Old Manawatu, or The Wild Days of the West
Chapter IV. — Rangitikei-Manawatu
So let it be. In God's own might
We gird us for the coming fight.
And, strong in Him whose cause is ours,
In conflict with unholy powers,
We grasp the weapons He has given—
The Light, and Truth, and Love of Heaven.
The settlement of native land disputes has never been at any time a matter of simplicity and either from the practice of regarding Maori land from the European standpoint, or from a desire on the part of some unscrupulous schemers to "garb" more than they were entitled to, there has been no branch of New Zealand's judicature which has been so prolific of strife, delay, and heart-burning as the Native Land Courts. Of this probably no instance was more typical than the dispute which arose out of the purchase by the Provincial Government of the land in the upper part of this district, for there raged for years a storm of litigation around page 165the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block which not only strained the relations between European settlers, but at one time threatened to break out in inter-tribal war. So important an episode in the life of the district cannot, of course, be ignored in any work presuming to set forth its historical outline, and therefore it is the author's duty to state with all impartiality such of the ascertained facts in connection with it as are at his disposal. At this distance of time, however, when almost all who were engaged in making or unravelling the complications of the case are gone, and when the memories of those participants who are still alive have grown seer and yellow in the autumn of life, the historian must rely mainly upon documents still extant, and for his interpretation of those documents he must depend upon his own judgment. If that judgment should lead to conclusions opposed to those of the Native Land Court Judges, he will not be so presumptuous as to say "so much the worse for the Judges," but will rest content with the reflection that amidst such a conflict of truth and falsehood no one could well be blamed for going astray.
As will be seen by the foregoing sketch, the approximate division of the tribal lands prior to Te Rauparaha's invasion was that the Rangitane and Ngatiapa jointly occupied the page 166country between the Rangitikei and Manawatu Rivers, the Muaupoko dwelt in the vicinity of the Horowhenua Lake, and southwards of them, towards Otaki and Waikanae, the land was occupied by various minor branches of the race. Their intertribal wars had not been of such magnitude as to cause vast and sweeping changes, for in none of these tribes did the war spirit run sufficiently high to make conquerors of them. By persistent pressure and the fusion of mutual friendship, the Ngatiapa had gradually encroached upon the land of the Rangitane, and obtained a footing on the south side of the Rangitikei River. For exactly how long they had enjoyed this lordship over the land is not known, but they were undoubtedly there when Te Rauparaha first marched through the country, and to this, and to the fact that Te Rangihaeata took one of their women to be his wife, was due the Ngatiapa claim to a share in the proceeds of the sale which gave rise to the dispute, and the perpetration of an act which many people believe to have been a grave miscarriage of justice.
In considering a question of this kind, it is of vital importance that the influence of conquest should be borne in mind, for under the Maori code the tribe which proved itself page 167victorious in the field sealed with the blood of its dead their right to the soil. This ancient custom is so well established as scarcely to require confirmation here; but in order that nothing may be stated that cannot be sustained, the following references to two well known authorities may help to make good the position. In a despatch to the Duke of Newcastle, dated from Government House, 17th December, 1863, Sir George Grey, then Governor of the colony, says: —
I ought to mention to Your Grace that I believe I was the first to recommend the forfeiture of lands by those natives who took up arms against us, and I did so because such a proceeding is in conformity with their own custom.
Two years later Mr. Fox,* in reply to a protest lodged by the Aborigines' Protection Society against the confiscation of Maori lands, justified the policy of the Government in the following lucid paragraph: —
In the first place it is the custom which has always been recognised by the Maoris themselves. In their wars a conquered tribe not only forfeited its lands, but the vanquished survivors were reduced to a tributary position, and large numbers to personal slavery. The Government of New Zealand has always recognised such a title as valid, and a very large proportion, if not an absolute majority, of the purchases of land from the Maoris have been made on the basis of a recognition of this right of conquest.
* Afterwards Sir William Fox.
If it were necessary to pursue the matter further, instances might be enumerated in which the conquerors actually received the payment for the purchased districts,* but beyond pointing out that the Treaty of Waitangi recognised as a broad principle the title by conquest, and ratified all such transactions prior to 1840, it is scarcely needful to further elaborate a position which cannot be assailed. The whole merits of the dispute which took place between the Ngatiapa and Ngatiraukawa tribes in reference to the sale of the Manawatu - Rangitikei Block thus centres on the question of conquest, for the only real issue which the Court had to decide in 1869 was whether the original owners had been subdued by the Ngatitoa, and the conquered country handed over by them to their allies, the Ngatiraukawa.
* This was the case in the Middle Island, where 8,000,000 acres were purchased from the Ngatitoa and Ngatiawa tribes in 1856, by Mr. Donald McLean.
When once they had made a certainty of their conquest, the Ngatiraukawa appear to have been remarkably generous and humane in their treatment of the conquered tribes, a leniency for which they received no thanks here, whatever their reward may be hereafter. Thus matters seemed to proceed with comparative smoothness until the arrival of some of the European settlers in the Rangitikei district.
These people, desiring to get a title to the land, and not recognising the difference between the conquering and conquered chiefs, began to traffic with the Ngatiapa, who were page 170shrewd enough to see the possibilities of making a revenue out of the territory, and who then conceived the idea of selling the land to the Government. This immediately led to angry disputes with the Ngatiraukawa, whose opposition to the sale presented an insuperable barrier to the negotiations which Mr. McLean had commenced for the purchase of the Rangitikei block. Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata were simply furious at the suggestion that the Ngatiapa, whom they described as "the remnant of their meal," should have a voice in the sale at all, and they loudly upbraided the Ngatiraukawa chiefs for having interposed to prevent the completion of their work of extermination, which would have set at rest for ever all such spurious claims.
* Now Sir Walter Buller.
It appears that when the Ngatiapa, in 1849, surrendered to the Crown the land lying between the Whanganui and Rangitikei Rivers, they compromised the conflicting Ngatiraukawa claims of conquest by conceding to the latter the right of disposal over the territory to the south of the Rangitikei, with the mutual understanding that as the Ngatiraukawa had received a share of the payments,* the Ngatiapa should in like manner participate in the purchase money of this block whenever the Ngatiraukawa should sell. With the lapse of years the Ngatiapa have come to regard their claim as one of absolute right, in every respect equal to that of the present holders, while the latter always regarding the claim as one of sufferance, are now disposed to ignore it altogether.
Matene te Whiwhi, a well-known chief of the west, thus states the relative positions of the tribes, and the handing over of the land by the Ngatiraukawa:—
The Ngatiapa and Rangitane had lost all authority over these lands as far as Wairarapa long before the Treaty of Waitangi came in 1840. At the time the treaty was signed they had no authority over the land. The Ngatiraukawa quietly handed over the other side of Rangitikei to Ngatiapa for them to sell to Mr. McLean, which made that sale complete.
Again Rawari te Whanui, a deacon of the Church of England, says:—
When Ngatiraukawa heard that Rangitikei waspage 172being sold they assembled to stop the sale of this side. They agreed to allow the other side to be sold on condition that Ngatiapa should abandon all claim to this side, to which Ngatiapa agreed. Ngatiraukawa did not receive any of the money payment for the land, though it was through them having given their consent that the land was sold and Ngatiapa got the money.
* Either Mr. Buller was misled in his original information, or the original agreement was not carried out, for the Ngatiraukawa tribe received no part of the £1500 paid for the Rangitikei Block in 1849.
The privilege thus conferred on Ngatiapa of selling the most northern block was exercised to the full without let or hindrance on the part of the Ngatiraukawa, who faithfully discharged their part of the understanding. The sale took place in the military parade ground at Whanganui on the 15th of May, 1849, and was attended by the officers of the 65th Regiment as well as several other gentlemen prominently connected with the settlement of the colony. "When the whole of the natives had congregated in the square, Mr. Donald McLean, the Land Purchase Commissioner, addressed them upon the subject which had brought them together, and requested them to make any statement they wished before signing the deed of sale, so that all might know the favourable disposition or otherwise by which they were influenced in parting with their land to the Government.
The principal chiefs then rose one by one and declared in most emphatic terms their fixed and mature determination to dispose of their lands to the Queen, and as earnestly page 173expressed their desire to participate in the advantages which would follow from the residence of a large European population in their immediate vicinity. The deed of sale was then read over, the natives by nods and exclamations fully assenting to the boundaries and other conditions named therein. There were, however, two dissentients. Reihana and Ngawaka demanded that larger reserves should be set aside than had already been provided for, but this artful pair were at once silenced by the rebukes of George King, the chief of Putikimaranui, who remonstrated against such untimely requests when it was well known to all the tribe that the whole block had been offered to the Government. With their opposition thus smartly squelched, Reihana and Ngawaka were amongst the first to come forward to sign the deed, naively remarking as they did so that they had only endeavoured to extort as much land as possible " before holding the pen."
On the following morning the whole of the natives were astir at an early hour, and the parade ground was soon alive with the bustle and excitement inseparable from a great event in Maori life. On this day the purchase money was to be paid over, and for the purposes of the ceremony a tent had been erected in the centre of the enclosure. In page 174front of this temporary structure the tribes were marshalled in the order in which they were to be paid. Again the deed of sale was read over to them, and again the consent was unanimous, those who could not sign having their names written in for them.
The Ngatiapa were then addressed by Aperahama Tipae, who reminded them of the serious step they had just taken, of their bounden duty to loyally abide by it, and of the necessity of their looking to the Governors of the Colony as their guardians. He then in turn addressed the Wangaehu, Turakina, and Rangitikei hapus, enquiring of each whether they fully realised the nature of the agreement they had entered into, and whether they were as fully decided to abide by it. To these enquiries there came a running fire of " ai" down the lines, and Abraham concluded his homily by warning all that if anyone departed from that promise he would be the first to bring the offender to justice.
Paora Turangapito, the principal chief at Turakina, and the foremost Ngatiapa warrior, next spoke to the people, assuring them in laboured tones that the alienation of the lands of their forefathers was an important episode in which he was proud to take a part before he died—an event which did not appear far off, as the hand of death was already upon page 175him. The old chief then set up a lament for the land which he could no longer call his own, and in the refrain the people joined most heartily.
But their tangi soon terminated when the bags of bank notes were produced, and the first instalment of £1000 was placed upon the table. Each of the eighty-six hapus received a bag containing £10, the remaining fourteen bags being distributed between the following chiefs: —Kingi Hori and Hunia of Rangitikei, £60; Paora Turangapita, of Turakina, £40; Aparahama Tipae, of Wangaehu, £40; making in all one hundred bags of £10 each.
* In a report to the Government, dated March 10th, 1850, Mr Tacy Kemp, Native Secretary, says: " The Ngatiapa are a remnant of the original people, and have held but little intercourse with Europeans. They are still rude and uncivilised, and look with a jealous eye on their old conquerors, the Ngatiraukawa, by whom they were recently permitted to sell land on the north side of the river. The whole of the Ngatiapa scarcely amount to more than 300 souls.
Ten years later a similarly generous act was performed towards the Rangitane people by the Ngatiraukawa, when they conceded to them what is known as the Ahuaturanga Block in the Upper Manawatu. An attempt had previously been made by Te Hirawanu, a chief of the Rangitane, to sell this block to Governor Browne, but his efforts in this direction were frustrated by the Ngatiraukawa, whose claims to ownership were shown to be superior. But in the language of Rawari te Whanui, " Afterwards Ngatiraukawa, out of love for Hirawanu, returned the land formerly his to him." The story of that concession is thus told by Commissioner Searancke in his official report dated at Manawatu River, 27th September, 1858: —
On the 19th ultimo I arrived here, and after a few days' delay, proceeded in company with Nepia Taratoa, Ihakara, and about forty others of the chiefs and principal men of the Ngatiraukawa tribe up the Manawatu River to Raukawa,* the settlement of Te Hirawanu, the chief of the Rangitane and Ngatimotuahi tribes. A numerous meeting of natives from the Ngatiraukawa, Ngatitehihi, Ngatimakatere, Te Upokoiri, † Ngatiapa, Rangitane, and Ngatimotuahi took place, when the whole of the upper part of the Manawatu was formally returned to Te Hirawanu by the three first-named tribes, they fully consenting to his
* Near Ashhurst.page 177selling the whole of it to the Government, Nepia Taratoa more particularly wishing him to complete the sale of the land at once.*
† These were all hapus of the Ngatiraukawa tribe.
When we bear in mind that conquest had given the Ngatiraukawa a title to the country which no Maori would question except by conquest, and no European could challenge without flying in the face of the Treaty of Waitangi, it would have been thought that these large concessions made to the original owners would in equity have secured to the givers an undisputed claim to that portion which they wished to retain as their own for ever; but the Ngatiapa ideas of equity were laid on no such broad lines, for, having sold the land given back to them, they quietly lay in wait for a further opportunity of beating by "slimness" the people who had vanquished them on the field.†
* The money for this block was paid over at Raukawa by Dr. Featherston and Mr. Buller.
† Their first act of aggression was to build a hut on the south side of the Rangitikei River, which was immediately pulled down by Te Rangihaeata.
It is believed that most if not all these leases were made with Nepia Taratoa, though members of other tribes are also parties to them, or at least some of them.
How these " members of other tribes" came to participate in the leases is thus told by Bishop Hadfield, whose knowledge of native history on this coast is not surpassed by that of any other European: —
When Ngatiraukawa accepted the Christian religion, they, unlike the American slave-holders of the Southern States, deemed it inconsistent with their profession of religion to retain their fellow-men in slavery. They let their slaves go free. Several of these men continued to reside amongst their former masters. There were some intermarriages; they were thenceforth treated as equals, but without any thought of their being again reinstated in their former possessions. There were one or two attempts made about the year 1855 to regain a footing, but these were instantly stopped. Subsequently it was agreed to erect a mill at Makohai, on the Rangitikei River, for the joint use of Ngatiapa and Ngatiraukawa. In consequence of this there was a combined effort to raise funds for the purpose agreed upon. This gave rise to the first leases to the squatters in which both parties joined, but this was only a temporary arrangement, agreed upon for a specific purpose, with the view of arriving at an object concerning which there was no difference of opinion. Some time afterwards, during the Taranaki war, when the whole of the tribes along this coast had their attention more or less pre-occupied with matters of general interest, Nepia Taratoa, being alarmed, wished to have his old slaves page 179again around him, they being for the most part Kingites. He invited some of them to come to his neighbourhood. In order to secure their services he offered to let some of his lands, and pay them with the money derived from the rents; what was done was to promise them some temporary participation in the rents from the leased lands. This act of his, which was done without the sanction of the tribe, could not possibly be construed into a formal transfer of the land.
Further testimony as to the relative positions of the two tribes regarding the actual ownership of the land is given by Nepia Taratoa's son, who has left his views on record in the following statement:—
When Ahuaturanga was sold my father and his people fixed the boundaries of the land—the Upper Manawatu on to Ahuaturanga, for Rangitane; that down towards the mouth of the River Manawatu on to Rangitikei to remain for Ngatiraukawa. Some years afterwards my father and his people granted some illegal and irregular leases over this country; the first year my father and his people took all the money; the third year my father gave some money to Ngatiapa; the fourth year Ngatiapa and Rangitane asked my father and Ngatikauwhata to allow them to join in these leases. My father gave his consent and they joined. My father intended that they should have a portion of the money alone, not of the land. The land was to be for my father and his tribe alone. My father was simply treating, as he always had treated, with kindness these people, Ngatiapa, and their friends.
According to Atareta, Nepia's daughter, the mana over the land was with her father, but with respect to the leases she says: —page 180
The Ngatiapa and Rangitane had been allowed to join in them, but in the money alone, not in the land. I am fully aware and am quite positive that it was my father's fixed determination that the land should be retained for his people alone, for the Ngatiraukawa.
If so explicit a statement from so excellent an authority as Bishop Hadfield is to receive the credence which it surely deserves, we are here confronted with an act of Christian grace on the part of an untutored savage which not even men who were born and bred in a Bible land were able to emulate, until they had waded to emancipation through the nation's blood. But Nepia's charity and goodness of heart were not exhausted by this act of clemency towards his former slaves, for when in 1863 old age had crept upon him, and the death sweat lay heavy on his brow, he summoned Ngatiapa to his bed side, and presenting them with his own share of the rents, earnestly counselled them to live in friendship with his people, who in years gone by had protected them from the anger of Te Rauparaha.
The avaricious manner in which the Ngatiapa snapped at this last gift of the dying chief boded badly for their observance of his dying wish, and it was not long before they gave evidence of that want of faith of which Mr. McLean had suspected them. So long page 181as Nepia Taratoa* lived they received his benevolence with all humanity and meekness, but scarcely had his spirit passed away when " they became covetous and wanted all the rents to themselves." As time went on, they grew bolder, and presently became openly contentious for the ownership of the land itself, doubtless feeling that Taratoa's generosity had given them the semblance of a legal claim.
