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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)


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IN THE CAMP of refuge in the deep forest of Tahora one of Te Kooti's daily petitions appropriate to his condition was the 64th Psalm. “Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer,” he recited; “preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.” The fugitive chief was preparing one of those arrows; presently he launched it, a kokiri against the pakeha and the friendly Maoris on the Bay of Plenty plains.

With recruits from the Urewera and Whakatohea Tribes, Te Kooti gradually restored his shattered forces, and in March, 1869, he made his first attack on the Bay of Plenty settlements. Marching down the headwaters of the Waioeka, he crossed over to the Waimana, and emerging on the alluvial plain of the Whakatane at Ruatoki he set about his work of bloodshed and plunder in the territory of Ngati-Pukeko. This tribe, whose lands bounded those of Tuhoe at Taneatua, on the Waimana, was comparatively rich in horses and cattle, and cultivated wheat and maize largely, and its villages and the seaport settlement of Whakatane, where a section of the Ngati-Awa Tribe lived, were tempting objectives for plunder.

The Hauhaus first visited Ohiwa Harbour, where a party raided the friendly natives, and a surveyor, Mr. Pitcairn, was killed on Uretara Island, where he was camped shooting kuaka (godwit). Wi Piro and Rangi-tahau were in this band.

At the Ruatoki settlements Te Kooti was hospitably received by the Urewera, and many men joined him there for his attack on Ngati-Pukeko and the port township at Whakatane. Among those who had lately reinforced his fighting band was the chief Wirihana Koikoi, of Taupo. The Hauhaus then advanced on Rauporoa pa, Te Kooti detaching a party to take the flour-mill and small redoubt at Te Poronu. These operations will be described in detail.

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About three miles and a half south of Whakatane Town, close to the main road leading to Taneatua and Waimana can be seen the grassy mounds which indicate the site of an old Maori flour-mill, driven by water, and a small redoubt which stood alongside it. This spot, Te Poronu, was the scene in 1869 of an heroic fight against overwhelming odds, one of the most valiant defences in the Maori wars. The site of the historic mill is on “Mill Farm,” a beautiful area of level land between the steep hills on the east and the Whakatane River. Crops of maize and potatoes grow luxuriantly in the surrounding paddocks, and the olden mill mound and the adjacent earthworks of the little square redoubt are covered knee-deep in grass and clover. A small clear stream, the Poronu, crosses the main road a hundred yards away and flows down on the east side of the mill-site; a venerable willow-tree on the opposite bank will help the traveller to fix the spot. This stream was dammed by the building of a bank across the shallow valley, and a large pond was formed above the mill, extending up towards the present road-line. This dam supplied the water which turned the mill-wheel, and there was a spillway between the mill and the redoubt; this was crossed by a plank serving as a bridge. Another flood spillway was cut on the other side of the redoubt.

The mill was built about 1867 to grind into flour the wheat largely grown by the industrious Ngati-Pukeko. The machinery was a gift from the Governor, Sir George Grey; a considerable sum of money was expended under his régime in supplying the native tribes with flour-mills and other appliances of civilization. To supervise the construction of the mill and to work it when complete the tribe employed a Frenchman named Jean Guerren. Captain Gilbert Mair, N.Z.C., who knew Guerren well, describes him as a man of about forty-five years of age at this time, short and stout; he was very neat and methodical in his habits. He was an excellent mechanic; his mill and his little house which stood alongside it on the mound were models of efficiency and neatness. There was a garden of old-fashioned flowers, and there was also a little vineyard, from the produce of which Jean made wine for his household and his pakeha guests. His Maori wife, a young woman named Erihapeti (Elizabeth)—called “Peti,” for short—was the daughter of Manuera Kuku, a chief of the Warahoe Tribe, of the Upper Rangitaiki. With them was Peti's sister Monika, whose name was usually abbreviated to “Nika” she was a pretty girl of sixteen or seventeen. Jean had lately been living at Otipa, on the Rangitaiki River, near the foot of Mount Edgecumbe, where he had been trading, and had built page 316 a similar mill for the Warahoe. The Maoris called him Hoani te Wiwi (“John the Frenchman”).

