Matiu Rata was born in Te Hapua, Northland, and was educated at Te Hapua Māori School, Dargaville School and Napier Street School, Auckland. After leaving school he worked at sea for seven years. Rata joined the railways at Otahuhu and later became an executive member of his union. He married Nellie Rata née Eruera in 1955 and had three children. From 1963-80 he was Member of Parliament for Northern Māori and in 1966 was awarded a United States Department of State study award. He was Minister of Māori Affairs and Minister of Lands from He was founder of the Mana Motuhake Party in 1980. He wrote mainly political reports and documents. In 1972 he wrote an extensive essay on the Treaty of Waitangi for Cabinet in preparation for the Waitangi Bill of 1975. He was executive officer for Runanga o Muriwhenua, and held directorships of Muriwhenua Fishing Ltd, Rata Associates Ltd, Godwit Centre Ltd, and Basket of Fish Co Ltd. He was an Apostle and Minister of the Ratana Church and chair of NZ Labour Māori Policy Committee. He was President of the New Zealand Rugby League Māori Board of Control. In 1969 Rata and Barry Metcalfe went to Mururoa Atol and later Rata wrote a tale in a book with Barry Metcalfe on Magic Isle. He initiated the South Pacific Arts Festival and represented New Zealand at the independence of Papua New Guine in 1973, the Cook Islands, and Niue Island. He was a member of the UN Team monitorin South African Elections in 1994.
- Phone conversation with Matiu Rata 1 July 1993.
- "Mana Motuhake Candidates." Tu Tangata 3 (1981): 10.
- Walker, R. J. "The Genesis of Māori Activism." Journal of the Polynesian Society 93.3 (1984): 278-9.
- Who’s Who in New Zealand. Ed. Max Lambert. 12th ed. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1991. 520.
- New Zealand Who’s Who Aotearoa. Ed. Alister Taylor. Vol. 1. Auckland, N.Z.: NZ Who’s Who Aotearoa, 1992. 237.
- New Zealand Who’s Who Aotearoa. 1998 ed. Ed. Alister Taylor. Auckland, N.Z.: New Zealand Who’s Who Publications, 1998. 839.
- "The Māori Abroad." Te Kaunihera Māori: New Zealand Māori Council Journal 1.1 (1966): 35.
- Rata discusses his seven week tour of the USA sponsored by the U. S. State Department and notes the number of Māori currently studying and working in the States.
- "Labour 1971 Conference." Te Māori: The Official Journal of the New Zealand Māori Council 2.4 (1971): 31-32.
- This is the text of Rata’s address to the Labour Party’s Māori policy committee during the 1971 Labour Party Conference. Rata discusses the ‘deteriorating conditions for Māori and Polynesian people’ and produces statistics to demonstrate the over-representation of Māori in labouring/transportation occupations, the lower attainment of educational qualifications by Māori and the rising numbers of Māori moving away from New Zealand. Rata calls for an increase in the number of Māori seats and for greater priority to be given to improving Māori educational achievements at all levels.
- "He Panui Tenei no Te Minita o Te Taari Māori." Rongo 1.1 (1973/74): 9.
- This text in English and Māori is of a motion presented by Rata on 14 September 1973 to the Speaker of the House, in which Rata calls upon Parliament to support the Government’s promotion of Māori language teaching, "Māori Language Day" on 14 September 1973 and the importance of Māori language learning for New Zealand school children as a contribution to the ‘social and cultural enrichment’ of New Zealand.
- "Haere Mai." Te Māori 6.6 (1974): 6-8.
- This is the text of Rata’s tribute to Norman Kirk presented in Parliament on September 3 1974.
- Māori Trade Training Schemes. Hon Matiu Rata Minister of Māori Affairs. Ser. Care Magazine 2. [Auckland, N.Z.: Citizens’ Association for Racial Equality], 1974.
- This is the text of Rata’s address to the C.A.R.E. Consultation on "Māori and Non-Māori Polynesians in Pakeha Industry" presented on 15 March, 1974. Rata outlines Māori Affairs policy concerning trade training schemes, he discusses the nature of the Māori work force and employment statistics and lists 5 government targets. He then discusses the success of the existing trade training schemes and future plans.
- "Trade Training Target." Te Ao Hou 76 (1975): 33-34.
- This article discusses the new targets for the Māori and Island Affairs Department’s trade training schemes. Rata writes that the 12-24 age group is the group he is most concerned about because such a high percentage leave school without qualifications. In order to ‘expand their opportunities so as to develop their full potential...’ Rata proposes increasing the number of trade trainees to at least 1,000 each year.
- "New Opportunities Centres." Multi-Cultural School 2 (1975): 9-13.
- "Mana Motuhake Wants Responsibility By The Māori People." Tu Tangata 3 (Nov./Dec. 1981): 12.
- Rata outlines the objectives and policies of the Mana Motuhake Party and specifically looks at issues concerning land, unemployment, the family, Māori leadership and decision-making, the media and education. Rata states that the primary objective of the party is ‘to transform New Zealand in its active practices and laws to reflect the true nature of a bi-cultural country.’
- "A Political Overview." He Kōrero Mo Waitangi, 1984: He Tohu Aroha, Ki Nga Tupuna: "Talk, Conciliate and Heal". Ed. Arapera Blank, Manuka Henare and Haare Williams. [Ngaruawahia], N.Z.: Te Runanga o Waitangi, 1985. 24-36.
- In this paper Rata discusses the various efforts by Māori to seek justice from the Crown. He then examines the different versions of the Treaty and notes the implications of the three articles of the Treaty. In the latter part of the paper Rata looks at the legislative status of the Treaty and provides the historical background leading up to the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal.
- "The Waitangi Tribunal: Political and Constitutional Implications." Te Reo o Te Tiriti Mai Rano: The Treaty is always speaking. Ed. Bernard Kernot and Alistair McBride. Wellington, N.Z.: Tertiary Christian Studies Programme of the Combined Chaplaincies, Victoria U, 1989. 56-69.
- Rata gives a detailed description of the process of establishing the Waitangi Tribunal.
- "He Panui Tenei No Te Minita o Te Taari Māori." Rongo 1.1 (Summer 1973/74): 9.
- In English and Māori.
- "Mana Motuhake Candidates." Tu Tangata 3 (Nov./Dec. 1981): 10.
- "Study Award for M.P." Te Ao Hou 55 (1966): 15.
- A brief article reporting that Rata is awarded a study award by the United States Department of State.
- "New Minister of Māori Affairs." Te Ao Hou 72 (1973?):2.
- Potiki, Paul. "The Rata Resignation." Te Kaea: The Māori Magazine 2 (Mar./Apr. 1980): 4-6.
- Isaac, Peter. "Mat Rata: Able Seaman, Truck Driver, Cabinet Minister." Te Māori 5.1 (1973): 28-35.
- Green, Ralph. "Rata’s new deal for Māori landowners." Te Māori 5.5 (1973): 16.
- An outline of the Parliamentary Bill introduced by Rata in September 1973.
- "A Family Farewell to the ‘Humble Son of the North.’" Press 30 July 1997: 1.