The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
Chapter 30: TE KOOTI'S RAID ON WHAKATANE
Chapter 30: TE KOOTI'S RAID ON WHAKATANE
IN THE CAMP of refuge in the deep forest of Tahora one of Te Kooti's daily petitions appropriate to his condition was the 64th Psalm. “Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer,” he recited; “preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.” The fugitive chief was preparing one of those arrows; presently he launched it, a kokiri against the pakeha and the friendly Maoris on the Bay of Plenty plains.
With recruits from the Urewera and Whakatohea Tribes, Te Kooti gradually restored his shattered forces, and in March, 1869, he made his first attack on the Bay of Plenty settlements. Marching down the headwaters of the Waioeka, he crossed over to the Waimana, and emerging on the alluvial plain of the Whakatane at Ruatoki he set about his work of bloodshed and plunder in the territory of Ngati-Pukeko. This tribe, whose lands bounded those of Tuhoe at Taneatua, on the Waimana, was comparatively rich in horses and cattle, and cultivated wheat and maize largely, and its villages and the seaport settlement of Whakatane, where a section of the Ngati-Awa Tribe lived, were tempting objectives for plunder.
The Hauhaus first visited Ohiwa Harbour, where a party raided the friendly natives, and a surveyor, Mr. Pitcairn, was killed on Uretara Island, where he was camped shooting kuaka (godwit). Wi Piro and Rangi-tahau were in this band.
At the Ruatoki settlements Te Kooti was hospitably received by the Urewera, and many men joined him there for his attack on Ngati-Pukeko and the port township at Whakatane. Among those who had lately reinforced his fighting band was the chief Wirihana Koikoi, of Taupo. The Hauhaus then advanced on Rauporoa pa, Te Kooti detaching a party to take the flour-mill and small redoubt at Te Poronu. These operations will be described in detail.page 315
About three miles and a half south of Whakatane Town, close to the main road leading to Taneatua and Waimana can be seen the grassy mounds which indicate the site of an old Maori flour-mill, driven by water, and a small redoubt which stood alongside it. This spot, Te Poronu, was the scene in 1869 of an heroic fight against overwhelming odds, one of the most valiant defences in the Maori wars. The site of the historic mill is on “Mill Farm,” a beautiful area of level land between the steep hills on the east and the Whakatane River. Crops of maize and potatoes grow luxuriantly in the surrounding paddocks, and the olden mill mound and the adjacent earthworks of the little square redoubt are covered knee-deep in grass and clover. A small clear stream, the Poronu, crosses the main road a hundred yards away and flows down on the east side of the mill-site; a venerable willow-tree on the opposite bank will help the traveller to fix the spot. This stream was dammed by the building of a bank across the shallow valley, and a large pond was formed above the mill, extending up towards the present road-line. This dam supplied the water which turned the mill-wheel, and there was a spillway between the mill and the redoubt; this was crossed by a plank serving as a bridge. Another flood spillway was cut on the other side of the redoubt.
The mill was built about 1867 to grind into flour the wheat largely grown by the industrious Ngati-Pukeko. The machinery was a gift from the Governor, Sir George Grey; a considerable sum of money was expended under his régime in supplying the native tribes with flour-mills and other appliances of civilization. To supervise the construction of the mill and to work it when complete the tribe employed a Frenchman named Jean Guerren. Captain Gilbert Mair, N.Z.C., who knew Guerren well, describes him as a man of about forty-five years of age at this time, short and stout; he was very neat and methodical in his habits. He was an excellent mechanic; his mill and his little house which stood alongside it on the mound were models of efficiency and neatness. There was a garden of old-fashioned flowers, and there was also a little vineyard, from the produce of which Jean made wine for his household and his pakeha guests. His Maori wife, a young woman named Erihapeti (Elizabeth)—called “Peti,” for short—was the daughter of Manuera Kuku, a chief of the Warahoe Tribe, of the Upper Rangitaiki. With them was Peti's sister Monika, whose name was usually abbreviated to “Nika” she was a pretty girl of sixteen or seventeen. Jean had lately been living at Otipa, on the Rangitaiki River, near the foot of Mount Edgecumbe, where he had been trading, and had built page 316 a similar mill for the Warahoe. The Maoris called him Hoani te Wiwi (“John the Frenchman”).
About the end of 1968 the military authorities sent a detachment of Armed Constabulary out to Poronu and built a small redoubt as a means of defence for the mill; the Ngati-Pukeko had appealed for protection in consequence of threats to burn the place having been made by the Hauhaus of Ruatoki and other Urewera settlements. This was the result of Heketoro's fight and escape, an affair which occured at Puketi, an ancient hill fort which stands a short distance south of the present Township of Taneatua. Heketoro and a companion had escaped after a remarkable adventure, in which a leding chief of the Urewera was killed. The Armed Constabulary garrison was soon removed, and when Te Kooti swooped down from the mountains the place was in a defenceless condition.
