Rangi Toperoa, of Ngāti Toa and Ngāti Raukawa, was born at Kāwhia early in the nineteenth century. Her hapū (sub-tribe) were Ngāti Kimihia and Ngāti Te Maunu. She was a niece of the great Ngāti Toa leader Te Rauparaha, and a sister of the formidable warrior Te Rangihaeata. As a young woman she was a famous composer of waiata, and many of her songs are still sung today.
In the early 1820s she migrated south to Kapiti Island and adjacent mainland districts with her people, to escape the growing conflict with other Waikato tribes. Her actions during this turbulent migration, and once her people arrived in the south, marked her as a leader and a woman of great strength.
In May 1840 the missionary Henry Williams brought the Treaty of Waitangi to Kapiti Island. Rangi Toperoa was one of an estimated fi ve to thirteen women to sign the Treaty. When her brother Te Rangihaeata became involved in armed conflict with British troops and settlers in 1846 she became an opponent of the government. She remained an important figure among her people and a notable orator. Later she was reconciled to European settlement. When Bishop Selwyn baptised her at Ōtaki she insisted on taking the name Kuini Wikitoria (Queen Victoria), and her husband was named Albert, after Prince Albert, the Queen’s husband. She was later commonly known as the “Queen of the South”.
Rangi Toperoa died some time between 1865 and 1873 at Ōtaki. Her son, Matene Te Whiwhi, took a leading role in the establishment of the King Movement during the 1850s.