Witaparene was the daughter of a Ngāti Whātua Chief named Mohi Te Hokaanga Minarapa II and one of his wives Harihura, who was from the Gisborne area, we assume maybe the Ngati Porou tribe.
Not much is known of Witaparene’s early life other than perhaps she spent the early years in the Gisborne area, but it would be expected that it was similar to other Māori children of that time period.
She may have had some limited education from the local missionaries, we do not know. Communication between John and Witaparene would have been limited to what English and Maori each had been able to pick up.
We can only assume they met when John first landed in the Hokianga from Sydney as the need for a wet-nurse would have been urgent. I am sure Mohi Te Hokaanga had a part to play with this arrangement, as it would have suited his strategic alliances and trade connections with Europeans.
It was common practice from when the first whalers came to New Zealand for Maori Chief’s to marry off their daughters to Europeans.
It was a three-fold benefit for the chief – firstly he managed to rid himself of a daughter, secondly he had a point of trade for goods, mainly iron and muskets and thirdly it potentially provided protection in the form of the whalers would help defend the tribe if attached as well as later it provided some protect to be provided by the British Government (Richard “Dicky” Barrett and his life in Wellington and New Plymouth an example of this).
Domestic life at that time for Witaparene would have been set down from John’s instructions. We can get an understanding of this from books recounting the lives of the early whalers and their Maori wives.
They were run much like their ships – everything had its place, everything was put away and tidy, meals were to be prepared and ready for when the men walked through the door, clothes repaired as well as gardening and washing kept up, and finishing with the pleasures of male and female relations and the resulting off spring.
Witaparene like most Maori at the time also adopted English names, from her son’s (William’s) death certificate we see she went by Christine. For reasons already explained she also had the nick name of “Black Ann”.
We understand that Witaparene died in about 1844. It appears that William stayed close to his father, perhaps being raised by Johns 3rd wife and Witaparene’s half-sister – Henipapa, while Ngaere was sent to be raised for most of his life by his mother’s family down in the Gisborne area.
On some documents but together by Pat Stanaway (Henry Stanaway’s grandson) on his mother he has a hand written note which he penned in 1981 with an arrow pointing to Henipapa stating;
She was formally the 2nd Maori wife of JJ Stanaway, another Maori wife was said to have been lost overboard outside the Sydney Heads – date or year unknown.
If true this may explain why there are no records of Witaparene, and why John married her sister, or is this getting mixed up with the story of John’s first wife who we understood was buried at sea.