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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)


page 427


THE THIRD EXPEDITION of Ngati-Porou to the Urewera Country, under Major Ropata Wahawaha and Captain Porter, started from Turanganui on the 14th January, 1871. The route taken was in the direction of Te Wera, the immensely broken country in which the Waioeka, the Hangaroa, and many other mountain-rivers have their sources. Te Rakiroa, the ex-Hauhau chief of Ngati-Kohatu, guided the column, which numbered about three hundred men. Several deserted camping-places were found in the great forest of Te Wera, but no definite trail was picked up. The force, after about three weeks' marching and searching, moved down into the upper valley of the Waioeka, and Captain Porter with eighty men went out to Opotiki for food-supplies. Ropata marched across the ranges to the Upper Waimana to meet Tamaikowha. After a korero with the savage chieftain of Ngai-Tama, who, as usual, made truculent speeches but ended the meeting with expressions of friendship, the united force marched into the ranges again, and at Tawhana and Te Kakari met the principal chiefs of the Urewera, who had declared that they would not allow booted feet to pass the boundaries of Maunga-pohatu. Ropata discovered that Te Kooti had been at the Tauaki settlement, a few miles from Te Kakari, some weeks previously; he was believed to be in a well-concealed refuge-place in the neighbourhood of Te Houpapa, at the head of the Hangaroa River. A track was picked up and followed, but the men were suffering from the lack of food, and Porter took a party out to Wairoa to procure biscuit for the main body. Supplies having been brought in, the search for Te Kooti was continued.

At Wairoa Lieutenant (afterwards Major) J. T. Large, who had seen some rough service in previous campaigns, and who was an excellent bushman and scout and a good Maori linguist, joined Porter's company as a volunteer, and served thenceforward in the expeditions to the Urewera Country. Describing the further operations of this expedition and the exceedingly rough conditions of bush campaigning, he wrote:—

page 428

“The Ngati-Porou were accustomed to take two or three week's rations with them when they went into the back country, and it was a sight to see their immense swags of food, clothes, and ammunition. I had to do likewise and carry a heavy pikau on my back. We had literally to be beasts of burden, for no horses, or even mules, could go through the country we were to traverse—high forest-clad ranges, with precipitous gorges and creeks, containing deep pools alternating with rapids and falls. Beyond the strip of occupied country next to the coast there were no tracks, and we had to force our way through high fern, scrub, or bush as best we could.

“We first went up the Wairoa River to Mangaaruhe, thence across the Orewha Ranges, descending to the Ruakituri River—a branch of the Wairoa—at Erepeti, where our advanced guard captured one of Te Kooti's followers named Tautata, who had been left behind. As far as he knew his leader was at Te Hou-papa, high up at the head of the Hangaroa. We accordingly made our way across the Waimaha country in that direction, much delayed by wet weather and floods, which made the fords of the creeks and rivers difficult and dangerous, so that we had to camp a good deal. By the time we got to Te Houpapa—one of Te Kooti's far-inland bush settlements—which we found deserted, our European rations (hard biscuit, bacon, sugar, cocoa, and tea) were done, though for some time past we had eked them out with bush food. The principal native edibles we had to depend on were aruhe (fern-root), which when roasted and beaten is not unpalatable to a hungry man; tawa berries, with a turpentine flavour, not nice; and whinau berries. The whinau (or hinau) pulp is of a floury nature when separated from the kernels by pounding; it was made into a sort of bread (called by the Urewera te whatu-nui-a-Rua), and when eaten with fat pork it was fairly nutritious, though coarse. Then there was the mamaku fern-tree, the pith of which when cooked in a native oven and flavoured with wild honey is not bad, though it has no strength in it. A rather good bush vegetable is the pikopiko, the curled shoots of the mauku fern. The natives have long given up the use of these bush foods; but we had on several expeditions to eat them or starve, and when we were on short commons we always had a raging appetite; in fact, we even enjoyed being roused up at night to munch a piece of boar's hide an inch thick when it had been boiled long enough for us to get our teeth through it. Our hunters who operated in the rear of the column caught many pigs, principally in the fern country.

