Te Paea was the eldest daughter of Hemi Tonoriri Kingi and Akinihi Ngaro Brown. Her father was a direct descendant of Te Whareumu of Ngati Manu, now regarded as Nga Puhi; her mother was the eldest daughter of Hone and Riria Brown, both descendants of Te Ruki Kawiti of Ngati Hine. She had five sisters and three brothers who, like herself, all married into prominent northern families.
Te Paea was born probably in 1877 or 1878, at Otiria, a small settlement near Whangarei, where her parents farmed; she was baptised on 17 November 1878. Most of her adolescent life was spent helping on the farm and looking after her younger brothers and sisters. Te Paea's parents owned land in many places, and the family moved between Poroti, Otiria, Ngararatunua and Glenbervie. She developed a love for her people and the land, and became determined and resolute. She was a very hard worker who held respect for her elders and the Anglican church.
About 1898 Te Paea married Wiremu Hone Cherrington (Keretene), who, in 1903, became probably the first member of Ngati Hine to be ordained an Anglican priest. They were to have six sons, Hori (George) Winiana, Samuel Rakuraku Tawaewae, Tamati, Mataki, Hotorene and Hemi (James) Tonoriri; and two daughters, Darling and Wikitoria. Darling, Samuel and Tamati died at a very early age. Because of Wiremu Cherrington's work as a missioner, they lived at many places in Auckland, Northland and the Gisborne district. The Cherringtons were quick to realise the value of education and sent their children to boarding schools. Wikitoria attended Queen Victoria School for Maori Girls; most of the boys attended St Stephen's School. George, however, remained to work on the farm, perhaps to ensure that his father had sufficient time for his mission work.
Te Paea became invaluable to the courts and relatives in land dealings because she knew most of the owners. She kept a meticulous record of land owned by her and her relatives, and when establishing the boundaries had no hesitation in moving the pegs if she thought others were trying to encroach. She was involved with Apirana Ngata's land development schemes, helped reorganise titles in the Motatau block, and showed a keen interest in protecting sites of spiritual significance.
In 1920 Te Paea's brother Reweti converted to the Ratana faith. After a family row he decided to sell his land interest at Ngararatunua. Te Paea sold all her interests in Poroti, and with this money and other funds the family were able to buy Reweti's land, which included a cemetery. After consultation with her husband and local relatives they decided to build a family church within the burial grounds. The timber came from Wiremu Cherrington's family in Orauta, near Otiria, and was railed to Ngararatunua.
Te Paea became very influential in her tribal area. She was a member of the Mother's Union, an organisation that promoted the sanctity of marriage and emphasised the mother's role in developing the child's spiritual well-being. She founded 30 Maori branches in the Northland area from the mid 1930s, was the enrolling president for the Whangarei branch from 1935 and served as president. She was instrumental in forming the Komiti Wahine o Ngati Kahu, which covered the districts of Ngararatunua, Glenbervie, Kamo, Motatau, Otiria and Oromahoe. It dealt with a range of health, welfare and land concerns. Younger members of Te Paea's family followed her in this work.
Because of her mana, Te Paea's opinions were sought-after and she had a great influence on others in land, marital and religious matters. A big woman in later life, she laid down the law to her family, especially her brothers. She died on 30 September 1937 at her home in Ngararatunua. Here she was buried with her parents and relatives on the land she had loved and fought for; here also her children and many grandchildren were laid to rest. A soldiers' memorial hall has been erected and named after her.