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Chapter XI. — The Trail to the Ranges

page 90

Chapter XI.
The Trail to the Ranges.

Whatever may be the value of the central portion of Tutira in the future, and personally I believe it will be very great, it was to the natives immediately prior to European civilisation almost worthless.

There existed upon its surface neither forests for birds nor suitable streams for eels. Place-names are in consequence fewer in number and records of the past scantier.

From the ford Maheawha the trail proceeded in a northerly direction. On the left of the track lay several hundred acres of flattish lands and low rolling downs by the name of Parae-ia-kai-ora. About the centre of this region rose the little hill Tamaiahua, opposite which a fairly well-defined subsidiary track branched off in the direction of Otupare, “Conical Hill.” Proceeding on its way the main track rose gradually until it reached Orawaki. This height, better known as the “Image Hill,” got its name from the image or tekoteko which at one time stood on its summit. I understand that the original, a fine piece of carving, adorned with greenstone earrings and clad in finely woven mats, was highly thought of. It was burned in one of the numerous fern fires which used to sweep the countryside; only a rude replica of the original remained in the 'eighties. The rough block of totara from which it was carved had split, but showed, nevertheless, the moko or tattoo pattern on the face, and the conventional three fingers crossed over the belly.1 It had been erected by an elder brother of my old friend Werahiko in pious memory of a grand-uncle named Kupa. Here, according to tradition, a whare - puni of considerable size once existed, built for the convenience of people

1 In early days the missionary bell topper was in demand as adornment for the tekoteko. The Rev. Mr Spencer, working during the 'forties at Tarawera, was made by the Maoris to promise—a promise he was never allowed to forget—that his discarded headgear should be reserved for this special purpose. Our “image” on Orawaki hill, naked and alarmingly masculine, clad in the ecclesiastical bravery of a top-hat, could only then have been further christianised by a bishop's apron.

page 90a page 91 working their plantations; if, indeed, this was the case, the workings spoken of must have been about the fertile edges of the lake. No man, far less a soil-wise native, would have attempted to grow crops in the vicinity of Orawaki.

Passing over this hill the trail proceeded nearly due west along the top of the narrow razor ridge Te Ropuhina. At the western termination of that ridge it descended in a northerly direction towards the barren flats and low lands of Parae-o-weti, lands which lie between the western heights of the northern portion of the “Sand-hills” and the southern slopes of the isolated hill Pahangahanga, the “Dome.” Later, crossing a branch of the Papakiri, the track ran in a fairly direct line from the foot of Pahangahanga, ascended the rising ground Taumataia-te-hihe, and eventually reached the second crossing of the Papakiri. This crossing has always been known in my time as the “Taipo”—goblin—crossing,1 a name probably given because of a totara block which used to lie there hewn roughly to the similitude of a man's head.

Proceeding, the track crossed the Tarawa-o-te-whenua slopes and flats situate at the foot of the western termination of the “Burnt-Blanket” range. Here the trail split, the western track rising gradually until it reached the top of the hill Whakaihu-pakake. Descending precipitously from this height it dropped into the narrow basin Te-ipu-a-Te-Amohia, at whose northern extremity lay the “Pa Hill,” Kokopuru. It was on a neighbouring height, Matarangi, that a taua of the Tuhoe was destroyed.

Near the far-seen headland Puraho-tangihia, “Shepherds' View,” the Tuhoe or Urewera people had been met and defeated by the Ngati-kahungunu, the tribe of which the Tutira people formed a sept. In this battle the Tuhoe lost their chiefs Te Mokohaerewa and Te Kapuawhakarito, whose bodies were carried off to Tangoio and there cooked and eaten. “In order to avenge the insult the Tuhoe people despatched a second war-party. It was their intention to destroy Tohutohu and Meke, the Ngati - kahungunu leaders who had been present at the skirmish of Puraho - tangihia.” I have been fortunate enough to obtain from Te Hata-Kani a pictorial representation of the affair.2

1 A word, according to William's ‘Maori Dictionary,’ used by Maoris believing it English, by Europeans believing it Maori, it being apparently neither.

2 The old gentleman had amused himself one evening sketching on a torn bit of foolscap the meeting of his people with the Tuhoe tribesmen; afterwards on clean drawing-paper he repeated the performance, which is here exactly reproduced.

