Mokomoko, Rangatira, Opotiki & Carl Sylvius Völkner, Priest.

Symbols for Reconciliation


Carl Sylvius Völkner

Carl Sylvius Völkner trained at the missionary college in Hamburg and was sent to New Zealand in 1849 along with other Lutheran missionaries by the North German Missionary Society. He worked with Johannes Riemenschneider at Warea in Taranaki, and then joined the Church Missionary Society, working as a lay teacher in the lower Waikato. He was ordained deacon by Bishop Selwyn in 1860 and priest in 1861.

He was the third CMS missionary to work amongst Te Whakatohea, and moved to Opotiki in 1861 to take charge of the CMS station there. He had considerable success and was adopted by Te Whakatohea as a member of the tribe. He helped build a church and a school there. Then died a violent death at the hands of members of his own congregation.

Völkner was killed by Maori for several reasons, including passing on information about Maori troop movements in the New Zealand Wars to Governor Grey. A letter in his own hand patently shows that he was indeed guilty of doing just that, the Maori therefore hung him as a spy, he did not die for his faith as a Christian martyr but for betrayal of the Maori people during a time of war.

BORN: 1819 Kassel, Germany

DIED:2 March 1865, Opotiki, New Zealand.

Mokomoko, Rangatira, Opotiki

Following the death of Völkner, British troops were despatched to Opotiki. Four Maori, including Mokomoko, a chief of Te Whakato-hea, were arrested. Mokomoko denied involvement. But was condemned and executed for the murder of Carl Völkner.

The government of the day also mounted a punitive expedition against Te Whakato-hea. Shipping and granaries were destroyed, and the tribe’s best land was confiscated. Legal and historical research supports the claim of Maori oral tradition that Mokomoko was actually not involved in Volkner's sentence and execution, and that his death was a grave miscarriage of justice.

In the late 1940s compensation was paid for the excessive confiscations, and in 1988 Mokomoko’s family were permitted to exhume his remains from Mt Eden gaol for burial on his ancestral marae. In July 1990 Mokomoko’s descendants petitioned the government for a full acquittal for Mokomoko - not just a pardon, which could imply guilt. The acquittal was granted in June 1992.

BORN: Unknown, New Zealand

DIED: 17 May 1866, Mt Eden, Auckland, New Zealand

Carl Volker who until 1988 had somehow ended up on the Anglican NZ Calendar as a priest-martyr was to be removed from it in 1988, but the Bishop of Aotearoa halted the removal because he had seen the beginnings of a process of reconciliation, he stated:

“To say that the hurt is gone, is not true. But the bones of our ancestors have come home and are laid to rest - we are now in a state of forgiveness.”

Thus both are commemorated and remembered together. Chief Mokomoko's last words on the scaffold was a song and was noted down, (quotes from it will be at the bottom of our prayer pages). He was survived by 2 of his 3 wives and 6 children.