Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.
Chapter V. — The Raids of Te Rauparaha
The Raids of Te Rauparaha.
Away, away with sighs and tears,
Raise your war-cry, point your spears,
Onward, onward, vict'ry cheers,
Te Rauparaha is here.
At the time of Cook's visit to Queen Charlotte Sound that portion of Marlborough was, as we have seen, occupied by a number of tribes, the most powerful of which were the Rangitane, Ngatiara, and Ngatikuri. Their coming has already been described, by which it appears that their presence in the country was due to the many successive waves of victory and defeat, the working of the stern law of the survival of the fittest, which operated with relentless vigor amongst the Maori tribes of that day.
After the great navigator's departure, the tide of battle still continued to ebb and flow with varying intervals of peace, and there are not wanting piquant evidences of the frequency with which the war-clouds loomed page 183dark in the angry sky, for the old fortifications at the entrance of Tory Channel, Langley Dale and Kaikoura, were not the result of a mere whim on the part of the settled population, but the outcome of grim necessity, and so materially has the course of human events been altered by the gage of battles fought over the country between the Pelorus and Conway Rivers, that scarcely any traditions remain of the fluctuating fortunes of the tribes between the time of Cook's visits and the arrival of the English whalers.
Then the landscape of life is once more brought into focus, and towards the year 1824 we begin to get a glimpse of those wars that established the Ngatitoas as a section of the resident native people in the province. The central figure in these sanguinary struggles which bathed the land in blood was Te Rauparaha, a chief to whom Dryden's lines may be aptly applied:—
For close design and crooked counsel fit,
Sagacious, bold, and truculent of wit,
Restless, ambitious, subtle, sly, and base,
In power despotic—slavish in disgrace.
With the ambition of Alexander and the energy of Napoleon he had conceived and carried out the design of migrating with his people from Kawhia, and of conquering the country in the neighbourhood of Kapiti. His many fierce and bitter engagements against page 184the Muaupoko of Horowhenua, the Rangitane of Manawatu, and Ngatiapa of Rangitikei, in the process of his conquest, forms no part of our narrative, but by the time he and his handful of warriors had been in possession of the new land for four years they had met and defeated every individual tribe on the coast.
The leading chiefs of the opposing people now saw that their only hope of successful retaliation upon this victorious invader was to form a powerful alliance and crush him with one irresistible blow. The chief who formulated this design was Ratu, of the Muaupoko tribe, who had seen his people destroyed, and had the indignity of slavery heaped upon himself by Te Pehi, the uncle of Te Rauparaha.
By judgment and diplomacy Ratu at length, in 1826, succeeded in uniting all the discomfited tribes from Patea to Rangitikei on the north, Wairarapa on the east, and the Sounds and Kaikoura on the south. This vast army of men, to the number of two thousand, assembled at the appointed rendezvous, the right wing at Waikanae, the left at Otaki; and in the stillness of the night they started simultaneously for Kapiti, where the object of their hatred lay. But their proceedings were not conducted with over much caution, for the noise of their paddles, as they approached the land, awakened the chieftain page 185Nopera, who at once gave the alarm, and at four o'clock in the morning the battle commenced. Te Rauparaha was at Taipiri, at the other end of the island, whence a messenger had been despatched to inform him of the attack, but ere he could reach the scene of action his friends were being sorely worsted in the fight. At this stage a truce was asked for by Pokaitara, the Ngatitoa in command, who wished to gain time to admit of the arrival of his chief, and for a similar reason it was granted by Rangimairehau, who fondly hoped that when reinforced by the men who were still at sea in the canoes he would be able to for ever crush the pride of the haughty Ngatitoa. The terms of peace had scarcely been arranged when Rauparaha arrived upon the scene, and disdaining to recognise the truce entered into by his second in command, he recommenced the fight, and before the charges of his intrepid band, the allies broke and fled in defeat and disorder, whereupon the late Thomas Bracken, in his powerful poem descriptive of the Ngatitoa's famous march from Kawhia, has significantly remarked:—
The Tuis came the Hawk to kill,
And yet the Hawk is living still,
Although this battle of Waiorua occurred far from the shores of Marlborough, it was nevertheless destined to have an important page 186bearing upon its future history, for indirectly it was the cause of the many successive visits of devastation paid by Te Rauparaha to the province during the twenty years immediately prior to his abandonment of the glory and vanity of war; for when the fugitives from Kapiti reached their settlements on the Middle Island, and carried with them the marvellous tales of Te Rauparaha's prowess in battle, their stories only tended to engender even a greater feeling of hatred and jealousy than had existed before in the minds of the southern chiefs, and their impotent rage found expression in a vain and unfortunate boast made by Rerewaka, the chief of the Ngaitahu, who were then residing at Kaikoura.
