Ratana was born into a relatively prosperous rural Christian Maori family connected to the Ngati Apa and Ngati Rauru tribes. He was adopted by Ria Hamuera and brought up on family land at Te Kawau. In 1912 his senior kinswoman, Mere Rikiriki prophesied that he would become a religious leader;
in 1918 he received a series of revelations and became a prophet and healer. His reputation spread rapidly throughout the Maori people and he became the center of a community of believers. Initially he told his followers to remain loyal to their religious affiliations, but by 1925 the movement had became a separate registered religion, the Ratana Church, with an associated political party, which won its first seat in the New Zealand Parliament in 1932.
Unlike the other native Maori religious movements based on post-contact charismatic leaders (for example, that founded by Rua Kenana Hepetipa), the Ratana Church has survived its founder's death and is still a very strong religious and political force.
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