A new biography of Ngapua, Hone Heke appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Hone Heke was a most able Maori leader and an eloquent member of the House of Representatives who did much to raise the status of his people before his early death cut short a career of great promise. Heke was born in Kaikohe in 1869 and named after his father's uncle, the great fighter who led the opposition to the British in 1845–46. His parents could trace their ancestry to all the most prominent figures in the history of the Ngapuhi tribe and they also had connections with other important tribes, such as Ngati Kahungunu and those descended from the Mataatua canoe.
Young Hone Heke was given a good education, being placed at St. Stephen's School, Parnell, by Sir George Grey, who took a personal interest in his progress. In spite of being well schooled in Pakeha matters, Heke retained his Maori upbringing and he never lost touch with his own people.
During Hone Heke's youth a revival and expansion of the 1835 Confederation of Tribes, now known as the Kotahitanga, was claiming the attention of much of the Maori world, and he soon became one of its acknowledged leaders. With its backing he entered Parliament in 1893 when aged only 24. Throughout his parliamentary career he championed the rights of his people, introducing a Native Rights Bill, which, although not accepted by the House, found some of its principles embodied in the Native Lands Administration Act and the Maori Councils Act, both of 1900. Outside the House he was influential as a peacemaker and prevented armed insurrections by intervening in disputes over surveys in the Urewera and over the dog tax in Hokianga.
The importance of Hone Heke's work in preparing the way for the Young Maori Party has been generally overlooked. It is undoubtedly true that younger men, such as Peter Buck, who followed him as parliamentary representative for Northern Maori, Apirana Ngata, and other leaders of the Maori renaissance, learned much of their wisdom from him. He might well have been their equal in stature had he lived more than 40 years.
Hone Heke had not married. He lived on a fairly lavish scale and charmed all who came in contact with him. His death from tuberculosis in Wellington on 9 February 1909 was deeply mourned, not only by Maoris but also by the many Pakehas who held him in esteem and affection. Sir James Carroll took the body back to Kaikohe for burial, and two years later, on a summit near the town, his memorial was unveiled.
by John March Booth, M.A., DIP.ANTHR.(LOND.), Secretary, New Zealand Maori Council, and the Polynesian Society, Wellington.
- N.Z.P.D., 10 Jun 1909
- New Zealand Rulers and Statesmen, Gisborne, W. (1897)
- New Zealand Times, 10 Oct 1907.