* A shark's tooth fixed upon a stick, and used as a knife.
* The natives of the Ngaitahu tribe were in the habit of making regular excursions to the west coast of the Middle Island for the purpose of collecting greenstone with which to make their weapons, and at this time there was a large collection of the valuable jade at Kaikoura.
With this force, the largest and best equipped he had yet commanded, Rauparaha crossed the Strait, making his first port of call at Rangitoto (D'Urville Island). Here he found a section of the Rangitane tribe, who were the descendants of the people whom Cook had first met at Ship Cove, and who had now become powerful in the sense that they were numerous; but where the odds of skill and arms were against them, numbers only added to the sumptuous nature of the cannibal feast which followed the battle, for everywhere the islanders were defeated, and put to rout, many of them being eaten on the spot, and as many more carried back to page 189Kapiti, there to await the dictates of their captors' appetites, or if they were fortunate enough to have their lives spared their last condition was only one degree removed from the first, because their reprieve carried slavery and degradation with it.
Rauparaha, on this occasion, swept like a withering blast over the whole of the northern portion of the province, neither the seclusion of the Pelorus Sound, nor the inaccessibility of the Wairau and Awatere Valleys protecting the inhabitants from the rapaciousness of his warriors. Whether under ordinary circumstances he would have raided the Wairau during this campaign it is impossible to say, but as it was, he felt more than justified in doing so, for it had been reported to him that the Rangitane chief of the valley, Te Ruaoneone, whose pah, called Kowhai, was situated near the mouth of the Wairau River, had heaped a curse upon his head which called for prompt and vigorous action. As yet the Wairau natives had had no experience of Rauparaha's qualities as a fighting chief; but they had heard rumours, and listened to tales of his doings on the other Island, which, although painted in the glowing colours stories generally derive from imaginative narrators, were nevertheless regarded with contempt by many of the leading chiefs.page 190
Amongst these incredulous persons was Te Ruaoneone, who treated the matter so lightly as to remark that "Te Rauparaha's head would one day be beaten with a fern-root pounder." According to the tribal code there was only one way of dealing with a scoffer who could speak so contemptuously of a chief, and therefore when the natives of the Pelorus, D'Urville Island, and Totaranui had been hopelessly beaten, the canoes were ordered to the Wairau, where the boastful Ruaoneone had ocular demonstration of what manner of man Te Rauparaha was.
The fight, which took place on the land which is now enclosed within Bank farm, was soon over, and could only have one result. The Rangitanes were brave men, but their wooden weapons were useless against the muskets of the Ngatitoas, who succeeded in capturing Te Ruaoneone, and carried him as a slave to Kapiti, where he had time and opportunity to reflect upon his defeat, which Rauparaha appropriately, and not a little sarcastically, called tuki tuki patu aruhe, which signifies, "Beaten with a fern root pounder."
