Ruhia Pōrutu was the daughter-in-law of Te Rīrā Pōrutu, paramount chief of Te Āti Awa in what is now central Wellington. She is seen here wearing her kaitaka paepaeroa, but the artist (Gottfried Lindauer) has placed it upside down so that the elaborate tāniko border is visible. In 1840 Te Riria's people were building a house for a New Zealand Company lawyer, and it was tapu while under construction. A newly arrived teenage immigrant named Thomas McKenzie unwittingly entered the house, breaking tapu. The chief was about to strike him down with his mere (club) when Ruhia threw her cloak over the young man, saving his life.
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Alexander Turnbull Library
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