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The Adventures of Kimble Bent

Chapter VIII — The Hauhau Council-Town

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Chapter VIII
The Hauhau Council-Town

Life in Taiporohenui—A great praying-house—The ritual of the Niu—Singular Hauhau chants—“Matua Pai-mariré”—Bent's new owner, and his new wife—The tattooers—Another white renegade

Another summer came, and the crops were gathered in, and the men of Tito's hapu, after nearly a year of comparative peace, wearied for the war-path again. Rimatoto and other small bush-hamlets were deserted, and the tribes gathered in, bearing their food supplies to the Hauhau council-village of Taiporohenui—close to where the town of Hawera now stands. Taiporohenui was a famous name—a word of mana, as the Maori would say—amongst all the tribes from Whanganui to Waikato. The name, say the wise men of Taranaki, goes back far beyond the days of the later Maori migration to New Zealand, in the canoes Aotea, Tokomaru, Tainui, and other Polynesian Viking ships. It was that of a great temple in Tahiti, in the tropic isles of the Hawaiikian seas, countless generations ago. And in this latter-day Taiporohenui the Maoris, mindful of their ancient traditions, built another temple.

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This Hauhau praying-house and council-hall, constructed of hewn timber with raupo-reed walls and nikau-thatch roof, is described by Bent as the largest building of native construction that he had seen. It was about one hundred and twenty feet in length, and was of such exceptional size that the ridge-pole was supported by four poutoko-manawa, or pillars, instead of one or two, as in the ordinary Maori meeting-house; there were five fires burning in it at night, in the stone fireplaces down its long central aisle; on either side were the mat-covered restingplaces of the people. The timbers of the house were of the durable totara pine. The inside was lined with beautiful tukutuku work, of kakaho reeds and thin wooden lathes artfully fastened with kiekie fibre, arranged in many handsome geometrical patterns. Beneath the first large poutoko-manawa in the house was buried a large piece of greenstone in the rough, the whatu, or “luck-stone,” of the sacred house. It was the Maori custom when the centre-pole of a large meeting-house or the first big palisade-post of a fort was set in position, to place a piece of greenstone, often in the form of an ornament, such as an ear-drop or a carved tiki, at its foot.*

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In front of the great house on the marae, or village square, stood the sacred Niu-pole, a totara pine flagstaff, nearly fifty feet in height, with a yard about fourteen feet long; the staff was stayed like the mast of a ship. The war-flags of the Hauhaus were flown from the Niu, and the people daily marched around its foot in their “Pai-mariré” procession, intoning the chants their prophet had taught them. This Niu was one of the first worship-poles planted in Taranaki by the Hauhau prophet's command, and it was the centre of many a wild fanatic gathering. At its foot there was planted a large piece of unworked greenstone—as was done when the first house-pillar was set up—as the whatu of the sacred pole; this block of pounamu is still there, says Bent.

Round this staff of worship, where the bright warflags hung, the people marched daily in their strange procession, chanting their wild psalms. Tito te Hanataua was one of the priests of the Niu, and he led his tribe in the services after the Hauhau religion. page 81 Some of the chants were amazing mixtures of English and Maori; some were all pidgin-English, softened by the melodious Maori tongue. Here is a specimen of the daily chants, intoned by all the people as they marched round and round the holy pole. The priest shouted, “Porini, hoia!” (“Fall in, soldiers!”); then “Teihana!” (“Attention!”), and they stood waiting. Then they chanted, as they got the order to march:

Kira Kill
Wana One
Tu Two
Tiri Three
Wha Four—
Teihana! Attention!

Round the sacred flag-staff they went—men, women, and children—chanting:

Rewa River
Piki rewa Big river
Rongo rewa Long river
Tone Stone
Piki tone Big stone—
Teihana! Attention!
Rori Road
Piki rori Big road
Rongo rori Long road
Puihi Bush
Piki puihi Big bush—
Teihana! Attention!
Rongo puihi Long bush
Rongo tone Long stonepage 82
Hira Hill
Piki hira Big hill
Rongo hira Long hill—
Teihana! Attention!
Mauteni Mountain
Piki mauteni Big mountain
Rongo mauteni Long mountain
Piki niu Big staff
Rongo niu Long staff—
Teihana! Attention!
Nota North
No te pihi North by East
No te hihi N. Nor'-east
Norito mino N.E. by North
Noriti North-east
Koroni Colony—
Teihana! Attention!
Hail Hi!
Kamu te ti Come to tea
Oro te mene All the men
Rauna Round
Te Niu The Niu
Teihana! Attention!
Hema Shem
Rurawini Rule the wind
Tu mate wini Too much wind
Kamu te ti Come to tea—
Teihana! Attention!

And so on, a marvellous farrago of Maorified English words and phrases. It was Te Ua's “gift of tongues,” they imagined, that had descended upon them.