A pitiful incident marked the march of the Hauhau war-party on Rauporoa and the mill. At Te Puapua, the advance-guard, headed by Te Makarini te Waru, a stoud reddish-haired almost Eskimo-featured Tuhoe warrior, suddenly came upon a woman in their path. She was a handsome young chieftainess named Ripeka Kaaho, the niece of a friendly chief named Tahawera. She had a number of pet pigs, and these she was feeding with boiled potatoes, some distance from her village. It was considered ill-luck for a war-party to spare any person whom they met on their path when engaged in an expedition of this kind, even through the stray person encountered was one of their own tribe. In this case the girl belonged to the Ruatoki people—in fact, her own brother Te Tupara (“The Double-barrel Gun”) Kaaho, of the Tuhoe Tribe—he is still living at Ruatoki—was one of the foremost young warriors in the ope. Te Makarini, the leader, was the girl's brother-in-law; his wife was her sister Rora.
The war-party, after seizing the girl, took her back to Te Hurepo, near Te Pa-a-te-Kapu, and sent back word to Te Kooti that a prisoner had been taken. “We have caught Tahawera's daughter: what shall we do with her?” The savage chief's epigrammatic reply was delivered by his chief lieutenant, the half-caste Peka Makarini (Baker McLean): “He maroro kokoti ihi waka-taua” (“A flying-fish crossing the bows of the war-canoe”). This figurative expression, anciently brought by the Maori ancestors from the tropic South Seas, likens to the luckless flying-fish striking the bow of a war-party. It meant that the girl must die. Thereupon she was killed with stone patu and tomahawk by two of her close relatives. This terrible deed did not content some of the savages of the ope; they must needs page 317 chop the poor girl's body into pieces, which they threw to her own pigs.*
Continuing their march the Hauhaus laid siege to Rauporoa pa, after being balked in their first attempt to capture it by treachery. Meanwhile a special war-party (kokiri) of a hundred men, under Wirihana Koikoi, a big tattooed fellow, was despatched to attack the mill. It happened that at this juncture there were only seven or eight people in the redoubt and mill, including besides Jean and his wife and sister-in-law, a young man named Tautari and a dumb man of weak intellect named Te Mauriki—both of the Ngati-Pukeko Tribe. There were also two women, one named Maria te Ha (wife of Kaperiera) and the other Pera. Most of these people were in the redoubt, but Jean, on seeing the approach of the armed Hauhaus, remained in his mill, which he determined to defent to the utmost, while the others shut the gate of the redoubt and prepared for the hopeless task of holding it against the kokiri.
* The place where this tragedy occurred, Te Hurepo, is a curious little artificial island pa in the swamp, just below the ancient hill fort called Te Pa-a-te-Kapu, seven miled from Whakatane, on the right hand (east) side of the road to Taneatua. It was built, say the Maoris, ten generations ago (250 years) as a place of refuge and security by the Ngati-te-Kapu, a hapu of Tuhoe, whose principal fort was on the trenched hill opposite. The land on the flat, now drained, was then a deep swamp, and this islet of refuge was formed by carrying earth in baskets from the east side of Te Pa-a-te-Kapu Hill, about a hundred yards away. The excavation in the side of the hill is still to be seen; the present road passes close under the hill-cutting, and the island, a low oval mound in the reclaimed swamp, is seen a little over a chain from the opposite side of the road. The artificial islet was surrounded by a line of fern-tree trunks and was then stockaded. In later times it was used as a cultivation plot. To this mound in the morass Ripeka was taken for execution after her capture at Te Puapua.
For two days the little garrison in the mill and the redoubt kept the Hauhaus off. The defence was so active and well sustained that the raiders imagined at first that there was a considerable number of men in the place. At last, however, when the Hauhaus ascended the near hills of the range on the eastern side of the valley, a few hundred yards from the mill, and were able to see down into the redoubt they discovered the weakness of the garrison. The attack was then pressed home. The Hauhaus skirmished up close to the walls. While some tried to set fire to a large raupo hut which occupied the middle of the redoubt, others endeavoured to scale the parapets. Jean was forced to abandon the mill, and rushed into the redoubt to join his people. For a time he defended the gateway, a narrow opening on the east side of the work; then he was shot and fell dead across the entrance which he had held with such valour. Before he fell he killed Wirihana Koikoi and another chief, Paora Taituha. Now the Hauhaus swarmed over the earth walls in through the gateway to tomahawk the hapless defenders. Two of the garrison, of whom Te Mauriki the heahea (half-witted person) was one, jumped the rear parapet and ran towards the Whakatane River and Raupora. Mauriki escaped; the other was page 319 overtaken and tomahawked. A few moments after Jean was killed, his wife Peti and Nika were surrounded by the murderous gang of savages. Peti flung herself down and clasped the knees of the man who had seized her, Te Rangihiroa, from Tarawera (on the Taupo-Napier track), begging him to save her and her sister. Rangihiroa protected her and the sister for the time; the others were killed.
