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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)



The principal source of danger in Parihaka, Taranaki, 1879–81, was the chief Te Whetu (“The Star”), who, unlike his superiors Te Whiti and Tohu, was eager for a renewal of war. The old tattooed tohunga Tautahi Ariki, or Tu-ahi-pa, went to Captain W. E. Gudgeon at the Pungarehu Armed Constabulary camp one day in 1881 and advised him that Te Whetu was “thirsty for war.” “Kia tupato,” said Tautahi; “beware of him; he is a toa, and wishes to fight.” Te Whetu was a young man and a firebrand, and Captain Gudgeon, realizing that his counsels were likely to provoke a conflict, in spite of the intense desire of Te Whiti for peace, determined to have him arrested. This was done, and a possible war-raiser was removed from the scene.

The late Colonel W. B. Messenger, narrating (1918) the incidents of the invasion of Parihaka, said:—

“When affairs became critical on the Waimate Plains I was sent for, like Northcroft on the Bench, to leave my farm at Pukearuhe and take charge of 120 Armed Constabulary for Parihaka. Lieut.-Colonel Roberts was in command of the whole force. Although the older Maoris in Parihaka were anxious for peace, there were many young men in the place who wished to fight, and the danger was that one of these would precipitate a battle by firing a shot. When we marched on Parihaka on the 5th November, 1881, their attitude of passive resistance and patient obedience to Te Whiti's orders was extraordinary. There was a line of children across the entrance to the big village, a kind of singing class directed by an old man with a stick. The children sat there unmoving, droning away, and even when a mounted officer galloped up and pulled his horse up so short that the dirt from its forefeet spattered the children they still went on chanting, perfectly oblivious, apparently, to the pakeha, and the old man calmly continued his monotonous drone.

“I was the first to enter the Maori town with my company. I found my only obstacle was the youthful feminine element. There were skipping-parties of girls on the road. When I came to the first set of girls I asked them to move, but they took no notice. I took hold of one end of the skipping-rope, and the girl at the other end pulled it away so quickly that it burnt my hands. At last, to make a way for my men, I tackled one of the rope-holders. She was a fat, substantial young woman, and it was all I could do to lift her up and carry her to one side of road. She made not the slightest resistance, but I was glad to drop the buxom wench. My men were all grinning at the spectacle of their captain carrying the big girl off. I marched them in at once through the gap and we were in the village. There were six hundred women and children there, and our reception was perfectly peaceful. We drafted all the women and children out on to a hillside after the arrest of Te Whiti and Tohi. Orders had been given that no Maori property was to be touched, but I page 518 know there was a good deal of looting—in fact, robbery. Many of our Government men stole greenstones and other treasures from the native houses; among them were some fine meres.