Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.
Chapter III. — The Coming of the Maori
The Coming of the Maori.
They left their native land, and far away
Across the waters, sought a world unknown.
Beyond the supposition that the Moriori people were the inhabitants of the ancient pit dwellings, there is nothing to establish, with any degree of certitude, the identification of their occupants. It is, therefore, not a simple matter to pick up the connecting links in the chain of life that binds the lost humanity of the past to the living beings of to-day, for, owing to the incessant blood feuds which prevailed between the tribes of New Zealand, the traditions of a whole generation were sometimes swept away in the slaughter of a single battle.
Without letters to make permanent the records of their movements, and depending solely on the oral transmission of their history from one to the other, the death of a prominent tohunga often meant that all knowledge of the past, of which he was the sole possessor, would die with him. Yet, with all the ele-page 82ments of failure, it is marvellous how complete is the narrative thus handed down to us from father to son through the rude ages which have intervened since the Maori first landed on these shores.
In tracing the course of the human stream which has flowed through the veins of the province from times immemorial, the first evidences of life we meet with are, as we have seen in the last chapter, purely of a negative character. Almost equally so is the next, which assumes the form of a Maori tradition concerning the Kahui-tipua people, who are said to have been the first Maori inhabitants of the Middle Island; but they have been invested with such miraculous powers that their annals seem more properly to belong to the fables of fairyland than to the pages of authenticated history.
Whatever may be the truth concerning these people and the part of the island they occupied, it is known that two canoes with their living freight came to Wai-pounamu from the North Island before there is any record of an organised migration to Marlborough.
* Kupe is said to have been the hero of a great struggle with a giant octopus which he attacked, near Castle Point. The octopus fled across the Strait, but Kupe pursued it, and finally killed it in Tory Channel.
* It was here that Tama Tea Pokai Whenua landed to cook crawfish, while on his voyage round the Middle Island, and the place derives its name from this incident.=kai (eat) koura (crawfish).
Following them, in 1477, came a powerful division of the Waitaha tribe, which had lived for two hundred years in the North Island, and at the end of that time found their position so oppressive that they gladly sought an asylum in the south. Here they partly assimilated by inter-marriage with the Nga-puhis of the Wairau, but the fusion of the two tribes was never absolutely complete, and they passed their days in alternate stages of peace and war.
Still their new home was worth fighting for, and they were determined to conquer, if possible, every portion of its bounty. For here beside the waters of the Wairau* their kumaras grew with an unprecedented luxuriance, the pipi beds were richly stored with luscious molluscs, the fishing grounds of Cloudy Bay returned an abundant harvest of toothsome food, and every morning their eel baskets were full, with plenty to spare. In fact, since they had been at the Wairau their storehouses had never been empty, hunger had been a stranger, and want unknown.
* The old Maori name for the Wairau river was Motu-Kawa=sour bush. The present name is derived from the valley through which it flows, which truly means "many waters," or a "hundred rivers."
Three families at once determined to leave their old home at Poneke and try their fortunes in the south, and these were followed page 86about the year 1570 by other hapus, whose numbers swelled the ranks of the tribe to considerable proportions. Being of a more warlike disposition than the occupants of the Wairau, they gradually assumed the mastery of the situation, and reaped where they had not sown, and gathered where they had not strewn. In a few instances inter-marriage took place between the victors and the vanquished, but as a general rule, after their subjection had become complete, the Waitahas were treated with great indignity, those who escaped with their lives being driven over the Vernon hills as far south as Canterbury, or they were retained in a state of bondage, and made to perform the menial work of slaves in the fields. This was, however, but a forerunner of the fate that was to befall the Ngatimamoe tribe themselves, for time, which works such remarkable revenges, brought a terrible retribution upon them when the next great wave of migration swept down upon the coast. But during the time these two contestants were struggling for the supremacy, a series of minor additions were made to the population of the province by the coming of the Rangitane people, who seem to have been less systematic than any of the other tribes in their methods of escaping from old enemies, or of meeting new ones. They originally came from the West coast of the North Island, page 87near Patea, and their first settlement in Marlborough was at Totaranui, on the shores of Queen Charlotte Sound. But following close in their wake, another branch of the tribe, under a chief named Te Huataki, wedged themselves in between the Waitaha and the Ngatimamoe on the East Coast, where they planted extensive groves of karaka trees, those at the Wairau having long since been destroyed.* These people, however, seemed to be moribund and destitute of that vitality which made tribes populous and influential, their settlements never increased, and since Rauparaha and his warriors almost extinguished them, scarcely anything of their traditions that remain is worth recording, and the only lingering representatives of the tribe are now scattered about the Sounds, while the followers of Te Huataki have dwindled down to the few natives who live at Mr. George McDonald's settlement.
