Page 1: Biography
Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki woman of mana, writer
This biography, written by R. De Z. Hall, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.
Maraea Mōrete, also known as Maria Morris, is said to have been born on 24 July 1844 at Whakaari, near Tāngōio, Hawke's Bay, although she may have been born at Waikōkopu, Māhia. She was the eldest child of Puihi and William Morris. Puihi was a woman of mana of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, the people of the Tūranga plain, inland from Poverty Bay. She died in 1856. William Morris was an Irishman who had come to New Zealand from Sydney, New South Wales, about 1837. He worked at J. W. Harris's whaling station at Poverty Bay and in the 1840s was whaling and trading in Hawke's Bay. Maraea was sent to school at the Wesleyan Native Institution, Auckland. In 1861, after returning home to her father, she decided to join her mother's people on the Tūranga plain. In 1863 she married Pera Taihuka, a man of rank and a strong adherent of the Anglican mission at Waerenga-a-hika.
In 1865 the impact of the Pai Mārire religion drew most of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki men into fighting. Pera and Maraea were for a time followers of Pai Mārire. She described the ritual of this faith as 'fine fun', but left because 'I did not really believe in it'.
Maraea and Pera joined Wī Pere's village on the Waipaoa River, at Matawhero. In November 1868 European settlers a little way upriver were killed by followers of Te Kooti. By chance one of the raiding parties came into contact with Wī Pere's people. Most escaped, but Maraea and her child were among those captured. When Pera joined the captives, he and another family were executed on Te Kooti's orders. Maraea and her child were set aside with the other women. They were Te Kooti's prisoners for two weeks, and were later joined by others, including Wī Pere. When Te Kooti was attacked at Mākāretu many prisoners got away in the confusion. One party was led by Maraea. She joined Wī Pere in the bush and reached safety after five days' travel. The following spring Maraea appeared as a witness before the Supreme Court in Wellington, at the trials of captured followers of Te Kooti.
In 1869 Maraea Mōrete began to give evidence to the Native Land Court at Tūranga (Gisborne), to ensure her family's rights to their lands. A large area extending north-west from the Tūranga plain towards the source of the Waipaoa River was identified. In due course her brothers and sisters came to settle on their land. Photographs of Maraea, probably from the 1860s, show her in both Māori and European dress, with a moko on her chin.
About 1873 Maraea had a son, whose father was J. B. Poynter, a farmer. In later years she recorded recollections of her life from her school-days until her escape from Te Kooti. She included descriptions of Pai Mārire ritual, as well as the account of her captivity. About 1890 she became an active member of the Salvation Army. She lived on tribal land at Ruangārehu, Te Karaka, where she died on 8 October 1907, after being badly burned in a fire. She was buried near her mother, Puihi, in the tribal cemetery at Waerenga-a-hika. At her funeral two Anglican clergymen officiated, one in English, the other in Māori, and a Salvation Army officer gave a eulogy.