A Sketch of the New Zealand War
[Account of Donald Mclean]
Here is Donald McLean's story about Waitini:—
There was much tribal jealousy between the Ngatiawa and the Ngatimaniopoto, two neighbouring tribes. This was before the natives acquired fire-arms. It was the custom then to fight in phalanx, just as the Greeks did. The two tribes were drawn up in battle array, distant from each other about eight hundred yards. Neither was anxious to begin the fight. They were too equally matched, and embarrassing intermarriages had taken place during a long peace.
Waitini was a Ngatiawa of the purest blood. With great dignity he stepped out of his phalanx, and marched half the distance towards the Ngatimaniopoto. There he halted, sang his song, flourished his tomahawk, slapped his buttock, and strutted defiantly about.
Three young Ngatimaniopoto chiefs rushed out from their phalanx to capture Waitini. As they started, abreast, straining every nerve, Waitini sat down to pick a thorn out of his foot. Waitini apparently saw nothing, and, as his adversaries approached, a dreadful yell was sent up to heaven by his tribe, who saw his danger. He moved not a muscle. He was lost. An ominous silence fell upon his people; their hearts were bursting with alarm. The reckless Waitini continued to pick at the thorn; his tomahawk even was laid listlessly by his side. Waitini had calculated page 74all the chances. It was a brave man's lure. The Ngati maniopoto were of unequal speed. There was, however, but little distance between them. The first was on Waitini apparently before he woke up. He did wake up, however, sprang like a panther half to one side, and then swung round. His youthful adversary could not check his speed, and, as he passed, Waitini buried his hatchet in the Ngatimaniopoto's skull.
The second man was on him almost before he could clear his axe. Waitini ran for his life at a right angle to his adversaries'course. The two Ngatimaniopoto followed him, the foremost making a bee-line, the next at an oblique angle. Waitini fell on his knee when he was all but caught. The first pursuer stumbled over him, and met his death as he fell. Waitini then rushed at the third adversary, whose eye quailed for a moment in doubt. In the moment of indecision he was slain. The two phalanxes then rushed at each other in great fury. Waitini, with coolness, waited for his men. The Ngatimaniopoto were beaten. There was great slaughter, and the Ngatiawa became the dominant tribe, and remained so until the downfall of the King movement.
It is easy to understand the character and position of a man like Waitini amongst such a race. He was worthy of it all—genial, kindly, unassuming, brave; and what a hero he looked! He was six foot four, twenty-one stone weight, without a particle of spare flesh on him. I saw him naked. He had muscles like iron bands, a head like a Roman emperor, and a heart in loyalty and simplicity like a child's.page 75
When the great wave of enthusiasm for national independence swept over Maoridom, Waitini, with a chosen band of 140 men, went down to Taranaki to fight for the cause.
Waitini Taiporutu was a sucking babe in Wiremu Kingi's hands. Wiremu Kingi was a diplomatist. He was amongst the Maori a counsel chief; that is, a politician. Waitini Taiporutu was a war chief, a soldier.
Wi Tamihana te Waharoa was a counsel chief of the Ngatiawa, Waitini's tribe. Tamihana besought Waitini not to go to the Taranaki war. "You are a great warrior," said he. "We cannot spare you. The trouble is coming home to us. I see it. You are a great baby, too—guileless as an innocent girl. You are my sister's son and the pride of your race. Wiremu Kingi is a subtle, white man's Maori, without any special sense of honour. He will entrap you, and you will be lost. You weaken our tribe by taking away the pick of our young men; and when it is all over, the Ngatimaniopoto will turn and rend us. The future of our race is in your hands; stand fast, and wait. In due time, I will find you fighting enough."
In spite of it all, Waitini would go to the war. The fever was in his blood.