About the end of 1968 the military authorities sent a detachment of Armed Constabulary out to Poronu and built a small redoubt as a means of defence for the mill; the Ngati-Pukeko had appealed for protection in consequence of threats to burn the place having been made by the Hauhaus of Ruatoki and other Urewera settlements. This was the result of Heketoro's fight and escape, an affair which occured at Puketi, an ancient hill fort which stands a short distance south of the present Township of Taneatua. Heketoro and a companion had escaped after a remarkable adventure, in which a leding chief of the Urewera was killed. The Armed Constabulary garrison was soon removed, and when Te Kooti swooped down from the mountains the place was in a defenceless condition.

A pitiful incident marked the march of the Hauhau war-party on Rauporoa and the mill. At Te Puapua, the advance-guard, headed by Te Makarini te Waru, a stoud reddish-haired almost Eskimo-featured Tuhoe warrior, suddenly came upon a woman in their path. She was a handsome young chieftainess named Ripeka Kaaho, the niece of a friendly chief named Tahawera. She had a number of pet pigs, and these she was feeding with boiled potatoes, some distance from her village. It was considered ill-luck for a war-party to spare any person whom they met on their path when engaged in an expedition of this kind, even through the stray person encountered was one of their own tribe. In this case the girl belonged to the Ruatoki people—in fact, her own brother Te Tupara (“The Double-barrel Gun”) Kaaho, of the Tuhoe Tribe—he is still living at Ruatoki—was one of the foremost young warriors in the ope. Te Makarini, the leader, was the girl's brother-in-law; his wife was her sister Rora.

The war-party, after seizing the girl, took her back to Te Hurepo, near Te Pa-a-te-Kapu, and sent back word to Te Kooti that a prisoner had been taken. “We have caught Tahawera's daughter: what shall we do with her?” The savage chief's epigrammatic reply was delivered by his chief lieutenant, the half-caste Peka Makarini (Baker McLean): “He maroro kokoti ihi waka-taua” (“A flying-fish crossing the bows of the war-canoe”). This figurative expression, anciently brought by the Maori ancestors from the tropic South Seas, likens to the luckless flying-fish striking the bow of a war-party. It meant that the girl must die. Thereupon she was killed with stone patu and tomahawk by two of her close relatives. This terrible deed did not content some of the savages of the ope; they must needs page 317 chop the poor girl's body into pieces, which they threw to her own pigs.*

Continuing their march the Hauhaus laid siege to Rauporoa pa, after being balked in their first attempt to capture it by treachery. Meanwhile a special war-party (kokiri) of a hundred men, under Wirihana Koikoi, a big tattooed fellow, was despatched to attack the mill. It happened that at this juncture there were only seven or eight people in the redoubt and mill, including besides Jean and his wife and sister-in-law, a young man named Tautari and a dumb man of weak intellect named Te Mauriki—both of the Ngati-Pukeko Tribe. There were also two women, one named Maria te Ha (wife of Kaperiera) and the other Pera. Most of these people were in the redoubt, but Jean, on seeing the approach of the armed Hauhaus, remained in his mill, which he determined to defent to the utmost, while the others shut the gate of the redoubt and prepared for the hopeless task of holding it against the kokiri.

Jean possessed a good double-barrel gun and plenty of ammunition, and when firing began he gave the enemy a taste of his marksmanship. The attack was opened from the edge of a terrace on the hillside about 300 yards north of the mill. Here the Hauhaus dug a row of shallow rifle-pits; these can still be seen, though partly filled and grass-grown, on the roadside, on the right hand (west) going out from Whakatane by the main road to Taneatua. Jean was a dead shot, and he made the position there too warm for his enemy. After each shot the Hauhau snipers kept their heads up above the trench to observe the effect, and that was the Frenchman's opportunity. Firing through his loopholes he shot several Maoris, most of them, it is said, through the head. The Hauhaus then drew off into the bush and fired volleys into the mill from a higher level on the hillside. Jean was supported by Tautari and the