After the sacking and burning of the mill, Rangihiroa took his captives across the Whakatane to the leader's camp before Rauporoa pa. When it was reported to Te Kooti that he had saved two women, the ruthless leader sent for him and ordered him to take Peti as his wife and to kill her sister. The young girl had refused to tell where the Frenchman had hidden his gunpowder [Jean had buried it under a whare.] So little Nika was tomahawked by Te Rangihiroa, who took Peti to Tarawera after the Whakatane raid. She lived there with him until her death a few years ago.*
The kokiri lost about seven killed. A few days after the fight, Captain Mair found the bodies of Wirihana Koikoi and Paora Taituha in the mill-dam.
No stone, no memorial of any kind, marks the spot defended by “John the Frenchman” with such heroic valour. In a few years, but for this record, the memory of Jean Guerren's gallant stand would have perished. New Zealand should mark as one of its national monuments the ground made sacred by the story of a brave son of France, who defended his post to the death.
* Captain Mair wrote from Tauranga (14th February, 1923): “There was a most pathetic and pitiful scene when Te Rangihiroa approached to carry out Te Kooti's cruel sentence. Twisting the thong of his hatchet round his wrist, he called out, ‘Tu mai, e Monika!’ (‘Stand up, Monika!’) The poor girl flung her arms about her weeping sister, asking, ‘E Peti, tena e roa te whakamamaetanga?’ (‘O Betty, will the suffering be long?’) ‘Kaore,’ answered Peti, ‘he poto noa iho’ (‘No, it will be quite brief’). Then the girl said, ‘Mau e pupuri i oku ringaringa kia manawanui ai ahau’ (‘Hold you my hands that I may have courage’). Peti did so, averting her face while the terrible blow fell.”
THE ATTACK ON RAUPOROA PA
The well-preserved remains of the Rauporoa pa, the Ngati-Pukeko redoubt besieged by Te Kooti's force in March, 1869, stand three miles south of Whakatane Town, on an alluvial plain thickly dotted with ti trees of great size. The place is surrounded by Maori and pakeha cultivations; the native villages Poroporo and Te Rewatu are near by, and the Whakatane flows past the rear of the work beneath masses of weeping-willows. Within rifle-shot on the opposite (eastern) side of the page 320 river are the grass-grown ruins of the Poronu Redoubt and the earthworks of the water-mill made memorable by Jean Guerren's defence. The Rauporoa pa is a rectangular field-work consisting of an earth parapet and a surrounding trench; the height of the scarp above the bottom of the ditch is still 7 to 8 feet, and inside the work is 4 or 5 feet high; the ditch is 4 feet wide and about the same depth. Its dimensions are about 120 yards in length (parallel with the course of the Whakatane River, immediately under its rear wall) and 55 yards in width. There are two large salients, which form flanking bastions against enfilading fire, one on the western flank, to the south of a gateway; the other is an angle near the river. Another flanking work, a bastion 8 yards on its longest alignment, projects from the opposite (south) end of the eastern face, and there is a small salient near one of the gateways facing the river. The pekerangi and kiri-tangata, the outer and inner palisades, consisting of totara posts, manuka stakes, and ti or whanake (cabbage-tree) trunks, have long since disappeared. The parapets, however, remain in an almost perfect condition. In the opening which was once the gateway facing west an enormous and many-branched whanake is growing—a cabbage-tree of great girth. This tree says Te More Takuira, the head man of Rauporoa, was originally one of the stakes of the fence—a young tree cut down, sharpened at the butt, and driven into the ground; it took root and grew. Another gateway, that facing the south, is blinded inside the entrance by a short parapet with a rifle-pit in the rear. It was this entrance that Te Kooti's force attempted to rush in their first attack. The ground on the west face of the work is thickly covered with the depressions indicating kumara or potato pits, the food stores of the garrison. On the south side, about 30 yards from the gateway, there is a shallow uneven trench running across the face of the pa and nearing it as it approaches the river. This was where the Hauhaus dug themselves in after the failure of their first effort against the fort. In the rear wall there are two openings, gateways, which gave access to the river. As a memorial of the Maori wars Rauporoa (“The High Reeds”) is of exceptional interest because of its excellent condition at a day when most of the forts of the 1860–71 period have been demolished.
