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: 11/03/19


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 Pakeha 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 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.

General websites

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

Te Ara Biographies

The Te Ara Biographies were originally published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, but are now included in Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 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.

Tips: Use this resource for biographies of people who are no longer alive like Hone Heke and Whina Cooper.

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.
  • Browse for biographies by occupation.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have .govt meaning they are from a government organisation. It's also a New Zealand site, so relevant for us.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

As well as the Te Ara Biographies, use this website to find information about other Māori heroes. Just type the name of your Māori hero into the search bar and 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.

Topic Explorer

Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It is also a government website and you can tell this because it has .govt in the web address. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats (eg articles, books, images, videos, primary sources, sets, websites) on a variety of topics. These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.

Choose the topic Māori Heroes to find lots of information.


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 this website because it is also a government website so you can trust the information. You can tell this because it has .govt in the web address.

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.

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 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre

Look here for newspaper and magazine articles from New Zealand and Australian newspapers and magazines. Just type your 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

The holds the entire archive of the New Zealand Geographic magazine, including heaps of articles about Aotearoa New Zealand's places and people. Try searching for a particular name, or a more general topic like 'Māori king movement'.

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).

Tips: Just type your 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. It's a great place to look for information about Māori performers like JGeeks and Rob Ruha and 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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