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History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840

Siege of Te NamuJune, 1833

Siege of Te NamuJune, 1833.

The Waikato taua, having been so far successful at Miko-tahi, were still not satisfied with the result, for few had been killed, and consequently little "long pig" had been consumed. The fact of the Taranaki tribe having assisted the garrison of Miko-tahi by occasionally supplying them with stores brought by canoe from further south was, in the opinion of the invaders, sufficient reason for attempting to punish that tribe. Besides, there were other reasons in the death of some of Waikato on the previous expeditions to the south. The taua, therefore, marched south for Te Namu—a very strong but small pa, situated a mile to the north of the modern town of Opunake, on a jutting rocky point that when palisaded formed a position of great strength. There are perpendicular cliffs all round, whilst a hollow some forty feet below the summit of the pa, and sixty yards wide, separates it from the general level of the country inland. Plate No. 16 shows this pa, and Map No. 8 the nature of the ground. To the north at less than one-fourth of a mile is another strong position named Te Namu-iti, separated from the generally level country inland by a deep ditch. It is shown in Plate No. 17. It does not appear to have been occupied during the siege of Te Namu. It will be remembered that after the defeat and scattering of the Taranaki tribe at Maru in 1826 (Chapter XV.), a large number of them migrated to Kapiti. But still there were a few left—not more than one hundred and fifty fighting men—and these, on the news of the approach of Waikato, gathered into their fortified pa of Te Namu, and stored it with a plentiful supply of provisions and water. The principal chief of Taranaki, who was appointed to conduct the operations in defence of the pa, was Wi Kingi Mata-katea—or, as he was more generally called in later days, Moke; the second in command being Te Kongutu-awa. For the benefit of their descendants, the names of the principal men within the pa at the siege are here recorded:—

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Wi Mata-katea Mouri-o-rangi
Te Iho-o-te-rangi* Hohua
Te Kutu (Hone) Heremia Te Horo
Te Wetere (Hone) Reweti-Kuri
Rupaha Tūi
Maru-whenua (Hakaraia) Tupara
Pororaiti Patimiu
Tawai-mua (Mohi) Rawiri Pikitu
Tapu-o-rongo Reweti Huanga-pango
Te Uira (Parata) Waitere Te Kongutu-awa
Tai-hakapu Tutara
Te Ama-mako Pera Wetoi

The scriptural names of the above people were given in after years. According to the Maori accounts the siege took place in the June before the wreck of the "Harriet," which occurred on 29th April, 1834.

The Waikato forces came down and camped near Te Namu, but subsequently retreated to the banks of the Heimama stream, about a mile north of Te Namu, where they made their principal camp, and they also partially fortified a little hill near Te Namu called Kaiaia. From here as a base they sent forward strong parties, who occupied the plateau divided from Te Namu by the hollow referred to, and from thence kept up a musketry fire on the pa. Te Kahui of Taranaki supplies the following account of the successive operations of the siege: "The Waikato taua occupied the cliffs inland of Te Namu, indeed, almost surrounding the pa, except the seaward side. After a continuous firing lasting a long time, an assault was made on the pa by some of the invaders, whilst others supported it by musketry fire from the cliffs. But this attack was in vain; they could not take the pa. The besieged kept up a continuous discharge of stones on the advancing enemy, by which means many were killed and others wounded, which eventually led Waikato to retreat by way of a neighbouring valley. In this engagement Mata-katea distinguished himself by shooting many of Waikato. There was only one musket in the pa, and that belonged to him. His aim never failed; a man fell each time he discharged his gun—even if half a mile off (sic)—so long as he could

All these five were assistant priests to Te Iho-o-te-rangi, chief priest.

* Took the name of Hori Nga-tai-rakau-nui.

Three noted braves of Taranaki.

This musket was obtained by Taranaki at Kiki-whenua—see Chapter XV.

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Map No 8Te Namu PaTaranaki TribSketchod by W.N. Jkinmer

Map No 8
Te Namu Pa
Taranaki Trib
Sketchod by W.N. Jkinmer

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Plate No 18.Orangi-tua-poka, or Waimate pa, from the south.

Plate No 18.
Orangi-tua-poka, or Waimate pa, from the south.

Plate No 19.Nga-teko, from below Orangi-tua-peka.

Plate No 19.
Nga-teko, from below Orangi-tua-peka.

page 503see his man, he shot him. The position he occupied during the fighting was high up in a puwhara, or tower, within the pa, from whence he had a clear view of the enemy.

