Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui (Major Kemp) was the main negotiator with the government but due to shady deals he was in debt as the land grab in NZ spread.
Rere-o-Maki signed the Waitangi Treaty at Wanganui where she lived with her husband Tunguru, the Muaupoko leader who had been driven out of his ancestral home by Te Rauparaha. One of her children was Te Keepa, or Major Kemp, the famous soldier. In old age Tunguru decided to go home to his ancestral land, and Rere-o-Maki is said to have turned her face to the wall and died of grief. A section of the Whanganui river is named after her.
Te Rangihiwinui, also known as Taitoko and later as Te Keepa, or Major Kemp, is thought to have been born in the first half of the 1820s at Tuwhakatupua, on the Manawatu River, near Opiki. His mother was Rere-o-maki, the sister of Ngati Ruaka leader Te Anaua. Her major tribal affiliations were Ngati Ruaka and Ngati Tupoho of Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi, and through her mother, Te Arawa. His father, Mahuera Paki Tanguru-o-te-rangi, was a major leader of Muaupoko. Te Rangihiwinui is thought to have had three wives. The first, Makere or Makareta, was a close relative of Te Anaua. His third wife, who survived him, was named Te Mata Kaihoe.
In the period of Te Rangihiwinui's birth and early childhood, the west coast tribes, Ngati Apa, Rangitane and Muaupoko, were under severe pressure from Ngati Toa and their allies, Ngati Raukawa and Te Ati Awa, who were migrating into the area from the north. There is a story told that when Te Rauparaha attacked the Muaupoko island pa at Lake Horowhenua, Rere-o-maki swam across the lake to safety with her child on her back. Muaupoko survivors existed for many years under the protection of Ngati Raukawa, but Rere-o-maki, Tanguru and Te Rangihiwinui found refuge with Rere-o-maki's people at Putiki Wharanui, near the mouth of the Wanganui River.
The Church Missionary Society mission station at Putiki, established in 1841, was to exert a strong influence on the lower Wanganui tribes. Te Rangihiwinui was possibly baptised at Putiki, taking the name Te Keepa (Kemp). Unlike his relatives Hoani Wiremu Hipango, Te Mawae and Te Anaua, however, he was less distinguished for his piety than for his fighting qualities. In the mid 1840s he was involved in fixing the boundaries of the Wanganui block, and received a £10 share of the payment when the purchase was completed in May 1848. About this time he was enrolled as a constable in the Armed Police Force of New Munster. He was probably stationed with Major D. S. Durie at Waikanae; he was serving under Durie when the latter was transferred to Wanganui as magistrate in April 1851. Besides police duties, Durie and his Maori constables, Te Keepa, Benjamin and Poutahi, were employed to carry mail along the coastal trail between Taranaki and Wellington.
By 1862 Te Keepa and Hipango were regarded as the leading pro-government Maori at Wanganui. The Taranaki war of 1860–61 had left considerable anxiety in the township, particularly about the attitude of the upper Wanganui tribes. Accordingly, Te Keepa and Hipango travelled to Wellington in 1862 to invite Governor George Grey to visit the settlement. Grey accepted their invitation, but gave offence to the Putiki Maori by refusing to go upriver, although he did appoint native magistrates.
War developed among the Wanganui tribes in 1864, when upper Wanganui Maori adopted the Pai Marire faith. The lower Wanganui tribes, who had prospered through the presence of the mission at Putiki and the trade generated by the European settlement, refused free passage to the Hauhau force for an attack on the town. Te Keepa fought at Moutoa, an island in the Wanganui River, on 14 May 1864, where, after a formal challenge, the Hauhau force was repulsed. He was among the force which subsequently captured the main Hauhau pa, Ohoutahi, below Pipiriki, in February 1865. In this engagement Hipango was killed. Wanganui honoured its Maori defenders with a ceremonial presentation of a Moutoa flag and the erection of a statue.
This was the beginning for Te Keepa of six years' military service in support of the government. He enlisted in the Native Contingent, and in April 1865 was sent to Wanganui, where he supervised the construction of one of three redoubts at Pipiriki. By this time Te Keepa was assembling a personal following of warriors. They fought first at Weraroa pa, on the Waitotara River, in July 1865, but were then recalled to Pipiriki as part of a large force to relieve the redoubt garrisons, now under siege. In September they were part of a punitive force sent to Opotiki to conduct operations against those who had killed the missionary C. S. Völkner six months earlier.