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HeNI Te Kiri Karamu

A true Wahine Toa

Te Arawa

Heni Te Kiri Karamu was a Te Arawa woman of mana, teacher, pioneer, warrior and interpreter. She lived a life outside the expected roles of women of her time.
Her story begins in Kaitaia where her mother, Maraea, had been taken as a child by Hongi Hika after the capture of Mokoia Island in 1823. An Irish sea-captain, Thomas William Kelly is named as her father on her death certificate.
Heni belonged to Uenukukōpako and Ngāti Hinepare of Te Arawa. She was descended from Ngātoroirangi of the Arawa waka.
Also known as Heni Pore, Jane Russell or Jane Foley, Heni was educated at the notable mission school of Thomas and Anne Chapman at Te Ngae, Rotorua. By the end of her schooling she was fluent in Māori, English and French and worked as an assistant teacher and governess.
Around the age of 15 in 1855 Heni married Te Kiri Karamu of Ngāti Rangiteaorere, Te Arawa, and lived at Katikati with him where they had five children.
The 1860s were a time of huge upheaval with war breaking out in the Waikato in 1863. Heni took the side of the King movement and emerges from this period as a warrior woman, at times living secretly deep in the forest with her followers. They ended up at the village of Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi near Matamata, where the King’s followers were gathering.
In 1864 Heni joined the King’s forces at Te Tiki-o-Te-Ihinga-rangi pā at Maungatautari. After the fall of Ōrakau on 2 April she accompanied a force of Ngāi Te Rangi to Tauranga. This was where the incident that she is most famous for took place.
The battle of Pukehinahina (also known as Gate Pā) took place on 29 April 1864. Although other women had left the pa before the battle, Heni was allowed to stay and fight because she was thought to be a wahine toa or woman warrior.
When the British troops were repelled, their wounded, left behind in the pa, were treated with kindness by the defenders, in accordance with a code of conduct drawn up before the battle by Rawiri Puhirake and Henare Taratoa, a former mission teacher.
Heni Te Kiri Karamu gave water to Colonel HJP Booth and several other wounded men.  (Some records name Henare Taratoa with this act of kindness). After the battle Heni went to live on Mokoia Island and in 1865–1866 fought for the government against the Pai Mārire movement at Rotoiti. She also fought with Major William Gilbert Mair against the Hauhau at Matatā and Te Teko.
Heni married Denis Stephen Foley at Maketū in 1869, but he was a violent man so she separated from him in 1870. he spent her last years in Rotorua where she worked as a licensed interpreter and was active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, becoming secretary of the Māori Mission in Rotorua.
She lived to see five generations of her descendants and died on 24 June 1933.

Qualities: relationships, humility

Read more here:

See a photographic portrait of Heni Te Kiri Karamu here:

From Rotorua Library:

Jane’s story: biography of Heni Te Kirikaramu/Pore (Jane Foley): woman of profound purpose (Alfred D. Foley)

Maori Women and the vote (Tania Rei)

Trail blazers of New Zealand: original narration (Nadoo Balantine-Scott)

Relics of Gate Pa, Pukehinahina, Historical Review, Bay of Plenty Journal of History; Volume 62, Number 1 (Fiona Kean: editor)

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