"For a time the punis, or camps, of the enemy were near the pa, but they were subsequently removed some way off, to Heimama stream, on account of the fear inspired by Mata-katoa's musket. The Waikato besieged Te Namu for a whole month, during which time they made five separate assaults on it without success. There were eight hundred warriors in the Waikato taua opposed to the few in the pa, and they gave Mata-katea plenty of occupation in shooting at them. Arama Karaka of Taranaki, who had been taken prisoner by Waikato at Maru (Chapter XV.), was appointed by Waikato to hunt up food for the invaders, which he and a party of other prisoners did, as they knew the country well. But as his sympathies were of course with the besieged, he hid the best part of his finds, only supplying Waikato with a small quantity of potatoes in the hollow (tangere) of the baskets, so that they might run short of food and leave.

"Food thus becoming scarce it was decided, on the advice of Kaihau (of the Ngati-Te-Ata tribe of Waiuku, Manukau), to make a final assault (the sixth). Before the attempt Kaihau stood on the little hillock before mentioned—named Kaiaia—and shouted out to Mata-katea, 'Hei te tai-rakau-nui ahau.'—('When the moon is full, expect me.') The next attack was made at that time; but in the interim the besieged had collected large quantities of boulders and piled them along the defences on the inland side of the pa. The Waikato advanced as before, and some managed to get quite close up to the pa, where they commenced undermining the face of the cliff on which the palisades stood, but they found it very difficult to make any impression on the solid concreted boulders which forms the base of the pa. All this time Taranaki was hurling over boulders and stones and Mata-katea using his musket, so that Waikato found the object unattainable and commenced a retreat. This was just at dawn; it was a rout, for Waikato did not stop at their camp, but picking up their baggage, etc., started at once for their homes. Just after they abandoned the siege, however, Kaihau came back to the cliff and shouted out, 'Ka whati au! Ka hoki hi toku whenua. Nau ano te oneone!'—('I am retreating! I am returning to my own land. The land remains thine!') which was a promise that he would leave them alone in future " (but evidently this did not apply to Waikato as we shall see). Mata-katea and his people now followed the retreating Waikatos, firing into them and attacking them until they reached Heimama stream, when the pursuit was abandoned, and they returned page 504to pick up the dead killed in the pursuit. During the whole period of the siege Mata-katea is known to have shot sixteen men, whilst the whole number of Waikato killed was sixty-eight, bodies found; on the side of the besieged only one man, named Te Ao-moko, was killed by Waikato, and he was one of the chiefs of Te Namu.

"The bodies of the dead were burnt with fire" (my informant does not say if any were eaten, but no doubt they were). "Notwithstanding Kaihau's speech, Taranaki did not believe him. Te Iho-o-te-rangi said (addressing Kaihau in imagination), 'Ko te ingoa, a Nga-tai-rakau-nui, kua irihia max hi runga i a au, ka riro mat noku.'—('Your name, Nga-tai-rakau-nui, that you named me, will be adopted by me).' Which was done to bear in mind this promise of Kaihau's not to return, and old Hori ever after used it.

"Soon after the return to the pa, Mata-katea proposed that a great feast (hakari) should be held to commemorate the victory over their enemies. All agreed to this, and when the time came there were to be seen potatoes, kumara, taro, hinau-bread. (made of hinau berries), steeped karaka berries, mamaku (tree-fern cores), pua (bread made from raupo, or bullrush heads), pokue (convolvus roots), fish in numbers, and all the preserved products of the sea. There was plenty of food in the pa, and none of the besieged suffered in the least during the siege. After the feast, Mata-katea made a great speech to the people, pointing out the danger they were subject to in this small pa, and declaring his intention to lead them all away a few miles further south, to Nga-teko, a stronger place, and where the scattered people of Ngati-Rua-nui might join them; and thus with increased numbers they would be able to repel the next attack by Waikato, which was certain to follow in order to secure utu for their dead killed before Te Namu.

"Shortly after this all the people from Te Namu and that neighbourhood moved away to Nga-teko."

The defeat of Waikato at Te Namu was the second they had suffered from those West Coast people within three years—and they evidently did not like it, for their losses had been considerable. It was therefore not long before they attempted to regain their lost prestige, as we shall see. We shall not lose sight of Mata-katea altogether until this narrative closes, for he had made a name for himself and became the principal leader of Taranaki—leading them to victory and preserving their country to them during the few remaining raids of the powerful Waikato tribes.

The chief tohunga, or priest, of the branches of Taranaki besieged at Te Namu was Mata-katea's brother, Nga-tai-rakau-nui, who was engaged the whole time with his assistants in invocating the gods, to page 505whose assistance the people ascribe the victory they obtained over Waikato.*

* A description of the siege of Te Namu will also be found in Mr. T. W. Gudgeon's " History and Traditions of the Maoris" (Auckland, 1885), which differs in detail from the account given above, but not materially. My account is principally from Te Kahui—a rery well informed man—and from other Native sources. Mr. Gudgeon'a story places the taking of Miko-tahi after Te Namu; but the best authority on this coast—old Wateue Taungatara—was quite clear it occurred in the order I have given it in the text above.