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  • 1. Kokopuru pa, showing characteristic carvings on “take” or main posts of palisades. Note tewhatewha with feather or dog-skin puhi, and other figure with were.
  • 2. Nga-ipu-a-Te-Amohia, two little lakelets in the vicinity of the pa.
  • 3. Opouahi lakelet, also in the vicinity, famous for the abundance of eels within it. Note the typical eel.
  • 4. Representative warriors of the Ngai-Tatara. This sept and the Ngati-moe, it will be recollected, were hoa matenga, friends together to death.
  • 5. The setting forth from Tiekenui of the Urewera foemen, evidently, to judge from their stature, inferior to the men of the Ngai-Tatara.
  • 6. The fighting over, the enemy are invited to the great meeting - house on the Matarangi hill-top. This meeting-house was remarkable in its door at either end; there, revolving mischief, the foe can be seen cloaked in their korowai mats.
  • 7. Food placed before the visitors consisting of preserved birds in calabash. Note carved wooden mouth of calabash, and woven basket around gourds and on tripods, also the kits of potatoes beneath. The guests, however, decline to partake of this food, a disinclination which, according to Te Hata-Kani, proved that they meditated treachery, and which absolved any action the Ngai-Tatara might think fit to take. The uprights of the meeting-house had, “just in case,” been already prepared for these dishonourable Urewera,—almost completely cut through.
  • 8. Talking it over, an arrangement reached by which four parties of the Tutira men show four parties of the Urewera the Waerenga or crop lands where the latter could gather their own food. As, however, the Urewera could not be trusted, in each of the four bands thirteen of the Ngai-Tatara, armed with spears, accompanied twelve Urewera carrying potato kits—in Te Hata's sketch the three figures on the one side and the two on the other represent for lack of space the parties respectively of thirteen and of twelve.
  • 9. The four Waerenga or cultivation-grounds of differing shapes, each also showing its rubbish pit; there as a necessary precaution, to forestall the treachery of the Urewera, the four parties of thirteen spearmen slew the four parties of twelve potato-gatherers.
  • 10. Whakahoehoe, the Ngai-Tatara leader, approaching pa. Note his taiaha, Huia feather, were, and mat, also his attendant on the hillside, a page or squire, possibly a kinsman of good birth.
  • 11. Tamati Tararua thrusting patu into Urewera scout's temple. This was also correct—the Urewera man had failed, I understand, to appreciate properly the greatness and dignity and nobility of the Ngai-Tatara chief. In the use of the patu a violent thrust and slight twist were sufficient to detach the upper part of the cranium.
  • 12. After these repeated instances of bad faith on the part of the Urewera the meeting-house is let down on to those remaining within. They are speared as they strive to emerge. Te Rangi Pumamao alone escapes. He falls in his flight and breaks the stock of his gun. He is caught up by Whakapipi. A duel with taiaha and gun—note broken stock—ensues, during which another Ngai-Tatara man, Whao-whaotaha, comes up behind and spears Te Rangi Pumamao through the back.
  • 13. Te Umu tao tangata, the oven for cooking human flesh, showing heated stones. On this spot was the body of Te Rangi Pumamao cooked.
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Ngai-Tatara and Urewera at Kokopuru.

Ngai-Tatara and Urewera at Kokopuru.

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Another misunderstanding on the same spot and its consequences—the visitation of the sins of the fathers upon the children by Land Courts of modern days—is to be found in the story of Waiatara and Takirau.

Waiatara was the name of a chief of the Ngati-moe, who lived at Kokopuru. His great friend, Takirau, was a chief of the tribe called Ngati-pahau-wera, whose headquarters were at Mohaka.

The district in which Waiatara lived was noted for its fat pigeons and tui. Takirau's district, on the other hand, was famous for its supply of kahawai, mango—shark—and other fish.

In token of friendship and goodwill between the two chiefs, it was their custom to make, from time to time, an exchange of food—Waiatara sending preserved birds, and Takirau returning the compliment with dried shark and kahawai.

Now it happened on one occasion that Takirau's followers made a visit to the Heretaunga district. On their return they stopped at Tutira, Takirau himself not being with the party. His followers, men of Belial, remembered the delicious preserved birds that Waiatara used to send to Mohaka. They visited Waiatara's kainga at Kokopuru, telling him that Takirau had sent them. Believing their tale, Waiatara readily handed over to them taha—calabashes—filled with birds preserved in their own fat. They carried these off to their camping-place at Tutira, but it was with covetous eyes that they gazed upon them. The temptation was too strong. They opened the taha and devoured the whole of their contents.

