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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 9 (December 1, 1938)



The final reckoning came in November, 1868. Three months after Te Kooti and his fellow-escapees landed from the Rifleman is the little cove at Whareongaonga, just south of Young Nick's Head, he led his long-cherished kokiri of revenge against the whites and Maoris of Turanga-nui. But Turanga slept. Alas! it slept. What watchers there were watched the wrong trail. The tomahawk and the sword did the work; not many shots were fired. And Major Biggs and Captain Wilson were both slain, and their families also. Te Kooti's other white enemies escaped. Ha! Ka ca to kino! (The wrong-doing was avenged.)

At one of the Maori villages the chief Paratene Turangi—he who had stood on the beach side with Biggs and Wilson when Te Kooti was deported—was captured by the Hauhaus. Te Kooti approached his victim (his relative also, be it remembered) with a soft tread which must have had something of the tiger's advance on its prey in it. One hand he stretched forth in mock welcome; the other he held behind him; it gripped his tomahawk.

Tena koe, taku papa,” he said in the soft half-whining voice the Maori uses in greeting. “Greetings, my father” [elder relative] the words meant. And raising his left hand he stroked the cheeks of the petrified Paratene as if in affection. “Tena koe taku papa, nana te kupu, ‘Ko ana ki te poti, ko ana ki te poti!’ (“Salutations, my father, you who uttered those words, ‘Go on to the boat, go on to the boat'!) A-a! Ko ana ki te tomahawk!” And a moment later, Paratene fell to the executioner's blow.

That was Te Kooti's revenge. So died Paratene Turangi, he who had helped to send Te Kooti Turuki into exile. Treachery was paid for with savagery, false witness with the edge of the tomahawk.

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Many people who have written about New Zealand history have pictured Te Kooti as a terrible ruffian without any redeeming qualities. Such a description of a man who was in his day the most notable figure in the life of this colony is quite misleading, based on imperfect knowledge. With the passing of the years a less prejudiced view can be taken of the actions of those who opposed the Government. It is recognised now that many unfair and tyrannical things were done by the Governments of the past, such as the forcible taking of Maori lands in punishment for so-called rebellion. That the Maori cause was just at the beginning of the Taranaki war in 1860 was admitted by Governor and Government in 1863, but it was then too late to prevent further strife.

Te Kooti's fierce deeds in the heat of war outnumbered even those of Kipling's Boh Da Thone, erst a pretender to King Theebaw's throne—

“He crucified noble, he sacrificed mean, He filled old ladies with kerosene.”

But Te Kooti did not go that far; the mercifully quick tomahawk was his way. A massacre here and a fierce foray there were balanced by his military genius, his amazingly skilful checkmating of Government moves against him on the rugged field of mountain and forest. Had he been a white chief imprisoned by the Maoris on the Chathams, his escape with all his people in the captured schooner Rifleman would have been acclaimed as a desperately daring stroke of generalship, deserving of high honour. By comparison with some great military figures of Europe Te Kooti does not suffer. Some English kings and queens of the past were just as pitiless as the Maori rebel when they wished to rid themselves of enemies and doubtful friends, and the great European powers to-day are even more ruthless and savage.

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