History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840
Te Paro-O-Tuwhera. — (Circa, 1770.)
The Ngati-Rahiri branch of Te Ati-Awa have always lived on the north side of the Waitara river, and between there and the Onaero river; their headquarters being about Waihi stream and Te Taniwha, a prominent pa situated on a projecting point on the coast, and which—it may be added—was the boundary to the north of what is known as Spain's Award, the land awarded to the New Zealand Company under their purchase, the disallowance of which award by Governor Fitzroy was the source of subsequent troubles between the Europeans and Maoris, leading up to the war of the sixties.
Korehe, shown in the table above, lived at Turangi, near Waihi; he had seven brothers and one sister, named Kopiri-taunoa. This family was connected with the Taranaki tribe living at Raoa, but in what manner I do not know. At this period the Nga-Potiki-taua people of Taranaki, after Tu-whakairi-kawa's conquest, as related in Chapter IX., were in occupation of Nga-Motu, or the Sugar-loaf Islands, and the adjacent shores—always a desirable site for residence on account of the abundance of fish there obtainable. In Korehe's time there happened to be an interlude of peace between the Nga-Potiki-taua tribe and Ati-Awa, so Kopiri-taunoa took the occasion to visit some of her connections living at Nga-Motu. In order, no doubt, to satisfy the desire for utu, or payment for some death due to Te Ati-Awa, some of the Nga-Motu people killed their young visitor and probably put her to the usual use in such cases by making a meal page 235of her.* Some of her bones, however, were put to another use, very common in former days, for they were made into fish-hooks. Needless to say, this was a most deadly insult to Ngati-Rahiri; but it appears that many years elapsed before that tribe were able to secure the revenge so dear to the Maori's heart, or even to find out what had become of her.
* Mr. W. H. Skinner has a slightly different version, as follows:—Kopiri-taunoa was on her way to Mounu-kahawai, in the Okato District. On the road there, at Waireka Stream, Omata District, she came across a man of the Nga-Potiki-taua people who was engaged sharpening a stone axe in the water. This man insulted her by making indecent overtures, and, on her refusal to concede to his wishes, he killed her and his people made a meal of her, but preserved the bones for fish-hooks.
But to return to Pakau. After his speech, a much larger number of people assembled in order to carry back the young chief with dignity suited to his rank. Before this, however, Pakau had found means to communicate with his own people and tell them of the fate of Kopiri-taunoa's bones, and to urge them to prepare for revenge when he and the Nga-Potiki-taua party arrived. To this end the Ngati-Rahiri built a large new house, and surrounded its walls with dry manuka sticks and other inflammable matter.
So Pakau started away from Nga-Motu, being borne along on an amo, or streteher, for he still pretended he was too ill to walk. The party was a very large one, and on their arrival at Turangi they were received by Ngati-Rahiri in (apparently) the most friendly manner and invited into the new guest-house, whilst food was being prepared for them. All the dogs in the place were now tied up and beaten with sticks to cause them to howl, and this noise made Nga-Potiki-taua think they were being killed to furnish them with a meal. The guests were delighted with the anticipation of a feast of dogs' flesh and the meally kumaras of Tonga, and in the meantime amused themselves with hakas, dances, etc., within the house. Ngati-Rahiri had gathered round the door of the house all armed with short weapons concealed under their mats, ostensibly to witness the hakas, but in reality to fall on any of the guests who should attempt to escape when the time came. All being ready, Korehe gave the signal, and the house was set fire to in dozens of different places. The walls were so densely packed with manuka that there was no forcing a way through, and those who attempted to escape by the door were knocked on the head at once by the men who guarded it. Thus—says my informant—the whole of the large party of Nga-Potiki-taua were destroyed and the death of Kopiri-taunoa avenged.
It is said that the foundations of this house—To Paro-o-tuwhera—may be seen to this day, and that it would hold a thousand people.
* It is shown in Plate No. 10.