Night and morning, too, the sound of Hauhau prayers rose from the great camp. Here is one, page 83 the “Morning Song” (“Waiata mo te Ata”), in imitation of the English Prayer-book:

Koti te Pata, mai mariré; God the Father, have mercy on me;
Koti te Pata, mai mariré; God the Father, have mercy on me;
Koti te Pata, mai mariré; God the Father, have mercy on me;
To riré, riré! Have mercy, mercy (or peace, peace)!
Koti te Tana, mai mariré; God the Son, have mercy on me;
Koti te Tana, mai mariré; God the Son, have mercy on me;
Koti te Tana, mai mariré; God the Son, have mercy on me;
To riré, riré! Have mercy, mercy!
Koti te Orikoli, mai mariré; God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on me;
Koti te Orikoli, mai mariré; God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on me;
Koti te Orikoli, mai mariré; God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on me;
To riré, riré! Have mercy, mercy!
To mai Niu Kororia, mai mariré; My glorious Niu, have mercy on me;
To mai Niu Kororia, mai mariré; My glorious Niu, have mercy on me;
To mai Niu Kororia, mai mariré; My glorious Niu, have mercy on me;
To riré, riré! Have mercy, mercy!

The more warlike chants ended in a loudly barked “Hau!” the watchword and holy war-cry of the page 84 rebel bushmen. Very wild they were, these savage hymns, haunting in rhythm, and stirring the people to a frenzy of fanatic fire.

Kimble Bent joined in these Hauhau war-rites like any Maori, and marched, chanting with his wild comrades, round and round the Niu.

Several skirmishes between the whites and Maoris occurred in the winter and early spring of 1866, and one of these had some concern for the exile. About three miles away from Taiporohenui was a village called Pokaikai, to which “Ringiringi” was sent awhile by his chief. While he was there the prophet Te Ua arrived. He dreamed a dream, one of bad omen, and he straightway counselled “Ringiringi” to return at once to Taiporohenui. “Ringi” obeyed. Three days, or, rather, three nights afterwards, a force of colonial soldiers under Colonel McDonnell unexpectedly attacked Pokaikai and rushed the village, killing several Hauhaus. In some way the Forest Rangers under McDonnell had heard that the deserter Kimble Bent was in Pokaikai, and they were eager to capture or shoot him. Some of them surrounded one of the wharés in which they imagined Bent was sleeping. A young volunteer named Spain had just previously, unnoticed by them, gone into the wharé to bring out a dead Hauhau, and while he was there the Rangers— hearing some one say there was a white man within—fired a volley into the hut, which unfortunately page break
The Scout. Tu-Mahuki, a friendly Maori of the Whanganui tribe who served on the British side in the Maori War, with his wife Takiora. (From a sketch by Major von Tempsky, 1866.)

The Scout.
Tu-Mahuki, a friendly Maori of the Whanganui tribe who served on the British side in the Maori War, with his wife Takiora.
(From a sketch by Major von Tempsky, 1866.)

page break page 87 mortally wounded Spain. This young soldier was the only pakeha killed in the fight.

When “Ringiringi” heard of the Pokaikai affair from the fugitives who fled through the bush to Taiporohenui, he felt that the Hauhau prophet had indeed been his good angel, for it was only Te Ua's injunction to return to the main Hauhau camp that had saved him from the vengeful bullets of his fellow-whites. And thenceforward the white man was a dreamer of many a strange dream, and he came to believe almost as implicitly as the forest-men themselves in the omens that lay in the visions of the night, and in warning voices from the spirit-world.

About this time “Ringiringi” changed hands, much as if he were a fat porker or a keg of powder or any other article of Maori barter. Rupé (“Wood-pigeon”), a chief of Taiporohenui, made request of Tito—to whom he was related—for his pakeha mokai, his tame white man. He had never owned a pakeha, he explained, and would like one all to himself, and he knew that “Ringiringi” would be a handy man to have around, to keep his armoury of guns, of miscellaneous makes and dates, in repair, and to make cartridges for him. So “Ringiringi” was passed over to his new owner, whom he served, with the exception of some short intervals in the war-time and in the period of exile on the Upper Waitara, until 1878.

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Soon after “Ringiringi” had become one of Rupé's household, his chief's son, a young lad named Kuku (another name for the wood-pigeon), fell seriously ill. The white man doctored and carefully nursed the boy, and under his treatment he recovered. Rupé's gratitude to his mokai took a chieftain-like form. As payment, or utu, for curing his son, he led up his daughter, a young girl of fifteen or sixteen, and presented her to “Ringiringi” as his wife.

“Indeed, she was a pretty girl,” says the old pakeha-Maori, recalling the dead past. “I'll never forget her. She had handsome features, almost European, though she was of pure Maori blood. Her lips were small, her hair was wavy and curly, instead of hanging in a straight, black mat, and she had what was very strange in a Maori, blue eyes—the first blue-eyed native I have ever seen. She was a very gentle girl—she never kanga'd or said unpleasant things about others, never quarrelled with the other women. She did not smoke either, which was unusual. Her chin was tattooed, but not too thickly or deeply. She had, too, the rapé and tiki-hopé patterns engraved on her body, the hip, and thigh, tattooing which was in fashion in those days, and which the girls and women were proud of displaying when they went out to bathe.”

