In 1868, Tūhoe sheltered the Māori leader Te Kooti, a fugitive who had escaped from imprisonment on the Chatham Islands, and for this the government punished them during the manhunt. Te Ara, the Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand, notes:
"Old enemies of Tūhoe fought on the side of the government; they carried out most of the raids into Te Urewera during a prolonged and destructive search between 1869 and 1872. In a policy aimed at turning the tribe away from Te Kooti, a scorched earth campaign was unleashed against Tūhoe; people were imprisoned and killed, their cultivations and homes destroyed, and stock killed or run off. Through starvation, deprivation and atrocities at the hands of the government’s Māori forces, Tūhoe submitted to the Crown.
After these events, Tūhoe isolated themselves, closing off access to their lands by refusing to sell, lease or survey them, and blocking the building of roads. Belich describes the Urewera as one of the last zones of Māori autonomy and the scene of the last case of armed Māori resistance: in 1916 the New Zealand Police Force arrested the Tūhoe prophet Rua Kenana on dubious charges after a gun-battle in the Urewera left 10 people killed or wounded. The police conducted the raid "like a military operation" entering alien territory. Belich states that significant European penetration did not occur in the Urewera district until the 20th century.
Of the Tūhoe people, estimated to number between 33,000 and 45,000, about 19 per cent still live on their tribal lands; most of the rest live in towns on the fringes of Te Urewera and in the larger North Island cities. At least 5,000 live in Australia. Tūhoe continue to maintain camps in Te Urewera and help run conservation programmes for endangered birds such as the kiwi and the kokako. Many Tūhoe return to their homelands every two years for the Te Hui Ahurei ā Tūhoe (Tūhoe Festival), which features kapa haka, debates, sports competitions, and fashion shows. The event provides an important opportunity to maintain ties between friends and relatives.
From the late 1990s some Tūhoe started referring to themselves as the "Tūhoe nation". Observers note that Tūhoe and the Crown have long had a strained relationship, with widespread rejection of Pākehā rule. Some Tūhoe people say they have never signed the Treaty of Waitangi and never gave up their sovereignty.
Tamati Kruger of Tuhoe often speaks for the Tuhoe iwi.
Police Commissioner Howard Broad publicly apologised for the actions of his officers during the raid, acknowledging they had set back relations between police and Tūhoe people. He said:
"We regret the hurt and stress caused to the community of Ruatoki and we will seek an appropriate way to repair the damage done to police-Maori relations. History tells us that episodes such as this can and do take decades to heal.