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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 11 (February 1, 1938)

The Defence of Orakau Pa

The Defence of Orakau Pa.

“When our Ngati-Maniapoto war party returned from Taranaki, I went to the territory of the Patu-heuheu and Ngati-Whare, on the Rangitaiki. These were my mother's and my wife's people, and I lived there at Tauaroa (later Troutbeck's sheep station) on the Urewera border, until I joined the main Urewera war-party formed to assist the Waikato Kingites. I and seven other men of the Patu-heuheu and Ngati-Whare tribes joined the Tuhoe (Urewera), and we marched to the Waipa country by way of Waotu and Aratitaha. Two or three women were with our section of the war-party. Rewi Maniapoto (Manga) met us at Aratitaha (where the road to Arapuni now passes over the southern spur of Maunga-tautari) and tried to dissuade us from giving battle, as the pakeha troops had successfully fought their way up to Te Awamutu and Kihikihi. But all our people insisted on the continuance of the war. We therefore built the pa at Orakau; all of us shared in the work—Ngati-Maniapoto, Waikato, Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Te-Kohera and Tuhoe. I helped to dig the trenches and build the parapets. We used European spades, from the native village at Orakau. Our food in page 26 the pa consisted chiefly of potatoes. The women in the pits within the parapets also ground flour with which they made bread, baking it in the dug-in shelters. They ground the wheat, from the Orakau plantations, in small steel hand-mills.

“The women worked under fire, like the men; some were killed and others wounded in the three days’ battle. Two bullets struck me; they did not penetrate my clothes—shirt and trousers and a pora (rough shaggy flax mat for the shoulders). On numerous occasions in other fights, bullets struck me but glanced off. The firing was continuous day and night. Rewi would have made peace, I believe, but certain of the chiefs of Ngati-Maniapoto, Waikato and Tuhoe would not consent.

“The shells from the big guns killed several of the garrison; one, two, three would fall, killed by the bursting of the shells. I saw one Waikato man cut in two by a shell. Four of our Patu-heuheu people were killed in the fighting; Peita (my mother's brother whose name I took in memory of his death), Te Taniwha, Hohepa, and another. One of our women, Rawinia (Lavinia), belonging chiefly to Ngati-Manawa, was wounded by a shell, which just snipped off the tip of her nose in its flight. She was the wife of Takurua, the young chief of Ngati-Manawa, who fought there; after his death (at Tauaroa) she married Hare-hare, the present chief of Murupara. Piripi te Heuheu, one of our Tuhoe chiefs, was killed outside the pa, near the swamp, when we were making our retreat to the Puniu. We fugitives all gathered at Waotu, on the upper Waikato, and then marched home to Tauaroa, Te Whaiti and Ruatahuna.