Rere-ō-maki is thought to have been born at a settlement on the lower reaches of the Wanganui River. Her mother, Titia, was of Te Arawa, and her father, Te Aewa, a notable warrior, was of Ngāti Tūpoho of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi. He also had kinship ties with Ngāti Apa, Rangitāne and Ngā Rauru. Rere-ō-maki had at least eight brothers and sisters. Hōri Kīngi Te Ānaua, the Ngāti Ruaka leader, and Te Māwae were her brothers. Two other brothers were killed about 1821 at Mangawere. Her baptismal name was Rāwinia (Lavinia), but it is not known when she was baptised.
Rere-ō-maki's husband was Mahuera Paki Tanguru-o-te-rangi, a major leader of Muaūpoko. In the 1820s Muaūpoko suffered continual harassment by Ngāti Toa, as Te Rauparaha sought to establish his people in the Kapiti area. Eventually Muaūpoko were driven from their ancestral lands, which extended from Waikanae to Horowhenua. Rere-ō-maki and Tanguru consequently lived most of their lives in the Wanganui area. They are known to have had two children: a daughter, Rora, and Te Rangihiwinui, also known as Taitoko and later as Te Keepa or Major Kemp.
The mana of Rere-ō-maki is indicated by her participation in the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. On 23 May 1840, along with her brothers Te Ānaua and Te Māwae, she signified her assent by putting her moko on a copy of the treaty taken to Wanganui by Henry Williams. She was one of only five women whose names appear on the treaty.
By the mid 1860s, when the influence of the Pai Mārire movement among upper Wanganui hapū had led to war in the Wanganui area, Tanguru, advanced in years, had passed on his duties as tribal leader to Te Keepa. Although Tanguru had lived among his wife's people for over 40 years, he had not forgotten his home. He is said to have told Rere-ō-maki one day that he had dreamed 'that the sands of Komokarau [sic] were blowing over him.' Tanguru left Wanganui and was escorted by 50 Wanganui Māori to Raia te Karaka, on the shores of Lake Horowhenua. Rere-ō-maki was so stricken by sorrow at the departure of her husband that, it is said, she turned her face to the wall, and died of grief.
Rere-ō-maki is thought to have been about 85 years of age when she died, 'a very old woman bent double'. She received a Christian burial at Pīaea (or Pēaea), near Pūtiki, on 24 March 1868. Tanguru died a few months later, and was buried at Komokorau, the burial ground of Muaūpoko, near Lake Horowhenua. A carving in totara of Rere-ō-maki, Tanguru and Te Keepa is held at the Wanganui Regional Museum. It was carved about 1870 at Te Aomārama, on the East Coast, but it is not known by whom. Rere-ō-maki is also commemorated by her people in the name of a reach of the lower Wanganui River.