Māori leaders and heroes

Where can I find information about Māori leaders and heroes?

Image: Anzac 2015 Pukeahu by Paul Fisher Photography on Flickr.

Entry last updated: 13/01/21


There are many past and present Māori leaders and Māori heroes whose achievements and special qualities make them stand out in both the Māori and Pākehā worlds.

In this entry we will show you how to find biographies of Māori heroes and leaders, as well as information about how they made their mark on their communities.

Some well-known Māori leaders and heroes

Here is a list of some well-known Māori heroes and leaders but there are many more. You will find information about these and other Māori on the websites we have chosen for this entry.

Willie Apiata (1972 - ): Soldier.

Peter Buck (1877 - 1951): Health reformer, politician.

Lisa Carrington (1989 - ): Olympic athlete.

Whina Cooper (1895 - 1994): Community leader.

Hōne Heke (? - 1850 ): War leader.

Te Puea Herangi (1883 - 1952): Kingitanga leader.

Rua Kenana (1868/69? - 1937): Māori prophet.

Robert Mahuta (1939 - 2001): Politician.

Howard Morrison (1935 - 2009): Entertainer.

Kiri Te Kanawa (1944 - ): Opera singer.

Apirana Ngata (1874 - 1950): Politician.

Māui Pōmare (1876 - 1930): Health reformer, politician.

Dalvanius Prime (1948 - 2002): Entertainer.

Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana (1873–1939): Religious leader.

Apirana Taylor (1955 - ): Author.

Te Rauparaha (? - 1849): War leader.

Inia Te Wiata (1915 - 1971): Opera singer.

Hone Tuwhare (1922 - 2008): Poet.

New Zealand websites

Here are some good places to start when looking for information about Māori heroes and leaders.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Type the name of your Māori hero into the search bar.
  • The results will show all the stories in which their name is mentioned.
Tips: Te Ara links sometimes take you to the Short Story. Remember to click on the Full Story for more in-depth information. You can also look at the All images and media link for pictures and photos related to your story.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB)

DNZB is part of Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. It contains over 3,000 biographies of famous New Zealanders, but does not include people who are alive. This site also includes around 500 biographies that are in te reo.

On the Biographies page you can find information in a few different ways.

  • Browse the names listed in the A-Z.
  • Search for a particular name like Hone Heke or Whina Cooper.
  • Use the Advanced Biographies search option to look for biographies by occupation, date or places related to people's lives.

Topic Explorer

Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats on a variety of topics. The resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.

The following topics are worth exploring:


NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

There are several ways to find information on this website:

  • Choose Topics then Politics and government to find the section on Māori Leadership. This covers the Māori King Movement and Pai Marire.
  • Choose People for an A-Z list of New Zealanders, which includes many Māori.
  • Use the search bar to enter you search term or Māori name.
Tips: We like sites like these because they're reliable. You can tell because of their web address - they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They're also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

100 Māori leaders

Part of the Henry Rongomau Bennett Foundation, Leadership strategy, this resource identifies Māori leaders of today who influence and contribute to Māori health and well being.

  • Each entry includes a description of a leaders contribution and vision to improving Māori health.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

EPIC resources

EPIC is a collection of reliable resources covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this.

Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre

Look here for articles from New Zealand and Australian newspapers and magazines.

  • Type a Māori hero or leader's name into the search bar, or try a general search for 'Māori heroes' or 'Māori leaders'.
Tips: Tick the box 'Full text' so you can read the whole article.

New Zealand Geographic Archive

This database holds the entire archive of the New Zealand Geographic magazine, including heaps of articles about Aotearoa New Zealand's places and people.

  • Search for 'Te Kooti' to read about his new religion in the article Ark of salvation.
  • In the same way search for a name, or a more general topic like 'Māori king movement'.

New Zealand History Collection (BWB)

Read e-books about New Zealand history and biographies from Bridget Williams Books.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

News websites

Māori heroes and leaders are often in the news where their achievements and life events are reported. Check the websites below for the latest news.


Use this website to search for articles about current Māori heroes and leaders and also obituaries (a brief biography of someone who has died).

  • Type a Māori hero or leader's name into the search bar.
  • Or try a general search for 'Māori heroes' or 'Māori leaders'.

Māori Television

Māori Television connects New Zealanders with Māori language and culture by broadcasting a range of programmes that are of interest to New Zealanders in both English and Māori language.

  • Use the search feature to look for information about Māori performers like JGeeks and Rob Ruha or Māori sports people like equestrian Lily Toothill.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.


Your school library and local public library will have books about Māori heroes and leaders. Here are some suggested titles:

SCIS no: 1832677

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