Milestones: Wāhine who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Archives New Zealand has documented as much as we know so far about some of the wāhine who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840. This was unusual because so many indigenous leaders signed alongside representatives of the British Crown, making New Zealand significant in women's history. Despite the images circulating today about the historic Waitangi treaty depicting crowds of men, women were present in leadership roles. Even the beach at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds was traditionally named after a woman of high rank: Te Ana o Maikuku.

And, while there is still much controversy about these extraordinary events, the Waitangi Tribunal’s report (.pdf file) from the Stage 1 Te Paparahi o Te Raki (Northland) inquiry offers a comprehensive narrative (including debates by analysts) of the initial signings at Waitangi, Waimate, and Mangungu. What we are learning is that out of the over 500 names of Māori leaders around the country who signed the nine copies of the treaty during approximately 50 hui, at least 18 might have been women. Because many names have not yet been fully researched, there may be even more than have found. (See the map and signatures of 13 of these women at the Te Ara encyclopedia website.) We also know that when British agents took te Tiriti documents around the country, a number of rangatira -- wāhine who exercised mana in traditional Māori society -- were refused the opportunity to sign because of their gender.

Those who signed at Waitangi on 6 February:

  • Ana Hamu (1788? - 1848), Ngāpuhi, was the first woman to sign Te Tiriti. A rangatira in her own right, she was a widow of Te Koki, a high-ranking Ngāpuhi chief. She gifted the land for the Paihia Church Missionary Society mission station. When her husband died in 1829, Hamu went to stay with the missionaries at Paihia.  
  • Moe Ngaherehere aka Moengaherehere, Te Rarawa, perhaps a wāhine signatory, who in 1846 married William Nathan Pickering in Rawene and thereafter went by Arihia or Rihi Pickering
  • Takura - daughter of Te Kemara, married to Te Tai, of Ngāpuhi; hapu Ngati Korokoro, Ngati Rangi
  • Te Mārama, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Tautahi; an ancestor of Dame Whina Cooper.

Signed at Waikato Heads near Robert Maunsell's mission station, 11 April:

Signed at Manukau Harbor on 26 April (brought by missionary Robert Maunsell from Waikato Heads):

  • Ko te ta Wha aka Te Tawhā, Waikato, Ngāti Te Ata; landowner at Waiuku

Signed at Kaitāia, 28 April:

  • Ereonora (d1848) aka Ati, Te Rarawa; daughter of Te Huhu; an owner of land and timber; using a version of her baptismal name Eleanor, she signed along with her father and with her husband, Nōpera Pana-kareao aka Tūwhare, whom she married in a Christian ceremony on 16 February 1841; she was an ancestor of Dame Whina Cooper.
  • Marama? / Maiapia?, Te Rarawa, Ngāi Takoto
  • Koronīria Nuau, Te Rarawa; this may have been a wāhine signatory, identified by Tā Apirana Ngata

Signed at Port Nicholson (Wellington), 29 April:

  • Kahe te Rau-o-te-Rangi (? - 1871?), aka Peti, Ngāti Toa, Te Āti Awa; daughter of Ngāti Toa rangatira Te Matoha; in 1824 swam from Kāpiti Island to the mainland, with her daughter Rīpeka strapped on her back, to warn Ngāti Toa of an impending invasion; married on 10 November 1841 to Pākehā husband, John Nicoll (aka Scotch Jock); baptised in 1844 in Anglican church; kept an inn at Paekākāriki where Governor George Grey often stayed.
  • Pākewa aka Paekawa, Te Āti Awa Puketapu?; daughter of Ngākoro and Te Hurupoki (of Ngāti Ruanui), she married Rāwiri Nukaiahu and they migrated from Taranaki to Waikanae around the 1830s

Signed at Queen Charlotte Sound on 5 May (brought there by Anglican minister Henry Williams from Port Nicholson):

  • Ngākirikiri - still not confirmed. Perhaps this could be Matina Ngākirikiri, a Te Āti Awa wāhine rangatira who was married to Hēnare Te Keha and lived at Golden Bay; or this could be Ngākirikiri, a male rangatira of Te Āti Awa who was the son of Te Kāra.

Signed at Rangitoto-D’Urville Island on 11 May (brought there by Anglican minister Henry Williams from Port Nicholson):

  • Pari, Ngāti Koata

Signed at Kāpiti on 14 May (brought there by Anglican minister Henry Williams from Port Nicholson):

Te Rangitopeora portrait by Lindauer c1863 - from Wikimedia
Portrait of Rangi Topeora c1863,
by Gottfried Lindauer
from Wikimedia Commons
  • Te Rangitopeora (? – 1873?) aka Rangi Topeora, Ngāti Toa; a composer of waiata and powerful leader in war and peacemaking; commonly known as 'Queen of the South' after her baptism at which she chose the name Kuīni Wikitōria.

Signed at Waikanae, 16 May (brought there by Anglican minister Henry Williams from Port Nicholson):

Signed at Ōtaki on 19 May (brought there by Anglican minister Henry Williams from Port Nicholson):

Signed at Whanganui on 23 May (brought there by Anglican minister Henry Williams from Port Nicholson):

  • Rāwinia Rere-o-maki aka Rere (1783?–1868), Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, Ngāti Ruakā, Ngāti Tūpoho, Te Arawa; sister of Hōri Kīngi Te Ānaua and and Te Māwae who also signed; her baptismal name was Rāwinia (Lavinia); married to Mahuera Paki Tanguru-o-te-rangi, a leader of Muaūpoko, they lived most of their lives in the Whanganui area; mother of Te Rangihiwinui aka Major Kemp. A carving in totara of Rere-ō-maki is held at the Whanganui Regional Museum.

For more details, visit the Archives New Zealand website at

N.B. In putting this together, the author offers many thanks for the generous guidance and support by David Green Kaiwhakatika, Pou Hītori Matua Senior Editor and Historian, Te Pae Wānanga, Tukunga Ihotanga, Manatū Taonga | Ministry for Culture & Heritage.


To read more articles from The Circular (January-February 2024) issue 645, click on the tag below.
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