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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

Te Morenga and Hongi-Hika’s Expedition to the East Cape, 1818

Te Morenga and Hongi-Hika’s Expedition to the East Cape, 1818.

In August, 1819, Messrs. Marsden and Kendall persuaded Hongi-Hika and Te Morenga to give some account of their expedition to the East Cape. It appears that they did not go together, nor did they meet on the way. In what follows we must allow for Marsden’s want of knowledge of the Maori language, for parts of the two narratives contain statements coloured by European ideas.

Te Morenga’s fleet left first, early in January, 1818. They both had the same object in view, which was to avenge page 90 the death of some women of Nga-Puhi, who had been taken away from the Bay and Whangarei in 1806 by the brig “Venus,” and had been left amongst the Ngati-Porou people near the East Cape. One of these women was Te Morenga’s sister. She was subsequently killed and eaten by the Ngati-Porou tribe. Marsden says that so soon as Te Morenga learnt this he despatched a party along the coast, with instructions to ascertain the truth of the story, and to find out the strength of the offending tribe. This party went ostensibly to barter arms for mats and other Maori valuables. They succeeded in their object, and, on their return, reported that the rumours of the death of the women were true. It was not until many years after this event that Te Morenga found himself strong enough in firearms to undertake an expedition. He then collected his forces at the Bay, to the number of 400, and started away for the east coast. On his arrival at Tauranga, Judge Gudgeon tells me, he was induced by Te-Ahi-kai-ata, of the Patu-wai tribe, whose home was at Motiti Island, to attack Te Waru’s pa of Matarehua, situated on that island. This he took with considerable slaughter, and also killed Te Tawhio, an uncle, or elder relative of Te Waru’s, but the latter escaped. Te Morenga would be nothing loath to join in such an attack on Te Waru, for he had the death of his niece at the hands of the latter to avenge. Te-Ahi-kai-ata’s motive in this instance was to settle a feud which had existed page 91 between Te Patu-wai tribe and Te Whanau-a-Tauwhao for nearly 200 years. Matarehua, it may be observed, is said to have been the place where Ngatoro-i-rangi, the great priest of Te Arawa canoe, had his tuahu, or altar, at which he offered up his incantation for the destruction of the fleet of Te Tini-o-Manahua, who had followed him from Hawaiki. This event is known in Maori history as “Maikuku-tea,” and it occurred about 22 generations ago. Te Tawhio was one of the principal chiefs of Ngai-Te-Rangi, the tribe of Tauranga.

Recent enquiries made on the ground in 1900 show, that during Te Morenga’s expedition to the East Coast in 1818, he landed at Whakatane, and at once attacked the Ngati-Awa people living there. This tribe retreated before Nga-Puhi, as did their neighbours Ngati-Pukeko. They took a course which led them viâ Te Teko, where many others of the latter tribe were living, as well as in the valleys of Rangi-taiki and Tarawera. The two tribes fled before the Nga-Puhi guns up the Rangi-taiki valley, but determined to make a stand at the Okahukura pa situated a few miles inland of the Confiscation boundary, on a spur leading down from the wooded mountains on the east side of the valley. Here Ngati-Pukeko under their chiefs Tai-timuroa, Tikitu, and Tautari, together with some of Ngati-Awa under Te Korapu, assembled to await the Nga-Puhi attack, which was not long in being delivered. Notwithstanding the success which at first page 92 attended the onslaught, and in which Tama-arangi, a priest or matakite, and Te Huna-o-terangi of Ngati-Pukeko were killed, Nga-Puhi were eventually obliged to retreat, due to succours arriving in aid of the besieged, under the chief Kihi. In this retreat Nga-Puhi suffered considerable losses, sufficient to cause their leaders—Te Morenga and Korokoro—to retire to their canoes at Whakatane. With the Nga-Puhi force, were contingents of the Au-pouri and Rarawa tribes of the North. It is said that only 50 of Nga-Puhi escaped—if so only part of Te Morenga’s total force could have been engaged at Okahu-kura.

At this time, the Urewera hapus named Ngati-Rongo-karae and Ngati-Koura, were living in the neighbourhood of Ruatoki, some 16 miles inland of Whakatane, and near where that river comes out of the gorge before taking its winding course through the rich valley extending to its mouth. Here the people lived in fortified pas, the remains of which thickly stud the spurs of the wooded hills—they are very numerous, denoting a large population in former days.

