Sir Apirana Turupa Ngata

Apirana Turupa Ngata was born on 3 July 1874 at Kawaka, commonly known as Te Araroa, near East Cape. He was the eldest son of the 15 children born to Paratene Ngata, of the Ngati Porou, and of Katerina Naki, a half-caste Ngati Porou from Waipiro Bay. His parents had been married in 1867 and, as the union appeared to be barren, they believed that conception would be possible only if certain rituals were performed by a Maori high priest or Tohunga. Katerina therefore subjected herself to a special ritual, which was later claimed as the reason for Ngata’s birth. Young Ngata was brought up by his mother’s sister, the wife of Major Ropata, and named Apirana, after Ropata’s eldest son. Ngata received his early education at the Waiomatatini Maori School and, at the age of 10, went to Te Aute College, where the headmaster was John Thornton, a devout Anglican Churchman and an outstanding classics scholar. Under Thornton’s guidance Ngata matriculated and gained the Senior Makarini Scholarship and an additional bursary which enabled him to further his studies at Canterbury University College. He graduated B.A. with second-class honours in political science in 1893. In 1894 he articled himself to Sir Theophilus Cooper in Auckland and studied for his M.A. (graduated 1921) and also for his law degree. In 1897 he gained his LL.B. and was admitted as a barrister and solicitor. He therefore became the first Maori to graduate in a New Zealand University and was one of the very earliest New Zealanders to hold the degrees of B.A., LL.B. The honorary degree of Doctor of Literature was conferred upon him by the University of New Zealand in 1948.

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