Hongi Hika was born in 1772, about the time of the Waimate and Kerikeri conquests, and he spent his early years learning the arts of war and agricultures from his father’s and mothers’ people at Waimate and Kerikeri.
His mother Tuhikura belonged to Ngāti Rēhia, the hapū who cultivated land at Kerikeri and who were strong allies of Hongis’ father’s hapū, Ngāti Tautahi.
Hongi had inherited Mana (authority) over his land from his father and grandfather, who had led successful military campaigns against former occupants, Ngāti Miru and Te Wahineiti, between 1770 and 1800. Hongi Hika was a member of an elite family with a proud military heritage.
Hongi grew up with two older brothers and only assumed the mantle of military leadership sometime after the age of 35 years old. Between the ages of 36 and 43, Hongi established himself as the paramount chief of Ngāpuhi in campaigns against the Northern Tribes.
Until 1815 he shared the leadership of Ngāpuhi with his older brother, Āriki (paramount chief), Kaingaroa.
In 1820 Hongi traveled to London and was presented to King George 1V. In England, Hongi was presented with a chain mail coat, which he would later wear in battle, along with other valuable presents that he traded for muskets in Sydney on his way back to Waimate.
During the years 1821 to 1823 Hongi was away from the Bay of Islands on military campaigns to the south. These expeditions departed from Koropiro Pā.
Hongi died in 1823 at Pūpuke, Whangaroa, aged about 55 years.
Ngāpuhi traditions state that Hongi’s body was concealed in a cave at Matauri.After his Hahunga (cleansing of the bones) in April 1829 at Kaeo, his remains were subsequently returned to his former seats of power – successively at places near Te Ngaire, Matauri Bay, Waimate and Te Pākinga ( Kaikohe), before finally being deposited at Wharepaepae, a traditional Ngāpuhi burial site.