* The only karaka tree at the Wairau now is a fine, but solitary, specimen growing on Mr. T. Wilkins' farm at Waikakaho. A part from its symmetrical form, a peculiarity about the tree is that it should be found so far away from the seashore, as this botanical importation from Hawaiki seems to thrive best in the humid climate of the coast.
The next invasion from the north consisted of a reinforcement of the Ngatikuri tribe, in the form of a numerous hapu under the chieftainship of Turakautahi, and Moki, his younger brother. They had lived in the neighbourhood of Cape Terawhiti, and their first landing place in the province was at Totaranui. From here they travelled overland to Kai-koura, fighting incessant battles the while with the tribes they met en route, but they ultimately succeeded in attaining their goal where they began to flourish and increase, more particularly after the advent of the Ngaitahu, with whom they were connected by race and blood, and after their formal alliance they became one of the most powerful tribe to be reckoned with in the south.
It would, therefore, appear that about the year 1670 the lands of Marlborough were shared between the remnant of the Waitaha tribe, the Ngatimamoe, the Rangitane, the Ngaitara, and the Ngatikuri. The Ngatimamoe, owing to their greater numbers, were still, however, the dominating power, and therefore the trend of succeeding events, which began to develop while the gay and frivolous Charles II. was reigning on the throne of England, was frought with deeper import to them than to their neighbours.page 89
What circumstance actually brought about the migration of the Ngaitahu tribe to the Middle Island seems to be a matter of considerable doubt, in fact, upon no branch of Marlborough's history do opinions vary so much, or the ancient traditions present so many versions, of the same event. It may be that each of them is in a measure true, inasmuch as they refer to the separate departures from Wellington, which ultimately comprised the complete invasion. According to some accounts, they came at the invitation of Te Huataki, the Wairau chief of the Rangitane, who was blown across the Strait and took refuge in Wellington harbour, and while there married the two daughters of Tiotio, the high priest of the Ngaitahu. Others say that the love of the greenstone was the incentive which influenced the tribe in changing their home, while the slaying of Tapu, a chief of the Kahungunu tribe, and the fear of the consequences, is by many considered the true explanation of the event. In every probability all three causes contributed more or less to the exodus in 1677, which next to the advent of Te Rauparaha, was destined to be the most influential episode in the Maori annals of Marlborough.
This much, however, appears to be beyond the region of doubt, that the Ngaitahus were a fierce and warlike people who for many page 90generations had lived in the district now known as the Wairarapa, and that their first place of habitation in the Middle Island was upon the shores of Tory Channel, and the adjacent islet of Moehoiho, which lies under the shadow of Mount Kaihinu. Here they lived peaceably enough, surrounded by the Ngaitara people, until these neighbours put an insult upon them which could only be obliterated in blood. The feud arose through an unfortunate infringement of that complexity of superstition which in these days makes us marvel how it was possible for the benighted Maori to get through life at all. The Ngaitaras had entertained their neighbours at a feast in celebration of some social or military event, but it afterwards transpired that portion of the fare placed before the guests was the body of a dead tribesman which had been found in the bush. This so enraged the Ngaitahu tribe that they sought revenge by a course which secured for them the implacable hatred of the people with whom they had formerly been so friendly. High upon the slopes of Mount Kaihinu, Te Ao Marire, the old and honoured chief of the Ngaitara tribe, had been laid to rest in a cave, but the angry and quarrelsome Ngaitahu sought out and desecrated the mountain tomb by disturbing the chief's bones and making fishing hooks of them. This was an intolerable insult to the page 91memory of a chief and the dignity of the tribe, and the offence was considerably aggravated by the manner in which the Ngaitara were apprised of the fact. The information was not conveyed to them directly, but one day, when both hapus were on the fishing grounds together, the Ngaitahu began referring in contemptuous tones to the "nip" there was in the old man's bones, for hooks made of this material were supposed to possess some special virtue in attracting fish. The Ngaitara people who heard the Ngaitahus' scoffs, suspected that they hinted at some violence upon their dead chief, and at once a party set out to inspect Ao Marire's grave, where to their horror they found their worst fears realised. The tomb had been broken open, and the bones which had not been carried away were scattered over the ground in sacrilegious contempt. The fierce glow of anger burned within the breast of every man who stood as a witness of the Ngaithau perfidy, but the time was not yet ripe when the revengeful blow could be struck, and for nearly a year the tribe hugged its grudge to its own bosom and feigned the greatest friendship towards their treacherous neighbours. But one day they suddenly pounced down upon a number of Ngaithau women who were gathering flax upon the side of Mount Kaihinu, and before help could come to them the Maori maidens were page 92no more, amongst the slain being the daughter of Puraho, the chief who had led his followers upon the mountain raid. This success they immediately followed up by killing Puraho himself, and the dual disaster satisfied the Ngaitahu chiefs, Manawa and Maru, that their position at Tory Channel was by no means a secure one. They therefore immediately conducted an exodus of the tribe to the mouth of the Wairau River, where a strongly fortified pah was built, and from this point several retaliatory sorties were made upon their enemies, with results sometimes satisfactory to the avengers, and sometimes tainted with the bitterness of defeat.