Nor was this merely a raid of bloodshed, for Rauparaha sought the opulence of additional territory, and he adopted the Roman principle of securing the fruits of his conquest by planting a colony of his tribe at every centre along the route of his victorious march, page 191the newcomers keeping as slaves the strong amongst the men, and the beautiful amongst the women of the tribes they vanquished. While the Ngatitoas were thus employed in subduing the second race of men in Marlborough, an event occurred which gave Rauparaha even greater mana amongst his own people, and added to his deadly reputation abroad. This was the arrival of his former comrade, Te Pehi Kupe, who had secreted himself on one of the whalers, and was by this means carried to England; where he had induced a section of people whose generosity was greater than their judgment or their knowledge of the native mind, to give him a large number of rifles and a corresponding supply of ammunition. Te Pehi now coalesced with the Ngatitoa, and with this valuable addition to his munitions of war Rauparaha felt more than equal to the task of carrying the battle to the gates of Kaikoura.
The importance of this achievement was fully celebrated during the next few days, with all the atrocities peculiar to cannibal feasts, and after the savage appetites of the victors had been surfeited with the flesh of their victims, and the nephritic treasures of the pah were collected, the war party returned to Kapiti, carrying Rerewaka and four hundred additional prisoners with them, who were to be killed and eaten at the leisure of their lords and masters. The majority of them in due course met this fate, Rerewaka himself being killed with especial marks of cruelty and indignity, because of the insulting nature of his language towards the Napoleon of the Ngatitoa tribe. In consideration of the circumstance which influenced this attack upon Kaikoura, the victory has ever since page 195been known as Niho Manga, or "the battle of the shark's tooth."
The following is the late Thomas Bracken's poetic rendering of this historic event:—
The conqueror's red eyes are now fixed on the distant coast,
For news has reached the victor's ears of Rerewaka's boast
That he, with tooth of shark, would rip Te Rauparaha in twain,
The hero cannot rest until this braggart chief is slain.
The war canoes are ready, and the warriors are here;
From Rangitoto, flushed with pride, to Kaikoura they steer.
Three hundred braves have landed, and sweep upon their foes,
As fiercely as the cataracts, fed by Mount Una's snows
Sweep wild through Spencer's mountain cleft, and down through Ada's vale!
The dying shrieks in chorus harsh are borne upon the gale.
Te Rauparaha has waded deep in boastful foemen's gore,
And Rerewaka's bones will bleach on Kapiti's shore.
Full fourteen hundred victims have been conquered in the fray,
The Niho Manga shall be famed in legend and in lay
For evermore, for there was tamed proud Rerewaka's pride.
After the humiliation of Rerewaka and his people at Kaikoura, Rauparaha's greatest ambition was to pit himself in battle against that section of the Ngaitahu tribe, who, under Rongotara and other powerful chiefs, held the strongly fortified pah at Kaiapoi; for like the great Alexander he ever longed for fresh conquests. But before he had a reasonable excuse for picking a new quarrel with this tribe, and so putting his design in execution, he had another opportunity of returning to Kaikoura to retrieve the dignity of himself and his friends.
The cause of this second invasion, like the previous one, was somewhat remote; but unlike page 196it, it arose rather out of a superabundance of love than of hate, the one being as dangerous to the public peace as the other when wrongly directed. The offence complained of was not committed against Rauparaha, but against his nephew Rangihaeata,* who afterwards played such an important part in the Wairau massacre. Rangihaeata was at this time a young man, rapidly rising into fame as a daring and successful warrior, and his place in the tribe naturally demanded that much of his time should be given up to the business of war, the result being that his domestic functions as the head of his household were sadly neglected.
* Rangihaeata was the son of Waitohi, Te Rauparaha's sister,
* The scene of this battle is now included within the sheep run of Mr Charles Goulter, and that gentleman has in his possession a large number of greenstone tools and weapons, which he has found since he settled there. Most of them were picked up on the sea beach at high water mark, suggesting that they were thrown into the sea, perhaps by the fugitives, to prevent them falling into the hauds of their enemies, and have since been washed up by the tide.
