Tarore was from the Ngati Haua tribe. Her father was Ngakuku, a nephew of the great Te Waharoa, and himself a chief of the Ngati Haua of Tainui. Tarore attended a mission school and learned to read. In 1836 she was awarded one of the first Gospel of Luke published in Te Reo (Maori Language).
A mission station had been opened at Matamata by A.N. Brown and his wife Charlotte in April 1835 on a site provided by Te Waharoa. Troubles in the area persuaded the Browns to close the station and evacuate the school to Tauranga in October 1836. Ngakuku and the CMS missionary John Flatt led a party of children over the Kaimai Range. The journey took them to the Wairere Falls where they made camp. The camp fire attracted a raiding party from Rotorua, led by Uita. Those in the camp responded quickly, and after some fighting the raiding party withdrew. But Tarore had been killed, still on her sleeping mat. She was 12 years old. Her death immediately created a desire for utu (revenge), but Tarore had already read her gospel to her father and Jesus had worked in his heart, at her funeral the next day at Matamata, Ngakuku preached against revenge, saying there had been too much bloodshed already and that the people should trust in the justice of God.
Tarore’s copy of the Gospel of Luke had a continuing history. Tarore had worn the gospel in a special treasure bag around her neck so Uita had taken it during the attack, thinking it might be of value. However, he was unable to read, and it lay unused in his pa, until a slave named Ripahau, who had been taught at the mission station and then had been released due the intervention of the missionaries, came to the pa on his journey to return home. He read to the people from the Gospel. Uita was so convicted by the Holy Spirit that dangerous as it was, he decided he must go and ask forgiveness of Tarore’s father. Ngakuku could easily have killed him in utu, but instead he lead Uita in the sinner’s prayer and they were reconciled.
Meanwhile the slave Ripahau left Uita’s pa and returned to Otaki, where he met Tamihana Te Rauparaha from Kapiti Island, the son of Wiremu Te Rauparaha, the great Ngati Toa chief. Ripahau again was invited to read from the Scripture to Tamihana and his cousin Matene Te Whiwhi. He taught them to read and once again Luke’s gospel touched hearts. Ripahau had only a few pages at his disposal, and in time a messenger was sent back to Rotorua for more books. The book that was returned to them, now somewhat worn, was the Gospel that Tarore had used, still with Ngakuku’s name on it. In time Tamihana and Matene became Christians, and Ripahau himself was converted. It is said that Tamihana and Matene took Tarore’s book with them when they travelled to the South Island, preaching the gospel of peace and reconciliation.
Tarore was buried at Waharoa. Her grave is the site of many visits and commemorations. In 1986 there was a large ordination of Maori clergy on her day, near the site of her grave. Her story has long been amongst the taonga of the church in Aotearoa.
DIED: 19 October 1836, Wairere Falls, Kaimai Range, New Zealand.