The migration of the Ngaitahu to the Wairau now brought them for the first time into conflict with the Ngatimamoe people, and along the line of coast several sanguinary battles were fought, both on sea and land. Of the latter probably the most notable was that waged at Tete Whai, below Kekerangu, at which spears pointed with the sting of the "ray" were used by the Ngatimamoe, but not with any measure of success, for they were routed with considerable slaughter by their more warlike and experienced assailants.
A long period of peace then followed, during which intercourse of a most friendly nature prevailed between the two tribes. Whether the weaker Ngatimamoe saw the advantage of page 93completing a favourable alliance with so powerful a section of their race, as a precaution against future contingencies, or whether they deemed discretion to be the better part of valour,' tradition does not say; but the fact remains that large areas of land were uncomplainingly surrendered to them, the Ngatimamoe maidens were given in marriage to their young braves, which afterwards led to strange complications, and no effort was spared to placate the invaders, who, under most circumstances, would have had to contest every inch of the soil they occupied. How their kindness was requited remains to be seen.
In some instances the Ngaitahu men received into relationship were elevated to the rank of chieftains. This occurred in the case of two men who were cousins, and out of this circumstance arose much of the future trouble of the Ngatimamoes. The elder of the two, Aponga, was a man of stern and morose temper, with more iron than honey in his soul. With his wives he lived alone in a barren part of the district some distance from Waipapa, where game was scarce and shy, and fish were seldom caught in the waters of the neighbouring bay; therefore Aponga was forced to live mainly upon fern roots and such other incidentals of food as chance brought in his way. But the fact that he was never able to fare sumptuously himself, or treat his page 94friends to a banquet when they visited him, in no way disturbed his mind, until his suspicions were aroused by the demeanour of his wives. Although for anything he knew to the contrary, they lived as he did, they invariably retained a plump and sleek appearance, quite inconsistant with the frugal fare which the woods and waters provided. He noticed, too, that they paid a surprising number of visits to their friends at Waipapa, and that on their return their breath was always fragrant with the scent of savoury food. For many months he ruminated over the mysterious behaviour of his wedded mates; but nothing that he saw at his own pah supplied the necessary explanation, or brought relief to his troubled mind; for although he frequently questioned them as to the existence of secret stores, they as repeatedly denied the soft impeachment. Aponga therefore decided to go at once and take counsel with his cousin Tuteuretira, who being blessed with a bright and cheerful disposition, had become so popular as to be elected chief of a hapu of three hundred Ngatimamoe at Waipapa.
The journey was soon made, and Tuteuretira was found in the midst of a beautiful plantation of kumaras, such as Aponga had not gazed upon for years. In fact the whole flat bore such a rich and cultivated appearance that the visitor was amazed beyond page 95expression. Upon Aponga's approach, his cousin ordered the slaves, who were hoeing the kumaras, to desist, as a mark of respect to his relative, and then conducted him to his own house, where food was set before them by the spouse of the host, who invited Aponga to eat, and at the same time to make known the object of his coming. With neither of these requests, however, was the bewildered Aponga able to comply. Amazement had stricken him dumb, and overcome with surprise he sat thinking of the cultivated fields in the distance, and looking at the variety of baskets before him as one in a dream. At length he was aroused from his condition of coma by the repeated enquiries of his cousin, who was at a loss to understand this strange conduct; but for a time the only reply Aponga would vouchsafe was, "I am stupified, I am amazed at the variety of food, I cannot eat." "But," asked Tuteuretira, more puzzled than ever, "how is it that you, who have married Ngatimamoe women, are surprised at the everyday fare of that people?" Then Aponga took his cousin aside and told him all his secret suspicions concerning his wives, whom he now believed had deceived him at the instigation of their relatives, who feared that if he knew the richness of their plantations he might urge the tribe at the Wairau to sweep down upon Waipapa and conquer them.page 96
After long and deep consultation, Aponga was advised to lay the whole story of his wrongs before the patriarchs of the tribe at the Wairau, and to be guided in his future actions by their judgment. Approving of this course, Aponga rose, and without defiling his lips with the Ngatimamoe food, he proceeded back to his home where he was treated by his wives to his usual homely meal of prepared fern root.
The spectacle of their tribesman carrying this symbol of grief at once sent a thrill of excitement through the Wairau pah, and curious to know what circumstance had contributed to his distress of mind, young and old flocked round to hear the story of the Ngatimamoe deception, which Aponga declaimed in bitter words, urging that they had concealed their food supplies from him in the fear that he might induce the tribe to come and conquer their settlement, and when in a flight of eloquence he declared his willingness to wipe out the insult in blood, a host of warriors at once sprang forth and offered to serve under him in battle.