* The place where this tragedy occurred, Te Hurepo, is a curious little artificial island pa in the swamp, just below the ancient hill fort called Te Pa-a-te-Kapu, seven miled from Whakatane, on the right hand (east) side of the road to Taneatua. It was built, say the Maoris, ten generations ago (250 years) as a place of refuge and security by the Ngati-te-Kapu, a hapu of Tuhoe, whose principal fort was on the trenched hill opposite. The land on the flat, now drained, was then a deep swamp, and this islet of refuge was formed by carrying earth in baskets from the east side of Te Pa-a-te-Kapu Hill, about a hundred yards away. The excavation in the side of the hill is still to be seen; the present road passes close under the hill-cutting, and the island, a low oval mound in the reclaimed swamp, is seen a little over a chain from the opposite side of the road. The artificial islet was surrounded by a line of fern-tree trunks and was then stockaded. In later times it was used as a cultivation plot. To this mound in the morass Ripeka was taken for execution after her capture at Te Puapua.

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Sketch-plan by J. Cowan, 1919] Rauporoa Pa, Attacked by Te Kooti, 1869

Sketch-plan by J. Cowan, 1919] Rauporoa Pa, Attacked by Te Kooti, 1869

others in the redoubt, who had five guns. The sisters Peti and Nika handed out cartridges and helped to load.

For two days the little garrison in the mill and the redoubt kept the Hauhaus off. The defence was so active and well sustained that the raiders imagined at first that there was a considerable number of men in the place. At last, however, when the Hauhaus ascended the near hills of the range on the eastern side of the valley, a few hundred yards from the mill, and were able to see down into the redoubt they discovered the weakness of the garrison. The attack was then pressed home. The Hauhaus skirmished up close to the walls. While some tried to set fire to a large raupo hut which occupied the middle of the redoubt, others endeavoured to scale the parapets. Jean was forced to abandon the mill, and rushed into the redoubt to join his people. For a time he defended the gateway, a narrow opening on the east side of the work; then he was shot and fell dead across the entrance which he had held with such valour. Before he fell he killed Wirihana Koikoi and another chief, Paora Taituha. Now the Hauhaus swarmed over the earth walls in through the gateway to tomahawk the hapless defenders. Two of the garrison, of whom Te Mauriki the heahea (half-witted person) was one, jumped the rear parapet and ran towards the Whakatane River and Raupora. Mauriki escaped; the other was page 319 overtaken and tomahawked. A few moments after Jean was killed, his wife Peti and Nika were surrounded by the murderous gang of savages. Peti flung herself down and clasped the knees of the man who had seized her, Te Rangihiroa, from Tarawera (on the Taupo-Napier track), begging him to save her and her sister. Rangihiroa protected her and the sister for the time; the others were killed.

After the sacking and burning of the mill, Rangihiroa took his captives across the Whakatane to the leader's camp before Rauporoa pa. When it was reported to Te Kooti that he had saved two women, the ruthless leader sent for him and ordered him to take Peti as his wife and to kill her sister. The young girl had refused to tell where the Frenchman had hidden his gunpowder [Jean had buried it under a whare.] So little Nika was tomahawked by Te Rangihiroa, who took Peti to Tarawera after the Whakatane raid. She lived there with him until her death a few years ago.*

The kokiri lost about seven killed. A few days after the fight, Captain Mair found the bodies of Wirihana Koikoi and Paora Taituha in the mill-dam.

No stone, no memorial of any kind, marks the spot defended by “John the Frenchman” with such heroic valour. In a few years, but for this record, the memory of Jean Guerren's gallant stand would have perished. New Zealand should mark as one of its national monuments the ground made sacred by the story of a brave son of France, who defended his post to the death.

* Captain Mair wrote from Tauranga (14th February, 1923): “There was a most pathetic and pitiful scene when Te Rangihiroa approached to carry out Te Kooti's cruel sentence. Twisting the thong of his hatchet round his wrist, he called out, ‘Tu mai, e Monika!’ (‘Stand up, Monika!’) The poor girl flung her arms about her weeping sister, asking, ‘E Peti, tena e roa te whakamamaetanga?’ (‘O Betty, will the suffering be long?’) ‘Kaore,’ answered Peti, ‘he poto noa iho’ (‘No, it will be quite brief’). Then the girl said, ‘Mau e pupuri i oku ringaringa kia manawanui ai ahau’ (‘Hold you my hands that I may have courage’). Peti did so, averting her face while the terrible blow fell.”