* In the early stages of the dispute the services of Mr. Buller appear to have been sought as a mediator, and in his book of New Zealand Birds, Vol. I., he relates an amusing experience which befel him during the course of his negotiations. In describing the mocking powers of the Tui he mentions that the Maoris thought highly of them, and often devoted great pains to their cultivation, with the result that great proficiency was sometimes attained. In proof of this he tells how, when addressing the natives of a pa on the Lower Rangitikei, he had urged his views with all the earnestness the subject demanded, and at the conclusion of his speech, and before the old chief to whom his arguments were addressed had time to reply, a Tui, whose netted cage hung to a rafter overhead, responded in a clear emphatic way, "Tito" (false).
The circumstance naturally caused much merriment amongst the audience, and quite upset the gravity of the venerable old chief Nepia Taratoa. " Friend," said he, laughing, " your arguments are very good, but my Mokai is a very wise bird, and he is not yet convinced."
The Ngatiraukawa indignantly denied these pretensions to ownership of the land, and immediately made preparations to demonstrate by the good old rule that they were its sole proprietors. Strongly fortified pas were built at Tauhirihoe, Hokianga, and Makohai, and the Ngatiraukawa, having been reinforced by a small section of the Rangitane, who became their allies, the two tribes lay within striking distance, waiting for some trifling incident to put the brand to the bush, when the Europeans interfered.
First Mr. Buller and then Mr. Fox sought to avert hostilities, but in vain, and there seemed no alternative but war when Dr. Featherston arrived upon the scene. No sooner had the news of the impending page 183struggle reached Wellington than the Superintendent set off in hot haste for the seat of disturbance, and arrived just in the nick of time to prevent the first shot being fired. Probably no man in New Zealand ever had such influence with the Maori as Dr. Featherston, and no man ever used his power with greater judgment. On this occasion he wielded his magnetic influence with the chiefs to such purpose that Ihakara, whose blood was up, and who was bent upon wiping out the insolent pretensions of the Ngatiapa on the field, yielded to the persuasions of the Superintendent to settle the dispute by a less violent means than force of arms. His first proposal was that the rents, which were the immediate cause of the rupture, should be impounded pending an adjustment of the differences regarding the ownership of the land—a course to which the belligerent tribes at length agreed, and for the moment the calamity of an inter-tribal war was averted.
The suspension of hostilities in no way diminished the aggressiveness of the Ngatiapa, for they once more forced the hand of their opponents by offering the land for sale to the Superintendent. Although somewhat unexpected, this was precisely the policy which met the views of Dr. Featherston, for he realised how important such a district must page 184be to the future development of the province over which he presided. But at the same time he was placed in a quandary by the rival claims of the two tribes, and he saw that unless the matter was handled very diplomatically, he might easily bring down upon his head that wrath of both parties which frequently falls upon the peacemaker. His first step was to suggest an adjustment of the tribal differences by the process of arbitration, but the Ngatiapa would not admit the possibility of their being in the wrong, or submit to an adverse decision. Under these circumstances the Superintendent realised that an amicable settlement was somewhat remote, but he was fully convinced that so long as the land remained in the possession of the tribes it would be a source of contention between them. The position was as one old warrior put it, "the fighting had been prevented, but the evil was not removed," and so Dr. Featherston set assiduously to work to induce the claimants to dispose of their interests to the Government.
In these efforts he was energetically seconded by Mr. Buller, who acted as negotiator and interpreter at many important meetings. For several months it seemed impossible to reconcile the Ngatiraukawa to the page 185sale of the land, which they justly regarded as twice theirs, first by right of conquest, and secondly by right of agreement. As time went on, however, it began to dawn upon some of their chiefs that this was the only solution to the difficulty. Long and animated discussions took place in their runangas, the debates lasting many days and well into the nights. At last, towards the October of 1864, the sale party had assumed such an ascendancy that they were able to despatch a letter to Dr. Featherston offering the land for sale, and inviting him to meet them at the Wharangi Hotel, at the mouth of the Manawatu River. There, headed by Ihakara, eight of the Ngatiraukawa chiefs, and Hoani Meihana, of the Rangitane tribe, met Dr. Featherston, and after due deliberation the land was formally offered to and formally accepted by him as Queen's Commissioner. As a pledge of their sincerity, Ihakara handed to Dr. Featherston a famous mere, known in tribal history as " Rangitikei," telling him that so long as he retained possession of the club the land would remain in his hands.
Such an offer, however, could only be provisional, requiring for its ratification the consent of the tribe, and to obtain this it was necessary to hold many meetings at the various pas. Some picturesque and historical gather-page 186ings were the result, during which those who, like Ihakara, regarded the sale as "the price of peace," and those who insisted on keeping the land as " a home for the people," again hurled their arguments at each other with unstinted vehemence, arguments in which the women* were not the least angry disputants.
* At one of the meetings the wives of Takau and Te Kooro, having differed as to some boundary, indulged in a fierce dispute with each other, and refused to be restrained. It ended in their rushing forward into the open area, and calling upon Dr. Featherston to take the disputed land. This elicited a roar of laughter, and the meeting immediately broke up.
The result of this was to fire the native mind into a state of righteous indignation, and to neutralise anything that may have been accomplished in the way of settlement, by undermining the implicit confidence which the chiefs and people had hitherto reposed in Dr Featherston.
* On 22nd November, 1865.
Dr. Featherston was at no small pains to explain to the angry chief that the caricature and letter of "Kaionge" were simply the the emanations of political spite, and that so far as the exclusion of the Manawatu Block from the general operations of the Act was concerned, such exclusion was necessary in all cases where the ownership was in dispute, or where the Government was in negotiation for its purchase, in order that the title might be ascertained before a properly-appointed court.
This explanation to some extent lifted the "gloom" from the chiefs heart, and on receiving a promise that the "fence" would be removed from his own land at Ohau, he went away feeling more satisfied that he was not exactly "a pig who had been helping to build his own stye."
He said that when the Native Lands Act was originally explained to him, he was satisfied with the exclusion of the Manawatu Block, and believed it would tend to a peaceful solution of the present question. But his eyes had since been open. He had discovered that he was a " pig "—that he was the laughing stock of the pakehas—that a fence had been erected round his land, and that the Superintendent and Mr. Buller were driving him into a trap. His tribe (the Ngatiraukawa) had always been considered a respectable tribe—a tribe of chiefs. They had never been stigmatised as " pigs" before. He would stand it no longer. He would snap the rope that had been tied to his leg by the Superintendent with his own consent, and he would break down the fence that enclosed him. He had certainly consented to the sale of the Rangitikei Block, but he had done so in ignorance. He was not then aware of the disgrace he was bringing on his tribe. All the tribes would point their finger at them and say, " Look at those Ngatiraukawa pigs." If he allowed himself to be drawn into the sale this saying would be confirmed. He was still willing to sell the block because he saw no other way of finally settling the difficulty; but he opposed the attempt now being made to drive them to terms. He referred to the impounded rents. They had been kept out of their rent money for nearly two years. The runholders were willing to pay, but the Superintendent had warned them against doing so, and had threatened to eject them. The natives had patiently waited, but now they wanted money. They had agreed about the division of the rent money, and were, therefore, in no way apprehensive of a quarrel. In proof of this he might mention the fact that a sum of £500 had been paid to them for the right of cutting timber on the page 190disputed block, and that this large amount had been amicably distributed. He was aware that Ihakara had met the Superintendent at Scott's, and had entered into some compromise with him. He wished to intimate at once that he was no longer on the same friendly terms with Ihakara as formerly, and that he would not allow himself to be influenced by anything Ihakara might say or do. He blamed Ihakara for originally consenting to the impounding of rents without first obtaining the general consent of the tribes. It was now evident that Ihakara was acting throughout from selfish motives, for he had sought a private meeting with the Superintendent at Scott's, and had prevailed upon His Honor to promise that the privileges of the Native Lands Act should extend over his own lands south of the Manawatu River, leaving the Rangitikei Block " locked up in the prison house." He had, in short, betrayed the tribe, and they would trust him no longer. The Superintendent had all along objected to the payment of any rents— ostensibly for fear of a renewal of hostilities—but really in order to force them to terms. This was clearly an attempt to drive them—this was indeed making "pigs" of them. He would endure this state of things no longer. He had sounded the tribe and found them all of one mind—all determined to assert their rights at whatever risk. He had waited for an opportunity of publicly warning the Superintendent not to provoke the tribe to extreme measures. The opportunity had now come. In the presence therefore of the assembled tribes, and in the hearing of his brother chiefs, he called upon His Honor to "deliver the rents from prison." The runholders would not pay without his consent. If, therefore, His Honor refused to him that consent, they would take the law into their own hands and convince the tribes that they were something better than "pigs." They would at once drive off the sheep and cattle. They would seize some in payment of back rent, and page 191would drive off the rest. This was no idle threat. The tribes had all agreed to this, and were prepared for the consequences. They must have a final answer from His Honor at once. Unless the rents were immediately promised, at daylight on the morrow they would execute their threats.
Wi Pukapuka concluded his spirited address by calling on the leaders of the tribe present to express their minds upon the subject under debate, whereupon several chiefs rose and pronounced themselves in emphatic terms against the sale of the block, and as emphatically demanded the release of the impounded rents.
Dr. Featherston, in his calm and dignified reply, dealt exhaustively with the whole facts of the case.
He referred to the early history of the Rangitikei dispute. He sketched the course of events from the time when at the request of the Government he came up to prevent, if possible, an armed collision between the parties. He reminded them of what had taken place at the several meetings between himself and the chiefs, and of the final agreement they had come to at the Wharangi meeting in October, 1864. He requested them to distinctly bear in mind that the proposal for the sale of the land came in the first instance from the natives, and not from the Commissioner; that on separate occasions the land was offered to him by the several tribes claiming it, as their only means of settling the quarrel; and that he ultimately, in the name of the Queen, accepted that offer subject to future terms to be mutually agreed upon. He came up originally not to treat for the land, page 192but to propose an arbitration of title and to prevent the effusion of blood between the contending tribes. At the Tauhirihoe meeting, and again at the Ngatiapa meeting, he pressed this plan of a committee upon the runanga, but without success. He made no attempt to induce the natives to surrender their disputed claims to the Crown; he said not one word to them about the sale of the land. He simply endeavoured to settle an angry dispute which threatened to embroil the district in an inter-tribal war, and he suggested to them a plan, the object of which was not to alienate but to secure to each tribe its fair share of the land. His plan was rejected by the Ngatiapa, who of their own accord offered the land for absolute sale to the Crown. As this offer virtually amounted to a pledge that the tribe would not assert their own right by force of arms, or continue any longer to threaten the peace of the district, he felt bound to accept it; but in doing so he was careful to explain to them that he did not accept the land, but such right or interest as they might hereafter be proved to have in the land. By doing this he disarmed the Ngatiapa, and put an end to the threatened collision. He did not, however, take advantage of this arrangement to force either party to terms. He simply explained to the Ngatiraukawa and Rangitane, at Ihakara's pa, what he had done, warned them against disturbing the peace of the district, and proposed withholding all rents till some amicable arrangement had been mutually come to. This proposal was readily agreed to, and from that time to the present all parties had faithfully adhered to the compact. To this he attributed, in a great measure, the peace on this coast. Wi Pukapuka, Aperahama, Tapa, and others had now asked him to withdraw the restriction, and to allow the rents to be paid. They had expressed their conviction that it would not be attended with evil consequences, as the three tribes would now agree to an equal division of the money; and in support page 193of this opinion they had instanced the case of a settler who had recently paid £500 for the right of cutting timber on the disputed block, which sum had been amicably distributed amongst the contending claimants. With regard to this case, he would simply say that any settler who dared to violate the existing arrangement would be held liable for the consequences of such an act. As to the danger or otherwise of allowing rents to be paid, that was quite a matter for speculation. The meeting had expressed a very decided opinion that no harm would result from it; there were others who confidently believed that the removal of the restrictions would lead directly to a renewal of the contest. They might be right in their view, but he would remind them that formerly, when the dispute was dormant, the rents were paid, and the tribes divided them without coming to any open issue. The disaffection, however, gradually deepened, and the old chief, Nepia, who was shrewd and far-seeing, was so confident of an approaching rupture between the two tribes, that shortly before his death he sent for the Ngatiapa, and, with a speech worthy a good and generous chief, handed over to their leading men his own share of the rents, exhorting them at the same time to cultivate friendly relations with the Ngatiraukawa after his death; and those at the meeting, who were present on that occasion—who saw the dying chief perform this graceful and honourable act, and who also saw the Ngatiapa grasp at and carry away the money— must have felt that the death of Nepia would solve a tie that had long kept the tribes in check, and that ere many months after his departure the smouldering feelings of discontent and jealousy would break into an open flame. So it had proved, and although the tribes were now at peace with each other, and were possibly prepared to receive and divide the rents on amicable terms, it was more than likely that ere long the like cause would lead to like results, for the question of title was as page 194far from settlement as ever. His Honor felt that the responsibility of deciding the point raised by this meeting rested not with the one tribe or with the other, but with himself; that should he heedlessly allow the rents to be paid, and the contest to re-open, the Government and the country — the Maori and the pakeha alike—would blame him for the consequences. For these reasons he could not lightly dispose of the question, or readily give his consent to the request so strongly urged by the meeting. He would, however, ascertain the feelings of the other parties interested. He would proceed first to Oroua and Awahuri and hold a meeting with the Ngatikauwhata; he would then go on to Puketotara, and see the Rangitane; thence to Manawatu, where Ihakara was now staying; and proceeding down the coast he would meet the other sections of the Ngatiraukawa at Otaki. After a short stay in Wellington he would return to Rangitikei and hold meetings with the Ngatiapa at their various settlements. If he found all parties unanimous—if with one voice they demanded the rents, promising to divide them equitably and without contention—he would probably yield to their request. He would not actually promise to do so, because he felt he could not free himself from responsibility in the matter, but a unanimous request from the three tribes would go far to influence his decision. He extremely regretted to hear men of position like Wi Pukapuka and Aperahama resorting to threats in the hope of intimidating him. He believed that all the natives knew his character too well to suppose that he would allow himself to be in any degree coerced or influenced by any threats they could use. He considered it sufficient to warn these natives that the Government would hold them responsible for the consequences of any rash and unjustifiable acts. And while upon this subject he would express his regret that Wi Pukapuka had so far forgotten himself as to speak page 195disparagingly of his brother chief Ihakara. It was known to all in the meeting that no one had taken a more active part in this matter, or had worked more earnestly in the interest of the tribe, than Ihakara; Wi Pukapuka had admitted a personal quarrel between them, and he feared he had allowed his feelings to blind his judgment. He felt convinced that Wi Pukapuka would himself regret the expressions he had used, and he now called upon him publicly to come forward and withdraw them.
Wi Pukapuka replied to the effect that the explanation given by the Superintendent regarding Ihakara's supposed treachery to the tribe was satisfactory, and he had evidently spoken under a misconception of the facts. He stated that he highly concurred in His Honor's proposal with respect to the rents, as he believed that all the tribes were unanimous in the matter. In that case he would still insist upon having the rent. If it should prove otherwise, he would be willing to wait. He hoped His Honor would not be angry for the threats they had used, but every allowance ought to be made for them, for they were no longer chiefs but " pigs," and pigs were not supposed to have much wisdom.
This sarcastic reference to the cartoon brought from Dr. Featherston a spirited rejoinder, during the course of which he pointed out the absurdity of supposing they were pigs just because some unknown person had chosen to call them so. The logic of this page 196argument, and a humorous reference to his being as much a pig as any of them, as he had been a party to the whole transaction, softened the feelings of the angry chief, who concluded the meeting by thanking the Superintendent for the patience with which he had listened to their complaints.
That same evening Dr. Featherston met the Ngatikauwhata people at their Awahuri pa, where he was welcomed by Tapa te Whata, the head chief. The speech of the evening, however, was delivered by Te Koora, who placed his position briefly and pointedly before the Superintendent.
He stated that he was opposed to the sale of the land, and he was equally opposed to His Honor's interference with the rents. He was aware that the leases were illegal, but as the Government had permitted them to traffic in this way for years, and to receive the rents, he considered that the privilege had been conceded to them, and he did not recognise the right of the Superintendent, or anyone else, to step in and impound their rents on any pretext whatever. He had heard some of the natives using threats. He believed there were those who were fully determined on killing or driving off the stock unless the rents were immediately paid. He entirely disapproved of these threats, and he would be no party to any illegal interference with the stock. He would resent, however, the impounding of the rents by doing the utmost in his power to prevent the sale of the land to the Government; whereas, if the rents were allowed to be paid, he would be willing to entertain the question of sale and freely discuss it with his people.