Before starting, it was practically agreed page 98that the mantle of protection should be thrown over Aponga's wives, as their close relationship to him entitled them to the clemency of the tribe, but on no consideration was mercy to be extended to their relatives. With this dark intent the avengers advanced upon their unsuspecting prey, but in order to avoid the slightest chance of an alarm being given by any stragglers of the Ngatimamoe tribe, the war party deflected from the main south road at the Kekerangu river, travelled up its bed for some miles, and then crossing over into the Woodbank stream, followed it to its junction with the Clarence, whose course they descended, and approached the doomed pah from behind, arriving before its palisades at dawn. In this way they avoided passing through Tuteuretira's settlement, which was on the other side of the river, and so preserved a greater secrecy in their movements, as well as avoiding the chance of injuring him.
With the knowledge that Aponga possessed of the daily life of the inhabitants of the pah, he was aware that some of them would go early to the fishing grounds, so accordingly he arranged his forces in ambush with due regard to the opportunities which the absence of suspicion on the part of the Waipapa natives gave him. To Urikore, a brave and dauntless warrior, was entrusted the commission of lying in wait for Paua, the head chief, whose page 99size and muscular development was the pride of his own and the envy of surrounding tribes. So strong was he that, single-handed, he could launch his own canoe, and this being his usual habit the wily Urikore lay secreted beside the vessel until Paua strolled majestically down to the beach, and placing his shoulder against the stern of the canoe began to force her into the surf. Then stealthily rising up, the Ngaitahu sprang upon his victim, and with one blow of his mere laid him a lifeless corpse upon the beach. The death of Paua was the signal for the general attack, and the sleeping pah was soon aroused by the noise of assault, but high above the din a cry arose that Paua was slain, and a panic at once seized the affrighted people, who fled from one station to another, only to find that they were completely surrounded, and the avenues of retreat judiciously closed by the generalship of Aponga. Thus caught like rats in a trap, the Ngatimamoe turned and prepared to die as their fathers had often done, but the long period of unbroken peace had left them sadly out of fighting fettle, and although they made a gallant stand with such weapons as they were able to grasp in the excitement of the moment, the besieging force pressed so furiously upon them that resistance was in vain; and gradually they were borne down before the superior organisa-page 100tion of the assailants, who trampled upon their dead and dying bodies in their last victorious rush. Only a few escaped to tell the tale of Aponga's vengeance, the rest were either doomed to life-long slavery, or were killed and cooked to make a feast worthy of so great a victory.
But the measure of Aponga's hatred towards the Ngatimamoe was not yet full, and he at once decided to complete the work already begun by attacking the hapu who were living under the chieftainship of his cousin. Urikore was therefore despatched, as a messenger, to warn Tuteuretira of the intended attack. As a kind of passport, he was robed in the mats usually worn by Paua, and when these garments were seen by the relatives of the dead chief in the possession of another, they at once divined that some misfortune had befallen him, and set up a spontaneous wail and loud lamentations, which filled the air with sobs and grief.
But their greatest misfortune was the desertion of their leader, who, yielding to the persuasions of Aponga's ambassador, returned with him to the victorious tribe, and left the people with whom he had lived, and by whom he was loved and respected, to drift wheresoever the tide of fortune might carry them, or list wheresoever the winds of war might blow them. In this hour of travail the page 101Ngatimamoe held a council, and decided that the position was hopeless. They saw that it was impossible to oppose the grim host across the river with any chance of success, and that unsuccessful resistance would only bring down upon them the unrelenting hand of the invader. The key to safety was therefore in flight, and in the darkness they stole silently away to their canoes, in which they paddled down the coast to the southern side of the Kaikoura peninsula, where, at Peketa, at the mouth of the Kahutara Stream, they built and fortified a pah, and remained unmolested for many years. Here in the meantime they grew and multiplied, and attracted numerous other branches of the tribe to them; so that before the pleasant recollections of their old home had faded from their memories they were once again a strong and vigorous people, purified in their passage through the fire of adversity.
Proud in their new found strength the Ngatimamoe at length began to grow restless under the long continued peace, and one day as they spied a number of Ngaitahu canoes off the shore, the occupants of which were engaged in catching crawfish, they held a hurried council of war, and decided to attack them in revenge for the many humiliations they had suffered at the hands of the tribe. The unsuspecting fishermen quietly pursued page 102their occupation, little dreaming of the storm that was about to burst upon them, until the rush of forty paddles and the roar from a hundred throats, as the approaching canoes swept down upon them, proclaimed that again the dogs of war had been let loose.
