Ruka recited the appropriate karakia. Broughton also conducted several marriages with traditional karakia.

He had an impressive library of manuscripts and whakapapa books: Maori families who considered such books tapu did not want to keep them and gladly gave them to Broughton. In 1979 he gained an MA after writing a thesis on Nga Rauru, presented entirely in Taranaki Maori. He was completing a doctoral thesis on Titokowaru when ill health overtook him. (This was published posthumously in 1993.)

Broughton’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1978, and he married Dolly Sadie Matewhiu Pene (née Morgan) of Te Arawa on 19 December 1979 at Wainuiomata. They had two daughters. He died on 17 April 1986 at his home in Wainuiomata, survived by Dolly and his seven children. He lay at Te Herenga Waka marae before being taken back to Pakaraka, where his tangihanga was attended by thousands. He was buried at Pakaraka. An hour before he died he had asked for holy communion.

How to cite this page:

Pou Temara. 'Broughton, Rangiahuta Alan Herewini Ruka', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 May 2020)