The lead thus given by Te Koora was readily followed by several other speakers, all of whom, however, agreed to attend the meeting at Puketotara before coming to their final decision. The journey down the Oroua River was made in a fleet of canoes, and on the arrival of the party near the present site of the Oroua Bridge, messengers were sent hither and thither to collect the people for the great meeting which was to open in the runanga house on the morrow. This section of the Rangitane tribe had at the outset of the quarrel with the Ngatiapa allied themselves with the Ngatiraukawa, and on this account might be considered to have some voice in the matter. Amongst them Peeti Te Awe Awe was as much opposed to the sale of the land as Wi Pukapuka was amongst the Ngatiraukawa. At this meeting he warmly disputed the right of any nine men to part with his heritage, for said he, " If we sell this land, where will the tribe look for support?" At the same time he significantly remarked that if the sale did take place, he would take every care to get his full share of the purchase money.
Hoani Meihana, the principal chief of the tribe, endeavoured to pour balm upon the lacerated feelings of the Rangitane people in a judicious speech, during the course of page 198which he made a fervent appeal to them to sell what he described as " a land of righting and trouble," and so bring peace back to the pas. At the same time he strongly urged the Superintendent not to pay over the rents, as such a course would assuredly make this district once more the scene of division and conflict.
In view of such definite advice from such an influential source, Dr. Featherston felt justified in saying at once that he could not relinquish his hold upon the rents; and possibly, in consequence of this attitude on his part, together with the conciliatory speeches of many of the chiefs, supplemented by constant explanations on the part of Mr. Buller, the prejudice against the sale gradually began to die out, particularly since, as time went on, the hopelessness of a settlement by any other means became more and more apparent. Still, the process of submitting the question to all the people interested was a slow and tedious one, for there was as great a diversity of opinion as to price amongst those who were agreeable to sell as there was difference between these natives and those who would not sell at any price. Towards February, 1866, however, there began to grow up a feeling that there had been enough talk, and that it was time to be doing something page 199more practical. A meeting of the principal chiefs was accordingly called at Ihakara's pa, at Tauhirihoe, " to talk concerning Rangitikei, and bring our work to a speedy close." On second thoughts, however, it was deemed better to do this directly through the people, and therefore the meeting was adjourned until March to enable sufficient food to be collected wherewith to entertain the assembled tribes. To this meeting, which was called at the Te Awahou settlement, and subsequently altered to Te Takapu, on the southern bank of the Manawatu River, the Ngatiapa tribe was invited, but refused to attend, in consequence of which the gathering was further adjourned until April.
In the hope that he might be able to promote a more reasonable spirit amongst the Ngatiapa, Dr. Featherston immediately proceeded to Turakina, where he met a number of their chiefs at the Ben Nevis Hotel. It was here that " Governor " Hunia made his famous boast that the Ngatiapa had reserved their ammunition against a rainy day with their neighbours, and Aperahama Tipae spoke in equally bitter terms of the Ngatiraukawa and their chiefs, with whom, he said, he would never consent to unite in the sale of the land, and therefore no good could come of his attending the meeting at Manawatu.page 200
He was prepared to sell only as a Ngatiapa, and unless Dr. Featherston was prepared to treat with him on these terms, the negotiations must cease.
Towards these recalcitrant gentlemen Dr. Featherston assumed a bold and courageous attitude, telling them that he was not to be intimidated by their Maori bounce, and dared them to take the law into their own hands. He acknowledged with all gratefulness the services which they had rendered in the recent campaign, but expressed the hope that the result of the war had been to convince not only them, but all the tribes, that the Government was both determined and able to maintain order.
After this oral chastisement, delivered in the Superintendent's best style, the chiefs became more reasonable in their tone and demeanour, and business proceeded so far that terms were discussed, the price first asked for the Block being £90,000, but ultimately a limit was fixed at £40,000, below which they would not go. Even this was agreed to only on the condition that no other tribe participated in the sale, because, as a matter of fact, they intimated that they really preferred to fight for the land, the agreement to sell being only a matter of personal favour to Dr. Featherston. Although the interview page 201lasted over seven hours, the chiefs were just as determined at the end of it not to meet the Ngatiraukawa in friendly discussion as they were at the beginning, and the Superintendent was compelled to return to the Manawatu, feeling that he had not accomplished very much for the time it had taken—how much may be judged from the petition which the chiefs immediately despatched to Mr. Stafford, who was then Premier of the Colony.
Friend, salutations! Friend, this is a question to you from us and our tribe, Ngatiapa. We are vainly endeavouring to understand the object of Dr. Featherston's proceedings relative to our land at Rangitikei. We are very sad, because we do not understand what he is about. He goes about enquiring the sentiments of a stranger tribe, who have no claim whatever to our land. We gave him the land when he came to prevent hostilities between the Ngatiapa and Ngatiraukawa, we placed the gun of peace in his hand, and told him and the Governor to buy the land from us, and that we would arrange with the other tribes. He replied, " It is well;" we then told him our decision. If you listen to the voice of Ngatiraukawa, viz., Te Ihakara, after this concession to you, trouble will spring up. This warning was not concealed from him at the commencement of the talk about the land. He has now sent a letter agreeing to give Ihakara £100 on account of Rangitikei, the land in dispute. We truly agreed to leave the rents in Dr. Featherston's hands to take care of. He said he would take care of them and not give them to strangers. His word has proved incorrect. Our eyes did not see this money payment, therefore we think that in a short time Dr. Featherston's deceit towards us will be page 202manifest. Now, O the Assembly at Port Nicholson! We will not listen to anything he has to say. When Dr. Featherston's actions take a different turn what are we to do? We will condemn his strange proceedings. We therefore make known to the European Assembly that we are either being deceived by Dr. Featherston or his interpreter. Friends, our hard thoughts about our land are not a trivial nature. They are very great. Featherston has said that he will take care of them. For this reason we consider that the present proceedings are intended to deceive us, and will be productive of much trouble amongst us natives. If we go wrong it will be well: we shall go wrong in our land. If a man acts without authority on European land trouble arises. Friend Stafford, and your colleagues, you know, because you have distinctly seen that the land of the Ngatiraukawa is at Maungatautari. They have sent in their claims. Let the Europeans clearly understand that Maungatautari is their land. Should you and your colleagues disapprove of our letter, write some clear suggestions to us, and let one of your colleagues come to Whanganui, in order that we and Dr. Featherston may talk together and search for his fault. Enough. Salutations to you all.
As the day appointed for the big meeting at Te Takapu drew near, natives from all the interested tribes began to assemble, and by the second day of the month the surrounding pas were nearly empty. Aperahama Te Huruhuru, who had repented of his first intention to sell the land, and who now led the opposition to the sale, was anxious to begin the debate at once, but Ihakara stoutly refused to permit a word to be spoken until page 203Dr. Featherston should arrive on the 5th. Aperahama therefore improved the shining hour by promoting his views privately amongst the people. By the evening of the 4th all the natives had arrived and active preparations were made for the formal opening of the proceedings on the following day. What these proceedings were may be conjectured from the description given by Dr. Featherston himself.
On the morning of the 5th April there were seven hundred natives present, belonging chiefly to the Ngatiraukawa, Rangitane, Ngatitoa, and Muaupoko tribes. There were members of the Ngatiawa tribe in attendance, but the Ngatiapa and Whanganui tribes were totally unrepresented. The Ngatiraukawa who were present comprised the following hapus or sub-divisions, viz., Ngatikauwhata, Ngatiwehiwehi, Ngatipare, Te Matewa, Ngatiparewahawaha, Ngatipikiahu, Ngatiwhakatere, Ngatihuia, Ngatingarongo, and Ngatirakawau.
The natives had congregated when Dr. Featherston arrived, and were seated on the ground grouped according to their tribes, in front of the great runanga house. On his arrival on the ground His Honor was greeted with much enthusiasm.
After complimentary speeches, and the giving away of about forty tons of food, which Ihakara had collected for the occasion, the proceedings were formally commenced by that chief with a short complimentary speech suited to the occasion.
The next speaker was Aperahama Te Huruhuru, of the Ngatiraukawa tribe. He addressed himself immediately to the subject for the discussion of which the tribes had assembled. He stated that he was one of the nine page 204representative chiefs who had voluntarily offered the Rangitikei Block for sale, and who had afterwards signed a declaration of consent to sell. He had since, however, felt aggrieved by the persistent refusal of the Superintendent to allow the impounded rents to be paid, and he was now prepared to ignore the transaction in which he had taken a part, and to recede from his agreement to sell the land. He called upon the tribes to support him, and challenged the sellers to prove that they had the sympathy of the majority of the people.
Nepia Maukiringutu (a son of the late Nepia Taratoa) then spoke in support of Aperahama, and declared that he could never consent to a sale of the Rangitikei Block, admitting at the same time that he had been one of the most urgent at the meeting at Rangitikei, in 1864, to compel the Superintendent to accept the sale of the block, and to take the quarrel into his own hands.
Ihakara replied in a carefully prepared, well delivered, and very effective speech. He vindicated himself from the charge of inconsistency in having first built pas and attempted to assert his claims by force, and having afterwards offered to sell the land peaceably to the Crown. He expressed his regret that the Ngatiapa had failed to attend the meeting, and repeated his oftexpressed conviction that nothing but a sale of the disputed land could bring about a peaceful settlement of the question. The following is an abstract of his speech:— Ihakara commenced by reminding his tribe of the meeting which took place at Manawatu many years ago, when the sale of the Lower Manawatu Block was under discussion. He was opposed at that time by the late Nepia Taratoa, and many of the principal chiefs, but the land was ultimately sold. During the meeting to which he had referred he proposed to sell the whole of the land between the purchased block and the Rangitikei River. This, however, was negatived by the people, page 205and the boundary was eventually fixed at Omarupapaka. Had the land been sold at that time there would have been no more trouble. The land, however, had been leased to pakehas, and rents had been paid, sometimes to one tribe, and sometimes to another. While Nepia Taratoa lived there was no trouble, but after Nepia's death trouble arose between the tribes. Pas were built by the Ngatiapa on the one side, and by the Ngatiraukawa on the other. He had himself built three pas, Tauhirihoe, Hokianga, and Mokowhai. The Rangitane became his allies. The fighting was very near when the pakehas interfered. He had resolved to keep possession of his land or else to shed his blood upon it. Mr. Buller and Mr. Fox came to him and endeavoured to prevent bloodshed, but he would not listen. Afterwards Dr. Featherston came to him. He was deaf for a time, but he at length yielded, and fighting was thus prevented. After this the Ngatiapa offered the land for sale. He refused to listen to their proposal, but offered to submit his case to arbitration. The Ngatiapa would not consent to this. Thus matters stood for a long time. The fighting was prevented, but the evil was not removed. At length it appeared to him that nothing but a sale of the land to the Queen would bring the trouble to an end. He consulted his brother chiefs, and they all consented. He then sent a letter to Dr. Featherston, offering the land for sale. Dr. Featherston came up to Manawatu, and there was a meeting at the Wharangi. There were eight chiefs present besides himself. All were agreed that the land should be sold to the Queen. That offer was formally made, and was accepted by the Queen's Commissioner. He gave up to Dr. Featherston his club known as Rangitikei, in token of the surrender of the land, and the club was still in Dr. Featherston's hands. When the chiefs offered the land for sale they said to Dr. Featherston that the final decision would rest with the people; hence the long delay. The chiefs had page 206been waiting for all the people to consent. The people were now assembled, and if they would at once consent the matter would be soon settled. If they would not consent the matter would be delayed. But so long as Dr. Featherston should retain possession of the club, Rangitikei would remain in his hands. He repeated that he had opposed the proposal to sell when it came from the Ngatiapa. His offer to sell the land to Mr. McLean had not been listened to by the tribe, and he had on that account resolved to retain Rangitikei. He would have continued to have opposed the sale of the land had he been able to discover any other way out of the difficulty. There were only two ways open to him. One was to fight Ngatiapa, and take forcible possession of the soil; the other was to sell the land to the Queen, and to let the Ngatiapa sell also. His own plan was to fight, and to either take the land or die upon it. His plan had been set aside. His pas were now falling into decay. He did not want to rebuild them. His young men had laid aside their guns and were planting potatoes. He did not want to call them back to the war dance. He was determined now to take the other course, to sell the land. He wanted the Ngatiapa to unite with him in the sale. They had been invited to the meeting, but they had not come. If the Ngatiapa should not join with the Ngatiraukawa the Queen would have to make them a separate payment. Had the title to the block been clear he would probably have asked a million pounds for it! but as it was fighting ground he would ask Dr. Featherston for a very small price, only £21,000. Horomona had proposed that the price to be paid to the Ngatiraukawa should be £20,000. He would add another thousand to this, and ask for this payment on behalf of all the tribes concerned. This would show that he was selling, not for the sake of the money, but to prevent fighting. If his share should only be sixpence he would be satisfied, It was the price of peace. He thought page 207more of the blood of his young men than of the Queen's gold and silver. After describing the boundaries of the block, Ihakara concluded by calling on Dr. Featherston to accept his offer and pay the money.
Speeches were then delivered by the following, viz.:—Wiriharai, Tohutohu, Takana, Te Kooro, Reupena Te One, Horapapera Te Tara, Hare Hemi Taharape, Heremaia Te Tihi, Paranihi Te Tau, Henare Hopa, Te Rewiti, Henare Te Herekau, Rawiri Te Wanui, Parakaia Te Pouepa, Te Kepa Kerikeri, and Rota Tawhiri. All these speakers declared themselves more or less opposed to the sale. Heremaia and several others admitted that they were only remote claimants, never having resided on the land nor exercised acts of ownership of any kind. There were many of them averse to the sale, not on any particular ground, but because they were opposed generally to the further alienation of native lands.
Henare Te Herekau urged that a further attempt should be made to get the exemption clause in the Native Lands Act repealed, and to have the question of title in this case investigated and adjudicated on by the Native Land Court. In this proposal he was supported by Parakaia Te Pouepa, from Otaki.
Matene Te Whiwhi made a short speech, in which he adverted to the difficulties of the Rangitikei land question, and urged the people to consider well before taking any step in the matter. He blamed Ihakara for having reserved the question for the tribe, and said that if he had first arranged terms with the Commissioner, and then sought the consent of the people, there would have been no trouble. Instead of that he had made an offer, subject to the approval of the people, and the people were now divided in opinion. The chiefs assembled at Wharangi ought to have sold the land absolutely to the Queen's Commissioner, and the sale would have been valid. The mistake made by page 208the chiefs there assembled was in making their consent subject to the assent of the people.
Tamihana Te Rauparaha strongly advocated a sale of the whole block, and declared that if not sold it would be a constant source of quarrel and contention between the tribes. He enlarged upon the merits of the block, and concluded by suggesting that they should ascertain its extent, and let the payment for different portions be regulated by the quality. He proposed as a fair price to demand 20s. per acre for the best land, 5s. per acre for the swampy and indifferent ground, and 2s. 6d. per acre for the barren sand hills.
The meeting adjourned about 3 p.m.
6th April. —The discussion was resumed about 11 a.m.
Ihakara renewed his demand for £21,000, and recited again the boundaries of the block under offer.
Governor Hunia took objection to the boundaries specified by Ihakara, on the ground that the Ngatikahunu might possibly claim the slopes of the hills, and gave other boundaries which would exclude any claim on the part of Ngatikahunu.
The chiefs Wi Pukapuka, Toa Te Rauhihi, Te Rei Paehua, Hori Te Waharoa, and Tapa Te Whata all spoke strongly in favour of the sale, and, in the early part of the discussion, supported Tamihana's proposal of a price per acre.
Horomona Toremi demanded £20,000. Aperahama Te Huruhuru, Parakaia Te Pouepa, Aperahama Te Ruru, and Henare Te Herekau spoke in opposition.
Henare Hopa, Rewiti, and Apiata, who were on the side of the opposition on the previous day, expressed themselves favourable to the sale.Tamihana Te Rauparaha said he had abandoned his proposition as to an acreage payment, because he page breakpage break page 209had found that there were insuperable difficulties in the way of such a plan. He then proposed £20,000 as a reasonable price for the whole block.
View of The Square, Palmerton North, 1877.
Looking from Fitzherbert Street towards the North East side.
Paora Pohotiraha (of Waikawa) declared himself in in favour of selling, and supported Tamihana Te Rauparaha.
After some further discussion, Wi Pukapuka proposed that the price should be £50,000; while Noa Te Rauhihi named £40,000. Te Rei Paehua, Tapa Te Whata, and Hori Te Waharoa adopted the latter proposal, and Wi Pukapuka ultimately agreed to the same.
Te Hoia (from Poroutawhao) said he was one of the remote claimants. He was opposed to all land selling, but they did not think they could prevent Ihakara selling the block if he was so disposed.
