Christy, Hirini Whaanga

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Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Rakaipaaka (New Zealand Maori) religious and community leader

Christy was the descendent of an important Ngati Kahungunu-Ngati Rakaipaaka family. As a young child he was given to his grandparents as a tamaiti whangai. His family had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in 1894 his grandparents went to Salt Lake City to do genealogical recording in the Temple, taking many extended family members with them.

The church leaders there misunderstood the nature of Maori extended families and believed they were a polygamous family (polygamy had already been banned by the Church), and the family was relocated to southern Utah, out of the public eye, where they were defrauded of their money and reduced to poverty. A returned missionary who had served in New Zealand rectified their status in the Church and they returned to Salt Lake City.

Christy attended school and then Brigham Young University, where he was a star athlete and graduated. He became a farmer in Montana and prospector in Nevada, and sang in a traveling band and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He married another Maori (who had been adopted by missionaries) in Salt Lake City in 1907, and they had 14 children. In 1918 they returned to New Zealand, where they became leaders in the Church: Christy became the first Maori to be called to the Council of the Seventy. He worked in the Native Land Court.

When the Mormon missionaries in New Zealand were called back to the US during World War II, Christy was one of the pillars who helped sustain the Church until their return, and the whare nui (carved meeting house) at Nuhaka, financed by the Church and dedicated in 1949 is largely in recognition of his efforts.


Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Also available at:


Polynesian, Melanesian
New Zealand
19th Century
20th Century
Exile or Persecution (religious, Political or Social)
Pre-school Years
Wealthy, Famous, Noble or Divine Adoptive or Foster Families
Adoptees/Fosterees from Wealthy, Famous, Noble or Divine Birth Families
Parents Married (or Partnered) to Each Other
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