Topic: Heni Te Kiri Karamu (1840-1933)

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Heni Te Kiri Karamu (1840-1933) (also known as Heni Pore, Jane Russell and Jane Foley) claimed to be at the Battle of Gate Pā (Pukehinahina) which took place on 29 April 1864.

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Heni Te Kiri Karamu is also known as Heni Pore, Jane Russell and Jane Foley. She was likely born on 14 November 1840 at Kaitaia and was of Ngāti Uenuku-Kopako and Ngāti Hinepare (Te Arawa) ancestry.

It is said that Heni was educated at Thomas and Anne Maria Chapman's school of Te Ngae, Rotorua, as well as other mission schools. She became an assistant teacher and governess.

In approximately 1855, at around age fifteen, she married Te Kiri Karamu who worked as a gum-digger in North Auckland. They are said to have had five children together, separating in 1861:

  1. Sophia Te Kiri Karamu.
  2. Rangitauninihi Te Kiri Karamu.
  3. Rangiteaorere Te Kiri Karamu.
  4. Te Ngahoa Te Kiri Karamu.
  5. Atutahi Te Kiri Karamu.

In 1865 Heni was staying with relatives near Otaramarae, on Lake Rotoiti, when she was part of a group of Te Arawa who captured Tauranga chief Hori Tupaea. Tupaea was part of a group of Pai Marire travelling through the area:

We followed them up rapidly into the bush south of Ruato, and we soon came upon a number of Maoris with Hori Tupaea among them... Our chief Matenga called on the party to stop, threatening to fire on them unless they stood fast (Cown, as cited in Stokes, p. 84).

Thirty-four years after the Battle of Gate Pā (Pukehinahina) (29 April 1864), Heni claimed that it was she who gave Booth water. She declared that, being part-European, she was not under the tapu that forbade Māori women to fight in battle and therefore was allowed to stay and fight beside her foster brother Neri during the Battle of Gate Pā .

There is a brass plaque and stained glass window to Heni at St George’s Anglican Memorial Church which stands on the Gate Pā battlesite in Tauranga.

Skepticism and controversy surround her story however. For more information see The Foley Family. Tauranga iwi Ngāi Te Rangi also expressed doubt over Heni's story (Bay of Plenty Times, 22 April 1898) and 'emphatically denied that even one woman was present at the Battle of Gate Pā'.

In 1898 Gilbert Mair appears to have been supporting Heni's account. Curiously though, by 1926 when Mair's definitive work on the Battle of Gate Pā was published, he appears to have changed his mind. There is no mention of Heni or her story within the book. It must be remembered that Mair was not at the battle himself, only joining the 1st Waikato Regiment in 1867 and fighting during the Tauranga Bush Campaign.

At Maketu, on 28 December 1869, Heni married Denis Stephen Foley. They had six children together:

  1. James Dennis Foley (1868-1936).
  2. John William Foley (1869-1913).
  3. Sophie Bertha Foley (1871-1944).
  4. Robert Henry Foley (1873-1934).
  5. Isabella Foley (1875-1876).
  6. Margaretta May Foley (1879-1903).

Heni died at King George V Hospital in Rotorua on 24 June 1933. She was buried in Rotorua Cemetery.

Whatever the truth to her stories, Heni still seems to have been an interesting character with a place in the history books who continues to provide inspiration for art pieces like the ones below:

A20: Atawhai by Sophie Evans (2014)

A20: Atawhai by Sophie Evans is a sculpture/ceramic entry into the adults division of the Battles of Gate Pā/Te Ranga Art Competition in 2014 depicting Heni Te Kiri Karamu. Photograph © Debbie McCauley (2014).

S11: Jane Foley by Abbey Mitchell (2014)

S11: Jane Foley by Abbey Mitchell from Tauranga Intermediate was an entrant in the schools division of the Battles of Gate Pā/Te Ranga Art Competition (2014). Photograph © Debbie McCauley (2014).



Alister Matheson (personal communication).

Ellen McCormack (personal communication).

Bay of Plenty Times (1896, January 10, p. 2). Visit of his Excellency the Governor.

Bay of Plenty Times (1898, February 25). The Gate Pa fight: Who gave the wounded water?

Bay of Plenty Times (1898, April 22, p. 2). To the Editor.

Clement, Christine. The Pioneers, Settlers and Families of Te Puke and District.

Clement, Christine & McCormack, Ellen (2012). The Pioneers, Settlers and Families of Katikati and District. 

Mair, Gilbert (1926). The Story of Gate Pa, April 29th 1864 [Reprinted by the Bay of Plenty Times Ltd in 1937 & 1964. Reprinted by Cadsonbury Publications in 2010. Reprinted by Tauranga Charitable Trust in 2014].

McCauley, Debbie (5 August 2011). Identity and the Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina), 29 April 1864 (Tauranga Memories: Battle of Gate Pa, 1864 kete).

McCauley, Debbie (2013, January 9). Battle of Gate Pā 1864: Who gave water to the wounded?

Oliver, Steven. Te Kiri Karamu, Heni 1840-1933 (Dictionary of New Zealand).

Stokes, Evelyn (1990). Te Raupatu o Tauranga Moana: The confiscation of Tauranga Lands.


This page archived at Perma CC in March of 2017: 

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Heni Te Kiri Karamu (1840-1933)

First Names:Heni
Last Name:Te Kiri Karamu
Date of Birth:14 November 1840
Place of Birth:Kaitaia
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:24 June 1933
Place of death:King George V Hospital, Rotorua
Place of burial:Rotorua Cemetery
Occupation:assistant teacher, governess
Spouses name:Denis Stephen Foley and Te Kiri Karamu
Spouses date of birth:1840
Spouses date of death:29 May 1900
Spouses place of death:Katikati
Spouses place of burial:Symonds Street Cemetery, Auckland
Date of marriage:28 December 1869
Place of marriage:Maketu
Fathers name:Thomas William Kelly (Irish whaling ship captain) and Richard Russell (foster father)
Mothers name:Maraea (Pihohau/Pikokau)
Name of sibilings:Neri (foster brother)
Name of the children:James Dennis Foley , Margaretta May Foley , John William Foley , Sophie Bertha Foley , Robert Henry Foley , Sophia Te Kiri Karamu, Rangitauninihi Te Kiri Karamu, Rangiteaorere Te Kiri Karamu, Te Ngahoa Te Kiri Karamu, Isabella Foley , and Atutahi Te Kiri Karamu