Matene Te Whiwhi refused to declare himself on either side. If sold, he trusted the natives would get a good price for the land. If not sold, he hoped the people would take immediate steps to get their claims individualized. He was anxious to see the whole matter fairly argued.
Epira Taitimu said that his people were opposed to land selling, but that in this particular case the matter rested chiefly with Ihakara.
Neri Puratari (who was afterwards among the first to sign the memorandum of sale) made a violent speech in opposition.
Wereta Te Waha and Piripi Te Rangiatauhua (both of whom afterwards signed the agreement) also spoke strongly against the proposed sale.
Peeti Te Awe Awe, on behalf of the Rangitane and Muaupoko tribes, said that in the absence of the Ngatiapa claimants, they would reserve what they had to say for some future occasion.
Takerei Te Nawe spoke in favour of the sale, page 210and condemned the opposition offered by distant claimants.
A number of other Ngatiraukawa natives having addressed the meeting in favour of the sale, Aperahama Te Huruhuru, Nepia Wiriharai, and Tohutohu spoke again on the side of the opposition.
Te Kooro (of Oroua) who had previously been opposed, said that if he could get some guarantee that the division of the purchase money would be fair and equitable, he would at once withdraw all opposition to the sale.
7th April. —The discussion was resumed at the usual hour, and continued with great warmth throughout the day, the principal speakers being the same as on previous days. The question had been very fairly and patiently argued on both sides. Many who at the outset had declared against the sale, were now avowedly favourable to it, and it was evident that the spirit of opposition had been in a great measure crushed by the resolute determination of Ihakara and the other leading chiefs to effect a sale of the disputed block.
Towards evening the discussion had virtually worn itself out, and Dr. Featherston was earnestly called upon by the whole meeting to declare himself, and to state clearly his intentions.
Ihakara made his final speech as follows:—Dr. Featherston, the land is yours, take it. Give me the payment. Here are the people, let them consent. Refuse not, lest there be fighting. Let the tribes have the money—Ngatiraukawa, Ngatiapa, Rangitane, all the tribes. Let my eyes rest only on the money, let the people take it. I don't want the money, let the tribes take it all. You saved the lives of my children, the land is yours. The pas were built, and the people were preparing for war. The ministers of the gospel came but we did not listen. The magistrates came, but we page 211did not listen. You came—our Superintendent, and the friend of the Maoris—then the people listened. They then turned from fighting to planting potatoes (i.e., industrial pursuits). Listen not to the words of my relatives (meaning the opposition). Pay the money and all the opposition will disappear. It was so when the Awahou block was sold. Rangitikei is in your hands, hold it fast for ever and ever! The people are now waiting for your reply.
Dr. Featherston replied briefly, and to the following effect:—He stated that he had listened very attentively to all that had been said, and he expressed his satisfaction at the good-humoured and friendly feeling that had prevailed throughout. He said that he felt great difficulty as to the course he should take, especially on one ground, and that was the absence from this important discussion of one of the principal tribes concerned in this dispute. He was aware that the Ngatiapa had refused to respond to a thrice-repeated invitation, and the chief who had convened the meeting might well feel offended at such a studied insult. But, looking at the important interests involved, and to their expressed desire for a final settlement of the whole question, he was about to make a proposal which he trusted would meet with their approval. It was true that the Ngatiapa had not acted well in disregarding the invitation, but he would remind Ihakara that it was not long since that the Ngatiapa invited the Ngatiraukawa chiefs to a feast, and killed several bullocks for their entertainment. The Ngatiraukawa chiefs failed to attend on that occasion, and the Ngatiapa were probably now resenting that slight. He therefore proposed that another and final effort should be made to bring them to the meeting. His proposal was that a deputation of ten or twelve of the leading chiefs from the several tribes present should accompany him in person to Rangitikei and exert their influence to bring the Ngatiapa down. He felt page 212that the absent tribe would not resist an appeal of this kind.
To Dr. Featherston's proposal the whole meeting readily assented, and the several tribes proceeded at once to nominate the chiefs for this mission. At Dr. Featherston's particular request the anti-sellers were fully represented in the deputation. As a necessary preliminary, a friendly letter, signed by about sixty chiefs of the Ngatiraukawa, Rangitane, and Muaupoko tribes, was forwarded by special messenger to Turakina (the temporary headquarters of the Ngatiapa), requesting the tribe to assemble at their Rangitikei pa, on the following Tuesday, to meet the deputation.
The choice of the meeting fell on the following ten chiefs, viz.:—Tamihana Te Rauparaha, Peeti Te Awe Awe, Heremia Te Tihi, Henare Hopa, Hohepa Tamaihengia, Wi Tamihana Te Neke, Winiata Taiho, Noa Te Rauhihi, Te Reweti, and Te Rei Paehua.
On the morning of Monday, the 9th April, Dr. Featherston, accompanied by Mr. Buller and the deputation of chiefs, started for Rangitikei, promising to return to Te Takapu on the following Wednesday. On arriving at Scott's accommodation house, Lower Rangitikei, the special messenger who had been despatched from Te Takapu, on the previous Saturday, met them with an angry letter from Hunia Te Hakeke, ordering the deputation back and refusing to collect his tribe for the purpose named. Dr. Featherston was of opinion that personal influence might succeed where the diplomacy of the native chiefs had failed, and Mr. Buller undertook to make the attempt. Taking with him Peeti Te Awe Awe, he proceeded the same evening to Turakina and thence to Whanganui. The whole night was spent in negotiations, and Mr. Buller returned to the Lower Rangitikei on the following day, accompanied by Hunia Te Hakeke, Tamati Puna (from Whanganui), and page 213the Ngatiapa tribe. Dr. Featherston and the deputation of Maori chiefs were formally received in Hamuera's pa (Parewanui) on the morning of the 11th, and a few hours later the whole party proceeded to the Awahou pa, on the south bank of the Rangitikei River, where Ratana Ngahina was lying ill, and thence to the Lower Manawatu, where they arrived late in the evening. In order to keep faith with the meeting, Mr. Buller and several of the chiefs proceeded the same night to Te Takapu, arriving there at 3 a.m.
The Ngatiapa were received at Te Takapu with every demonstration of good feeling.
The proceedings of the 12th were of an unimportant character, all the speeches being complimentary to the Ngatiapa guests. The day was principally devoted to the cultivation of good feeling between the hitherto estranged tribes, and to the establishment of mutual confidence.
Owing to Dr. Featherston's unavoidable absence on the 13th, the meeting adjourned at an early hour, with the general understanding that the discussion had well nigh exhausted itself, and that on the morrow His Honor would reply.
14th April. —The utmost anxiety was manifested for a final and decisive reply, and at the appointed time the natives had assembled, and were waiting eagerly for Dr. Featherston's arrival.
Ihakara called upon Dr. Featherston to reply to the speeches that had been made. The latter invited any of the chiefs present who might wish to address the meeting, before he closed the proceedings, to do so. The discussion was thereupon resumed. Ihakara and the leading selling chiefs were more earnest than before in pressing the sale of the block, while Hunia Te Hakeke openly declared that if the meeting should break up without the sale having been effected, he would return at page 214once to pa building, and would decide the question of title by a trial of strength with the Ngatiraukawa.
Parakaia again brought forward his scheme for a settlement of the question (by a reference to the Land Court), but the proposal was scouted by the Ngatiapa. The Rangitane and Muaupoko were unanimous also in opposing any proposed course but that of an immediate sale to the Crown; while among the anti-sellers there appeared to be very few who regarded Parakaia's proposal with favour. It was tacitly admitted by Aperahama Te Huruhuru and Nepia that although they were now opposing the sale, they could not suggest any other way of settling their quarrel with Ngatiapa.
About 3 p.m. Dr. Featherston rose and made the following speech, which was interpreted to the meeting by Mr. Buller, R.M.:—After expressing his gratification at seeing, for the first time, all the tribes engaged in the dispute before him, and at the friendly relations that had been established between them, he said that he felt confident, from the opinions that had been expressed, and from the conciliatory spirit with which the discussion had been conducted, that the time had arrived for finally closing the dispute. As long as the tribes refused to meet each other the negotiations would have been indefinitely prolonged. Ihakara and other speakers had given a truthful history of the dispute, and he had little or nothing to add to it, but as there were many present whom he had not met at previous meetings he was anxious that it might be made clear to all how it was that he first came as a mediator between them—how it was that he came to be dragged into this long-standing quarrel. Not one of them dared to assert that he had ever asked them to hand over either the quarrel or the land into his hands. Not one of them dared deny that the three tribes had themselves forced upon him, whether he liked it or not, both the quarrel and the land in dispute. On the contrary, Ihakara and others have page 215declared that he had appeared amongst them only after all other mediators had failed in persuading them to desist from appealing to arms for the settlement of the dispute. But he had not come up of his own accord or uninvited. He came up at the request both of the tribes and of the Government. Why had they invited him? Was it not because during a long period they had ever regarded him as their friend—as one who had ever advocated what he believed to be their true interests— as one in whose justice and integrity they had implicit faith. Why had the Government urged him to undertake such a difficult mission? Simply because they knew that the tribes had confidence in him, and would be more likely to be guided by his advice than by that of any other person. He would now call upon them to say whether by the steps he had taken to stave off the intertribal war, and to bring the quarrel to an amicable termination, he had done anything to forfeit their confidence. When he arrived amongst them, in January, 1864, he found both parties in a state of angry irritation—hostile pas erected—the red flag flying; nay, the very day for the commencement of the strife, almost fixed, both parties proclaiming that rather than surrender their claims—rather than admit the slightest claim on the part of their opponents—they would fight and die on the land. He appealed to all present who were then at Rangitikei whether in the ranks of the Ngatiapas, Ngatiraukawas, or Rangitanes, whether that was not the true state of affairs. What did he do? For many days he went backwards and forwards between the litigants, proposing various terms, urging them to come to some compromise. He had urged a conference of the principal chiefs of each tribe—he had pressed arbitration upon them—he had urged them to agree to a division of the land—but he had never uttered one word about selling the land to the Queen. Nay, when the Ngatiapas insisted, as the only possible page 216solution of the difficulty, upon his accepting the land, he refused to accept more than whatever interest they might be found to have; and, again, when the nine chiefs representing the Ngatiraukawas and the Rangitanes, at Wharangi, formally handed the block to him, he only accepted the land subject to the claims of the Ngatiapas, and to the consent of the people to the sale being obtained.
What he wished now to clearly ascertain was whether any one of the proposals he made in 1864 to the tribes can be carried out.
It was then proposed to settle the question by arbitration. Arbitration means that each tribe should appoint a certain number of arbitrators; that if the arbitrators cannot agree, they appoint a third party to decide between them. This was a custom constantly adopted by the pakehas, and the decision of the arbitrators or umpire is accepted as a final settlement of the matters referred to them. Now, suppose that they had gone, or will agree to-day to go to arbitration, and that the award of the arbitrators had been or will be that the land in dispute belongs to the Ngatiraukawas and Rangitanes, would the Ngatiapas have acquiesced, or will they now asquiesce in that decision? or if the arbitrators decided that the Ngatiapas were the sole owners of the land, will the other tribes assent to give up their claims? (Universal dissent). Unless the three tribes are prepared to pledge themselves to abide by the award of the arbitrators, arbitration is useless, and can only embitter the dispute, and lead to a recourse to arms.
Another proposal was that the three tribes should divide the land—but they objected to this that they could never agree in what proportion the land should be divided—whether each tribe should take a third, or one tribe a half, and two tribes the other moiety: that even if this difficulty could be got over, who is to decide what page 217portion of the land is to belong to this tribe, what portion to the other—who was to decide whether one tribe should not be confined to the sand-hills, another tribe to the good land—whether one tribe should not have all the land for which, according to one proposal, he had been called upon to pay two shillings an acre, another tribe all the five-shilling land, and the third all the land they were asking £1 an acre for. Can these difficulties, which were pointed out in January, 1864, be now overcome? —is a division of the land now practicable? (Kahore, kahore.)
Another proposal had been made during the discussion by Parakaia and others, that they should take the lands into the Native Lands Court, and have the title of the three tribes claiming an interest in it investigated by that Court. But Parakaia had omitted to tell them many things connected with the Court. He had not told them that all the tribes must consent to take the land into Court—that each tribe must employ surveyors to mark out boundaries of the land it claimed that the tribe must be prepared to accept the decision of the Court as final. Were they prepared to comply with any one of these conditions? Would they all consent to go into the Court? (No, no.) Would any one of them dare to send surveyors on the land, every inch of which they had declared to be in dispute—to be "fighting ground?" Would they agree to abide by the decision of the Court? (Enough, enough.)
He had gone through the proposals to ascertain whether one of them was practicable. Let the tribes say with a united voice that they agree to any one of them —that they will go to arbitration—let them say they will divide the land—let them say they will submit their claims to the decision of Judge Parakaia, and he would declare his concurrence in it.
He now gathered that the six tribes assembled before him were all but unanimous in scouting every one page 218of these proposals, and were more than ever convinced that the only possible solution of the dispute was, to use their own words, an absolute sale of the land in dispute to the Crown, and after having for many days patiently heard all they had to say, he had no hesitation in expressing his entire concurrence in that conviction.
During the whole time the discussions had lasted he had refused to take any part in them, or to answer a single question, or to give the slightest inkling of his intention. They had declared that they had said all they had to say, and now formally called upon him to declare, whether or not, as the only means of preventing bloodshed, he was prepared to accept the block and complete its purchase. He knew the responsibility which his decisive answer would entail upon him, but he had not the slightest hesitation in giving it. Matene Te Whiwhi, in one of his speeches, said that the chiefs when they handed the block over to him at Wharangi, in 1864, committed a grave mistake in not then and there concluding the sale without reference to the opinion of the tribes—that had the chiefs adopted that course, their people must have acquiesced, and there would have been an end of the matter. He (Dr. Featherston) repeated what he had then and often since said, that he would purchase no land without the consent of the people. But what did he mean by the consent of the people or tribe? He did not mean that the opposition of one man (not a principal chief) should prevent a whole tribe selling their land. Neither did he mean that a small section of one tribe should be allowed to forbid some six or seven tribes disposing of a block which they were anxious to sell. However much he might insist upon having the consent of the tribe, of all the real and principal claimants, he would be no party to such a manifest injustice as would be implied by one or two men, probably possessing little or no interest in the land, forbidding the tribes selling it, page 219or in a small section of one tribe opposing the wishes of some half-dozen tribes, especially when the carrying out of the decision of the majority was the only means of avoiding an inter-tribal war.
The question, then, that arose in his mind was whether there was such a consent of the tribes assembled before him to the sale as would justify him in at once declaring his acceptance of their offer. He had hitherto in all the purchases he had made studiously avoided buying a disputed block, and certainly would not do so now. None of the purchases he had made had ever been impugned; they had all been open and above board. Some natives had undoubtedly complained, not of the validity of the purchase, but that they had not received their fair share of the purchase money. He never had himself distributed the purchase money and never would. He had always handed over the purchase money to chiefs nominated by the sellers, to be by them distributed; and such would ever be the course pursued by him. The tribes must hold not him but the chiefs appointed to receive and distribute the purchase money responsible for its equitable apportionment. Once the money was placed by him in the hands of the nominated chiefs, his responsibility ceased. But the question is, whether he had such a consent to the sale as would justify him in accepting the block. He would therefore call upon every one of the tribes to declare publicly before this meeting by their chiefs whether or not the tribes consented to the sale.
He would call upon the several tribes to give their answer by the chiefs. He called upon the Whanganui tribe to say whether or not they were agreed to the sale. Tamati Puna at once said, "We are unanimous; all have consented." Dr. Featherston then called upon the Ngatiapa to declare what their decision was. "Governor" Hunia on the part of the tribe said," You know our decision; we all insist upon the sale." What page 220say the Muaupoko tribe? Hoani Te Puihi replied on behalf of the tribe," We are all unanimous in favour of the sale." What is the answer of the Ngatitoa to this question? and he called upon Matene Te Whiwhi, Tamihana Te Rauparaha, and Hohepa, distinctly and severally, to reply on behalf of the tribe they represented. The three chiefs, one after the other, declared that the tribe was unanimous. What said the Rangitane? Peeti Te Awe Awe replied," We also are unanimous; all have consented." Lastly, he would call upon the Ngatiraukawa who he knew were divided in their opinions. Ihakara expressed his regret that they were not like all the other tribes unanimous in favour of the sale, but the large majority of them were so determined to sell, especially all the principal claimants, that he insisted upon the purchase being completed. Knowing that those who were at present holding out would soon become consenting parties, he never would listen to any other mode of adjusting the dispute. Dr. Featherston then said that his course was clear. Five of the six tribes were unanimous in their determination to sell, and of the Ngatiraukawa only a small section opposed the sale. Of that section the two principal chiefs, Nepia Taratoa and Aperahama Te Huru, had some time since given their consent, and had repeatedly protested against the delay that had occurred in bringing the transaction to a close. Great chiefs like them were not in the habit of repudiating engagements entered into in the face of the whole tribe. He was certain, therefore, that the present opposition would not be persisted in. Of the other opponents many had already told him that they would abide by the decision of the majority, and would sign the deed of purchase. He felt, therefore, so confident that the deed would ultimately be executed by all the real claimants, that he had no difficulty in publicly announcing his acceptance of the block, and in congratulating them upon this long-standing feud being page 221thus amicably settled and finally adjusted. [This announcement was received with great applause, not a few of the opponents exclaiming "Rangitikei is fairly sold, is for ever gone from us."] Dr. Featherston then reminded them that there were other questions to settle, viz., the price, in what proportion the purchase money was to be divided, and what chiefs were to distribute the money. The two latter might be left till the deed was signed, but the price must be fixed before the meeting broke up. Several amounts had been mentioned, some exorbitant, others not unreasonable. Let the tribes leave this matter in the hands of their chiefs, and they would find him prepared to meet them in a liberal spirit. This was ultimately fixed at £25,000.
