Hero Stories of New Zealand
The Missionary and the Hauhau Apostles
The Missionary and the Hauhau Apostles
COURAGE and resourcefulness in emergency distinguished several members of the famous Williams family of pioneer preachers, teachers and counsellors. The hero of the episodes here recounted was Arch-deacon Samuel Williams, second son of that splendid figure in New Zealand history, Archdeacon Henry Williams, who began his missionary work in the north after a gallant career in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars and the American war.
Williams the Second (who was not then Archdeacon) had, like his fighting father, great influence with the Maoris, and when the Pai-marire religious war spread to the Bay of Plenty and East Coast in 1865, he was called upon to exercise his mana and persuasive powers in combating the rebel propaganda. He was in Hawke's Bay when the Governor, Sir George Grey, sent the steamer St. Kilda to Napier for him, and asked him to do what he could to counter Pai-marire.
First of all, Mr. Williams went to Opotiki, where the Rev. Carl Volkner had been murdered, and found that the Rev. Thomas Samuel Grace was safe, and that the Hauhaus had gone to Poverty Bay. There were two apostles of the new faith, Kereopa and Patara Raukatauri. He went to Turanga, now Gisborne, and out to the pa at Waerenga-a-Hika, close to Bishop Williams' mission station. There he found the propagandists, who had worked up the feelings of the Maoris to a dangerous pitch.page 208
As Mr. Williams entered the village there was sudden absolute silence. Not even a dog barked.
Mr. Williams went up to the chief prophet and challenged him to exhibit his supernatural powers, saying: “I hear that you are able to bring vessels ashore by your magic incantations. Well, there is the Government steamer out at Turanganui yonder. Come and drag it ashore and you can then have all on board to offer as a sacrifice to your gods.”
An old Maori catechist came up and asked: “Do you really mean what you say, Wiremu?”
“Yes, I do,” said Mr. Williams. “If the prophet is able to drag that vessel ashore we will give up ourselves as a sacrifice to his gods.”
There was tense expectant silence for a while.
Then Mr. Williams rose again and said: “You have all read the Bible. You will recollect that when Elijah by himself met the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and they were challenged to bring fire from Heaven, they failed to obtain any response to their prayers. You will remember also that when Elijah in his turn called to his God, the fire came down and consumed not only the sacrifice but the very stones and water; and then he cried out to the people to take the prophets of Baal and not let any escape; and this they did and all were slain. Now, if this prophet fails to drag that vessel ashore, be careful that neither he nor any of his party escape. Let all be taken and slain!”
This bold demand completely changed the aspect of affairs. The people who had been deceived by the Hauhau preachers were overcome with amazement and shame, especially the younger men, and these now ran for their guns.page break
A Taranaki Military Post.
The Opunake Redoubt, garrisoned by the New Zealand Armed Constabulary. The Redoubt (now demolished)
was a massive earthwork, a parapet and trench, with two loopholed blockhouses at diagonally
opposite angles; barrack buildings inside the work. From a drawing by G. Sherriff, 1881.
This depicts the tutu-waewae, or leaping-parade of a Maori war-party, preliminary to marching against
the enemy. In the Taranaki wars of the Sixties, the battle songs shouted by the leader and responded to in
chorus by his men frequently invoked the sacred guardian mountain Taranaki (Mt. Egmont), seen in the
background of this picture. From a painting by A. H. Messenger.
But the fanatics did not wait to put their magic to the test. There was still danger, for the Pai-marire cult had spread among the Turanga people. The incident described, however, held the intruders in check sufficiently long to allow the Mission Station to be evacuated. Bishop William Williams, the head of the Mission, the Rev. (afterwards Bishop) W. L. Williams, and their families, left in the St. Kilda for Napier, with the Rev. Samuel Williams. Before long the Colonial troops occupied the Mission buildings in their operations against Waerenga-a-Hika Pa, on the opposite side of the road.
At Napier, early in 1866, Mr. Samuel Williams heard that Pai-marire apostles were engaged in their crusade to convert the tribes. He rode out to Omahu, nine miles from the town, and found the large wharepuni there filled with people. One of the old chiefs of the place, Mr. Williams' friend Te Hapuku, the leading man of the Ngati-Kahungunu, was sitting outside the house with his blanket over his head, a token of resignation to some dread fate.
“O Hapuku,” said the missionary, “What are you all doing here, and what mischief is going on among the people?”
The old chief replied, “Alas, friend Wiremu, they have been bewitched! They have become mad, and they will not listen to me. I am awaiting my death.”
Mr. Williams entered the house, followed by Te Hapuku. The place was crowded with men, women and children. At the far end of the house a prophet was exhorting the rapt audience and uttering all manner page 210 of gibberish incantations; he professed to speak all the languages of the world.
This man was Panapa (Barnabas), a minor chief of the Ngati-Hineuru tribe, the war-loving mountain clan whose homes were at Ohinekuku, Te Haroto, and other high-set villages on the trail over the ranges to the Upper Rangitaiki and Taupo.
Panapa's eyes glittered wildly as he paced to and fro, taiaha in hand, reciting his Pai-marire prayers and exerting his utmost powers to bring his audience under his mesmeric spell.
The missionary calmly walked along the mat-laid passage through the middle of the long hall. With a smile he regarded the prophet; he listened awhile to the mixture of Maori and pidgin-English in the mountain man's karakia. At last he raised his hand, and said: “Stop! You are talking foolishness to this ignorant crowd of people. Let us two talk in the Hebrew tongue [Hiperu], for that is the language of the gods.”
“I do not know the Hebrew tongue,” said the prophet, after a long pause.
“What?” exclaimed Mr. Williams, “You profess to be a prophet of the gods and yet cannot speak the sacred language? Who are you? You must be of this earth, and very low down in it too!”
And with inimitable skill of language he stripped the Hauhau orator of his pretensions. The half-mesmerized audience wondered, then they began to laugh.
The apostle of Pai-marire crouched down among his sympathisers at the end of the house. He said no more; and in the semi-darkness he made an opening in the raupo wall and slipped outside and off.page 211
By this time Te Hapuku had come up to Mr. Williams, the blanket off his head and around his shoulders; he was rejoicing at the changed situation.
Later on in 1866, when the Hauhau war party marched from Te Haroto, and came down to the plains, led by Te Rangihiroa and Panapa, to attack Napier, it was Mr. Williams who gave timely information about the raiders' intentions to Sir Donald McLean. “Te Makarini” acted so promptly, in conjunction with Colonel Whitmore, that the rebels' strength was completely smashed at Omarunui and Napier town was saved from invasion by a band of desperate men. And one of the first of the raiders shot was Panapa, the war-priest who spoke all tongues but the “Hiperu.”