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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)



One of the soldiers' bodies was cooked and eaten. Pou-whareumu Toi, who witnessed the feast on human flesh, said when he pointed out the place where the cannibals of the bush sat down to their meal: “The body, which was cooked in a large umu (earth-oven), was that of a stout man (he tangata momona). It was eaten on the marae by the people, after it had been carried up in baskets, to the accompaniment of a chant by the bearers. The principal men who ate the human flesh were the old priest Tautahi Ariki (or Tu-Ahi-pa), Kai-taua, and Tohi. Many others shared in the meal. Some abstained, because they were tapu.

Kimble Bent, in narrating this episode, said that he saw the tohunga Wairau and Katene Tu-whakaruru enjoying the manmeat, which was eaten with potatoes. Katene joined in the meal, partly out of feelings of revenge for the killing of one of his children by a Wanganui Maori. Titokowaru himself abstained from human flesh for the reason that the eating of it would impair his mana tapu, his personal sanctity. Describing the process of cooking the body, Bent said:—

“I watched the preparation of the body of the white soldier for the warrior's feast. The head was first cut off with a tomahawk, and then the body was cut open and prepared as a butcher prepares a beast he has killed. The body was laid on the red-hot stones in the bottom of the haangi or umu (the earth-oven) so that the outer skin could be scraped off easily. This was done by the cannibal cooks with sharp cockle-shells. Water was then poured over the hot stones, to create the steam which was to cook the meal, and green leaves were spread on top of the stones, then the man-meat was placed in the oven. The body was cut up into convenient portions, and arranged so as to cook thoroughly. The oven was 5 feet long and about 3 feet deep, and there were several layers of meat, with green page 219 leaves between each. Some of the pieces, such as the rib portions, were set on edge, with hot stones between them. The thickest pieces were the meat cut from the thighs, the huha. The hands were laid with the palms uppermost, because when they were cooked they curled up, and the hollow palm was full of hinu or gravy, which was a great delicacy to the olden Maori. Mats and other coverings were laid on top again and more water poured over them, and then the earth was laid over all, so that no steam was permitted to escape. The body of the pakeha took between two and three hours to cook. Then the oven was uncovered and the contents carried up to the marae in small flax baskets with kumara and fern-root.” “It was usual, too,” added the old pakeha-Maori, “to cook some pikopiko, the young curly fronds of the mauku, or ground-fern, with the meat; it added to its flavour.”

It was customary also to use panahe roots, steamed, as a corrective for the meat. The panahe is the wild convolvulus; its roots are long and thin, somewhat like macaroni, and are slightly bitter in taste.

The Battlefield To-day

The battlefield of Te Ngutu-o-te-manu, which is reached by the Ahi-paipa or Tempsky Road from the Township of Okaiawa, is a public reserve of 50 acres, partly in grass and partly covered with a tall growth of mahoe trees, exotic pines, and oaks. The greater part of the reserve is leased for grazing. Some of the rata stumps and logs lie rotting on the ground under the shade of the new growth of mahoe, which now covers part of the clearing entered by the colonial troops in 1868. Many of these mahoe or whitewood trees (so called because of their gleaming white bark and trunks) are, however, more ancient than the period of the war. The domain, sacred to the memory of a score of colonial soldiers, is entered by a road beneath an overarching thicket of ancient whitewoods, their venerable trunks and twisted limbs glimmering ghostly in the shades. This is part of a belt of mahoe which marks the southern end of the Hauhau clearing made in 1866–68. The belt extends eastward into a grassy paddock; there the land is slightly higher than the green expanse of turf where the soldiers' monument stands, bounded on the west and north-west by a strip of timber and a little half-dry stream, the historic Mangotahi. A monument to Von Tempsky and his comrades stands near the northern end of the park, some little distance from the spot where they fell. North of the monument is a plantation bordering the grass field. In this woodland there are some huge mahoe; one is just such a tree as that in which Kimble Bent took shelter from the fire of the troops when hurrying from the pa on the morning of the attack. It is a twisted, knotty old wizard of a whitewood, its trunk hung with moss and ferns, and in its butt a hollow large enough to conceal one or two men. At the base it was about 8 feet through, a mass of misshapen roots and buttresses. Beyond this pine and mahoe wood again is a paddock in which there are many traces of Titokowaru's war-camps.

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The old man Pou-whareumu Toi, of Weriweri Village, went with me to Te Ngutu-o-te-manu on the 15th October, 1918, and described many incidents of the fight. He was a child in the pa in 1868, and although he did not actually witness the attack on the stockade, as he was sent out with the women and children to a safe place in the forest, he saw all the afterevents, including the burning of the fallen soldiers’ bodies and the cannibal meal on the day after the battle. Pou described the fortifications, which were not formidable, and could have been taken by a determined assault. “The pa,” he said, “had a stockade, ditch, and low parapet. The ditch was outside the tall stockade of totara timber, and the parapet, just inside the fence, was formed with the earth thrown up by the diggers. The trench surrounded the greater part of the pa; it was not dug on the west side, where the Mangotahi Stream, with its abrupt bank, closely approached the stockade. On a low hillock on the west, just above the stream, was Titokowaru's dwelling.”

The domain caretaker's bungalow cottage, its veranda festooned with passion-flower and honeysuckle, fronts the site of the olden marae, the village square or campus. At one side of this marae, according to the old chief, stood the large assembly hall Wharekura, Titokowaru's sacred house of incantation and exhortation. It was built of sawn timber, and was adorned with a carved front and lined with ornamental reedwork.

