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Sir Donald Maclean

Chapter XIX — Long-Handled Tomahawks — The Hauhaus of Poverty Bay

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Chapter XIX
Long-Handled Tomahawks
The Hauhaus of Poverty Bay

Message from half-caste friendly at Turanga, Poverty Bay, 8 August 1865, to Mr. Donald Maclean: “The Hauhaus again profess the best intentions towards the settlers and government natives. I hear, however, the Patutahi men are making long handles for their tomahawks.”

The condition of affairs in the Poverty Bay district was Maclean's next military problem. The Pai-marire crusade had been so successful there that quite three-fourths of the population had turned against the Government and the country was in a ferment of war preparations. Most of the Pai-marire disciples, chiefly members of the Rongo-whakaata and Aitanga-a-Mahaki, gathered in fortified pas. The principal fortification in which they entrenched themselves was Waerenga-a-Hika pa, a large stockaded position on level ground, a short distance from the English mission house, about five miles from the present town of Gisborne—then a pakeha–Maori settlement known as Turanganui. Some distance inland were two other stockaded villages, Puke-amionga and Kohanga-Karearea (“The Sparrowhawk's Nest”).

Mr. Maclean had urged upon the Government the necessity of combating the spread of Hauhauism down the East Coast, and he went up to Tuparoa to enlist the aid of Ngati-Porou in the movement against the Poverty Bay strongholds. He also arranged for a European force to go up from Hawke's Bay, and H.M.S. Brisk in October 1865, landed at Turanganui a detachment of the Hawke's Bay Cavalry (Colonial Defence Corps) under Captain La Serre and some Military Settlers under Lieut. Wilson. The East Cape Expeditionary Force under Major Fraser and Captain Biggs page 82 was also transferred to the new scene of operations. Mr. Maclean found his friends, Hotene Porourangi and Ropata Wahawaha, ready to co-operate with him and they and three hundred Ngati-Porou volunteered and were taken to the bay by steamer. At Turanganui Maclean sent messages by Hauhau chiefs to the rebel sections of Rongowhakaata and Aitanga-a-Mahaki, warning them that unless they came in and made submission to the Government they would be attacked and deprived of their lands and homes. This offer met with no response, and Major Fraser was then directed to attack Waerenga-a-Hika. He took up positions on three sides of the pa with his force totalling about 400 pakehas and Maoris. The Hauhau pa consisted of three lines of defence—the outer stockade (wita), the main fence (tuwa-tawata), and the earth breastwork (parepare). The wita was a sloping fence, about six feet high, its top nearly touching the tuwatawata, its base inclining outward two feet or three feet. Only the main timbers of the wita were in the ground; the rest of the stakes did not touch the earth, but left an opening of about a foot at the bottom as firing-space for the riflemen behind the tuwatawata, which was a stout palisade ten feet high. Inside it was the earth breastwork.

Fighting began in the middle of November 1865. The siege occupied seven days. The Hauhaus fought with fanatic desperation. One day they charged out on the troops in three bodies, yelling their Pai-marire war-cries. There was close-quarters fighting ending in the repulse of the Hauhaus, who left about sixty of their number lying on the field. At last a small field-gun, a six-pounder from the Government steamer Sturt, was turned on the stockade. After the second shot the garrison—which had not expected its foes to use artillery—hoisted a white flag and surrendered. Four hundred men laid down their arms.

This success, due to Maclean's prompt action, had its result in the complete pacification of the Poverty Bay district. The Government released most of the prisoners and allowed them to go to their homes. Some were kept in custody and were presently shipped off to Wharekauri, page break
Sir R. D. Douglas Maclean. only Son of Sir Donald Maclean Born 1852. died 1929.

Sir R. D. Douglas Maclean. only Son of Sir Donald Maclean
Born 1852. died 1929.

page break page 83 Chatham Islands, which for the next three years was a place of exile for political prisoners.

It was at Waerenga-a-Hika that a man of the Rongo-whakaata tribe who afterwards set the colony in a turmoil, and made desperate war on the whites and the pro-Government Maoris, first comes into our story. This was Te Kooti Rikirangi, a name of dread and execration for many a year. He was at that time serving on the Government side and was made a prisoner by one of the friendly chiefs, who said that Te Kooti had been removing the bullets from his cartridges and firing only blank at the enemy. He was also accused of being in communication with the Hauhaus. Rikirangi, as he was generally known at that time, denied the charges, and was released. Later, however, he was arrested on other charges, and although not convicted or even brought to trial, was regarded as too turbulent and unreliable a character to be at liberty, and was therefore sent off to Wharekauri with other prisoners of war. He protested vigorously, and at Napier appealed to Mr. Maclean. Maclean, however, accepted the opinion of Captain Biggs and others, including Captain Read, the principal trader at Poverty Bay, and refused to order his release.

There is little doubt that Te Kooti was a troublesome character, and probably Turanganui was the better for his absence, but there is also little doubt that his personal enemies, of whom Read was one, and who included several friendly chiefs, were the chief instruments in securing his imprisonment. It was often convenient to be a Government supporter in those days. Some of the friendly chiefs who were most active on the white Queen's side simply espoused that cause for the purpose of gratifying their hatred for hereditary enemies. Te Kooti Rikirangi was not a man of importance at the time of his exile, when as he narrated in after years he was “driven like a dog to the boat” (“whiua kuritia ki te poti”), but he became a religious and political leader in Chatham Island, and long brooding over his misfortunes converted him into a fierce and desperate foe. It was a mistake and an injustice to exile him without proper trial—an injustice which affected many others also—and this page 84 injustice was aggravated by the indeterminate character of the punishment.

For that prolonged detention on distant Wharekauri, Maclean was not responsible. He indeed urged that the prisoners should be allowed to return and resume their old tribal life on their ancestral lands, after a certain area had been taken as a punishment for rebellion. But the Native Minister of the day, Mr. Rolleston, although he visited Chatham Island in 1868, was deaf to the appeals of the exiles. The rising and escape of the prisoners and a series of raids and massacres were the direct result of this policy of injustice and delay, and of the hope deferred that sickened the Maori heart.

In 1866 there was a brief Paimarire rising in the Wairoa Valley, Hawke's Bay, extending from the coast to Lake Waikaremoana. The combined force of Europeans and Maoris of the Ngati-Porou tribe presently quelled this trouble in several sharp engagements. Ropata Wahawaha was the leading soldier on the Government side.