Hampered as they were by the fishing tackle and moorings, and utterly unnerved by the suddenness of the attack, the Ngaitahu made but a poor defence, being either killed in the first onset or captured in the subsequent chase. Only one canoe, that commanded by a guerrilla chief named Te Kauae, managed to slip through the meshes of the attack. He had been fishing some distance from the others, and, profiting by the space that separated him from the combatants, he slipped his anchor and made off in the direction of Waipapa. His tactics, however, did not pass unheeded, and one of the fleetest of the Ngatimamoe canoes immediately gave chase, and occasionally got within fighting distance of the fugitive. On each of these occasions Te Kauae manoeuvred his vessel so cleverly that every encounter was fatal to the assailants, and at last, satisfied that nothing could be accomplished against this skilful tactician, or fearful of being led too far away from their friends, they relinquished the pursuit, and allowed this remnant of a large page 103party to bear the discomforting tidings of the catastrophe to their friends at Waipapa.
No sooner had the chiefs at that pah realised that hostilities had once more broken out, than preparations were begun to carry the battle to the gates. The Ngaitahu forces swarmed down the coast and met their enemies, first at Opokihi, and subsequently in front of their own pah, two battles ensuing, in which the Ngatimamoe were worsted on the field, and driven behind their fortifications, where they had to sustain a siege for many months, for the aggressive Ngaitahu at once invested the place, and after repeated attempts had been made to force an entrance through the palisading of the enclosure, they sat down before it to patiently await the effect of the starving process. But as the besieged were well supplied with food, they were in no haste to surrender, and stayed stubbornly within their walls. Foiled in their attempts to take the place by storm, the chiefs of the attacking force consulted together as to the wisdom of continuing the siege. At the conference one of the younger bloods declared his belief that where force had failed, strategem might succeed. Accordingly he unfolded his plan, and asked permission to put it into execution. The necessary sanction having been granted, perhaps with some misgiving as to its success, the young chief proceeded to give his idea page 104practical form. Before dawn he wrapped himself in two feather mats, and concealing his mere beneath their folds, he threw himself into the surf which broke upon the beach within gunshot of the pah, and when daylight gleamed upon the waters the sentinels within the wall espied a dark object tossing helplessly at the mercy of the waves. Immediately they raised the cry, "He ika moana," "He ika moana," ("a stranded fish," "a stranded fish.") In response to the welcome call, the bustle of life and the hum of excitement were soon heard in every whare, and as the pah was only a few paces from the beach, the gates were at once thrown open, and a crowd eager to secure the prize rushed out to pounce upon the imaginary fish, but what was their surprise when the young chief sprang to his feet, and with one blow of his club, killed the foremost Ngatimamoe. A cry of terror was at once raised, which warned those within the pah that something was wrong, and before the Ngaitahus, who were lying in ambush, could reach the ocean path, the forage party had rushed back, closing the gate behind them, and so the scheme, which was excellently designed, failed from faulty execution.
Sick of the unsuccessful campaign, and weary of the harassing business of war, the Ngaitahu warriors at length relinquished the page 105siege and returned to their homes, peace being once more proclaimed in the land.
In this connection it is well to remark that the whole time of the ancient Maori was not taken up in the waging of war, but he had many intervals of rest, during which he doubtless found much solace in life in the midst of his family, and daily occupations. While the old men, with patient industry, prepared the weapons, the women cooked the food and dexterously wove the mats, and the more able-bodied men dipped into the forests to hunt, and while hunting acquired that extensive knowledge of their country, which enabled them to name every feature of the landscape, every plant, beast and bird. These employments of the day terminated with the recreations of the evening, which in summer were made up of games and dances, and in the winter by the recital of the tribal legends and the recounting of many stirring tales, told in the wharepunis by the fathers of the tribe. Then the monotony of their inter-tribal wars was sometimes relieved by a contest of a lighter nature, which furnished all the essentials to excitement, and all the excuses for the inevitable jubilation at its termination. Such an event occurred when the giant Ngatimamoe chief, Te Rangitauneke, of Ohau, came as champion of his tribe to challenge Manawa to single combat. Manawa was, however, grow-page 106ing old, and his friends, recognising that the contest was not an equal one, objected to his thus endangering his life. But Maru was permitted to pick up the gauntlet, and at the appointed time, and in the presence of the assembled warriors, he met and defeated Te Rangi, who acknowledged himself beaten, and returned home as crestfallen as he had been previously confident.