On the following Monday morning, 16th April, a formal announcement was made of the terms on which the sale had been concluded. A memorandum of agreement affirming the sale and describing the boundaries of the land to be ceded was then prepared, and was afterwards signed by upwards of two hundred of the principal claimants. The majority of the chiefs present then urged that an instalment of the purchase money should be at once paid; but as Hunia and a few others objected, Dr. Featherston refused to pay a single farthing without the consent of all, and until the deed of purchase was executed. *
* Dr Featherston's method of inviting all the tribes to say whether or not they agreed to the sale seems particularly fair on the face of it, but it must be remembered that according to Maori custom five of the tribes represented had not a vestige of right to say whether the land should be sold or not. At the same time it was perfectly natural for them to agree to the sale, if by so doing they could obtain a share of the purchase money, and it is doubtful whether the conduct of many Europeans would have been different under similar circumstances. Most people are, at times, willing to shed the last drop of their brother's blood, or sell the last acre of his land.
That was the word to hold fast that I spoke to Featherston from the first, i.e., this side of the Rangitikei. I held back from the hand of Governor Grey, from McLean, and of Ngatiapa, but I finished (sold out) the other side to that Governor. After this came Governor Browne, who also wanted Rangitikei and Manawatu. I consented to the Awahou and Ahuaturanga, and the wish of the people was fulfilled towards that Governor and this. I have ended the desire to sell land to the Queen. This is my heart which you are now urging me to give you, but to hold it fast is the only word remaining. I am not willing to give this small piece to you. This was the only word of Ngatiraukawa to Featherston on the 5th of April; the third was, let the Court of Judgment decide. This is the only way to make this land light, and this is the thing for which we wait. On the 14th of the days Featherston made the payment. His talk was light, and acceptable to four tribes, but the falling of the page 223wrong was upon us. It was a new word. There are 800 of Whanganui, 200 of Ngatiapa, Rangitane and Muaupoko 100. As for you Ngatiraukawa you are a half—you are small. Another word of Featherston's. We went together, we and these tribes to fight the rebel tribes under the authority (mana) of the Queen. They have consented to sell and I have agreed to their proposals, and this land has come into my hands. I hold it. Then we pronounced his words to be wrong. We said your act is a Maori robbery of our land. The 800 of Whanganui are not present in this transaction. You are pretending that an agreement has been made to make us fear. He replied," Enough, it is done. I shall give the money to those who have sold the land." We said that is wrong. We shall hold our own land. We shall not take your money. Such persistency was the word of all the men.
Here is Petatone. †
This is the tenth of December;
The sun shines and the birds sing:
Clear is the water in the rivers and streams;
Bright is the sky and the sun is high in the air.
This is the tenth of December;
But where is the money?
Three years has this matter in many debates been discussed;
And here at last is Petatone,
But where is the money?
What took place at that historic meeting has been thus graphically described by Sir Charles Dilke, for whom the incident provided a chapter in his "Greater Britain."
* One can easily understand what sort of negotiations would be going on during all these years. A deed of cession was carried round among the natives, and every kind of persuasion used to induce them to sign it. Time after time it made its appearance, and naturally enough "the sickness of hope deferred" — the unlikelihood of any investigation into the title being obtained—broke down the resolution of numbers of those who felt that an injustice was being done to them — Wanganui Chronicle, July, 1867.
† Dr. Featherston.
A band of Maori women, slowly chanting in a high strained key, stood at the gate of the pa, and met with this song a few Englishmen who were driving rapidly on to their land.
Our track lay through a swamp of the New Zealand flax. Huge sword-like leaves and giant flower-stalks all but hid from view the Maori stockades. To the left was a village of low whares, fenced round with a double row of lofty posts, carved with rude images of gods and men, and having posterns here and there. On the right were groves of karakas—children of Tanemahuta—the New Zealand sacred trees; under their shade, on a hill, a camp and another and larger pa. In startling contrast to the dense masses of oily leaves, there stretched a great extent of light green sward, where there were other camps and a tall flagstaff, from which floated the white flag and the Union Jack, emblems of British sovereignty and peace.
A thousand kilted Maoris dotted the green landscape with patches of brilliant tartans and scarlet cloth. Women lounged about, whiling away the time with dance and song; and from all the corners of the glade the soft cadence of the Maori cry of welcome came floating to us on the breeze, sweet as the sound of distant bells.
As we drove quickly on we found ourselves in the midst of a thronging crowd of square-built men, brown in colour, and for the most part not much darker than Spaniards, but with here and there a woolly negro in their ranks. Glancing at them as we were hurried past we saw that the men were robust, well limbed, and tall. They greeted us pleasantly, with many a cheerful, open smile: but the faces of the older, people were horribly tattooed in spiral curves. The chiefs carried battle clubs of jade and bone; the women wore strange ornaments. At the flagstaff we pulled up, and, while the preliminaries of the council were arranged, had time to discuss page 226with Maori and with pakeha the questions that had brought us thither.
The purchase of an enormous block of land—that of the Manawatu—had long been an object wished for and worked for by the Provincial Government of Wellington. The completion of the sale it was that had brought the Superintendent, Dr. Featherston, and humbler pakehas to Parewanui pa. It was not only that the land was wanted by way of room for the flood of settlers, but purchase by the Government was, moreover, the only means whereby war between the various native claimants of the land could be prevented. The pakeha and Maori had agreed upon a price; the question that remained for settlement was how the money should be shared. One tribe had owned the land from the earliest times; another had conquered some miles of it; a third had had one of its chiefs cooked and eaten up on the ground. In the eye of the Maori law, the last of these titles was the best; the blood of a chief overrides all mere historic claims. The two strongest human motives concurred to make war probable, for avarice and jealousy alike prevented agreement as to the division of spoil. Each of the three tribes claiming had half a dozen allied and related nations upon the ground; every man was there who had a claim, direct or indirect, or thought he had, to any portion of the block. Individual ownership and tribal ownership conflicted. The Ngatiapa were well armed; the Ngatiraukawa had their rifles; the Whanganuis sent for theirs. The greatest tact on the part of Dr. Featherston was needed to prevent a fight such as would have roused New Zealand from Auckland to Port Nicholson.
On a signal from the Superintendent the heralds went round the camps and pas to call the tribes to council. The summons was a long-drawn, minor descending scale—a plaintive cadence, which at a distance blends into a bell-like chord. The words mean, "Come hither! come hither! Come, come! Maoris page 227come!" and men, women, and children soon came thronging in from every side, the chiefs bearing sceptres and spears of ceremony, and their women wearing round their necks the symbol of nobility, the Heitiki, or greenstone god. These images, we were told, have pedigrees and names like those of men.
We, with the Resident Magistrate of Whanganui, seated ourselves beneath the flagstaff. A chief, meeting the people as they came up, stayed them with the gesture that Homer ascribes to Hector, and bade them sit in a huge circle round the spar.
No sooner were we seated on our mat than there ran slowly into the centre of the ring a plumed and kilted chief, with sparkling eyes—the perfection of a savage. Halting suddenly, he raised himself upon his toes frowned, and stood brandishing his short feathered spear. It was Hunia te Hakeke, the young chief of the Ngatiapa. Throwing off his plaid, he commenced to speak, springing hither and thither with leopard-like freedom of gait, and sometimes leaping high in the air to emphasise a word. Fierce as were the gestures, his speech was conciliatory, and the Maori flowed from his lips—a soft Tuscan tongue. As, with a movement full of vigorous grace, he sprang back to the ranks to take his seat, there ran round the ring a hum and buzz of popular applause.
"Governor" Hunia was followed by a young Whanganui chief, who wore hunting-breeches and high boots, and a long black mantle over his European clothes. There was something odd in the shape of his cloak, and, when we came to look closely at it, we found that it was the skirt of the riding habit of his half-caste wife. The great chiefs paid so little heed to this flippant fellow as to stand up and harangue their tribes in the middle of his speech, which came thus to an untimely end. A funny old grey-beard—Waitere Marumaru—next rose, and, smothering down the jocularity of his face, page 228turned towards us for a moment the typical head of Peter, as you see it on the windows of every modern church—for a moment only; for, as he raised his hand to waive his tribal sceptre, his apostolic drapery began to slip from off his shoulders, and he had to clutch at it with the energy of a topman taking in a reef in a whole gale. His speech was full of Nestorian proverbs and wise saws; but he wandered off into a history of the Whanganui lands, by which he soon became as wearied as we ourselves were, for he stopped short, and, with a twinkle of the eye, said, "Ah, Waitere is no longer young: he is climbing the snow-clad mountain Ruahine; he is becoming an old man"; and down he sat.
Karanama, a small Ngatiraukawa chief, with a white moustache, who looked like an old French concierge, followed Marumaru, and, with much use of his sceptre, related a dream foretelling the happy issue of the negotiations; for the little man was one of those "dreamers of dreams" against whom Moses warned the Israelites.
Karanama's was not the only trance and vision of which we heard in the course of these debates. The Maoris believe that in their dreams the seers hear great bands of spirits singing chants. These, when they wake, the prophets reveal to all the people; but it is remarked that the vision is generally to the advantage of the seer's tribe.
Karanama's speech was answered by the head chief of the Rangitane Maoris, Te Peeti Te Awe Awe, who, throwing off his upper clothing as he warmed to his subject, and strutting pompously round and round the ring, challenged Karanama to immediate battle, or his tribe to general encounter; but he cooled down as he went on, and in his last sentence showed us that Maori oratory, however ornate usually, can be made extremely terse. "It is hot," he said, "it is hot, and the very birds are loth to sing. We have talked for a week, and are therefore dry. Let us take our share—£10,000, or page 229whatever we can get—and then we shall be dry no more." The Maori custom of walking about, dancing, leaping, undressing, running, and brandishing spears during the delivery of a speech is convenient for all parties: to the speaker, because it gives him time to think what he shall say next; to the listener, because it allows him to weigh the speaker's words; to the European hearer, because it permits the interpreter to keep pace with the orator without an effort. On this occasion the Resident Magistrate of Whanganui—Mr. Buller, a Maori scholar of eminence, and the attached friend of some of the chiefs—interpreted for Dr. Featherston, and we were allowed to lean over him in such a way as to hear every word that passed. That the able Superintendent of Wellington—the great protector of the Maoris, the man to whom they look as to Queen Victoria's second in command—should be wholly dependent upon interpreters, however skilled, seems almost too singular to be believed; but it is possible that Dr. Featherston may find in pretended want of knowledge much advantage to the Government. He is able to collect his thoughts before he replies to a difficult question; he can allow an epithet to escape his notice in the filter of translation, he can listen and speak with greater dignity.
The day was wearing on before Te Peeti's speech was done, and, as the Maoris say, our waistbands began to slip down low; so all now went to lunch, both Maori and pakeha, they sitting in circles, each with his bowl or flax-blade dish and wooden spoon, we having a table and a chair or two in the mission-house; but we were so tempted by Hori Kingi's whitebait that we begged some of him as he passed.
While the men's eating was thus going on many of the women stood idly round, and we were enabled to judge of Maori beauty. A profusion of long, crisp curls, a short black pipe thrust between stained lips, a pair of page 230black eyes gleaming from a tattooed face, denote the Maori "belle," who wears for her only robe a long bedgown of dirty calico, but whose ears and neck are tricked out with greenstone ornaments, the signs of birth and wealth. Here and there you find a girl with long smooth tresses, and almond-shaped black eyes; these charms often go along with prominent thin features, and suggest at once the Jewess and the gipsy girl. The women smoke continually; the men not much.
When at 4 o'clock we returned to the flagstaff, we found that the temperature, which during the morning had heen too hot, had become that of a fine English June—the air light, the trees and grass lit by a gleaming yellow sunshine that reminded me of the Californian haze.
During luncheon we had heard that Dr. Featherston's proposals as to the division of the purchase money had been accepted by the Ngatiapa, but not by Hunia himself, whose vanity would brook no scheme not of his own conception. We were no sooner returned to the ring than he burst in upon us with a defiant speech. "Unjust," he declared, "as was the proposition of great Petatone (Featherston), he would have accepted it for the sake of peace had he been allowed to divide the tribal share; but as the Whanganuis insisted on having a third of his £15,000, and as Petatone seemed to support them in their claim, he should have nothing more to do with the sale. The Whanganuis claim as our relatives," he said; "verily the pumpkin-shoots spread far."
Karanama, the seer, stood up to answer Hunia, and began his speech in a tone of ridicule. "Hunia is like the tea-tree: if you cut him down he sprouts again." Hunia sat quietly through a good deal of this kind of wit, till at last some epithet provoked him to interrupt the speaker. "What a fine fellow you are Karanama; you'll tell us soon that you have two pairs of legs."page 231
"Sit down!" shrieked Karanama, and a word war ensued, but the abuse was too full of native raciness and vigour to be fit for English ears. The chiefs kept dancing round the ring, threatening each other with their spears. "Why do not you hurl at me, Karanama?" said Hunia, "it is easier to parry spears than lies." At last Hunia sat down. Karanama, feinting and making at him with his spear, reproached him with a serious flaw in his pedigree—a blot which is said to account for Hunia's hatred to the Ngatiraukawa, to whom his mother was for years a slave. Hunia, without rising from the ground, shrieked "Liar!" Karanama again spoke the obnoxious word. Springing from the ground, Hunia snatched his spear from where it stood, and ran at his enemy as though to strike him. Karanama stood stock-still. Coming up to him at a charge Hunia suddenly stopped, raised himself on tip-toe, shaking his spear, and flung out some contemptuous epithet: then turned, and stalked slowly, with a springing gait, back to his own corner of the ring. There he stood haranguing his people in a bitter undertone. Karanama did the like with his. The interpreters could not keep pace with what was said. We understood that the chiefs were calling each upon his tribe to support him, if need were, in war. After a few minutes of this pause they wheeled round, as though by a common impulse, and again began to pour out torrents of abuse. The applause became frequent, hums quickened into shouts, cheer followed cheer, till at last the ring was alive with men and women springing from the ground, and crying out upon the opposing leader for a dastard.
We had previously been told to have no fear that resort would be had to blows. The Maoris never fight upon a sudden quarrel: war is with them a solemn act, entered upon only after much deliberation. Those of us who were strangers to New Zealand were nevertheless not without our doubts, while for half an hour we page 232lay upon the grass watching the armed champions running round the ring, challenging each other to mortal combat on the spot.
The chieftains at last became exhausted, and, the mission-bell beginning to toll for evening chapel, Hunia broke off in the middle of his abuse: "Ah! I hear the bell"; and turning stalked out of the ring towards his pa, leaving it to be inferred, by those who did not know him, that he was going to attend the service. The meeting broke up in confusion, and the Upper Whanganui tribes at once began their march towards the mountains, leaving behind them only a delegation of chiefs.
The first day's talk had therefore resulted in nothing practical being accomplished towards a settlement of the tribal differences, for it was apparently one thing to consent to the sale of the land and another thing to agree upon a division of the spoil. The Ngatiapa, with their usual proclivity for making extortionate demands, clamoured for £22,000 of the total amount agreed upon, leaving £3000 as the share of the Ngatiraukawa; while that tribe contended for an equal division, and that between them they should satisfy those who had secondary claims to the block—the Ngatiapa those to the north, and the Ngatiraukawa those to the south of the Rangitikei River. In the face of these irreconcilable differences it was useless to prolong the discussions, and as an escape from the impassable deadlock the two tribes page 233both agreed to refer the point in dispute to the decision of Dr. Featherston, at the same time distinctly guarding themselves against being bound to adopt his judgment. It was with no little hesitation that the Superintendent accepted the position of arbitrator under these circumstances, but he was at length driven to comply with the wish of the chiefs by the fear that there was no other alternative but war—that if the meeting should break up without the completion of the purchase, the rival tribes would at once assert their conflicting claims by force of arms, and that the whole of the West Coast would be speedily plunged into a general native disturbance. After some little consideration he therefore submitted a proposal that Ngatiapa should receive £15,000, and Ngatiraukawa £10,000. This allotment was at first hotly resented by the Ngatiapa, whose notions of equity were greatly outraged by such an equal division, but under further debate the opposition gradually broke down, and the award was ultimately unanimously accepted by all parties as perfectly fair and equitable, the Ngatiraukawa chiefs even agreeing to set apart a liberal portion of their share for the outstanding claimants of their tribes.
