Tracing her lineage back to Kupe via three wahine of mana – Waimirirangi, Ruapounamu, and Nga-kahu-whero - Meri was passionate in her understanding of the importance of the vote for women, particularly Māori women. She was in the forefront of action to achieve it, specifically in Māori society. Before we look at Meri’s life, let’s first look at these three wahine toa of her lineage.
Te Reinga, the great Te Rarawara leader, lived in northern Hokianga in the mid-1500s, having supreme authority over the people and land of that area.
His son, Te Kuri, inherited these, passing them on to his daughter, Ruapounamu, who had mana over land in the Waihou area on the north shores of Hokianga Harbour. Ruapounamu married a chief, Tarutaru, who had mana over land at Waireia. Their son, Kahi married Kaimanu, daughter of Ngono, who had mana over land at Pupuwai.
All tribes north of Auckland can trace their lineage as descendents of one of the ten children of Waimirirangi and her partner Kairewa, one of the two founding brothers of Ngāpuhi in the southern Hokianga.
Born at Whakarape, Northland, about 1625, Waimirirangi was very much respected, often referred to as Te Kuini-o-Te-Tai-Tokerau, or Queen of the Northern Tide.
Nga-kahu-whero’s parents were (father) Kahi and (mother) Kaimanu. Ruapounamu and Waimirirangi were her great-grandmother and grandmother respectively.
Nga-kahu-whero inherited the mana over the land from both of them, giving her great authority. She used it to establish land boundaries and to give land to others. She was entitled to share the proceeds from sales of land, such as when land was sold to Bishop Pompallier.
She also had ownership over trees on these lands. She is recorded as a compassionate leader of her people and often a refuge for those in danger of death.