Parata was the son of an American whaling captain, Captain Trapp, and a Maori aristocrat, Koroteke. When his father died he was still a small boy and was given to a great-uncle, Haereroa, as a tamaiti whangai. He initially worked for whalers in the Dunedin area, then farming.
He helped introduce European farming methods among local Maori, including sheep farming, and was instrumental in the founding of a local school and of the Anglican church in the district. In 1885 he was elected to the House of Representatives, where he stayed until 1911, when he went to the Legislative Council from 1912 to 1917. His main interests in Parliament were the redress of Maori grievances and trying to get the New Zealand government to abide by its treaties with the Maori. He was almost totally unsuccessful.