Story: Te Whāiti, Kaihau Te Rangikakapi Maikara

Page 1: Biography

Te Whāiti, Kaihau Te Rangikakapi Maikara

1863–1937

Ngāti Kahungunu woman of mana

This biography, written by S. M. Chrisp,  was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Kaihau Te Rangikakapi Maikara Āporo was born, according to family information, in 1863, probably in the lower Wairarapa Valley. She was the eldest child of Maikara Paranihia and her husband, Hōhepa Āporo, who was the younger brother of Piripi Te Maari-o-te-rangi. Through her father she was affiliated to many of the Ngāti Kahungunu hapū resident in south Wairarapa, including Ngāti Hinewaka, Ngāi Tūkoko and Rākaiwhakairi. Through her mother, Kaihau was affiliated to Ngāti Maniapoto, South Island Ngāi Tahu, and Ngāti Kauhi hapū of Ngāti Kahungunu, resident at Pāpāwai. Later in life Kaihau was to be strongly identified with Ngāti Hinewaka hapū of Ngāti Kahungunu.

During her youth Kaihau probably lived at Kohunui, near Pirinoa, with her parents and her younger siblings Te Rauhina, Hinetauira, Te Iwingaro, Hōhepa and Teoti. She must have received traditional training from older relatives in genealogy and Māori custom, as she was later to be regarded as an expert in these fields. This knowledge became evident when from 1883 Kaihau represented herself and her siblings in the Native Land Court. They owned extensive land holdings at Mangamaunu, north of Kaikōura, and at Pirinoa, Pāpāwai and around the south Wairarapa coast. She was strong-minded, even as a young woman, and appears to have once opposed her father in court concerning land at Pāpāwai.

On 1 November 1881, according to a family Bible, Kaihau married Irāia Te Ama-o-te-rangi Te Whāiti, to whom she was distantly related. Over the next 20 years the couple were to have 13 children, although only three were to have issue: Hēnare (Harry), Hōhaia (Joe) and Te Hīoirangi (George). Irāia Te Whāiti became a successful and wealthy farmer. As a result, Kaihau was able to indulge herself and her family with very expensive furniture, clothing and other luxury items. Eventually the family relocated to Te Kārearea, a large house in Greytown, where because of their wealth and generosity, Kaihau and Irāia became popular.

During the First World War Kaihau became heavily involved in the patriotic movement in Greytown, and gave a large amount of money to the cause. After Irāia died in the influenza epidemic of 1918, Kaihau assumed a matriarchal role in her family. She continued to live at Te Kārearea, and maintained a close interest in the business activities of her three sons, who had inherited Irāia's estate of £36,000. She frequently looked over the accounts of the estates administered by her sons, and had a keen business sense.

In 1923 Kaihau arranged for the erection of a large marble monument to her husband at Rānana, the family cemetery. The monument outlined a number of significant historical events, together with the relevant genealogies, and is evidence of Kaihau's extensive knowledge of south Wairarapa Māori history. On another occasion a number of their genealogical records were lost; Kaihau and her son George subsequently spent much time reconstructing the records for the benefit of future generations.

Kaihau had probably been raised an Anglican, the dominant faith among Wairarapa Māori. In later years, however, she converted to the Rātana faith and in the late 1920s and 1930s regularly hosted large church gatherings at Te Kārearea. She took some of her grandchildren to see T. W. Rātana at Pāpāwai when the prophet visited in 1928. At this time Kaihau was a close friend of Niniwa-i-te-rangi, the noted Wairarapa Māori leader who had married Kaihau's brother Teoti Āporo (also known as Tamaihotua Āporo).

Kaihau lived out her life at Te Kārearea, fostering her grandchildren and other juvenile relatives. She kept a strict rein on them, even to the extent of arranging their marriages. At the same time, she maintained a keen interest in her various land holdings. Known to local Europeans as 'Mrs Eli', which was taken from the English version of her husband's first name, she was also referred to as Maikara Irāia and Maikara Te Ama. Her descendants knew her as 'Granny Kaihau'. Kaihau was a short, solidly built woman with strong features and a distinctive moko. She had an excellent dress sense, and always maintained an extensive wardrobe.

Kaihau continued to exert a strong influence over her immediate and extended family until her death at Greytown on 19 January 1937. Her son George survived her. She was recognised in her obituary as a 'great chieftainess' and was buried at Rānana, next to her husband, Irāia. Eventually, the descendants of Kaihau, Hinetauira and Teoti gifted land for the Ōkōura Māori Reserve, which formed the basis of the Kohunui marae.

How to cite this page:

S. M. Chrisp. 'Te Whāiti, Kaihau Te Rangikakapi Maikara', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3t25/te-whaiti-kaihau-te-rangikakapi-maikara (accessed 20 June 2021)