“As we were disappointed at not finding Te Kooti at Te Houpapa, our leaders decided that the force should go out to Poverty Bay to recuperate after our hardships, and escape part page 429 of the winter. We accordingly marched out by way of Ngatapa. When skirting a high mountain named Moko-nui-o-rangi our vanguard captured a small party of the Poverty Bay Hauhaus in hiding, and their chief Tamati te Rangi-tuawaru. Their refuge-place was betrayed by the chattering of one of their pet kaka parrots. In one of the songs composed by the Ngati-Porou descriptive of our wanderings in the primeval forest this incident is alluded to as follows: He mokai kaka ka rangona te ngete-ngetetanga (The chattering of a pet kaka parrot was heard). We crossed the Makaretu, then went down the Whare-kopae, and out by the Waipaoa to Turanganui (Gisborne), where we rested and enjoyed good living after our hardships.”

The white officers in these expeditions observed many primitive customs among the Urewera people. Particularly interesting were the various devices by which the mountain tribes captured the birds of their forest-covered country. Major Large, describing these bird-taking methods, said: “The waka-kereru was perhaps the most common. This was simply a wooden trough filled with water, round the sides of which snares were fixed. These were tied up in the trees frequented by the native pigeon, and caught many when they came to drink. Then, there was the tutu-kaka. A handy tree was chosen, the small upper branches of which were cut short. On these were fixed perches, called mutu-kaka—carved, as a rule—on which rested loops of string arranged in such a way that when pulled taut by a man hidden in a leafy screen underneath they caught by the leg any unwary kaka that happened to light on the perch. A decoy bird served to entice his fellows. Smaller birds were killed with a long stick switched along a pole stuck in the ground at an angle of 45 degrees. A decoy bird was fastened to the upper end of this pole to attract the birds by its calls.”

In the chase after Te Kooti and his band in 1871 it was no easy matter keeping on the trail of these outlaws, who were thorough masters of bush craft. “They adopted all sorts of dodges to conceal their trail,” narrated Major Large. “One trick was to keep on wading in the bed of a creek, then step from the water on to a fallen tree, thus leaving no mark. But we had a splendid tracker named Kuare, who had been one of themselves, and he knew all their tricks, and when we lost the trail soon picked it up again. The slightest impression or discolouring on stone or wood, a broken leaf or twig, a bit of moss rubbed off, were sufficient for his practised eye. The Hauhaus also scattered in various directions, in order to mislead pursuit, coming together again at an appointed place.

“Wading in the water so much, crossing and recrossing creeks and rivers, we found the rapaki, or waist-shawl, infinitely superior page 430
Photo by Mr. A. N. Breckon] The Urewera Mountains

Photo by Mr. A. N. Breckon]
The Urewera Mountains

This view, in the central part of the Urewera Country, illustrates the extremely rugged character of the highland region through which the Government expeditions searched for Kereopa and Te Kooti, 1870–72.

page 431 to trousers. Our boots had eyelet-holes to let the water out, as it was impossible to keep the feet dry. And after wading all day perhaps in that high country, and having made our camp in the evening on the banks of a creek in the bush, we had to wait, often shivering, till after dark before we could light fires, and also had to put all fires out before daybreak to prevent our smoke betraying us to the watchful eyes of the enemy. And how we did enjoy the fires in our low-lying camps when wet and cold! The Maoris obtain kindling-wood in the most unpromising places. One capital fire, which did not take up much room, was the ahi poporo, being slips of rimu-bark bound in a bundle, like shingles, and lit on top. It burnt steadily downwards till there was nothing left, diffusing a generous warmth all round.”

The fourth expedition of Ngati-Porou, starting from Poverty Bay in June 1871, was divided into four companies of fifty men, each of which could work independently if necessary. The leaders were Ropata, Porter, Henare Potae,and Ruka Aratapu. After scouring the bush country about Whakapunake Mountain, the detachments marched in the direction of Te Wera, scouting a wide area of country and finding nothing of the Hauhaus but their abandoned camping-grounds. The food carried was soon exhausted, and the men were reduced to living on hinau berries, pounded up—a food hard to digest. The weather was wet and wintry—it was now the middle of June—and three men were lost in the bush and died from cold and exhaustion. The inhospitable recesses of Te Wera were again searched, but Te Kooti had deserted this part of the country. News came at last that he was near Waikare-moana, and the united column marched for Wairoa.

After resting there and obtaining supplies the force once more entered upon the toilsome chase. A hundred men under Ropata marched for the southern and western sides of Waikare-moana, while Captain Porter and Lieutenant Large with 150 men marched in the other direction, going up the Ruakituri and then striking towards Maunga-pohatu. Porter and Large were engaged on that march during August, when they were overtaken by Captain Preece, who gave the news of an engagement with Te Kooti a few days previously, and set them on the outlaw's trail once more. This engagement (Waipaoa) is described in the next chapter.