Then it not infrequently happened that when the Ngaitahus were not fighting with their neighbours they commenced to quarrel amongst themselves, and when the cause of disagreement did not attain to the magnitude of an inter-tribal question, they were not above falling-out over domestic affairs. Thus it came about that when Rakaitekura, the handsome daughter of Maru, who had been betrothed in infancy to Rangitauhunga, was, with her parent's consent, wedded to Tuakeka, the jilted bridegroom's father, Te Rangi Whakaputa, became so enraged that he went straight to Maru's enclosure within the pah and killed one of his slaves before his very face. So gross an insult could not be patiently borne by a chief who had any respect for his dignity, and Maru fled at once to seek the protection of Takiauau, a cousin of Whakaputa's, who had identified himself with the Omihi branch of the Ngatimamoe tribe, and with whom he remained in voluntary banish-page 107ment until the tribe at Waipapa, who missed his genial face and kindly manner, clamoured for his return, and forced Whakaputa to go and bring him back. To his offender's penitent intercessions Maru acceded, although on his home-coming he still hungered for revenge, but as he could not now kill any of Whakaputa's people, he proposed that the tribe should again go to war, hoping that in the struggle some of the kin of that chief might meet their death, and so satisfy his wish for utu. Accordingly, a war party was sent against the Ngaitara people, and one of their pahs at Kurateau, in Tory Channel, was assailed and taken. Amongst the unfortunates who fell into the Ngaitahu hands was a young chieftainess named Hinemaka, and when she was led before Maru, whose name might well have been "Merciful," his warriors fully expected that he would follow the custom of times and put her to death, but instead of this he gave the hand of Hinemaka in marriage to his son, in order that when the future generations enquired into the lineage of his children, they would thus know that he had conquered the Ngaitara, and the memory of his victory would consequently be better preserved than if he had slain the maiden.
After the assault and capture of the Kurateau pah, a general cessation of hostilities prevailed along the coast for a consider-page 108able period, and as an indication of the Ngaitahu sincerity in laying down their arms, old Manawa, their chief, sought to seal the compact by a marriage tie between the two tribes. He ventured to suggest that the hand of the beautiful Te Ahuarangi, daughter of Tukiauau, and the belle of the Ngatimamoe tribe, should be given to his own son, and that as man and wife they should be the symbol of unity between the two peoples.
The Ngatimamoe were, however, in no mood for such a federation, and they chose to take offence at the manner in which the proposal was made as an excuse for refusing to sanction the nuptials of the charming Ahuarangi. Nothing daunted by their frigid attitude, the persevering Manawa renewed his request a year later; and in order to avoid the possibility of offence being given by any apparent discourtesy on his part, he collected a more than ordinarily elaborate retinue, and proceeded to the Ngatimamoe pah at Pakihi, followed by a train of one hundred warriors laden with presents for the friends of the intended bride.
As they approached the house of her father messengers were sent forward to proclaim the purpose of his visit, and on reaching the gate of the pah the lips of Tukiauau breathed a song of welcome which was not responded to by his heart. The Ngatimamoe dissembled their page 109hatred with excessive cunning, and while neglecting no mark of friendship, conducted their visitors to a large house set apart for their reception. One by one the warriors passed through the portal of what was to be their tomb, and as Manawa, who was the last to enter, bent beneath the lintel of the door, the treacherous Tukiauau struck him two heavy blows on the head with a stone axe, which sent him reeling with blood-streamed face into the midst of his followers. If any doubt existed as to the intentions of the Ngatimamoe tribe, these were soon dispelled by the guarding of the door, over which a host of spearmen stood to impale all who attempted to escape.
The sorrowful Manawa cleansed the blood from off his brow, and addressed his crestfallen followers, to whom he pointed out the hopelessness of their position, and the impossibility of deliverance. But his dying wish was that at least an attempt should be made to carry the news of the Ngatimamoe duplicity to the tribe at Waipapa, who in the fullness of time would come and avenge their death.
When the dying chief called for volunteers to break through the avenue of spears, his appeal was eagerly responded to, and one stalwart brave being chosen, he was consecrated for the task by being smeared with the chief's blood and commended to the care of page 110the gods, but these charms availed him nothing, for ere he had advanced many paces death rained upon him on every hand, and he fell to the ground a bleeding corpse. Another and another made the attempt, with the same fatal result, until the ground was strewn with the slain, and the Ngatimamoe, becoming tired of the slaughter, began to grow less vigilant in their watching. In this they were somewhat encouraged by the fact that the prisoners within, despairing of success, had not renewed the attempt to escape for some time, but lay within, dejectedly hoping for some turn in their ill-fortune.
From this reverie they were aroused by the offer of a youth, a mere stripling, to once more make the attempt to pass through the jaws of death and carry the story of the Ngatimamoe treachery to Waipapa. The hope was a forlorn one, and only the knowledge that certain death would follow their captivity, induced Manawa to sanction an enterprise that seemed as inevitably fore-doomed. But as the event proved the hour was propitious, and after the messenger had received the blessing of his dying chief, he selected a moment when the guards rested on their spears to leap through the door, and before they had time to recover from the effect of surprise, the youth had passed the spot where most of his predecessors fell. The angry cry of the sentries whom page 111he had thus successfully evaded, at once raised the din of alarm, and put the spearsmen who guarded the path to the beach on the alert, and when those behind started in pursuit, the youth saw before him a forest of weapons that he could not hope to pass, and a crowd of war-dogs behind that made retreat impossible. Quick as lightning he turned in amongst the houses, and deftly dodging through the narrow passages between them, managed to elude his pursuers until he came to the outer wall of the pah. Over this he clambered with one lithe spring, but when he landed on the other side his heart sank within him, for the pah was built on the edge of a cliff, at whose feet the broad Pacific rolled, and now there was but one way in which escape was possible. Nor did it take him long to make up his mind, for the breath of his pursuers was hot upon him; and as he made the leap for life on to the sands below the captors of his chief dashed up to the palisades only to see his vanishing form, which presently re-appeared prostrate at the water's edge. A savage cry of exultation arose from their lips as they imagined the daring boy lay dead at their feet, but their hopes were soon dissipated, for in a few minutes he recovered from the concussion, and leaping to his feet, loudly defied his enemies to overtake the fleeting steps of page 112Tahu's son as he sped away to carry the news of Manawa's death to the tribe on the green banks of the Clarence River.
