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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May 1, 1935)

Tauke, Warrior and Mystic

Tauke, Warrior and Mystic.

Very few of the wise old men are left. Here and there in a little kainga a venerable survivor of the wars and the vanished bush life remains to tell the story of his fighting youth and repeat the chants of war and peace with which his mind is stored. Just now I recall an admirable old type of the past; a man who was both warrior and sage—Tauke, of Taranaki, who died in 1916. I like to think of that “elder statesman,” as he was in his little world; his face and figure are before me now in memory's eye. It was in 1904 that I first met him; a relative of his took me to greet him in his village at Hokorima, on the famous Waimate Plains.

Tauke's home was in the most beautiful part of all Taranaki. Around were grassy fields and the sociably close-grouped dwellings of his clan. Above, on the north, framed like a picture between two soft green spires of foliage, rose noble Egmont, Tauke's sacred Taranaki, swelling up from the purple-hazed forests, up in glorious massive lines of rest into a silver spearhead eight thousand feet above the plains. On the green marae in front of Tauke's house we found the old man sitting, with a coloured blanket girt about his waist, his white head bare, white as Egmont's top. He was poring over the ecstatic visions of the Dreamer, in the “Whakakitenga,” or Revelations, in a fifty-year old copy of the Maori Bible. The old man laid his book aside and took off his glasses when we came up and greeted him.

He looked the mystic that he was, with his patriarchal beard, and his deep penetrating eyes peering out from under white-bushy buttresses of brows. One of his hands was scarred and mutilated; the thumb and part of a finger missing. “That happened at Te Morere,” said Tauke.

The ancient man was a type of the strongly patriotic Maoris, fervent to the point of fanaticism, who presented a stubborn front to the pakeha on the West Coast from 1860 onward. He was steeped in warrior ways from his earliest youth. He was born in captivity; his parents were taken away to Waikato in one of the cannibal raids of the period 1820–1830. When peace returned, he and many of his people were liberated, and they returned to Taranaki.

As a young man he was one of the Taranaki chiefs who went to Waikato to share in the uplifting of Te Whero-whero Potatau—his old hereditary enemy—as the first King of the Maoris, and he was at Ngaruawahia, the royal camp, when the Taranaki War began in 1860. Hurrying back to his tribe, he was in time to fight against the Imperial and Colonial Forces at the battle of Waireka, where the New Plymouth settlers for the first time met their Maori neighbours in combat.