Carl Völkner was a Church Missionary Society missionary at Ōpōtiki from 1861. As Te Whakatōhea became increasingly divided in their loyalties by the outbreak of war in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, Völkner tried to keep the iwi loyal to the Crown. He communicated what he had learnt from the tribe to Governor George Grey. The February 1865 arrival of Pai Mārire adherents led by Kereopa Te Rau intensified anti-British feeling. Völkner returned from Auckland on 1 March 1865 and the next day he was taken to this tree about 200 metres from his church and hanged for being a spy who had betrayed the tribe. Kereopa swallowed Völkner's eyes, describing one as Parliament and the other as the Queen and law. The event intensified tensions and colonial troops were sent to Ōpōtiki to confront the Pai Mārire followers.
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