There are other traditions existing amongst the Maori tribes as to the death of Kekerengu; that of his own people, for instance, making it appear that, in consequence of the unsettled condition of affairs in the north, this chief, with one hundred of his followers, decided to cross over to Marlborough to settle amongst the Sounds; that shortly after his arrival he was murdered by a band of the Ngaitahu, who were roving over the country at the time; and that, although he had offended Rangihaeata, it was for the purpose of avenging his death that Rauparaha and his nephew paid this visit to the province. In all probability the Ngatitoa version of the incident is the correct one, as their account is the more circumstantial of the two, but in any case the result was the same, for it provided a pretext for a fight—an opportunity that was far too good to lose. The hero of this incident in all probability supplied the name for the well-known Kekerangu sheep Station, which was better known amongst the early shearers as "Keggerigoo."
Rauparaha, ever mindful of his repulse at Kaiapoi and the death of Te Pehi, was by no means inclined to rest quietly under the sense of injury caused by these misfortunes, and so he at once set about his preparations for another attack upon the southern Ngaitahu. This time, however, he adopted methods of a more civilised character to ensure success against his tribal enemy. The native canoe was discarded, and a brig named the "Elizabeth" was chartered to carry the war party page 200to Akaroa. But the incidents of this particular raid, which revealed Rauparaha as a crafty and bloodthirsty savage, do not immediately concern us; although indirectly they were the cause of an event of considerable import, as it was the one occasion on which this remarkable man seemed to be fairly within the clutches of death, and his escape might be accepted by the superstitious as an instance of Satan's solicitude for his own.
By a course of systematic treachery the chief at Akaroa had been captured and carried to Kapiti on board the "Elizabeth," and Tutehounuku, his son, recognising that his own people were not equal to the task of accomplishing vengeance, sought the aid of that Otago warrior Tuhawaiki, who, rightly or wrongly, received from the early whalers the startling appellation of "Bloody Jack."* This chief was a warrior of the progressive type, who at once saw the advantage of intimate intercourse with the pakeha, and to this end he made common cause with all the whalers stationed along the coast. He assisted them in their quarrels, and they in return supplied him with the implements of war necessary to overcome his tribal enemies.
* A name given to him not so much because of his sanguinary nature as of the lurid quality of his conversation. Having learnt most of his English from tho whalers and sealers, he had, amongst other words, picked up tho senseless adjective "bloody," which he was in tho habit of using upon every possible occasion, thereby acquiring a title which has now become historical.
* The old name of this lake was Kaparetehau, a name which was also applied by the Maoris to the whole of the Lower Awatere district, and which freely translated means "the wind will change." The Blind River was called Otuwheru, and Flaxbourne Stream— Waiarakiki "the water of the flax."
On reaching the canoe a general scramble ensued, in which only the fittest survived, the remainder being left struggling in the water to escape as best they could, or be despatched by their enemies as opportunity offered. In the meantime those of the Ngatitoa who had not been able to plunge into the sea were unceremoniously killed on the spot; and those of the attacking party who were not actively engaged in this sanguinary work at once launched the canoes lying upon the Boulder Bank which divides the lake from the sea, and set off in hot pursuit of the retreating Rauparaha.
As might be expected the chase was a desperate one, each party straining every nerve to defeat the object of the other, Rauparaha, standing in the stern of his canoe, by word and gesture urging the men at the paddles to renewed exertions; not that they required much exhortation, for they knew that their lives depended entirely upon themselves; but not-withstanding their utmost endeavours it soon became painfully evident that their pursuers were gaining on them, owing to the overloaded condition of the canoe. Rauparaha then determined upon a course which can scarcely recommend him to our admiration, although nature's first law of self-preservation page 204might be urged in extenuation of his crime, for, without further ceremony, he ordered half the people in the canoe, many of whom were women and children, to jump overboard, and those who demurred were forcibly compelled to obey. Thus relieved of some of its burden the canoe gradually forged its way ahead, and the pursuers, diverting their attention to the jettisoned passengers who were struggling in the water, enabled Rauparaha to make good his escape to Cloudy Bay.
The Ngaitahu people are especially proud of this encounter, which they regard as a brilliant victory, and have called it Rua Moa, or "the battle of the moa's feather."