The alarm caused by the news of the muskets of the two Nga-Puhi expeditions under Hongi-Hika and Te Morenga was very widespread, and affected the Urewera people, although neither of the above expeditions had come into actual conflict with them. They heard for the first time of their own countrymen using arms that could kill at a distance.

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From Whakatane Te Morenga went on to the east coast, where he attacked Ngati-Porou, and took ample revenge for the death of his sister, and brought back with him two chiefs, besides others, as prisoners, and many heads, as also the spouse of the chief who had killed his sister, whom he gave to his brother to wife.

Te Morenga returned to the Bay early in 1819. It was not until 1820 that he again went forth to avenge the death of his niece at Te Waru’s hands.

Hongi-Hika left the Bay with his fleet on the 7th February, 1818, as he was not ready when Te Morenga started. His object was practically the same as Te Morenga’s, for one of the women taken away by the “Venus” was a relative of his, and she had received the same fate as Te Morenga’s sister. But he had an additional reason. It appears that Te Haupa of Ngati-Paoa, of the Thames, some years before this, had lost some of his people by death at the hands of either Ngati-Porou, Ngati-Tai, or Ngati-Kahu-ngunu, of the east coast, and he had for some three years been trying to induce Hongi-Hika to make common cause with him against these people. A final embassy from Te Haupa had found Hongi-Hika engaged in a feud with the people of Waima, Hokianga, and as soon as he had settled this little difficulty he consented to aid Te Haupa. Te Haupa’s emissaries in this instance were Takanini* and page 94 Te Whetu. On the arrival of Hongi-Hika’s contingent at the Thames, the two fleets of canoes started, the combined force numbering 900 men. They proceeded to ravage the coasts of the Bay of Plenty; those who could, escaped into the interior, abandoning their homes, but great numbers were killed, for the inhabitants of the Bay of Plenty in those days were very numerous. Many places were attacked by surprise, and the people had no time to prepare a defence; hence Hongi-Hika drove them before him. We know very few particulars of this expedition, but the Maori accounts say that Hongi-Hika appeared off Maketu, then occupied by Ngati-Pukenga, who retreated inland, where Hongi-Hika followed them and took a pa called Te Wakatangaroa, situated some 10 miles inland of MaketuMaketu, after which he proceeded down the coast and took Marae-nui, a large and populous pa, a little to the east of Opotiki, with great slaughter. This pa belonged to Te Whanau-a-Apanui tribe. At Marae-nui, or at Tawawhaipata, or Kaitaingata pas fell the chiefs Tu riri and Rongo-tupu-i-te-ata, a matter to be referred to later on. These pas were taken by Hongi-Hika and his allies—the Ngati-Maru, and Ngati-Paoa, with whom where some of Ngai-Te-Rangi, of Tauranga.

The expedition reached as far as Hicks Bay, and here Te Haupa, chief of the Ngati-Maru, Hongi’s allies, was killed in an engagement with Ngati-Porou.

Hongi-Hika told Marsden that a great number of chiefs were taken on this expedition, for few page 95 of them were possessed of firearms, and could not withstand the Nga-Puhi warriors. A very large number of prisoners—it is said 2000–were brought back to the Bay, besides great numbers of the preserved heads of the slain. One canoe, which landed at Rangihoua, contained as many as 70 heads. The prisoners, amongst them several chiefs, were divided out between the families of the members of the expedition.

Hongi’s expedition returned to the Bay of Islands in January, 1819.

Marsden records that in more than one place near Rangihoua he observed, stuck on poles, the preserved heads, brought from the east coast. He met at Rangihoua a young woman who was one of the slaves, but married to a young chief of Nga-Puhi. She said she had been made prisoner between the Thames and the East Cape by Hongi-Hika’s people, and that their village was taken by surprise; her father, mother, and seven sisters having escaped, whilst she was caught. She added that she was a niece “of Hina, a great Queen, whom I had often heard of,” says Marsden. The “great Queen” was, no doubt, Hine-mati-oro, of Tologa Bay. The cause of Hongi’s attack on them was the killing of some of Te Haupa’s tribe by her forefathers. She thus confirmed Hongi’s relation to Mr. Marsden

The well-known chief of Kororareka, Tara, died in November of this year, 1818.

* Probably this was Ihaka Takanini, who, in the fifties, lived at Mangere, near Onehunga, and who was said to be the last of the Wai-o-Hua tribe.