Ruka Aratapu


Ngāti Porou, Te Aowera, (? – 1904)

Iwi map - Ruka AratapuIWI / HAPU AFFILIATIONS

A notable individual, Ruka Aratapu was said to have had cool courage in battle. Aratapu was Major Ropata Wahawaha's right hand man in pursuits against Te Kooti and his rebels,1 and he was renowned for his abilities in hand-to-hand combat. For his services he was awarded the New Zealand war medal.

Aratapu made the headlines in 1889 after spending two days at sea without water. He went out fishing and a gale came up which caused him to be blown out to sea in a 12ft boat. He eventually steered himself back in the direction of land and survived his ordeal by eating raw crayfish.2

Ruka Aratapu's signature is the fourth written in the Lindauer Art Gallery's Māori Visitors' Book.  He visited the gallery in Auckland on 3 June 1901 with a group from Poverty Bay, just three years before his death. Aratapu died in 1904 and was given a full military funeral and buried at Kaiti in Poverty Bay. His tangihanga was attended by Hon. James Carroll and Wi Pere, M.H.R., Judge Jones, and Major C. D. Pitt. Little is known of his personal life and Ruka is a baptismal name, for it is the Māorified version of Luke.


  1. Judith Binney, 'Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki ? - 1893', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, accessed 28 January 2010.
  2. ‘Gale in Gisborne’, Wanganui Chronicle, vol XXXII, Issue 11485, 14 September 1889, p 2, Papers Past, accessed 28 January 2010.
Tukua mai āu nā kōreroSubmit your story

Tāhuhu kōrero

Contributed stories

Do you have a story related to this portrait? Maybe you have images of this person? If you would like to see your story published on this website, please submit it here. All stories are reviewed before publishing.

Waiho mai he paku kōrero Leave a comment

Pito korero about Latest comments about Ruka Aratapu

We welcome your comments on the portraits.

* Mandatory fields

Waiho mai he paku kōrero Leave a comment

  • 900 characters
  • Tukua Submit
Tāia tēnei whārangi | Print this page
Etahi atu whakaahua
Rīpene whakarongo
  • Tangata pūkenga | The Artist

    Learn about Gottfried Lindauer, one of the best-known painters of Māori portraits. Read about his painting techniques, why the works were painted, and the role of his patron Henry Partridge.

  • Documentary series | Behind the Brush

    The Māori Television series Behind the Brush brings alive the stories of descendants and to uncover the lives of the artist, the patron and tupuna Māori.

  • Pukapuka manuhiri | Visitors Book

    Turn the pages, view the hundreds of comments and signatures, read the transcription and translation, and search by name and place. A digitisation of an historical legacy.