The Story of a Maori Chief
After a large meeting at Ruatoki in 1917, when a monu- page 44 ment to the memory of the chief Numia Kereru was unveiled, I, with a large party of Ngati-Porou, was weatherbound at Whakatane. A Tuhoe chief named Tutanga-a-hau had followed us to Whakatane and was with us the three days we were there. No one of our party knew who the old man was. One evening he rose to his feet in his corner, and, fixing his eyes on me, asked: “Are you a grandson of Mokena Kohere?”
The question was answered in the affirmative by others for me.
Then he continued: “Yonder,” pointing towards the mouth of the river, “is Muriwai's Cave, where chiefs from the Tuhoe, Ngatiawa and other tribes were confined as prisoners of war, waiting to be deported to the Chatham Islands. All these tribes were in mourning because of the sad prospect of losing their chiefs. Then my father, whose name I bear, could not stand the strain any longer. So one day, packing up a few clothes he possessed, he mounted a little horse and started, all alone, on a long ride towards the east.
“For weeks and weeks not a word did we hear about him, until one morning the Government steamer Luna dropped anchor in the offing. The sight of the Government steamer was taken to mean that the dreaded hour had come when our chiefs would be taken away from us. Mourning was increased. Then a boat was lowered from the ship and pulled towards the mouth of the river. As it neared the beach Tutanga-a-hau was observed sitting at the stern of the boat, and with him another Maori, big and fully tattooed. As soon as the boat touched land the stranger stood up and addressed the assembled tribes, men, women and children. He said: ‘Greetings to you, people of Ngati-awa, and Tuhoe. I have come to bring home Tutanga-a-hau. Furthermore, people, I have also to bring peace. My word to you is, return each tribe to its own district to rekindle its own fire. Now peace is made, let Maori and pakeha in the future live as one people.’”
Mokena Kohere's message was received with the greatest joy. As Tutanga-a-hau resumed his seat Paratene Waiti and others spoke in high praise of the Ngati-Porou chief. They testified that Mokena Kohere had done exactly the same thing to Ngati-Porou, whose lands would otherwise have been confiscated.page 45
Hatiwira Houkamau, the Hicks Bay chief, told me also that he had accompanied Mokena Kohere on his mission of conciliation to all tribes in the Bay of Plenty who had thrown in their lot with the Hauhaus. It should be pointed out as a matter of history that Bay of Plenty tribes from Torere (with Ngaitai excepted) to Cape Runaway, although they joined the rebellious movement, did not, like Ngati-Porou, lose any land through confiscation. For this impunity and the pardon extended to them they are indebted to Mokena Kohere and Wiremu Kingi.
I have given, as Mr. J. G. Baker describes, “the extremely kind and gentle” side of Mokena Koheres’ character. I now limn its fiery side.