The rage of the Ngatimamoe at thus letting one of their victims slip through their fingers was at once wreaked upon the victims, who were still alive, for without further ceremony they were slain, and a feast made upon their flesh. But it was not for a year afterwards that they paid the full penalty for their treachery, because, for reasons prompted entirely by superstition, it was considered safest to let the grass grow over the oven in which Manawa had been cooked before any retaliatory measures were taken.
* Called by the Maoris Waiau-toa=rapid water.
Only the most extreme circumstances would warrant any member of the tribe in disregarding such an evidence of a chief's good page 115will, even towards an enemy, but Kauae was not to be robbed of his prize so simply, and at the risk of promoting a quarrel with his superior in command, he knelt down, and with one gnash of his barbarous teeth, bit off the right ear of his helpless prisoner. The pain of so primitive a surgical operation caused the unhappy Tu Karu to cry out in agony, which only added to his misfortunes, for the angry Kauae at once chided him for his want of stoical fortitude by enquiring if Manawa cried out when he was treacherously struck, and before an answer could be given, he severed Tu Karu's remaining ear in the same manner as the first. It was now evident to Maru that his lieutenant meant to have his way, and rather than risk any disruption in the camp, he shattered the hopes inspired in the mind of his relative by his first friendly act, and allowed him to be borne away to make a feast for his implacable friend.
The next morning the serious business of the campaign was begun, but the incident of the previous day had put the inhabitants of Pakihi pah on their guard, and by the time the fleet had brought the invaders before its walls, the decayed fortifications were renewed, and the stores of provisions replenished from the neighbouring fields. Thus strengthened both inwardly and outwardly, the Ngatimamoe successfully resisted the attacks made page 116upon their strongholds. Repulsed in every assault and weakened by the death of many of their comrades, Maru and Kauae were contemplating the abandonment of the siege, when it suddenly occurred to one of their followers, a young warrior named Tu-te-Rangiapiapi, that if he took advantage of one of the peculiarities of Maori warfare he might be able to achieve by cunning what his chiefs had failed to do by force of arms.
The custom which came so opportunely to his aid, was that by which two opposing tribes would frequently hold intercourse with each other during a temporary suspension of hostilities. The chivalry of the ancient Maori was one of his most admirable characteristics, and the confidence which even sworn enemies would sometimes repose in each other, was a trust that was seldom betrayed, and forms a delightful oasis in a desert otherwise rank with treachery. The chivalry of Tu-te-Rangi was not, however, of this high and classic type, and whatever may be said of his ingenuity as a tactician, a great deal cannot be urged in extenuation of his infidelity to his kin, whom he used and sacrificed to the ends of his scheme, the particulars of which he would not disclose even to the chiefs in charge of the siege. As a result of the intermingling of the Ngatimamoe and the Ngaitahu blood, prior to the migration of the former from Waipapa, page 117Tu-te-Rangi was closely related to several of the defenders within the walls of the pah, and during the days when the siege dragged wearily on, he asked and obtained permission to visit these friends, by whom he was well received. His visits became frequent and long continued, and were to some extent made more welcome by a professed desire to negotiate for peace, as the Ngatimamoe stores were beginning to dwindle down, and there was no hope of replenishing them, for their fields were in possession of the enemy. When, therefore, the pinch of hunger began to be felt, they were not unwilling to listen to proposals of peace on any honourable terms. The besiegers were in no more fortunate position, for they, absorbed in war, had neglected to keep the commissariat fully supplied, and the chiefs saw that it was only a matter of time when they would be compelled to withdraw from the siege a foiled and baffled host. In these circumstances, the daily visits of the pseudo ambassador to the Ngatimamoe pah began to be viewed with impatience by both besiegers and besieged. The latter he hoodwinked by plausibly recounting the supposed objections of his chiefs to their conditions of peace, and to the former he vouchsafed no answer except "Wait till the north-west wind blows, and then avail yourselves of the opportunity afforded page 118you." At length, after many exasperating delays, the north-west wind did blow, and Tu-te-Rangi proceeded as usual to his seat under the verandah of one of his friend's houses, where he procured a paoi—one of the lone stones used by the women in the domestic department for the preparation of the meal of fern root; to the end of this he attached a rope of flax, and gently shoving the other end into the embers of the fire burning within the whare, he quietly awaited results. In the process of time the end of the stone became red-hot, and then, watching for a favourable opportunity, the artful Ngaitahu slung it on to the roof of the house, where it instantly ignited the inflammable thatch. The ascending clouds of smoke soon attracted notice, and on the alarm of "fire" being sounded out, none were so active in its pretended suppression as the guilty Tu-te-Rangi. But in tearing off the burning toe-toe grass, he generally contrived to throw the flaming tufts on to the neighbouring dwellings, and aided by the high wind, he, in an incredibly short time, had the whole pah in flames. His friends outside immediately appreciated the advantages of the situation, and at once made a general assault upon the main entrance, which, in the excitement, had been left practically unguarded. In rushed the Ngaitahu warriors, and fell to massacring the helpless inmates, who were now as page 119it were between two fires, and as an inevitable result it was not long before the dead and dying were strewn in every direction, only a miserable remnant of a once numerous people escaping from the sack and slaughter that followed upon the fall of the first Pakihi pah.