As Dr. Featherston had wisely refused to have anything to do with the distribution of page 234the money, and insisted that the responsibility should be assumed by the natives themselves, the next proceeding was to appoint chiefs who were to act as the representatives of the tribes, and who were to receive payment on behalf of the people. Considering the prominent part which "Governor" Hunia had played in the dispute from its very beginning—indeed, considering that without his audacious bluster there would have been no dispute at all—it is not surprising that the Ngatiapa appointed him to complete what he had begun, and with him his trusty lieutenant Aperahama Tipae. Ngatiraukawa chose as their delegates Ihakara, who had stood for peace during four trying years, and Aperahama Te Huruhuru, who had once more ranged himself on the side of the sellers.
On the 13th of December the people had again assembled in solemn council, once more to deliberate upon the all important issue before them, when "Governor" Hunia arose and announced on behalf of the Ngatiapa that all the people had agreed to Dr. Featherston's division of the purchase money, and he called upon the Superintendent to go at once and bring it to the chiefs who had been appointed to receive it. He stated that he and Aperahama Tipae had been entrusted with page 235the receipt of the Ngatiapa-Rangitane share, and they pledged themselves to scrupulously observe a fair distribution with the associated hapus, and in like manner he called upon Ihakara and Aperahama Te Huruhuru to be equally solicitous for the interests of all the claimants in their tribe. To this speech Ihakara replied in conciliatory terms, and assured Dr. Featherston that he would make ample provision for all the dissentients of his tribe who had refused to sign the deed, and would if necessary hand their allotted shares over to His Honor for safe custody.
A brief but appropriate speech from Dr. Featherston followed, and then the most striking and picturesque scene of the great transaction was enacted when "Governor" Hunia, as the representative of the Ngatiapa, and Ihakara as the leader of the Ngatiraukawa, headed a procession of all the natives present, and bearing between them the tin box containing the deed of sale, marched round the pa, and up to the flagstaff where they deposited the deed on a table set for its reception. Mr. Buller then opened the large roll of parchment and read aloud to the assembled people the final deed of surrender. At the conclusion of the reading Dr. Featherston, as Land Purchase Commissioner, came forward and signed the deed in due form, his signature being attested by Howard Kennard, page 236C. Wentworth Dilke, B.A., C. Hillingsworth, B.A., all of London,* and by Walter Buller, Resident Magistrate at Whanganui.
* These were three young English gentlemen who were then travelling through the colony. Mr. Dilke is the present Sir Charles Dilke, well known in English politics, and it was during this tour he collected the materials for his well-known work, "Greater Britain."
† Saturday, 15th December, 1866.
He said that before handing over the £25,000 in final completion of the Manawatu purchase he had a pleasing duty to perform towards a chief who had taken an active part in the long, difficult, and tedious negotiations now successfully concluded. He was anxious to give "Governor" Hunia, in the presence of the assembled tribes, some token of his approbation. He had decided in his own mind that the signet ring with which he was about to present him was the most appropriate token because of its symbolic associations. It was hardly necessary for him to explain that in the holy institution of matrimony the ring is the pledge or token of the solemn vows that are made at the altar; and that, in like manner, he desired to symbolise the establishment of a firm and lasting friendship between the Ngatiapa and Ngatiraukawa tribes.
Dr. Featherston then placed the ring on "Governor" Hunia's finger, at the same time pronouncing this solemn injunction—
Let this ring be a token that there is no longer any enmity between the tribes, and that henceforth they will live together on terms of mutual goodwill, in friendship with the pakeha, and in loyalty to our Gracious Queen, And "Governor" Hunia, long may you live to wear it!
The formal handing over of the money then took place, and when "Governor" Hunia and Aperahama Tipae had received the Ngatiapa-Rangitane share of £15,000, and Ihakara and his Ngatiraukawa comrade page 238had accepted their £10,000,* "Governor" Hunia, standing at the foot of the flag-pole on which the Queen's flag now floated, made the final speech, and then affixed his signature along with that of Ihakara to receipts on the back of the deed, "on behalf of, and in the presence of the assembled tribes," their signatures being witnessed by Mr. H. J. Kennard, gentleman, London; C. Wentworth Dilke, B.A., barrister, London; J. E. Hillingsworth, B.A., London; A. Follet Halcombe, sheepfarmer, Rangitikei; M. W. Anderson, contractor, Wellington; Walter Buller, R.M., Whanganui.
* One of these sovereigns is now in the possession of Mr. John Kebbell of Ohau, who was also present when the payment was made.
Before that provision could be made, however, it was necessary to ascertain what their precise rights were, and only an investigation before a competent tribunal could settle so page 240delicate and involved a point. For this purpose advantage was taken of the provisions of the Native Lands Act, of 1865, and finally Parakaia's desire to have his claim of ownership to the Himatangi Block referred to the Native Land Court was granted, and thus began the litigation which kept the whole Coast in a state of turmoil for years.
The sittings of the Court were held at Otaki, and were presided over by Judge Smith, who had associated with him Justices Rogan and White, with Ropata Ngarongomate, and Matai Pene Taui as Native Assessors. The case for the natives was conducted by Mr. T. C. Williams, while Mr. Fox appeared as advocate for the Crown, and in his closing address delivered a speech which must rank as one of the finest examples of his characteristic oratory. It is needless to recapitulate here the conflicting testimony called to prove and disprove Parakaia's claim to Himatangi, for the reader will be able to follow its general trend by a perusal of the Court's judgment, which was delivered on April 27th, 1868.
Before giving judgment on this very important case the Court desires to acknowledge the valuable assistance it has received during the conduct of a protracted and very tedious investigation, both from the Agent, who has appeared for the native claimants, and from the counsel for the Crown; also to express its satisfaction at the very orderly behaviour of the natives. We do not consider page break page break page 241 it necessary to revise in detail the mass of evidence which has been brought before us, nor to advert to the arguments contained in the addresses of the Agent for the natives, and the counsel for the Crown, further than to say that they have been carefully considered by us before coming to a decision. The claim of Parakaia te Pouepa and others, to a certain block of land called Himatangi,* the boundaries of which have been described, has been referred for the purpose of being investigated and adjudicated upon in the manner prescribed by the Native Lands Act, 1865. The claimants apply to the Court to order a certificate of their title asserting rights alleged to have been acquired by conquest, followed by actual occupation. Evidence has been adduced to prove that the original owners were conquered and dispossessed, and that the land has been in the possession and occupation of the claimants from a period antecedent to the establishment of British Government in these islands to the present time. The Crown objects to a certificate being ordered, asserting as a ground of objection, and adducing evidence thereon, that the claimants have not acquired rights by conquest —that the original occupants have never been dispossessed —that the latter were the rightful owners of the land up to the period of its cession by them to the Crown; and further, that the claimants have not occupied more than a small portion of the block claimed. We have found it impossible to give a decision in this case without first determining an important question raised in the course of this investigation—that of the conflicting tribal claims asserted by the Ngatiraukawa on the one side and the Ngatiapa and Rangitane on the other, to the country lying between the Rangitikei andpage 242Manawatu Rivers. We consider there is sufficient evidence before the Court to enable us to decide this question of tribal right, and by recording our decision on this point in the present judgment, we indicate a principle which may be conveniently and justly applied by this Court in dealing with other cases of claims in the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block, which have been, or may be, referred to it. Looking at the evidence, it is clear to us that before the period of the establishment of British Government, the Ngatiraukawa tribe had acquired and exercised the rights of ownership over the territory in question. The prominent part taken by this tribe in connection with the cession of the North Rangitikei and Ahuaturanga Blocks, the sale of the Awahou, and the history of the leases, prove also that those rights have been maintained up to the present time. On the other hand the evidence shows that the original owners were never absolutely dispossessed, and that they have never ceased on their part to assert and exercise rights of ownership. The fact established by the evidence is that the Ngatiapa-Rangitane, weakened by the Ngatitoa invasion under Te Rauparaha, were compelled to share their territory with the principal allies, the Ngatiraukawa, and to acquiesce in a joint ownership. Our decision on this question of tribal right is that Ngatiraukawa and the original owners possessed equal interests in and rights over the land in question, at the time when the negotiations for the cession to the Crown of the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block were entered upon. The tribal interests of Ngatiraukawa we consider vested in the section of the tribe which has been in actual occupation, to the exclusion of all others. It has been proved to the satisfaction of the Court that Parakaia and his co-claimants comprise the section of the Ngatiraukawa tribe which has acquired rights of occupation over the Himitangi Block. The tribal interest, therefore, rests solely with them. The claim preferred on behalf page 243of Ihakara and the Patukohura, founded on temporary occupation, we do not admit. A list of twenty-seven persons proved to be jointly interested with Parakaia is before the Court. Two of these having signed the deed of cession cannot appear in this Court as claimants. The decision of the Court, therefore, is that Parakaia and his co-claimants are entitled to a certificate in their favour for one-half less 2-27ths of the block claimed, and an interlocutory order will be made by us in favour of the eight persons who have been named to the Court as representing the claimants.
* During one of the raids of the northern warriors, the natives then living near what is now known as Himatangi, fled before the invaders. Before leaving, the chief of the tribe directed his daughter Hima to hide a valuable greenstone mere. But when they returned to their home the girl searched in vain for the treasure, and womanlike began to cry, which caused her friends to ejaculate "Himatangi!"—Hima crying—hence the name.
This judgment, so far as it recognised the claims of the Ngatiapa tribe, pleased Dr. Featherston immensely, and in opening the sixteenth session of the Provincial Council on May 19th, 1868, he referred to it as a "triumphant vindication" of the course pursued by him. But he very severely censured the divisions made by the Court, characterising them as "illogical, inconsequential, and, in their practical operation, unjust." His contention was that only such portion of Himatangi as Parakaia and his people occupied should have been allotted to them, and that the remaining portion awarded to Ngatiraukawa should have been given to the whole tribe, three-fourths of whom, having signed the deed of sale, would have forfeited their share to the Crown. The judgment was even less pleasing to the native party, for the recognition of a joint ownership sapped the very foundations of their case, and when the page 244Court sat at Rangitikei for the purpose of hearing the other cases referred to it, Mr. Williams declined to appear, and the Court closed its session without adjudicating upon them.
Whatever were the views taken by the contending parties at the time, an impartial observer of the present day sees that the cardinal point upon which the judgment turned was a recognition of the Ngatiraukawa claims by conquest, qualified by the admission of co-equal rights on the part of Ngatiapa. But it may safely be asserted that such a principle is entirely without precedent, and contrary to all the native practice of dealing with their tribal territory. The Maoris of old were essentially a race of proud and independent spirit; they were by nature conquerors, and in their settlement of New Zealand they occupied isolated districts, which were regarded as exclusively for their own use and the use of their children after them. The dominion of each tribe was well and clearly defined, and any intrusion upon its boundaries was instantly regarded as an act of war which could be maintained only by the exercise of superior force. It is true there were alliances between tribes, but this was generally for some specific and temporary purpose, and was only a union of military page 245strength, and never a partnership in possessions. There was, in fact, nothing which the Maori regarded with such a jealous eye as the retention inviolate of his ancestral home, and where two distinct tribes were found living together, their relative positions were always those of conquerors on the one hand and slaves on the other. No instance can be quoted in which it was otherwise, because joint ownership was a class of tenure utterly foreign and repugnant to their whole system. Either, then, the Ngatiapa were living in a state of servitude under Ngatiraukawa at the date of the Treaty of Waitangi, or the reverse was the case, and if we refer again to the judgment of the Court, and consider "the prominent part taken by Ngatiraukawa in connection with the cession of the North Rangitikei and Ahuaturanga Blocks, the sale of the Awahou, and the history of the leases," it should not be difficult to say who were the masters and who the servants. The failure to recognise the enormous importance of separate tribal ownership led the Court into the very blunder which Mr. Fox, in his closing address, had warned them against, namely that of "splitting the difference," with the result that a species of title was created, based upon wrong principles, which was unjust to Ngatiraukawa, and gave but little satisfaction to those who, like Dr. Featherston, might have page 246some reason to regard it as "a triumphant vindication" of their conduct.
For many months this feeling of dissatisfaction kept the whole coast in a state of irritation and unrest, and many applications were made to have the whole principle reopened by the hearing of those claims which had been allowed to lapse through no fault of the claimants. At last the pressure became so great that the General Government, in 1869, consented to a further investigation. On this occasion the Court sat at Wellington. The Crown retained Sir James Prendergast, then Attorney-General, as its champion, and Mr. Travers appeared for the natives, the Judges being Chief Judge Fenton and Judge Maning, with whom Ihaia Wakamairu sat as Native Assessor. It will not be any more necessary now than formerly to review the story told of the coming, the conquests, and the generosity of the Ngatiraukawa tribe, or to detail the evidence adduced to show that their residence in the Manawatu had no significance but the friendly fusion and mutual absorption of two tribes. But it is perhaps material to mention that the Court, in its wisdom, saw fit to confine the source from which it was to derive its information to the members of the contending tribes, and to exclude all European testimony, which, under page 247the circumstances, would have been the more independent of the two. It is not for one moment suggested that the litigant parties should have been precluded from placing their views before the Court, but a moment's reflection will convince a thoughtful person that where hatred and animosity had been aroused to their highest pitch, what the one side asserted the other would assuredly contradict. Therefore the rational method of arriving at a right decision was to ascertain whether any evidence was obtainable less likely to be tainted by prejudice and personal interest. That there was an abundance of such evidence is notorious, for there were whalers, traders, missionaries, surveyors, and Government officials who had seen and knew the relations of the tribes prior to and immediately after colonisation, and who had absolutely no interest in misleading the Court. But the Judges declined to be guided by their dispassionate statements, and adopted a course which practically meant that the case would be decided in favour of the side which could bring the largest number of hardest-swearing witnesses.
