The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864
Native Tribes of Tauranga — A Brief History up to the date of the Gate Pa Battle
Native Tribes of Tauranga
A Brief History up to the date of the Gate Pa Battle
This brief history of the Native Tribes of Tauranga up to the year 1864, and the story of the battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga, were compiled by the late Captain Gilbert Mair from various authentic records, from information derived from Officers and Maoris actually engaged, and from his own observations.
On November 2nd, 1769, the great navigator Captain James Cook, passed the harbour without discovering it, but he noticed a high bold headland (Mount Maunganui) which he assumed to be an island. The Endeavour sheltered for the night in Mawhai Bay, under Tuhua, which he named Mayor Island, the date being Lord Mayor's Day. The group of small rock islets off Tairua he named The Court of Aldermen. Passing northward through the Bay of Plenty (so named by Cook for its climate, abundance of fish and friendly character of the inhabitants), the voyagers noticed the natives in vast numbers, particularly between Whakatane and Mercury Bay, and on the small Maketu Point he estimated that there were eleven thousand, hence his name—Town Point.
From that time up to 1828, there is no record of any vessel's prow cleaving the waters of the Bay of Plenty. In that year the mission schooner “Herald,” with the Rev. Henry (afterwards Archdeacon) Williams, James Hamlin and Richard Davis, my father, the late Gilbert Mair, commanding, dropped anchor at Cemetery Point, or Te Papa, though the name Te Papa embraces the whole of the country lying between the two branches of the harbour, Waimapu and Waikareao, and extending inland as far as Pukehinahina, or Gate Pa, so called because the missionaries had dug a deep ditch across the narrow neck and erected a gate. At that time Tauranga must have been densely populated, as the visitors counted a thousand canoes, large and small, on the shore between the month of the Wairoa River and Te Papa.page 6
The principal pas were Otamataha (Cemetery Point), belonging to Ngatapu under Koraurau; Maungatapu, held by Ngatihe, under Kiharoa, Te Mutu and Taupari; and Otumoetai which belonged to Ngaiterangi proper under Te Waru, Tupaea, Taharangi and Hikareia. But the shores of the harbour, as far as Katikati and Matakana Island, were closely inhabited, probably by ten thousand men, women and children.
A brief history of the ancestors of the Tauranga natives should prove interesting. About 360 years ago they were living in the fertile Opotiki valleys, when they were expelled southwards to Gable End Foreland, after which, by diplomacy and sheer courage, they travelled up the coast under Rangihouhiri, his nephew, Tamapahore, and son, Tutengaehe, settling at Pukehina. After being hospitably treated by Tatahau and the descendants of some of those who came in the Arawa canoe, who since the landing there had occupied the whole of the country, a number of them violently assaulted Tatahua's only daughter, Punohu, who died in defence of her honour. Her body was hidden in a kumara pit, and the place still bears the name “Ohinekopiri” (the virgin maiden). After a long search, numbers of hawks disclosed where the body lay. Tatahua attacked the intruders, was slain, and his stronghold, Pukemaire Pa, captured. Both sides having received a strong accession of numbers, the battle of Poporohuamea, lasting several days, was fought, and is believed to have been the bloodiest in the history of these islands. From his position on Pukemaire, the aged chief, Te Rangihouhiri watched the fighting in the valley below. His son Tutengaehe, sent urgent appeals for assistance, but the father refused, saying, “Mana ano ia e whakaputa” (let him win his own battle and the honour will be all the greater). Just before nightfall tidings were brought to the old man that his son had fallen. Gazing over the bloodstained plain, he cried out, “Haereatu e Tami i runga tai po maku koe e whai atu a te tai awatea” (farewell O son, go you hence on the evening tide, I will follow on the morning ebb). The conflict was renewed at daybreak and Te Rangihouhiri fell in the hour of victory. His prophecy was thus fulfilled. From now on these people adopted the name of their fallen chief and were known as Ngai-te Rangihouhiri, which has been shortened to Ngaiterangi.
After numberless futile efforts by the combined inland Arawa tribes to retake Maketu, only to be defeated at the Kawa causeway with great loss—hence the name of the place, Kawa Kai tangi Papa (Kawa, the wailing place of the orphans)— the whole of this fertile district remained in possession of the invaders for over two hundred years, when it was reconquered by the combined Arawa through the taking of Te Tumu on May 7th, 1836, and finally occupied by them in 1839. Leaving a strong section of their peo- page 7 ple, the Ngaitiwhakahinga, to hold Maketu (where they were found by Captain Cook living on Town Point in November, 1769), the Ngaiterangihouhiri moved northward, taking Mount Maunganui and eventually dispossessing Waitaha, Ngatiranginui, Ngamarama and other pre-historic occupiers.
