AHUMAI TE PAERATA
Warrior
1824

Celebrated Māori warrior

Even in the face of certain death, Ahumai Te Paerata - the woman who became known as the heroine of Ōrākau - was fearless.

The 19th Century was a time of war in New Zealand, waged by the Government against the Kīngitanga movement, which started as a form of resistance to land sales in the Waikato.

The Battle of Ōrākau was fought between March 31 and April 2, 1864 near Kihikihi.

The Māori forces were made up of warriors from Tūhoe and Ngāti Raukawa who had arrived to help Ngāti Maniapoto.

They began to build a pā, or fortified village, at Orākau - a development soon noticed by British troops stationed at Kihikihi.

Before it was completed, British troops arrived and started their attack. Their numbers would reach more than 1400. The Māori defenders made up about 300, a third of whom were women.

The British offered the defenders a chance to surrender, but the Māori replied: "Friend, we will fight on forever, forever!''

An offer to allow women and children a safe passage was then offered.

A young woman later identified as Te Paerata bravely stood up and said: "Ki te mate ngā tāne, me mate anō ngā wāhine me ngā tamariki!"

"If the men are to die, the women and children will die also!''

Her words would be the last said before they fled the pā. Many Māori were killed or severely injured.

Te Paerata suffered horrific gunshot wounds, but survived.

In the year after the battle, her bravery was admired again when she wordlessly stood up for a Pākeha man who had been offered for sacrifice during a religious ceremony.

Before a brutal attack occurred, Te Paerata, wearing a shawl, walked across the marae and calmly sat in front of him.

Still bearing scars from Ōrākau, her poignant and forgiving actions would save his life.