The Prophet and the Policeman
The story of Rua Kenana and John Cullen
In April 1916, John Cullen, the head of New Zealand's police force, personally led a raid on the Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana's spiritual community at Maungapohatu, deep in the Urewera mountains. The raid left two of Rua's followers dead and a number of others, including several police, wounded and has been described as the last battle of the New Zealand Wars.
The Prophet and the Policeman is an account of this dramatic, tragic and powerfully symbolic event in our history, beginning with the circumstances leading up to the raid and exploring the aftermath. It is also a dual biography of the two principal protagonists: Cullen, a farm labourer from rural Ireland who rose through the ranks to lead the New Zealand police force and was famously devious and authoritarian; and Rua, gentle, charismatic and inspriational, although often mysterious and contradictory.
This is a highly readable, potent and fascinating retelling of a chapter of New Zealand history – disastrous for race relations and a historic low point for the police – that resounds to the present day.
Read about Mark Derby
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