Chapter Thirteen — The History of Rakaipaaka
The History of Rakaipaaka
Rakiapaaka, the second child of Kahukura-nui and Tu Teihonga, and therefore, through Kahukura-nui, his father, a grandson of the great Kahungunu, was a rangatira whose movements were to have an important bearing on the settlement of the Wairoa district. The movements were in fact an enforced migration, the result of a quarrel over a dog. But before we tell that story and its consequences, let us provide the setting.
The chief was born in Waerenga-a-hika, a country district near the present Gisborne, and here he grew up, married, and raised a large family. His mana embraced a considerable area of country surrounding his pa and reaching to the Te Arai River. Hine-manuhiri, his sister, and her family also lived with Rakaipaaka. By his wife, Tu-rumakina, he had the following children:
1. Rakairaumoa (no issue). 2. Kaukohea. 3. Whakapirikura. 4. Mataiauahi. 5. Pokia. 6. Urewera. 7. Mahakipare. 8. Marotauia. 9. Puke. 10. Rawaru.
The story of his wanderings may be said to have commenced with his acceptance of an invitation to visit Tu-te-kohi, another important chief, who lived near the present Gisborne. On arrival they were welcomed and given a place of honour. In due course a meal was prepared. Whether the welcome was sincere or not we do not know, but Tu-te-kohi failed in his duty as a host when he selected the choicest viands for his pet dog, thus preferring his dog to his visitors. As the various foods were removed from page 98the hangi (oven) he selected the best and gave it to the kuri, Kauere-huanui. The guests were somewhat offended, but might have pardoned the slight if Tu-te-kohi had not made the insult more pronounced by bringing the dog to the eating place with him and giving it the freedom of the table. According to Maori etiquette this was insulting behaviour. Nevertheless Rakaipaaka and his folk restrained their feelings and returned home. The indignation was, however, too strong for the insult to be forgotten completely. After dark one of the party, Whakaruru-a-nuku. led a party of men bake to Tu-te-kohi's pa. Finding the dog lying outside one of the sleeping houses they killed it, carried it home and ate it.
In the morning the dog was missed, and Tu-te-kohi suspected that Rakaipaaka's party was responsible for its non-appearance. He proceeded to seek vengeance. At that time there was a current scandal concerning one of Rakai's men, Tupuho, having cohabited with the wife of Mahaki, Rakaipaaka's cousin. Knowing this, Tu-te-kohi approached Mahaki and suggested that as they both had reason, they should join forces and make war on Rakai's pa. Mahaki assented, and Tu-te-kohi further strengthened his taua by securing the aid of twin brothers, Rongomai-mihiao and Rongomai-wehea, who lived at Uawa. It was arranged that these latter should lead a force to attack Rakaipaaka and that they should provoke him to pursue them. Once Rakai and his fighting men had been lured into the open, the force under Tu-te-kohi and Mahaki was to intervene from ambush.
The plan worked well. The two brothers made the strategic withdrawal which drew the Waerenga people from their defences. In their false retreat the brothers fled with their men up a ridge at Kai-tara-tahi. When they saw the signal, as previously arranged, they turned to face their pursuers. Meanwhile the party led by Tu-te-kohi and Mahaki had come in at the rear of both parties. The fight commenced simultaneously in front and at the rear of Rakaipaaka's band, and caught between two fires they were defeated. A great number were killed, but some managed to escape and fled back to their stronghold, Waerenga-a-hika. Here they were again attacked, and the survivors of this second fight fled to Taumata-o-te-kai, inland from Te Arai. This ended the fighting, and as Mahaki and Rakaipaaka were first cousins, the life of the latter was spared on the condition that he leave the district. Gathering his family, and his sister Hine-manuhiri and her family, he trudged away to exile.page 99
Soon after leaving the Turanga area the party separated. Hine-manuhiri took the inland route via Hangaroa, a route that the inland road from Gisborne to Wairoa practically follows today. She and her people settled in the locality now known as Te Mania, in the Maru-maru district. Rakaipaaka took the coastal route to Mahia, his ancestral home. From here he journeyed to Nuhaka, and followed up the Nuhaka River to make his new home on that great eminence, Moumoukai which mountain separates the Nuhaka and Morere valleys.
As the later history of Rakaipaaka is bound up with the story of his nephew, Tama-te-Rangi, we will tell of his further movements in the next chapter. Suffice it to say here that Rakai's eventful life concluded when, in ripe old age, he slipped off on the spirit journey to the Reinga, mourned by a very large and powerful tribe of people who dominated the Nuhaka district. His name is commemorated today in the tribal name of the Nuhaka people, Ngati Rakaipaaka. Also memorialising this paramount chief is the bridge over the Nuhaka River on the Gisborne highway, which has been named the Rakaipaaka bridge.