With native evidence alone to guide them the Court came to conclusions diametrically opposed to those of their fellow-Judges who had sat at Otaki a little more than a year page 248before, and in their hostility to Ngatiraukawa even more disastrous. They found (1) that prior to 1840 the tribe had not acquired by conquest or occupation any rights over the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block. (2) That three hapas had, with the consent of Ngatiapa, become entitled to certain indefinite privileges; but that the Ngatiapa title had never been completely extinguished. The manner in which they arrived at this extraordinary decision is thus set out in the judgment of the Court, which was delivered by His Honor Judge Maning on 25th September, 1869: —
This is a claim made by a native named Akapita for himself and others to certain lands situated between the Manawatu and Rangitikei Rivers, and which has been referred to the Native Land Court by the Governor, under the provisions made to that effect by the " Native Lands Act, 1867." The claimants ground their title firstly on conquest, stating that the land in question was conquered from the Ngatiapa tribe, the original possessors, by the Ngatitoa tribe under their chief Te Rauparaha, who subsequently gave, or granted, this land to the Ngatiraukawa tribe, his allies, of which tribe the claimants are members; and secondly, failing the proof of the right by conquest, the claimants claim under any right which it may be proved the Ngatiraukawa tribe, or any sections or hapu of that tribe, may have acquired either by occupation or in any other manner. This claim by Akapita is opposed by the Crown, who have purchased from Ngatiapa, on the grounds that the original owners, the Ngatiapa, have never been conquered, and that the Ngatiraukawa as a tribe have not acquired any right or interest whatever in the land, page 249and, moreover, that the land claimed by Akapita is now the property of the Crown, having been legally purchased from the right owners. A great mass of evidence has been taken in this case, from which, after eliminating minor matters and everything which hss no very important bearing on the matter for decision, the following facts appear to remain. Before the year 1818, and to that date or thereabouts, the Ngatiapa tribe were possessors of the land in question, its owners by Maori usage and custom, the land being part of the tribal territory or estate. On or about the above date the chief Rauparaha, with the fighting men of his tribe and a party of Ngapuhi warriors armed with fire-arms, left his settlement at Kawhia and marched to the south with the intention of acquiring by conquest a new territory for himself and tribe. In the course of this expedition he passed through the country of the Ngatiapa, remaining only long enough to ravage the country and drive back to the fastnesses of the mountains, the Ngatiapa, who with some parties of allies or kindred tribes, had attemped resistance, but were at that time obliged to retreat before an enemy armed with firearms. The invaders then passed on to the southward, and after a series of battles, onslaughts, stratagems, and incidents attendant on Maori warfare, but not necessary further to notice here, Te Rauparaha, with the assistance of his Ngapuhi allies, succeeded in possessing himself of a large territory to the north and south of Otaki, the former possessors of which he had defeated, killed, or driven off. After this inroad, in which Rauparaha had laid the foundation for a more permanent occupation and conquest, and being, therefore, as it would appear, desirous of collecting around him as many fighting men as possible—a great object of every native chief in those days of continual war and violence—he returned to Kawhia with the purpose of collecting the remainder of his tribe who had been left at Kawhia, and of inviting the whole tribe of page 250Ngatiraukawa to come and settle on the territory which he had then but partially conquered. It is to be noticed here that on the return of Rauparaha to Kawhia he was met by the chiefs of the Ngatiapa tribe on their own land, and that upon this occasion friendly relations and peace were established between them, he returning to them some prisoners he had taken in passing through their country when advancing to the southward; presents were also exchanged, and the nephew of Te Rauparaha, Te Rangihaeata, took to wife with all due formality a chieftainess of the Ngatiapa tribe called Pikinga, notwithstanding that she had been taken prisoner by himself on the occasion of the first inroad into the Ngatiapa country. After arriving at Kawhia the Ngapuhi returned to their own country, and need not be again mentioned, as they have not made any claim on account of their alliance with Te Rauparaha on the occasion of the first invasion. About a year after the return of Rauparaha to Kawhia he mustered his tribe and some other followers, and taking also the women and children, he again marched for the south, with the intention of permanently occupying and securing the conquest of the lands which up to this time he had merely overrun. The effect of the invitation by Te Rauparaha to the Ngatiraukawa tribe to come and settle on his newly-acquired lands was, that soon afterwards strong parties of Raukawa came from time to time to Kapiti, partly to examine the new country which had been offered to them, but chiefly, it would appear, moved by the reports which they had heard that gunpowder and firearms were procurable at the place from European traders who, about that time, had commenced a traffic for flax and other native produce. These parties of Raukawa, on their way south, in passing through the country of the Ngatiapa, killed or took prisoners any stragglers of the Ngatiapa or others whom they met with, and who had lingered behind in the vicinity of the war track, when the page 251prudent but brave war chief of the Ngatiapa had withdrawn the bulk of the tribe into the fastnesses of the country whilst these ruthless invaders passed through, being doubtless unwilling to attack the allies of Te Rauparaha, with whom he wisely made terms of peace and friendship. In passing through the country of the Ngatiapa these Raukawa parties also took a kind of Pro forma, or nominal possession of the land, which, however, would be entirely invalid except as against parties of passing adventurers like themselves who might follow; because the Ngatiapa tribe, though weakened, remained still unconquered, and a considerable proportion of their military force still maintained their independence in the country under their chief Te Hakeke. But what was no doubt fully as much in favour of the Ngatiapa tribe, and which may probably have been the cause of their not having been eventually subjugated, was the fact already noticed, that Rauparaha on his return to the north, when he invited the Ngatiraukawa to come down, had made peace with the Ngatiapa, thereby waiving any rights he might have been supposed to claim over their lands; and indeed, from that time for a long period afterwards, friendly and confidential relations undoubtedly were maintained between Te Rauparaha and his tribe and the tribe of Ngatiapa—which were only broken off, more by accident than by design of either party, in consequence of a few men of the Ngatiapa having been killed in an attack made by Ngatitoa. and others on a fort belonging to the Rangitane tribe in which these Ngatiapa men happened to be staying at the time, and whose death was afterwards avenged by the Ngatiapa—after which peace was again established between them and Te Rauparaha and the Ngatitoa tribe. To Europeans not much acquainted with the peculiarities of Maori thought and action, the destruction by these passing parties of Ngatiraukawa, of individuals of the Ngatiapa tribe—a tribe with whom Rauparaha page 252was then on peaceful and even friendly terms—their destruction by parties, who were not only also allies of Rauparaha, but who were then actually in expectation of receiving from him great benefits in the shape of grants of land, and above all the opportunity of trading for firearms, may appear a strange inconsistency, and not to be reconciled with the fact of the people so treated being in any other position than that of helpless subjection, and not—as has been seen—in alliance with the paramount chief, Rauparaha; but to those who know what the state of society (so to call it) was in those days, and have noted the practical consequences arising therefrom, this matter presents no difficulty. The Ngatiraukawa parties would, as a matter of course, act as they did without anticipating any reference whatever to the matter by Te Rauparaha, to whom they were bringing what he most wanted, a large accession of physical force, and who would not therefore have quarrelled with them at this time for such a small matter as the destruction of a few individuals, no matter who they were, provided they were not of his own particular tribe. It was the pride and pleasure of the Raukawa to hunt and kill all helpless stragglers whom they might fall in with on their march; it was customary under the circumstances, and being able also to do it with impunity, they were, according to the morality and policy of those times, quite within rule in doing so. As for the Ngatiapa tribe themselves, they would not at all blame the Ngatiraukawa in the sense of their having done anything wrong; being Maoris themselves they would appreciate the circumstances of the case, knowing that they themselves would have done the same if in the same position. They would also fully understand the reason why the paramount chief Rauparaha could not notice the matter, and that in fact the Ngatiraukawa had done nothing to be considered as wrong or out of order, but only something to be returned in kind and with page 253interest at some future day, provided that the Ngatiapa should ever be able, and that it would be good policy in them to do so when the opportunity offered. I have made these remarks, which are applicable to the actions and proceedings of all the different Raukawa parties when on their way south to join Te Rauparaha at Kapiti, for the purpose of showing that no acts of the Ngatiraukawa tribe, previous to the arrival of their whole force at Kapiti, whether by killing or enslaving individuals of the Ngatiapa, or by taking a merely formal possession of any of their lands, without halting or residing, did give them (the Ngatiraukawa) any rights of any kind whatever over the lands of the Ngatiapa tribes according to any Maori usage or custom. It should be noted here, that on the first coming of Rauparaha on his expedition of conquest, he found living amongst the Ngatiapa, a party of Rangitane, a tribe whose proper tribal lands were adjacent to, but distinct from those of the Ngatiapa. These people, upon the second coming of Rauparaha on his return from the north, were still there, and they, in confederation with some other people of the Muaupoko tribe, did, by means of a treacherous stratagem, very nearly succeed in killing Te Rauparaha, who barely escaped by flight, leaving four of his children, and all, or very nearly all of his companions, dead at the place where they were attacked. This affair occurred after Te Rauparaha had made peace formally with the Ngatiapa tribe, who, it is in evidence, had warned him against the treacherous design of the Rangitane and others; notwithstanding which the Rangitane very nearly succeeded in ridding themselves of the most dangerous of all their enemies, Rauparaha—famous himself for wiles and stratagems— and who, it is pertinent to the matter in hand to remark, either conquered by force, or made tools of by policy, or destroyed by treachery, almost everyone he came into contact with. The Ngapuhi warriors, strong in warlike page 254ability, doubly strong in being armed with fire-arms, he made use of to conquer for him a great territory, and then dismissed them, paying them for their great services with friendly flattering words, a few prisoners, and some insignificant presents. The Ngatiapa he spared and made friends with, and even allowed to purchase firearms at Kapiti, evidently with the purpose of using this tribe as a check upon his friends the Ngatiraukawa, who were much superior to his own tribe in numbers, and who in their turn were to be pitted against the numerous enemies by whom he was surrounded, and who had become so in consequence of his recent conquests. The effect, however, of the nearly successful attempt by the Rangitane, as regarded themselves, was to prevent Te Rauparaha from extending to them the same favourable consideration which he had done to the Ngatiapa, and to cause him to pursue them with persistent and vindictive warfare, slaughtering a great proportion of their fighting men, breaking their military force, and driving them from place to place whenever opportunity offered, during which operations we lose sight of them on this block; and when we afterwards find a small company of people called "Rangitane" settled unopposed and apparently in a permanent manner at Puketotara, just within the country of the Ngatiapa, and not far from the boundary of the proper tribal estate of the Rangitane tribe, we find on investigation that these people are called "halfcastes" or children of inter-marriages between members of the Ngatiapa and Rangitane tribes, and who, there is no doubt, owed their undisturbed possession to their Ngatiapa blood. I am therefore of opinion that in the decision to be given as to the ownership of the whole block, these people holding land within the Ngatiapa boundaries by virtue of their Ngatiapa blood, and for that reason unopposed by the Ngatiapa, should be held to be members of the Ngatiapa tribe, and have all the rights which may accrue to them from that position, and that page 255when the Ngatiapa tribe is spoken of for the purpose of the decision in this case it shall be understood to include these Rangitane half-castes. For the sake of brevity and perspicuity, I have avoided as much as possible recurring to many minute circumstances, seeing that the questions under consideration can be decided, as far as the Court can decide them, on the evidence adduced, on broader considerations, which are more easily understood. I now therefore pass at once to the time, about the year 1829, when we at last find the whole emigration of the Ngatiraukawa tribe arrived and settled about Kapiti, Waikanae, and the immediately adjacent country. The whole Ngatiraukawa emigration having arrived, it appears that they did not immediately disperse themselves over the conquered country, but remained for about three years in the vicinity of Otaki, Waikanae, and Kapiti, wher they employed themselves in manufacturing flax and producing other commodities for sale to the European traders for gunpowder and fire-arms, without which they could not count on being able to establish themselves on their allotted lands; but, having at last accomplished this object, the different sections of the tribe separated, and each section went to, and took possession of, and settled on, that particular portion or district of the conquered country which had been granted or allotted to them by the paramount chief Rauparaha. During the above period of time, between the arrival of the Ngatiraukawa tribe and its final occupation in sections of the different districts allotted to them, it appears that the Ngatiapa had also, with the full consent of Rauparaha, and the active assistance of the chief Rangihaeata, made the most of the time in arming themselves with fire-arms, which, it would appear, they succeeded in doing to fully as great an extent as their means of purchasing allowed, and probably to fully as great an extent as the Ngatiraukawa had been able to do. This fact has a very significant though indirect page 256bearing on the questions at issue, as it seems evident that had Rauparaha intended to depress or subjugate the Ngatiapa tribe, he would on no account have allowed or offered facilities to their war chief Hakeke in coming to Kapiti with parties of his young men to procure those arms, which, were it not for the friendly relations subsisting between them, would have made the Ngatiapa formidable even to Te Rauparaha himself. The policy, however, of Te Rauparaha was evidently, from the beginning, after having made the Ngatiapa feel his power, to elevate and strengthen them as a check on his almost too numerous friends the Ngatiraukawa, whom, were it not that they were bound to him by a great common danger, created by himself in placing them on lately conquered lands, he would never have trusted. He has also evidently had the intention, and succeeded in it, after having made peace with his enemies in the south who were not likely to attack him again, of setting up both tribes, Ngatiraukawa and Ngatiapa, as a barrier against his far more dangerous enemies in the north. There, however, is no evidence at all to show that Rauparaha, in granting or allotting lands to the different sections of the Ngatiraukawa tribe, did ever give or grant to them any lands within the boundaries of the Ngatiapa possessions, between the rivers Rangitikei and Manawatu, or elsewhere; to have done which would have been clearly inconsistent with the relations then subsisting between himself and the Ngatiapa tribe, over whose lands he had never claimed or exercised the rights of a conqueror; and, moreover, the Ngatiapa, a fierce and sturdy race, were an the land, no longer unarmed but well provided with those weapons, the want of which had, on the occasion of the first invasion, reduced their warriors to seek reluctantly the shelter of the mountain or the forest. It is, however, sufficient that we have the fact that, influenced by whatever motives, Te Rauparaha did not at any time give or grant lands of the Ngatiapa page break page break page 257estate, between the Manawatu and Rangitikei Rivers, to the Ngatiraukawa tribe, nor is there any evidence to show that he had ever acquired the right to do so. It is, however, a fact that soon after the year 1835, we find three distinct hapu of the Ngatiraukawa tribe settled peaceably and permanently on the Ngatiapa lands, between the Manawatu and Rangitikei Rivers, unopposed by the Ngatiapa, on terms of perfect friendship and alliance with them, claiming rights of ownership over the lands they occupied, and exercising those rights, sometimes independently of the Ngatiapa, and sometimes conjointly with them; joining with the Ngatiapa in petty war expeditions, "eating out of the same basket," "sleeping in the same bed," as some of the witnesses say, and quarrelling with each other, and on the only occasion on which the disagreement resulted in the loss of one life, making peace with each other like persons who, depending much on each other's support, cannot afford to carry hostilities against each other to extremity, and who therefore submit to the first politic proposals of their chiefs for an accommodation. Upon investigation of the causes which brought about this state of things, with the view of ascertaining what was the real status or position of the three Raukawa hapu on the land, we find that they did not make their settlement on the lands of the Ngatiapa by virtue of any claim of conquest, or any grant from Rauparaha, or by any act or demonstration of warlike powers by themselves; but it is in evidence, which from all the surrounding circumstances seems perfectly credible, that two at least of the Raukawa hapu, namely, Ngatiparewahawaha and Ngatikahoro, were very simply invited to come by the Ngatiapa themselves, and were placed by them in a position which, by undoubted Maori usuage, entailed upon the incomers very important rights, though not the rights of conquerors. The third hapu, the Ngatikauwhata, appears to have come in under slightly different circumstances. The lands page 258allotted to them by Rauparaha were on the south side of the Manawatu River, the lands of the Ngatiapa were on the north, and to quote the very apt expression of one of the witnesses, "they stretched the grant of Rauparaha and came over the river"; the facts appearing in reality to have been that they made a quiet intrusion on to the lands of the Ngatiapa, but offering no violence, lest by so doing they should offend Rauparaha, as, under the then existing established relations between the tribes, to do so would have been a very different affair from the killing of the stragglers they met with several years before on the occasion of their first coming into the country. The Ngatiapa, on their part, for very similar reasons, did not oppose the intrusion, but making a virtue of what, apparently, seemed very like a necessity, they bade the Ngatikauwhata welcome, and soon entered into the same relations of friendship and alliance with them which they had entered into with the other two sections of Raukawa. That this was the true state of the case seems very certain, for in those times of rapine, violence, and war, when men could only preserve their lives and the trifling amount of prosperity which under such a state of things could exist, by a constant exhibition of military strength, it is well known to the Court that all chiefs of tribes, and all tribes, particularly such as were, like the Ngatiapa, not very numerous, were at all times eager, by any means, to increase their numerical strength; and that, much as they valued their lands, they valued fighting men more, and were at all times ready and willing to barter a part of their territorial possessions for an accession of strength, and to welcome and endow with land parties of warlike adventurers like the Ngatiraukawa, who would, for the sake of those lands, enter into alliance with them, and make common cause in defending their mutual possessions. In exactly this position we find these three Raukawa hapu, in a position which gives them (by Maori custom) well known and page 259recognised rights in the soil. Those who, living on the soil, have assisted in defending it—who, making a settlement, either invited or unopposed by the original owners, have afterwards entered into alliance with them and performed the duties of allies—acquire the status and rights of ownership, more or less precise or extensive, according to the circumstances of the first settlement, and to what the subsequent events may have been. But be the motives of the Ngatiapa whatever they were, for inviting or not opposing the settlement of these three Raukawa hapu, the fact remains that we find them in a position, and doing acts, giving them or proving that they had acquired, according to Maori usuage and custom, rights which the Court recognises by this judgment: that is to say, firstly, that the three Ngatiraukawa hapu — called respectively Ngatikahoro, Ngatiparewahawaha, and Ngatikauwhata—have acquired rights which constitute them owners, according to Maori usuage and custom, along with the Ngatiapa tribe in the block of land, the right to which has been the subject of this investigation. Secondly, that the quantity and situation of the land to which the individuals of the above-named Ngatiraukawa sections who have not sold or transferred their rights are entitled, and the conditions of its tenure are described in the accompanying schedule. And the Court finds also that the Ngatiraukawa tribe has not, as a tribe, acquired any right, title, interest or authority in or over the block of land which has been the subject of this investigation.
In commenting upon this judgment, which for ever shattered the hopes of the Ngatiraukawa, it is natural to hesitate before even suggesting that the Judges were actuated by any motive other than the strict discharge of their judicial duty, but there are certain signs page 260and circumstances attending it which at least lend the appearance of partiality, even if they do not prove it. The very language of the judgment is in parts ill-chosen and inconsistent, if not actually biassed, for it is impossible to avoid contrasting the terms used to describe the two litigant tribes. Thus the Ngatiapa, who invariably fled to the mountain fastnesses upon the approach of the Ngatiraukawa war parties, are pictured as "prudent but brave," while "these ruthless invaders," whose "pride and pleasure it was to hunt and kill all helpless stragglers," is the best the Judges can say for the people who stayed the anger of Te Rauparaha, and who cried, "Cease to kill, let the remnant be saved." These may be nothing more than ill-considered phrases which have crept into the judgment, but they might also be the unconscious expression of party leanings—in neither case, however, are they in agreement with the verdict of history.