It could not, of course, be supposed that a man of action such as Rauparaha was, would long remain idle while so black a stain upon his reputation as a warrior was still unavenged. He therefore lost no time in sending his messengers to a branch of the Ngatiawa tribe, who then resided at the Wairau, soliciting their aid in a mission of retaliation. The request was readily granted, and with thrs reinforcement a war party of considerable magnitude set sail in their canoes for the karaka groves which grew luxuriantly at O-Rua-Moa Bay, immediately to the south of Cape Campbell, where it was fully expected the enemy would be resting. In these anticipations they were disappointed, for the prey page 205had flown, and if the purpose of the expedidition was not to fail utterly, there was nothing for it but to push on until the object of their search was found. In this they were soon rewarded, for, close to the shore, at the mouth of the Flaxbourne River, Tuhawaiki and his braves were encamped, and here the gage of battle was thrown down. That the encounter was a desperate one may be judged by the fact that both sides claimed the victory, and they seemed to have withdrawn from the combat, mutually agreeing that they had each had enough.
According to the Ngaitahu account Rauparaha's stratagem of sending one hundred and forty men of the Ngatiawa tribe down the steep face of a cliff to cut off Tuhawaiki's retreat was successfully circumvented, the flanking party being caught in their own trap, and every one of them destroyed. The Ngatitoa are equally positive that the palm of victory rested with them, but in that event the advantage gained was not sufficiently great to justify them in following it up, for Tuhawaiki was allowed to depart next morning, unmolested, to Kaikoura. On the journey down an incident occurred which betrayed the savage nature of this man, and showed how much he deserved, in another sense, the title of the old whalers when they styled him "Bloody Jack." During the voyage the page 206canoe commanded by Tutehounuku, owing to faulty seamanship, was capsized, and the young chief was drowned, although every other man was saved. The selfishness of the men in seeking their own* safety and letting their leader perish so enraged the fiery Tuhawaiki that as soon as he heard of the accident, he ordered the canoes ashore, and with his own hand slew every one of the negligent and selfish crew.
* It is somewhat remarkable that a few years later "Bloody Jack" met a similar fate, near Timaru, to that of the chief whom he so avenged, for returning from Kaikoura one night in company with a young chief named Kopi, he mistook the passage in the dark and was capsized in the surf. His cries for help were heard by Kopi, who occupied another eanoe, but that young gentleman was annoyed at Tuhawaiki because he appropriated more than his fair share of the proceeds of a recent land sale, and so he left him to work out his own salvation, a feat which he failed to accomplish, and thus he perished.
The power of the Ngatitahu people was terribly shaken by the fall of this pah, but they still maintained their hostile attitude towards the Ngatitoa, and frequent skirmishes took place between them at various points along the coast, the last of which, a naval fight, took place at a spot near Port Underwood called Fighting Bay. Here a party of Ngaitahu under "Bloody Jack" again attacked some followers of Te Rauparaha, and claim to have defeated them with considerable slaughter. From this engagement the great chief only escaped by diving amongst his canoes into one of which he ultimately page 208climbed, and availing himself of a heavy mist which suddenly enveloped the scene of strife, he fled, and chivalrously (?) left his allies, the Ngatiawa warriors, to continue the unequal struggle alone. After the fight the bones of the victims were left to bleach upon the beach, where they were repeatedly seen by the first settlers at the Port.
To the Ngatitoa, under Rawiri Puaha, was given the fertile Wairau plain. The Ngatikuia hapu of the Ngatiawa went to the Pelorus Sound, while the Ngatikoata, Ngatihaumia and Ngatitumania settled at D'Urville Island. This, with the addition of a remnant of the Rangitane tribe, scattered over various districts, and a few of the Ngaitahu who had crept back to Kaikoura and re-occupied the country between the pah and the Clarence River, where their shell-heaps and kitchen middens are still to be seen in close proximity to the sea-shore, was the disposition of the native race when the first European settlers came to the province, and perhaps with slight variations these remain the standard divisions to the present day.