Against this tribal stronghold of the loyal Ngati-Pukeko Te Kooti launched about four hundred warriors, East Coast men of various tribes—many of them escapees from Chatham Islands—reinforced by Urewera and Taupo Hauhaus. They came forward in a solid column, treading the ground with a heavy resounding tramp, their rifles, carbines, and guns held page 321 at the “ready.” Their threatening march gave the obvious lie to the white flag borne by one of their front-rank men. The flag of truce was Te Kooti's favourite stratagem for lulling the suspicions of Government Maoris. Some of the people in the pa, however, were so credulous, or so anxious to avoid fighting, that they were ready to open the gates and admit the enemy. One of these who reposed faith in Te Kooti's flag was an old church lay-reader, Ihaia te Ahu. He cried out, “It is peace, peace; there is the white flag.” Another Ngati-Pukeko deceived by the long streamer of white was Hori Tunui, one of the chiefs of the pa. He was in the act of pushing open the heavy sliding-door, fastened by wooden pegs, which formed the gate of the south side, and the advance files of the enemy were almost within the defences, when another chief, Tamihana Tahawera, who was not deceived by the flag of peace, ran to close the door. He was struggling with the foolish old man when a young Urewera warrior named Mehaka Toko-pounamu fired at him at a range of a few paces. The bullet missed Tahawera and struck the unfortunate pacifist Hori, who fell dead just inside the gateway. The door was made fast, and the baffled Hauhaus retired under fire to dig themselves in. Mehaka's shot was returned by Hirini Manuao in the pa trench; his bullet broke the staff from which the white flag was floating.
Now the Hauhaus found themselves under a heavy fire from the whole south face of the pa and the flanking bastion on the west side. The terrain was level and devoid of cover; the plain was covered to the river-bank with the Ngati-Pukeko cultivations of corn, potatoes, kumara, and taro. The only likely shelter that presented itself was a large raupo-thatch house twenty paces in front of the pa. Behind it the attackers took cover, but it was soon riddled with bullets. The rebels scooped out rifle-pits behind this whare, and secured a little head-cover. They then extended the trench eastward towards the river-bank, beginning at a point 30 yards from the palisades, and working nearer the pa as they drove it toward the Whakatane.
The attack now steadied down into a regular siege, but the Hauhaus, curiously, did not push their attack on any but the south face of the pa. Sheltered in their trench and shallow rifle-pits, they maintained a heavy fire on the Ngati-Pukeko defenders. There were a number of women in the pa, but it was not strongly garrisoned, since most of the men had gone to the coast with Hori Kawakura, a capable leader, to attend the burial of an old warrior, Te Pierieri, when the attack was delivered. On the alarm being raised in Whakatane by refugees from Rauporoa, Hori hurried up to the besieged pa, and entered it page 322 under the enemy's fire with his party of about twenty men. As ammunition was running short, he came out again at great risk, with a few men, and took back a supply of powder and bullets. This fine deed was performed under heavy fire.
Te Kooti's force possessed superiority not only in numbers but in arms. The Hauhaus had many good rifles and carbines besides their shot-guns. The defenders of the pa had nothing but muzzle-loading single- and double-barrel guns, some of them old-fashioned flint-locks. They endeavoured to burn out the attackers who were posted behind the large whare on the south by tying burning rags to stones and throwing them on to the thatched roof, but the Hauhaus extinguished the fire. Several dead bodies of Hauhaus lay between the stockade and this house. The second Ngati Pukeko man killed was Heremaia Tautari. He was shot while standing on the parapet of the south-east angle, calling out across the river to his children, who were at that moment defending the redoubt at the Poronu flour-mill against the final rush of the Hauhaus, bidding them retreat to the pa.
Hori Kawakura's little band of fighting men, Ngati-Maumoana, formed the backbone of the defence; but, stoutly as they and their fellow tribesmen fought, their plight was hopeless, for their ammunition was failing. For two days and two nights the garrison had resisted the well-armed rebels. It was now the early morning of the third day (11th March), and although urgent messages had been sent for help there was no appearance of reinforcements.