The Ngatiraukawa were then in undisputed possession of the district. The previous owners, the Ngatiapa, had been conquered by them, and were held in a state of subjection, some being actually in slavery at Otaki and Kapiti, others resided on the land as serfs, employed in pig hunting and such like occupations. They had ceased to be a tribe. They had no organisation, no rights. Even that portion of the tribe which lived between Rangitikei and Whanganui was in a state of degradation. It was without mana. There would have been then no room for questioning the title of Ngatiraukawa. It was a self-evident fact that they were in undisputed occupation.
If he wished to purchase that land he would have to purchase it from Ngatiraukawa, as it belonged to them.
In connection with Mr. Spain's investigations into some of Colonel Wakefield's alleged purchases, we find that the only question he had to decide was whether Ngatiraukawa had or had not sold the land, and in defining the area to which his enquiry related, he says: —
Burr further states that the lands alleged to have been transferred on that occasion, were comprised within lines drawn due east to the hills from the mouths of the Rivers Rangitikei and Horowhenua.
No mention, however, is made of either Ngatiapa, Rangitane, or Muaupoko; the only sellers whom Mr. Spain recognised were the Ngatiraukawa. Had the Court been willing to hear them, there were also whalers and traders who could have told how on one occasion the Ngatiraukawa had imposed a tapu upon the beach from Otaki to Rangitikei, page 263preventing all intercourse between the settlements by that route for many months, thus proving their undoubted jurisdiction over it, for no tribe could ever establish a better title than their ability to enforce this sacred rite.
But in addition to this personal testimony there was a large amount of documentary evidence which would at least have supported the statements of those individuals who were called. Reference has already been made to the fact that in his travels up and down the coast, Mr. Jerningham Wakefield scarcely ever came into contact with a Ngatiapa chief, his intercourse being entirely with the leaders of the Ngatiraukawa. But in one portion of his entertaining narrative he makes specific reference to meeting some Ngatiapa people near the Oroua River, and this is the picture which he has handed down to posterity:—
At the edge of the wood we found a family which was catching eels in a creek close by. They were one of the aboriginal tribes, a remnant of the few natives left in tributary freedom after Rauparaha's invasion.
In the year 1844 Mr. C. H. Kettle, who was one of the first surveyors to come into the district, gave evidence before a Select Committee of the House of Commons set up to enquire into New Zealand affairs, during the course of which he stated most emphatically that the original tribes had been reduced from page 264hundreds to a mere handful, and that afterwards the Ngatiraukawa had liberated them from slavery, and allowed them to live in their midst.
When forwarding the Ngatiraukawa petitions to the Queen in 1867, the Hon. J. C. Richmond accompanied them with a memo. setting out his own views upon the native requests, and in stating the position, he says:
An invading tribe—the Ngatiraukawa—took possession, in about 1830, of a large tract of country between Wellington and Whanganui, driving out the tribes which before inhabited it. After some years of slaughter and violence the Ngatiapa and Rangitane were suffered by the conquerors to return. They came back as slaves, but gradually resumed more and more of equality with the conquerors, intermarried with them, and cultivated the land.
Equally is this view borne out by Mr. James Grindell, of the Native Land Purchase Department, who in a report dated 12th July, 1858, says:—
When the Ngatiraukawa first established themselves in the country, each division of the tribe claimed and took formal possession of certain tracts as their share of the conquest; of which they forthwith became the sole possessors, and of which they ever afterwards retained possession, but now when the idea of selling the land is gaining ground amongst them, the opponents of such a step, for the first time, assert that the country is common property.
Mr. H. Tacy Kemp, who was Native Secretary in 1850, is not less emphatic than Mr. page 265Grindell in his delineation of the strength of the Ngatiraukawa and the weakness of the Ngatiapa, for in writing from Rangitikei in March of that year, he says of the former that "they are the most powerful tribe in Cook's Strait, and number about 1200 fighting men," while of the latter his description is is by no means so flattering.
The Ngatiapa are a remnant of the original people, and have held but little intercourse with Europeans. They are still rude and uncivilised, and look with a jealous eye on their old conquerors, the Ngatiraukawa, by whom they were recently permitted to sell land on the north side of the Rangitikei River. The whole of the Ngatiapa scarcely amount to more than 300 souls, for whom a sufficiency of land has been reserved.
These instances of the way in which the relative positions of the two tribes impressed the lay and official mind might be multiplied indefinitely, but that would only prove a vain expenditure of labour if what has already been stated fails to convince the impartial mind, as they must have convinced the Judges had they consented to hear them. It is only necessary now to state that in prosecuting their cause the Ngatiraukawa had not merely the Ngatiapa tribe arrayed against them, but whatever influence the Governor, the Government, and the Superintendent could exercise was exerted in sustaining the Crown's claim. Indeed, there is such a remarkable similarity page 266between the decision of the Judges and the views of the Superintendent, that any one might well be pardoned for suspecting that such unanimity arose from something more than mere coincidence. In a speech which he delivered to the Provincial Council on 22nd November, 1869, the Superintendent drew pointed attention to the manner in which his actions had been sustained by the Court. After referring to the fact that the 5000 acres of the Himitangi Block given to Parakaia and his hapus by the Court at Otaki, had reverted to the Crown under the more recent decision of the Court, he proceeded to say: —
To show how complete is the vindication of the purchase, I would point out to you that not only are my published views as to the tribal and territorial status of the Ngatiapa confirmed by the decision of the issues submitted to the Court, but that even in the details of my proposed arrangements with the Ngatiraukawa the Court has completely endorsed the fairness of my proposals. As I have previously informed the Council, there was a small number of bona fide Ngatiraukawa dissentients to whom I considered it necessary to make an award in land. To these non-sellers I proposed giving 6000 acres in full satisfaction of their claims, and it is a significant fact that this is the exact aggregate quantity awarded by the Court to the several sections of the Ngatiraukawa claimants. Apart from this I may mention that out of over a thousand claimants only 62 were admitted by the Court, that being the exact number of recognised dissentient claimants whose names were on a previous occasion laid before you. I need hardly assure you that it is very gratifying to me personally to page 267find the whole of my views upheld by the highest Native tribunal.
After perusing this speech, it only remains for each reader to determine in his own mind whether Dr. Featherston has not proved too much, and whether the judgment of the Court was not framed with a greater regard for his wishes than for the merits of the case.
As a result of these legal—or, shall we say, judicial—proceedings, the Ngatiraukawa tribe was now reduced to the occupation of the district between the Manawatu River on the north and the Kukutauaki Stream on the south, and known as the Kukutauaki Block, which included the whole of the fertile country around Lake Horowhenua, where Te Whatanui, the brave in battle, yet gentle in spirit, had spread the mantle of protection over the supplicating remnant of the original people. After having ceded to the Ngatiapa the Upper Rangitikei Block, and given Ahuaturanga back to the Rangitane; after being coerced into the sale of Manawatu by the impounding of their rents and their own scrupulous regard for the preservation of peace, it might have been thought that the avarice of their enemies, and the omnivorous appetite of the Government, would have been satisfied to allow them to keep Horowhenua as a home for themselves and their children. But the Ngatiraukawa page 268cup of bitterness was not yet full, for "Governor" Hunia, and perhaps those Europeans behind him, were shrewd enough to see that if the Ngatiraukawa had not acquired a right by conquest over the Manawatu, they could lay no better claim to Horowhenua, where a few Muaupoko still lived. If, as Judge Fenton remarked to Mr. Travers, the weakness of his case was that the Ngatiraukawa had not killed and eaten all the Ngatiapa, they had been guilty of an equal oversight at Horowhenua, and encouraged by their previous success "Governor" Hunia* and Major Kemp were not long in turning this mistaken leniency to their own account by setting up, on behalf of five tribes, claims to the territory which for years had been regarded by both Europeans and Maoris as the domain of Te Whatanui and his descendants.
* Major Kemp would claim as a Muaupoko, his father having belonged to that tribe, although his mother was a Ngatiapa woman. Hunia would claim for the opposite reason.
* A Ngatiawa chief, Tamihana Te Neke, who subsequently became a native teacher, thus describes the position of affairs upon the advent of a large party of Ngatiawa in 1827:—"When that party arrived there were no people dwelling on this coast, only shags and sea-gulls on the sea-beach. The remnant of the inhabitants had fled to the mountains. That party came to Waikanae, they returned and occupied the coast because it was clear, those of the former inhabitants, who had escaped, having fled to the forests,"
To Ngatiraukawa. It was taken by Rauparaha and Rangihaeata from three tribes who had possession of the river. They killed nearly the whole of these people, and when they got tired of eating human flesh they gave the land to Whatanui. This country is now claimed by him, and Rangihaeata and Rauparaha do not claim it at all.
When was it that these two chiefs murdered the original possessors of the land?
Thirty or forty years ago. One tribe was about 300 strong, now there are only 30 left; there was another 200 strong, and only 20 are left.
Were they made slaves after the battle?
For a short time they were slaves when Rauparaha had the land; but when Whatanui had the land he set them at liberty.
Is the last-named chief the person now claiming the land?
He set at liberty those who were slaves before?
And they live together?
In contrast with the prosaic surroundings of a Parliamentary Committee may be taken a word picture delineated by one of the most page 271graphic writers whose pen was ever inspired by the romantic history of the colony, and from his description we can compare the peaceful aspect of affairs under Te Whatanui with the turbulent times created by the revengeful spirit of Te Rauparaha. Mr. Jerningham Wakefield had gone to Horowhenua, accompanied by a Ngatiawa chief named Te Kuru Kanga, who had especially distinguished himself by bravery and brilliant generalship in the battle of Waikanae, the last domestic struggle which had taken place between these allied tribes. In consequence of this there was some doubt as to how they would be received, but the writer of the entertaining "Adventures" states that he was much struck with the honourable greeting which Whatanui gave to his former enemy, and then we have this interesting portrayal of the good chief's character, who, he tells us, was not only a renowned leader in war, but also enjoyed the reputation of great mildness and justice.
Whatanui was, perhaps, one of the native chiefs who best appreciated the value of the white man's presence and brotherhood. He had adopted the Christian faith very warmly; but without in the least injuring his authority, for either he himself or his second son always read the prayers and enforced the performance of the Christian observances. He had always adopted a great degree of civilisation. His houses were always kept scrupulously clean, he and all page 272his family always wore clean clothes, and washed with soap in the stream every morning; the cooking was attended to with great care, and the food was always served up on carefully scrubbed tin plates. In short, whenever I spent an hour at this little village, I felt that it was the residence of a gentleman. There was a quiet unobtrusive dignity in the well-regulated arrangements of the whole establishment. The slaves did their work without orders and without squabbling; a harsh word was hardly ever heard. Everyone vied in a tacit wish that the old gentleman should be comfortable; and it was pleasing to see him sitting in his house almost always surrounded by some of his family— the men all well shaved and combed—the women in clean frocks and blankets, busy at some sewing or other work; while his son or his daughter-in-law would be kindly teaching him to write on a slate. I remember how proud he was when he could write his name, and with what genuine kindness he pointed out his son Tommy's wife as having succeeded in teaching him. The family of Whatanui, so united and homely, was indeed a notable instance of the success of Mr. Hadfield's sweet and gentle teaching. No one could avoid feeling emulous of the praiseworthy qualities which had enabled him to effect such an end.
* A particularly irritating feature of this act was that the house was built near the spot where Tauteka, the wife of old Te Whatanui, lay buried.
* "That Ngatiapa is much better armed than Ngatiraukawa, added to the wish of the latter to keep the peace, and trust to the law alone for protection, has been the cause of their remaining passive under the great provocation they have received."—Extract from a letter by Major Edwards to Hon. D. McLean.
As the Government showed little disposition to maintain the peace, and as matters gradually approached breaking tension, Ngatiraukawa at length yielded to the persuasions of Major Edwards, and applied to the Native Land Court for a ratification of their title. The hearing took place at Foxton, before Judges Rogan and Smith, and if contemporary reports may be believed, Hunia and Kemp made themselves particularly obnoxious by their boisterous behaviour, openly declaring their intention to maintain their claims by force, if necessary. The first case investigated was that of the Kukutauaki Block, to which the Ngatiraukawa laid claim by virtue of conquest, and continuous occupation from a period anterior to the Treaty of Waitangi. This title was opposed by Major Kemp and Hunia on behalf of the five tribes already enumerated, and the evidence necessarily involved the old story of stress and struggle between the opposing people. After days of meandering through the by-ways of Maori history, the Court, consistently with its page 276judgment concerning Himatangi, found on 4th March, 1873: —
That sections of the Ngatiraukawa tribe have acquired rights over the said block, which, according to Maori custom and usage, constitute them owners thereof (with certain exceptions) together with Ngatitoa and Ngatiawa, whose joint interest therein is admitted by the claimants.
That such rights were not acquired by conquest, but by occupation, with the acquiescence of the original owners.
That such rights had been completely established in the year 1840, at which date sections of the Ngatiraukawa were in undisputed possession of the said block of land, excepting only two portions thereof.
Neither the Ngatiapa, Whanganui, or Ngatikahungunu were found to have any direct tribal interest in the block, but with the Rangitane and Muaupoko the case was different. Of the land excepted from this judgment, one portion, situated on the banks of the Manawatu River, at Tuwhakatupua, was claimed by the Rangitane, who had their claim allowed by the Ngatiraukawa without bickering or dissent. The remaining portion was situate at Horowhenua, and included the whole of that block except the area which the Ngatiraukawa admitted Te Whatanui had handed back to the Muaupoko.
As the circumstances attending its occupation seemed to justify a special enquiry, this land was made the subject of a separate page 277investigation, and exactly a month after the Kukutauaki decision, the Court announced its judgment, during the course of which the Judges said: —
The claimants have brought forward evidence, and have sought to prove such an occupation of the land as would amount to a dispossession of the Muaupoko. We are unanimously of the opinion that the claimants (Ngatiraukawa) have failed to make out their case, and the judgment is therefore in favour of the counter claimants (Muaupoko). The claimants appear to rely principally on the residence of Te Whatanui at Horowhenua, and there can be no doubt that at the time when that chief took up his abode there, the Muaupoko were glad to avail themselves of the protection of a powerful Ngatiraukawa chief against Te Rauparaha, whose enmity they had incurred. It would appear that Te Whatanui took Muaupoko under his protection, and that he was looked up to as their chief, but it does not appear that the surrender of their land by the Muaupoko was ever stipulated as the price of that protection, or that it followed as a consequence of the relations which subsisted between that tribe and Te Whatanui. We find that Muaupoko was in possession of the land at Horowhenua when Te Whatanui went there, that they still occupy these lands, and that they have never been dispossessed of them. We find further that Te Whatanui acquired by gift from Muaupoko a portion of land at Raumatangi, and we consider that this claim at Horowhenua will be fairly and substantially recognised by marking off a block of 100 acres at that place for which a certificate of title may be ordered in favour of his representatives.
The effect of this judgment was to take from the Ngatiraukawa lands which they had page 278occupied and cultivated for a period longer than the oldest European inhabitant could remember, and to assess the value of Te Whatanui's services to humanity at one hundred acres of land, most of which was swamp and unfit for human habitation. The suggestion that a chief like Whatanui should have acquired by gift what he had the power to take would be ludicrous had it not proved so serious, for in those times of "rapine, violence, and war," when only a brave heart and the constant exertion of military strength could keep what had been won, it is manifestly apparent that if Whatanui was powerful enough to keep Te Rauparaha in check, it would not have required much effort on his part to dispose of what remained of the Muaupoko.
The Judges, however, thought otherwise. They apparently held, as Mr. Fox argued in 1869, that the only reason Te Rauparaha did not kill all the original inhabitants was because he could not. No allowance was made for the humane instincts of one who was noted "for his great mildness and justice," but because there was no evidence of a distinct bargain binding the Muaupoko to cede to Whatanui so much land for the privilege of being allowed to breathe their native air, the conquest which stands out as a great historical page 279fact was treated as a myth, and the Treaty of Waitangi, which guaranteed to the chiefs and tribes of New Zealand the full, exclusive, and undisturbed possession of the lands and estates which they held at that time, was cast to the four winds of Heaven.
The subsequent history of the Horowhenua Block, which is much too recent a matter of controversy to be included in this work, may be found by those desirous of perusing it, in the discussions which took place in Parliament on the Horowhenua Block Bill, 1895; the proceedings before the Native Affairs Committee, and the speech delivered by Sir Walter Buller when at the Bar of the House to answer a breach of privilege. (See Appendix to Hansard, Vol. 91, 1895.)