Hero Stories of New Zealand
A Meal at Paewhenua
A Meal at Paewhenua
“A DANCE will be held in the Paewhenua Hall on (such-and-such a date). Good music. Good floor. Gents, 2/6; Ladies, 1/6 or Basket. Otorohanga Patrons—Metalled road to the door.”
That was a notice the other day in a King Country paper. “Ladies, a basket” is a customary dance-night formula in the outback, and a convenient arrangement it is. Those liberal baskets of home-made dainties outdo anything you can buy for the money in your town shops.
But there was a day before white-collar “gents” and crepe-de-chine ladies foxtrotted on a King Country floor, when a visitor was fortunate if he were given a basket of cold boiled potatoes at this same Paewhenua—fortunate indeed that his precious head was not carried round in the basket by a mob of yelling Hauhaus. The story told me by an old frontier neighbour and friend, the farthest-out settler on the King Country border, came to mind when that social invitation in the Otorohanga “Times” caught my eye.
It was in 1868, when the Old Frontier was still new and raw, and when pioneer settlers anywhere along the Upper Waikato line of demarcation between pakeha and Maori, from Maungatautari to Pirongia, were never quite sure of their Hauhau neighbours across the confiscated boundary. Sometimes the farthest-out farmers went across the Aukati line to trade with Maoris for horses, cattle and pigs, and they were on friendly terms with many of the Kingites. Sometimes there were alarms of impending raids.page 159
One day Andrew Kay saddled his horse and rode away from his Orakau farm across the Puniu River and up into the King Country, to Paewhenua, which was then a large village, with cultivations of potatoes and maize and wheat. It lay in the midst of a beautiful undulating open country, studded with ancient fortress hills, about twenty-five miles from Orakau. There lived a newly-made friend of his, the grim old warrior chief Hauauru, head of the Ngati-Matakore clan. The settler had paid the Maoris of Paewhenua some £30 in advance for cattle to be delivered, and he wished to collect the stock.
Paewhenua was a long ride over narrow tracks, with a succession of deep swamps and many streams to be forded. It was a very tired and hungry settler who rode into the green square between the groups of raupo-thatched houses in the afternoon. He was puzzled and annoyed at the cool nature of his reception. He was met with sulky looks and reticence, strangely different from the vociferous welcome usually given to strangers, even to those whose farms might become the objective of a raid some night. Most of the people appeared to be gathered in the large nikau-thatched meeting-house.
The pakeha called for a boy to come and take his horse, but no one stirred.
“It's always a trump card to tell a Maori you're hungry,” said my old friend, in telling me of this adventure. He said to the people around him: “Well, I've come a long way and I'm tired and hungry. This is not the way the Maori usually treats a visitor.”
This appeal had some effect. A small flax basket of cold boiled potatoes was brought to him by one of the page 160 women and he was told that as soon as he had eaten he must go away. Not another word could he get out of the people. Knowing that something mysterious and probably dangerous was afoot, he ate his potato rations and rode off to the Puniu and Orakau.
Long afterwards Kay heard the reason for his strangely inhospitable treatment by Hauauru's tribe. When he rode into Paewhenua that day a most desperate and implacable foe of the pakeha race, Kereopa, the Hauhau leader from the Bay of Plenty, was in the meeting-house. Kereopa it was who put the Rev. C. S. Volkner to death at Opotiki in 1865 and swallowed his eyes. Kai-Whatu became his second name, the Eater of Eyes. For three years he had been in the bush in the Urewera Country. Now he had come to the King Country to stir up the people to a new campaign against the Europeans.
Kereopa had with him an armed party of his Hauhau disciples from the Urewera Country. They sat in the meeting-house with their double-barrel guns by their sides, their tomahawks in their belts. The cannibal prophet was addressing the people of Paewhenua when Kay rode into the village.
A Maori of the Urewera tribe, one of Kereopa's men, who had observed the white man's arrival, went in to his chief and said: “A pakeha has come. What shall we do with him?”
The New Zealand Cross.
This Cross is the rarest military decoration in the British Empire. Only twenty-three awards were made. In order of merit it is equal to the Victoria Cross and next in precedence. The New Zealand Cross was instituted in 1868 as a special decoration for the Colonial forces for deeds of exceptional valour. Unlike the Victoria Cross, it is of silver and gold. The first award made was that to Trooper W. Lingard, of Bryce's Kai-iwi Cavalry, Wanganui, in 1869, for an act of great gallantry in saving a comrade under heavy fire at Tauranga-ika Stockade.
Kereopa's eyes glittered, his hand went to the big horse-pistol he wore thrust through his flax belt. “A pakeha!” he exclaimed. “An omen, an omen! A pakeha—a sacrifice! He is the flying-fish that crosses the bow of the war-canoe!”
With those words that boded a sudden end for that unsuspecting frontiersman, Kereopa walked towards the door of the whare. But his way was instantly barred by a woman.
This was Tuhipo, the wife of old warrior Hauauru. She was a tall, handsome woman, much younger than her husband. With a determined tilt to her tattooed chin, she bade the Eye-Eater return to his place. “You shall not pass!” she said. “That man is our pakeha. You shall not touch him. It would be treachery to kill him. Go and sit down!”
Hauauru, a splendid old chieftain with a face deeply engraved by the moko-artist's chisel and pigmented so closely that it looked quite black, sat there silent but ready to take quick and fiery action. He smiled grimly at his wife's peremptory words. It would be sufficient to leave it to her.
Kereopa made to push past Tuhipo. “Sit down,” she cried angrily. “You shall not leave the house. The pakeha is mine, I say!”
The Hauhau leader could have forced his way out perhaps, but only at the risk of offending the Ngati-Matakore and of alienating any sympathy they and page 162 Ngati-Maniapoto might have felt towards him and his plan of campaign. He knew that Tuhipo was a woman of the highest rank in the King Country. His armed men would have supported him, but some of them realised that it would be impolitic to quarrel with the heads of Paewhenua, though many Ngati-Matakore were Hauhaus.
Not a step would the chieftainess move from the doorway. Kereopa stood there angrily demanding that she let him pass. By this time his men were angry too, and hands were laid on guns and tomahawks. But Tuhipo stood with her arms outstretched across the entrance, and there she remained until the white man had ridden away, unconscious of his narrow escape from the Hauhau tomahawks.
It was many days before Andrew Kay heard from his friend Hauauru and that chief's kinsman Tumuhuia the story of Kereopa's visit and of the brave Tuhipo, who held the doorway against the ferocious Eye-Eater. Her courage and her mana upon which none might trample saved the border farmer's life that day.
Kereopa did not trouble the King Country long. He and his murderous band soon rode off to the Patetere country and the forest of the Urewera, there to be chevied again by the tireless Ngati-Porou contingent of Government soldiers. They got him at last, did Ngati-Porou, and the Eye-Eater was hanged by the neck in Napier gaol. And peaceful pakeha farming Paewhenua has long forgotten those dangerous days of Hauhau plottings; indeed, I do not suppose anyone there to-day has ever heard of Kereopa Kai-Whatu's recruiting visit or of Tuhipo's dauntless barring of the door in the Matakore council hall.