With this agreeable young wife, whose name was Rihi, or Te Hau-roroi-ua, Bent lived for nearly three page 89 years. She bore one child, which died, and soon after she, too, died, to the pakeha-Maori's great sorrow. His one-eyed wife, the lady of Otapawa, had left her unwilling husband some months before he took Rihi in Maori marriage.

Amongst the primitive arts of the Maori with which “Ringiringi” became familiar about this time was that of moko, or tattooing. The kauae tattooing—on chin and lips—was still universal amongst the native women, though few of the men now submitted their faces to the chisel or the needle of the tattooing artist. A popular form of tattooing amongst both sexes was that technically known as tiki-hopé, the scroll-patterns on the thighs and other parts of the body usually concealed by the waist-shawl. The white man saw numbers of women as well as men decorated in this fantastic fashion. In fact, he was so thoroughly Maori by this time that he was about to undergo the operation himself, in the winter of 1867, when living at the village Te Paka, near the old fort Otapawa. He had the ngarahu, or kapara, the blue-black pigment, ready for the dusky engraver, and would shortly have been made pretty for life in Maori eyes had not the tattooing been peremptorily forbidden.

“I wanted my face tattooed,” says Bent, “for I was as wild as any Maori then. I intended to have the curves called tiwhana, or arches, tattooed on my forehead, over the eyes, and the kawekawe lines on page 90 the cheeks, extending to the corners of the mouth. What a curiosity I would have been, though, when I came out of the bush! I would have been able to earn my living in my old age, going on exhibition, like the bearded lady in the circus!”

It was Te Ua the prophet who forbade the tattooing. He happened to be in residence at Te Paka just then, and he reminded “Ringiringi” that he had tapu'd him, and explained that to moko his skin would be a violation of that particular brand of tapu. To the white man this was not quite clear; nevertheless, he agreed to obey the prophet's Mosaic command “to make no cuttings” in his flesh, and remained a plain, undecorated pakeha.

However, he acquired some skill himself with the tattooing instruments, and exercised it in printing names and sundry devices on the persons of the villagers. He learned, too, how to manufacture the indelible ngarahu, or kapara, pigment. In making this tattooing-ink the soot from fires of white-pine (kahikatea) wood was used. A cave-like hole was dug in the side of a bank, with an opening resembling a chimney in the top. A large fire was kindled in the cave, or rua, and for several days was constantly fed with the resinous timber of the kahikatea. Above the earth-chimney were arranged a number of twigs of the karamu shrub (a coprosma), with the bark stripped off, set up in the shape of a tent, and covered with a layer of leaves. The dense page 91 smoke from the fire deposited a thick soot on the karamu sticks. For some days the fire was kept up; then the twigs were removed, and the soot scraped off into wooden receptacles. It was mixed with water, and worked into little round balls. The sootballs were then placed on a layer of poroporo leaves in an umu, or earth-oven, and steamed for about three hours, when they were taken out and set to dry. In later times, after the war, Bent often employed himself in the manufacture of this tattoodye; and was, he says, accustomed to receive ten shillings for a ball of ngarahu the size of a peach.

To Te Paka village there came one day another renegade white man, an Irish soldier named Charles Kane, or King. He had been a private in the second battalion of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment, and had, like Bent, revolted against army discipline, and deserted to the Hauhaus. The Maoris had christened him “Kingi.” He lived in Bent's wharé in Te Paka for some time. He was exceedingly bitter against his old officers, and, in fact, against his fellow-whites in general; so much so, that he boasted of his intention to fight against them, and, as will be seen later, actually did so in the attack on the Turuturumokai redoubt. Like most of the soldiers who traitorously deserted their colours in those war-days, he fell at last a victim to the tomahawks of his Hauhau companions.

* We have survivals of this widespread ancient custom amongst ourselves, in the practice of placing coins, etc., under the foot of a mast of a new ship, and under the foundation-stone of a church or other important building. The cult is found amongst many savage nations in its primitive form. Here is an instance narrated by Mr. T. C. Hodson in an article in Folk-Lore (Vol. XX., No. 2, 1909) on “Head-hunting amongst the Hill-tribes of Assam”: “The head-man of a large and powerful village (on the frontier of the State of Manipur) was engaged in building himself a new house, and to strengthen it had seized this man (a Naga) and forcibly cut off a lock of his hair, which had been buried underneath the main post of the house. In olden days the head would have been put there, but by a refinement of some native theologian a lock of hair was held as good as the whole head.”

It was the olden Maori custom to place a human head beneath the central pillar of a sacred building, and to have a human sacrifice at the opening of a new house.