Te Runanga Ko Huiarau

Cult : A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control, designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders, to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.


James Ngatoa (wearing the shades),
self-appointed and self-styled
Taiopuru Ko Huiarau

The scam is based on the claims of one James Ngatoa to be the Maori King, a claim he has pursued for over twenty years. To validate his claim he has invented a complete history of Maori / Crown relations, and Maori / settler relations beginning in 1808, based very loosely on some real historical events. He has woven into this fabrication the thread of a non-existent Taiopuru, or Paramount Chief, or King.

He has also invented a whakapapa / family history in which the mantle of King has been handed down to him.

[I usually refer to this mental disease as mate whakapapa, or genealogical disease. It is quite common in people who aspire to be more than they really are, and who delude themselves about their hereditary chieftainship. Not many of them take things to this extent, building a nationwide organisation based on lies and distortions in order to validate one's delusions to kingship]

The South Auckland man is a close associate and collaborator of former Auckland Museum ethnologist David Simmonds. The extent to which Simmons has participated in the historical fabrication is not known, but he has been reported to be very closely involved.

Ngatoa is behind the grandiose plans for a Maori Parliament. Calling himself Tairua Waikato Tauranga Wharehirihiri, and other magical titles, he formed Te Runanga ko Huiarau, promising to deal with Maori issues like health, housing, jobs and education. They are of course empty promises from an empty king.

In recent years Ko Huiarau has been given impetus by an Auckland couple, Mary Christina Forbes (calling herself Mary Mahinarangi Forbes) and her non-Maori husband Robin Edwards.. Under their control Ko Huiarau has spread further around the country and in January 2000 elected members to the "Parliament". They have added to the tissue of lies that underpins the claims of Ko Huiarau, in particular by convincing their followers that Ko Huiarau is about to come into billions, perhaps trillions, of dollars. All of these claims are fictitious. In that sense Ko Huiarau resembles a cargo cult, in addition to being a false claim to Kingship, and to sovereignty.

The key to this scam is that most Maori, even well-educated Maori, are not learned in the detail of post-contact history, from 1800 to the early 1900s. However, most, almost all, of the historical record published by Ko Huiarau is a complete fabrication, a gross lie.

Once people become convinced of the false history behind the Ko Huiarau movement, they will believe anything. Particularly when that history, albeit false, is so expertly woven that it includes some of their own ancestors and tribes.

And, of course, they cynically play upon the dreams, aspirations and vulnerabilities of the Maori people in hard economic times.


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