New Zealand’s Kiingitanga, or Maori King Movement, has created its own honors system.
Three awards have been eastablished by Maori King Tuheitia: the Order of King Pootatau Te Wherowhero; the Order of the Taniwhaa; and the Illustrious Order of Te Arikinui Queen Te Atairangikaahu.
Speaking during his eighth koroneihana speech, King Tuheitia said that the creation of this new system is a way to recognize the efforts of Maori people much like the British honors system recognizes the works of people across the kingdom and Commonwealth.
Since New Zealand is a Commonwealth nation, the Maori have the right to the United Kingdom’s honors system. New Zealand’s honors are designed with a blend of British and Maori cultural symbols.
The Kiingitanga’s history is rooted in resistance to European colonization during the 1850s. It effectively became an alternative government, establishing various Maori, regardless of tribe, as officials and adopting its own flag. The king’s role was presented as similar in status to that of the British monarch. The Maori saw this as a way of pushing back at the ongoing colonization.
They recognized that the British seemed to be united under the banner of monarchy, regardless of background. The Maori believed that if their tribes could present a united front under a system that the British could understand, they may be looked at as equals. Thus, they could retain their land and authority despite increasing European encroachment.
In 1858, Potatau Te Wherowhero agreed to become the first Maori King.
The role of king or queen is hereditary in the United Kingdom, but among the Maori, the monarch is appointed by the leaders of tribes that are favorable to the Kiingitanga movement. The successor is crowned on the day of the monarch’s funeral.
However, the descendants of Te Wherowhero have carried the role of king ever since. Notably, there has only been one queen: Dame Te Atairangikaahu, the mother of the current king.
Known as Te Ata, the queen succeeded her father, King Koroki Te Rata Mahuta Tawhiao, as the Maori sovereign after his death in May 1966. Te Ata made Maori history as the first queen and the sixth and longest-serving monarch of the Kingitanga movement. She died August 15, 2006.
The queen worked tirelessly for the preservation of Maori customs and language. She was credited for raising the profile of the Maori abroad. In 1970, Te Ata was created Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
Without a doubt, Te Ata would be pleased to see the Maori honors system in place, by none other than her own son King Tuheitia.