In 1820 the Ngaiterangi were attacked by Ngapuhi under Te Morenga, a battle taking place at Pilot Bay, where over three hundred were slain. An act of chivalry saved the Tauranga people from practical extinction, they being without guns, while the invaders were well armed. It happened this way: The leader of the Ngapuhi was out scouting at Otumoetai and sat down under a ngaio tree near Matuaiwi when he fell asleep. Te Waru, the leading chief of Ngaiterangi, crept unobserved upon his sleeping enemy and made him prisoner, leading him back to his own people where he released him saying: “now bind me and take me to the war party at Pilot Bay.” Boarding his own canoe, which was at Waikareao, Te Morenga embarked and returned to the Ngapuhi who were preparing to hold a great feast on the three hundred slain that morning. They crowded round their leader endeavouring to kill his prisoner, but he said: “Wait till I relate how he treated me when I was at his mercy.” The Ngapuhi were so struck with admiration at Te Waru's chivalrous conduct that they said “we cannot fight against such a man as that. Let peace be made between Ngapuhi and Ngaiterangi.” Moreover the bodies they had prepared for their feast were all taken and placed in two caves on Mount Drury where they remained intact till the seventies, when the Europeans unfortunately discovered them, and they were scattered in sport to the four winds of heaven. Quite a large number of the skulls had bullet holes. This peace between the two tribes was never broken till 1832, when a small, unauthorised war party of Ngapuhi, under the chief Te Haramiti, attacked Mayor Island and Motiti, and were destroyed to a man. Ngapuhi made several attacks subsequently, but generally without much result, merely half-hearted attempts to obtain satisfaction for the loss of Haramiti's war party.
During the year 1828, three days after the “Herald” Mission schooner had sailed, Otamataha Pa (at Cemetery Point) was attacked by Te Rohu from the Thames. Seven hundred of the Ngatitapu were slain and a great number carried into captivity and Koraurau killed.
In 1834–5 the English Church Mission was established at The Elms, Tauranga.
Nevertheless, the whole of the Bay of Plenty became a battle ground, the Thames natives, Ngapuhi, Waikato and the Arawa taking part promiscuously. In 1842, Major Bunbury with a detachment of the Eighteenth Regiment, was sent to Tauranga with page 8 a view to curbing the Arawa tribes, and encamped on Mount Drury. In 1845 peace was happily inaugurated between the contending parties, and a *stone inscribed “Te Maungarongo 1845” (the peace making) was set up at Maketu, and at last, after a period of several hundred years, peace reigned supreme throughout the Bay of Plenty.
For Ngaiterangi and Tauranga a new era of prosperity had dawned. Wars and rumours of wars had ceased entirely, only to be rudely dispelled in 1864 when numbers of the young men of the tribe, actuated by a love of adventure and the desire to help their kinsmen and old allies, joined the disaffected natives fighting against the Queen's troops in Waikato, which induced Governor Sir George Grey and his responsible Ministers to send a punitive expedition to Tauranga, the troops landing there in January, 1864. I should have stated that the tribal aphorism or boast of the Ngaiterangi is “Raurukitahi”—one mind or pledge given never broken. This makes it easy to understand their chivalrous conduct during the war.
Colonel and Officers 68th Light Infantry Tauranga 1864
A group of officers who took part in the Gate Pa engagement. Copied from a photograph then in the possession
of the late Mr J. H. Griffiths for many years Country Clerk at Tauranga.
The present Main Highway from Tauranga to Rotorua
and Matamata passes through the Pa well to the left
looking at the Pa from the front.
Awaiting the Order to Advance 1864
Taken from a photograph then in the possession of the late Mr. J. H. Griffiths.
* This stone was erected by Te Pukuatua, the then leading chief of the Arawas. After his death it passed to the care of the Arawa chieftain Te Hapara, whose death occurred in 1936. After his death the stone came into possession of his nearest descendant, Mrs D. W. Steele, of Rotorua, who after consulting with the chief's wife, decided to place the stone at Ohinemutu. The stone was accordingly re-erected there and on Sunday, February 7th., 1937, it was unveiled by the Rt. Rev. F. A. Bennett, Bishop of Aotearoa, in the presence of a large gathering, both European and Maori.