Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.
Te Kani's Relief Force Routed
Te Kani's Relief Force Routed
The Siege of Kaiuku lasted for some months. As the fort was insufficiently provisioned, harsh rationing soon had to be practised, with the result that many of its inmates became weak and ill. Eventually, the supplies of food became so scanty that the defenders were forced to dig into the side of the cliff facing the sea to obtain a class of clay known as “uku,” which they broke up and boiled in water; hence the name “Kaiuku”—kai (food) and uku (an edible clay). Now and again, the defenders' hard fare was varied and “improved” when a good fat Waikato was caught raiding one of the plantations below the pa. E. F. Harris says that the defenders became so short of food that they were reduced to eating even the sickly children. In the hope that the parents might not recognize their own children after they had been cooked, the bodies were decapitated before they were placed in the ovens!
Ere long, an “S.O.S.” was sent out by Te Wera to Te Kani-a-Takirau, who, at that time, was residing at Whangara. Te Kani mustered a fighting force which included Poverty Bay as well as Hauiti tribesmen. As it was approaching Kaiuku, it was routed by a section of the besiegers. It was during the retreat that Hirini te Kani and his mother (Riria) were, with others, captured. Rawiri te Eke ransomed the more notable prisoners by handing over a valuable greenstone mere named “Pahikauri.” Taken to Taupo, the others were liberated a few years afterwards.page 89
One of them, Wi Ngana, who belonged to Wainui, proved so useful to his captors that they gave him a wife (Ka Taupo). Whatanui took some other prisoners to the Manawatu district, and, in due course, they, too, were released.
Smith (Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, p. 174) says that, whilst a pa at Mahia was being besieged, Te Kani-a-Takirau (then a child) was one of the inmates. As it appeared likely that the pa would fall, he was carried away by a relative named Kauha. Potiki, a Ngati-Maru chief, caught up with the fugitives, but, upon being handed a celebrated mere named “Te Heketua,” he permitted Kauha to take the child to safety. It would seem that Smith used Te Kani's name in mistake for Hirini's. If, on the other hand, confusion on his part did not occur, it would require to be accounted a strange coincidence if both Te Kani and Hirini, when infants, were captured at Mahia and released in similar circumstances. One thing is, of course, certain: Te Kani was not an infant at the time of the Siege of Kaiuku; he was then about thirty years old!
The emaciated defenders of Kaiuku were delighted to find at daybreak one morning that the besiegers had withdrawn. Several explanations have been offered as to why they went off. In native circles, the most widely accepted reason is that Heuheu became panicky because his magician warned him to return home, lest Ngapuhi, in a raid to avenge Pomare's death, might journey as far south as Tokaanu. Smith's suggestion “that the pa eventually fell to the allies and there was great slaughter” is groundless.