SHE was born a princess and in adulthood was described as a queen. She was waited upon by an entourage of minders following her every command. She was showered with gifts and lavished with the tastiest of morsels, only befitting a queen.
She was descended from the most aristocratic and senior whakapapa (genealogy) lines of the tribes of Te Tairāwhiti. She was, the one and only, Hinematioro. Hinematioro was born about 1750. It is said that she was a young woman when Captain James Cook and his crew of the Endeavour visited Ūawa (Tolaga Bay) in October of 1769. Her mana and her tapu (sacredness) descended from her father Tāne-tokorangi, a grandchild of Konohi, the principle rangatira of the Whāngārā area, and her mother Ngunguru-o-terangi, the great-granddaughter of Rerekohu.
Hinematioro’s birth had long been anticipated with the dedication of a pūriri tree, grown many, many years before, that would serve as her store house — Te Whata-kai-a-Hinematioro. It was also given the name Tamatea-reke and stood in the vicinity of the Whāngārā marae. A constant flow of gifts followed which were hung in the tree — including food and taonga. The tree was to remain well after her passing and a remnant of it can be seen in the Tairāwhiti Museum today.
In about 1821, Hinematioro’s island fortress pā, Pourewa (Spooring Island at Cook’s Cove), was attacked by a combined Tokomaru-Tūranga war party in the battle known as Paruparuwhatete. During the night Hinematioro evacuated the pā on a waka, which capsized, drowning her. Her grandson Te Kani-a-Takirau emerged to be the paramount leader of the Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ngāti Porou people, in the same way Hinematioro herself was regarded before him. Through his father, Te Kani was the grandson of the famed Te Whakatātare-o-te-rangi, who anchored the human net, known as Te Kupenga-a-Te Huki, to Whāngārā. This alliance stretched all the way to Pōrangahau in the southern Hawke’s Bay area. Te Kani was offered the leadership of the Kingitanga in the Waikato but declined with the words, “Ehara taku maunga a Hikurangi he maunga nekeneke, he maunga tū tonu — My mountain Hikurangi does not move, it remains firm and steadfast.” In essence, he did not need the offer to become a king for he was already one amongst his people.