Captain H. A. Mair
(Opotiki Volunteer Rangers)
Captain Henry Abbott Mair was the third son of Mr. Gilbert Mair, who settled at the Bay of Islands a century ago, and brother of Major W. G. Mair and Captain Gilbert Mair, N.Z.C. In 1868 he raised the Opotiki Volunteer Forest Rangers, and served in a number of skirmishes in the Opotiki, Waimana, and Whakatane districts. He afterwards went to the South Sea Islands trading, and with Mr. Handley Bathurst Sterndale established a pearling-station on Suwarrow Island. Later he was engaged in labour-recruiting in the Western Pacific for the Fiji Government. He was treacherously killed, with several of his boat's crew from the recruiting schooner, by the natives of one of the islands of the New Hebrides on the 12th November, 1881.
Moving rapidly across the flax swamps and the manuka flat, and pushing over the marshy plain of Otahua, near the Whakatane River, Mair now met the first of the fugitives from Rauporoa. The pa had fallen, but whether there had been a terrible massacre or not was as yet uncertain. The first Ngati-Pukeko refugee met was an old fellow named Te Noho-waka; he was running hard, in great distress. He cried out to Mair, “Kua tahuri te motu nei, kua tahuri te motu nei!” (“The island has been overturned!”) Mair's men opened their ranks to let the fugitives through. Near a raupo swamp south of Te Poroporo settlement the first of Te Kooti's men came in sight. The pursuing force consisted of about seventy men, all mounted, many of them armed with breech-loading carbines.
Mair extended his men, tired after their heavy forced march, and kept Te Kooti's horsemen in check, while the Ngati-Pukeko non-combatants retreated; the Rauporoa fighters turned and assisted the relief force. There was good cover along the edge of the flax and raupo swamp and among the manuka. Mair advanced skirmishing up the valley until Rauporoa pa was reached. There it was discovered that there had been no heavy losses except on the part of the Hauhaus. The pa had been captured, but not until nearly all the defenders had made their escape on the north side. Only four friendlies had been killed in the attack; two of these were an old man and an old woman outside the pa.
Te Kooti's main body crossed the Whakatane River and advanced rapidly on the Ngati-Awa and European settlement at the mouth of the river, under the cliffs. Mair, having a rather weak and exhausted body of men, returned to the sandhills at the coast to await reinforcements and to protect the fugitives. Meanwhile a Hauhau party, chiefly Urewera, raided Whakatane* and looted the pa, and many of the warriors got page 325 drunk on the grog they discovered in Mr. George Simpkins's store. The raiders burned the store and most of the other places in Whakatane.
Next day a Colonial Government steamer came into Whakatane and landed some European reinforcements, and Major William Mair with the forces from Opotiki attacked Te Kooti's men on the plain. There was some skirmishing also on the hills immediately in rear of the Whakatane settlement, and the raiders were forced to draw off.
Crossing over into the valley of the Rangitaiki, Te Kooti now occupied Tauaroa, on the Kuhawaea Plain close under the towering peak of Tawhiuau, on the western wall of the Urewera Mountains, and near the entrance to the Horomanga Gorge. The spot is conspicuously marked to-day by a line of tall pines growing along the olden earthworks and trenches. Tauaroa was a strongly palisaded pa with three lines of timber stockading. The bush on the right—looking from the Rangitaiki—grew to within about 60 yards of the fort. When Te Kooti retreated from Whakatane and took post in Tauaroa Major Mair and his brothers Henry and Gilbert Mair, with a force of Maoris and one hundred and fifty of the 1st Waikato Militia and other corps, followed him up and attempted to surround him. Some of the force worked round between the pa and the bush, but Te Kooti had placed about half his men (who numbered four hundred to five hundred in all) in the bush, and so the Government men were between two fires. They had not sufficient to surround the place completely, and no entrenching-tools with which to dig in. Te Kooti spent one night in the pa, and then made his escape into the mountains to Ahikereru. In one of the angles of the pa the Hauhaus killed a fine young Arawa scout, Te Tohea, whom they had captured. Gilbert Mair had crept up close to the palisade and heard Te Tohea's cries as his face was being battered with a shingling-hammer by one of the enemy, but was unable to help him. The Ngati-Manawa Tribe, of Tauaroa, on Te Kooti's approach, had fled to Motumako, on the Kaingaroa side of the Rangitaiki River, and would have been followed and attacked but for the Government force's arrival, which compelled the Hauhaus to retreat into the Urewera mountains.page 326
* When the Urewera attacked and looted Simpkins's store at Whakatane, amongst the spoil obtained were a number of red Garibaldi jumpers. These blouse-like garments were eagerly seized on by the Hauhaus, who uniformed themselves in them, and when on horseback resembled a body of red-coated cavalry. From the hills above Whakatane Major Mair's men were astonished to see these red-tunick'd horsemen galloping about the plain, some of them armed with swords, the bright scabbards flashing in the sun.