“The place where Von Tempsky was killed,” said Pou, “was not at the monument, as some suppose. It was over here,” and the old man walked to the north end of the pa, past the slight rise in the ground where the rear palisade stood. Passing through a low hedge which crosses the reserve here, Toi looked about him for the stumps of the great rata trees of 1868. He pointed out the stump of one, sawn across, just above the bank of the creek near the little footbridge to the park playing-lawns. The other tree for which he was searching formerly stood, he said, in the plantation to the east, near a large cabbage-tree to which he pointed. In those two trees Maoris were posted as sentries—the inner one was the principal lookout place—and as sharpshooters. “But it was not they who shot Manu-rau” (Von Tempsky), said Pou, confirming the narratives of Tutange Waionui and others. “The chief of the soldiers was killed by men who were crouching on the ground outside the pa, just under the little fall of ground at the creek-side. It was Te Rangi-hina-kau who shot Von Tempsky; with him were Wairau and others. Kaake, an old tattooed warrior from Araukuku, was shot by the troops at the end of the pa.

“Many of the pakehas were ignorant of the ways of war,” said Pou. “They came marching along upright, staring about them in amazement, very unlike the Maoris, who skirmished crouching, keenly searching the undergrowth, sinking to the ground for cover, and fighting nearly naked.

“There were only thirty or forty men in the pa at the beginning of the fight,” Pou declared. “The rest had gone out to shoot cattle inland in the direction of Te Rua-ruru, two or three miles away. They heard the firing, and dashed back and caught the troops in a cross-fire, hence the defeat and retreat of the whites.”

The place where the bodies of about twenty soldiers were burned in a funeral pyre was pointed out. It was outside the pa stockade on a maara or cultivation, clear of bush, where the plantation now is, south of the village. The spot is on the right-hand side as the domain is entered from the road. “A great fire was made with tawa logs and other timber, and when it blazed up and began to consume the bodies we children were stricken with awe and fear.”

I explored the battle-ground on other occasions (1919 and 1920) with Mr. William Wallace, of Hawera (ex-sergeant, No. 2 Division, Armed Constabulary). Mr. Wallace, the son of a soldier of the 65th Regiment, fought in the first engagement at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu as one of the Wellington page 221 Rangers. He was of opinion that the great house Wharekura which was burned by the troops that day was in the north end of the large clearing, a considerable distance from the park marae where the soldiers' monument stands. The site of an unusually large house was traced in the grass paddock on the north or Egmont side of the plantation, close to an angle formed by two thorn hedges. This ground was a clearing in 1868, with whares scattered about it. A short distance northward again, around the head of the Mangotahi watercourse, now almost dry, there were numerous remains of olden dug-in huts and food-stores. This is where the log-hut village previously decribed stood in 1866.

While the veteran recounted those events of half a century ago we explored the clearing and the adjacent bush and fields, and found numerous traces of the olden village. On the north-eastern side of the reserve, in a paddock through which the head of the little stream Mangotahi runs, a farmer's cows were grazing peacefully over the field where Titokowaru's warriors met the whites in battle. Just north of the creek, where the log-hut kainga of 1866 stood, there were numerous depressions in the turf indicating the sites of old-time whares dug into the earth for greater warmth and snugness, and for defence. There were also hollows indicating the ruas, or store-pits, for potatoes. Near the creek were the softly grassed ruins of a parapet and rifle-pit commanding the crossing-place. Numerous rotting stumps of matai (black-pine) showed the heavy character of the bush which formerly covered the spot.

On the opposite or southern side of the now dry watercourse—it is near its head—many slight depressions and undulations in the turf marked the site of the old-time refuge-place and gathering-ground of the Hauhaus. In the middle of the track across the paddock the foot struck against smooth stones embedded in the ground, and a little investigation showed that these formed the taku-ahi, or hearthstone, which formerly occupied the centre of a whare. All had mouldered away, except, close by, two decaying butts of matai posts on opposite sides of the site of a dug-in hut. Dairy herds chew placidly in the midst of this conquered sanctuary of the rebel Ngati-Ruanui; and the unheeding foot of the white farmer passes over the long-quenched home fires of the bushmen, whose ashes have been scattered to the winds that have free passage over the plains, for the forest that was their help and refuge has wellnigh all been hewn away.

Von Tempsky's Sword

One day in the early “eighties,” long after the war, Kimble Bent visited some of his acquaintances in Parihaka; they lived in a whare by the side of the road which led through the village. As he entered the house, stepping over the high paepae or threshold, one of them seated within the house said to him, “You have crossed a very rich threshold” (“He paepae whai-taonga”).

“What do you mean?” asked Bent.

“Beneath that beam of wood,” replied the Maori, “there lies the sword of ‘Manu-rau.’”

This was the truth. The owner of the whare had become possessed of Von Tempsky's sword, which was preserved as a sacred relic, a taumahatanga, or offering to the gods. It was not displayed in public, but was placed beneath the threshold, to which in Maori eyes a kind of sanctity attached, and beneath which valuable relics were often placed, to assure the security of the house and occupants. The sword was carefully greased and wrapped in flannel before it was laid in its resting-place. Some years later it was buried in the grave in which its Hauhau owner was laid, and there it lies to this day.