The Ngaitahu tribe at once took possession of the new country, which they have practically inhabited ever since. Within the confines of the present town of Kaikoura they built a strongly fortified pah, which was afterwards the subject of a memorable episode in Maori history, but its decayed walls and halffilled trenches are all that is now left to mark a spot where the brave sons of Tahu formerly flourished.
When they had become thoroughly identified with the soil of the peninsula, to whose right they found no rival, new schemes of conquest were opened up to them by the pleasing prospect offered by the Canterbury plains, and the arrival at the Wairau of some reinforcements from the North Island. In these more ambitious designs they were considerably influenced by events which had transpired some years before; for while the tribe was seated at the Wairau, prior to the death of Manawa, they were, as we have seen, frequently involved in petty feuds and broils with the neighbouring Ngatimamoe people, in one of which (at page 120Tete Whai), the battle of the "ray" barbed spears, they had succeeded in capturing a goodly number of prisoners. After the battle, Waitai, one of the head chiefs, strongly urged the usual slaughter of the captives, but to this Maru would on no account consent, because of his relationship by marriage to the captured people. Enraged at what he considered sickening sentiment, Waitai collected three hundred of his people together, and after delivering himself in bitter invective against Maru for his feminine clemency, warned the remaining members of the tribe against a chief who was foolish enough to spare his foes, and migrated with his followers to the coast of Otago, "where," he said, "he could kill his enemies and not be interfered with."
With him went two of Maru's relatives, but in the course of a few years they longed to see the Wairau again, and decided to return, making the journey overland; and on their way they beheld in wonder the extent of the Ngatimamoe settlements and the wide expanse of the Canterbury plains, stretching in unbroken slopes from the snowy mountains to the seashore. They were also quick to notice the abundant supply of food, the wekas, the rats, the eels in the creeks, and the flat fish in Lake Ellesmere. But what was of greater importance, they discovered page 121that the old enemy of the tribe, Tukiauau, was living at Kaiapoi, whither he had sought refuge after the murder of Manawa, and when they returned to the Wairau they reported these matters to Moki, who had now assumed the chieftainship of the tribe at Otekane, the village at the mouth of the Wairau River. On hearing their marvellous tale, Moki at once caught up the inspiration, and ordered the preparation of the great war canoe, Te Makawhiua, made from the trunk of a giant totara tree, which formerly grew in the Wairarapa valley. In this expedition, which led to the extension of the Ngaitahu people into Canterbury, Moki accomplished the death of Manawa's murderer, and by the introduction of new blood into the war councils of the tribe, his fighting men were able to get a permanent footing on the plains. After the conquest, the famous canoe, which led the fleet, was brought back to the province and drawn up on the beach at Omihi, where it was afterwards partially buried in a land slip, only its bow protruding from the debris, and in this position it was ever after regarded as a sacred treasure by the tribe, the halo of sanctity with which it was surrounded being so intense that it was fully accepted that anyone having the temerity to injure it by so much as cutting page 122off a chip as a memento, would meet with instant death.
The fate of the Ngatimamoe tribe, after they were driven out of the province, is beyond the scope of this book to tell in detail, but in general terms it may be described as a succession of misfortunes, which ended in their being driven into the caves and mountain fastnesses of Otago, where they lingered until recent years, but it is doubtful if any true descendant is living to-day in the land of which they were once supreme masters. Thus did the Ngatimamoe tribe reap in destruction the black and bitter crop they sowed by the slaying of Manawa.
The provincial history of the Ngaitahu tribe from this date downwards is but a repetition, on a smaller scale, of the previous wars amongst themselves and their neighbours, until they were almost exterminated, within historical times, by Te Rauparaha and his braves, who most effectually annihilated the "native difficulty" in the Middle Island by annihilating the natives who were likely to create it.