Hone Pihama Te Rei Hanataua was the fifth child of Moaho Te Rei and Tumahuki, and was a nephew of the Tangahoe chief Te Rei Hanataua. In the second half of the nineteenth century he became the leader of Ngati Tama-Ahuroa hapu of Ngati Ruanui, centred on Oeo in Taranaki. By his astute land and business transactions he laid the basis for the later prosperity of that hapu.
Born probably in the 1820s, he was baptised Hone Pihama (John Beecham) Patohe by a Church Missionary Society missionary in the early 1840s. He was also known as Te Ngohi. On 26 December 1847, at Waokena, he married Hepi; their children, Paora Matangi Orupe and Haromi, were baptised there on 6 September and 22 November 1857. Later he married Rahiri, and they were to have three or possibly four daughters: Te Onetu, Tekenui and Hinemataura, who may also have been known as Rangitaniwha.
Hone Pihama is recorded as having been an Anglican teacher at Whareroa in 1859. He was not a fighting man, although his brother, Patohe, with whom he is sometimes confused, fought during the war in Taranaki in 1865–66, at Nukumaru and Taiporohenui. In June 1865 Hone Pihama met the civil commissioner, Robert Parris, at the Waingongoro River and later submitted to the government at Opunake. He and his followers were granted 500 acres at Oeo, land which was on the boundary disputed with the Taranaki tribe. There he built the Omuturangi meeting house in 1866–67.
Hone Pihama stayed aloof from Titokowaru's campaign in South Taranaki in 1868–69, and gave assistance in various forms to the government. They considered him 'a returned rebel, and since his return a most active and trustworthy friend'. He operated a dispatch-carrying service for the government, and in July 1868 it was Pihama who brought the first news of the attack on Turuturumokai redoubt to New Plymouth. He co-operated with Parris in the construction of the coast road which opened in 1871. From February 1874 to February 1877 he conveyed the mail from Hawera to New Plymouth, and at other times he guarded the coach service through hostile territory. He also assisted Parris and his successor, Major Charles Brown, in their purchases of land, although Brown sold off the Toko and Ngaere blocks against Hone Pihama's advice.
These activities earned Hone Pihama £8,636 between 1868 and 1880. This included his salary from June 1868 of £50 a year (later increased to £100) as an assessor. In 1868 he had been promised 2,200 acres by J. C. Richmond; in all he and his people were awarded 3,138 acres at Oeo and Patea, including 2,268 acres in his own name. His relationship with the government enabled him to provide refuge for Titokowaru's followers as they returned from the upper Waitara valley after 1871.
Hone Pihama played a prominent part in land and business development at Oeo. He partnered Captain Thomas Good in land development in the area (later leasing part of his land to Good), built a hotel at Oeo and ran the Oeo–Hawera coach service. When the town of Normanby was subdivided in 1875 Pihama added adjoining land and in 1881 he gave a piece of ground for the railway station. The government came to rely heavily on him. In June 1878 he was paid £200 to attend an important meeting of chiefs at Waitara where he was referred to as 'an energetic and industrious citizen'. In July of that year he reported on a disturbance at Waitara and in September investigated the murder at Moumahaki of John McLean, a member of a government survey party, by Hiroki of Nga Rauru. In 1880 he gave evidence to the West Coast Royal Commission, attending every one of its sittings. The commissioners occupied houses he had built at Oeo. When the township of Pihama was laid out it was named in his honour.
In the 1860s Hone Pihama had rejected Titokowaru's military campaign against the government, but his attitude towards the prophet Te Whiti-o-Rongomai's strategy of passive resistance appears to have been ambivalent. Although he did not fully support Te Whiti, Hone Pihama paid his assessor's salary into the Parihaka funds and provided hospitality to those going to and from meetings. His wife and daughters were more open supporters. One daughter died in November 1881 while trying to get to Parihaka against her father's wishes, and a few years later his wife (probably Rahiri) was killed in a coach accident while returning from there. In December 1880 Hone Pihama reluctantly accompanied the governor's aide-de-camp, Captain L. F. Knollys, to Parihaka. They made three visits but Pihama failed to persuade Te Whiti to receive a letter from the governor. When troops marched on the village in November the following year Pihama stayed away, but afterwards he tried to persuade the people to return to their homes.
In 1884 Hone Pihama built the meeting house Tipuahororangi at Oeo, which was opened by Titokowaru on 13 July 1884. From this time failing health and blindness meant that he seldom left Oeo. He died on 1 April 1890 at Parihaka, thought to be aged about 65, and was rumoured to have made a deathbed conversion to Te Whiti's teachings. Five days earlier he had expressed his wish to die at Parihaka and was taken there from Oeo. He is buried at Parihaka.
Hone Pihama played a controversial role in Taranaki affairs in the 1870s and 1880s. But through his political and business activities he left his own people better provided for materially than any others in Taranaki.