Arriving at Mohaka, and there meeting their chief Takirau, the various incidents of their journey were related, with the addition that while at Tutira they had approached Waiatara to see whether he could spare any preserved birds; not only, however, had he refused to supply any birds, but had uttered many rude curses upon Takirau and his people.

Takirau's anger was kindled at this uncalled-for insult, and he decided to form a raiding-party to seek utu or revenge.

It arrived at Tutira, and next day made an assault on Waiatara and his followers at Kokopuru pa. Waiatara was bewildered; he could not understand why his great friend Takirau should attack him in this way; finally, at the instance of onlookers, a truce was called, explanations demanded, and Takirau was convinced that he had been a victim to the covetousness and deceit of his people.

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Waiatara's turn had now arrived for showing something of that rangatira dignity which is the peculiar property of the old-time leading chiefs. “Takirau,” he exclaimed, “I have been your greatest friend for a very long time, assisting you in your troubles, and providing you with huahua—preserved birds—at every season. Now that you have made this treacherous attack upon me, my final word to you is ‘haere,’ depart; our friendship is broken for ever.”

As an evidence that the friendship was indeed not broken in vain, it may be added that when certain titles were being investigated this incident was related, and Takirau's descendants were disallowed any share in these ancestral lands.

From Kokopuru, about which so much has been said, the track proceeded nearly due west along the edge of a high ridge between the “White Pine Bush” and one of the gorges of the Waikari. This ridge was terminated by another gorge, on the far side of which lay heavy forest lands. The track then turned sharply north, and continued in a northerly direction through forest to Te-Heru-o-Tureia. Re-emerging into the open on the heights of that block, it pursued its course along the very rim of the main range above the western precipice, eventually reaching the bluff Patu-wahine, and thence proceeding out of our history to the wilds of the Urewera country.

We can now return to the lands Tarewa-o-te-whenua, where the trail had forked; the western track we have traced; the northern struck the crossing of the gorge of the Matahorua, the stream that divides Tutira from Putorino. Here at one time dwelt Titi-a-Punga. Like Rob Roy, he followed “the good old rule, the simple plan, that he shall take who has the power, and he shall keep who can.” Here, also, was situated his village, and—if indeed they existed, except in the pious imaginings of an informant anxious to exaggerate the glories of the past—his plantations. At the best these can have been but of trifling extent and importance.

Probably, indeed, the residence of Titi-a-Punga on Tutira was only temporary; his permanent eyrie seems to have been established on rocky just of the Maungaharuru range. There, encamped above the pass leading from Hawke's Bay into the Taupo country, he watched for travellers. At any rate, whatever may have been his antecedents, and wherever he may have come from, whilst on Tutira he completed a whare - puni or meeting-house; the building had yet to be page 95 opened, the ceremony of the laying of the foundation-stone had still to be accomplished. In lieu of the coins nowadays buried on such occasions, it was the New Zealand custom to use up a slave. Titi-a-Punga either had none to spare, or had higher ideals as to what was owing to himself and his new edifice; he had, in fact, determined on his brother-in-law, Te Rangi-nukai, as the votive offering. It was his body which was to be buried beneath the poupous—uprights supporting the framework of the whare,—his death which was to celebrate the house - warming. Friendly messages accordingly were despatched to Mohaka, requesting his attendance at the dedication of the new building. The wife of Titi-a-Punga, however, knew of her husband's intention; she warned her brother, who came, but came prepared; he arrived, moreover, by an unexpected route, thereby avoiding the ambush laid for him. It thus happened that whilst Titi-a-Punga and his merry men lay in wait on one side of the gorge, Te Rangi-nukai and his people arrived from Mohaka on the pa side of the river ravine. Few or none of Titi-a-Punga's band were in the village. Those few fled. The women were pitched over the cliff into the stream beneath—hence his name to this day, Te Wai-o-nga- Wahine, “The water of the women.”

Titi-a-Punga was taken alive by his brother-in-law, and foreseeing his fate thus spake: “Taihoa ahau e patua”—“Kill me presently.” He then uttered his farewell, still famous in the land: “Tamai pakani a Taha-rangi toroa uta ka he i toroa tai taratara o Maungaharuru ka whatiwhati,”—“Strong son of Taha-rangi, the bird of the mountain has been destroyed by the bird of the shore; the crest of Maungaharuru has bowed itself and fallen.” After that, as old Anaru quaintly put it, “he was killed—quite dead.”

Crossing the ford the track passed through the locality Pukerimu, and later continued in a northerly direction through the slopes and flats east of the Otukehu range—the “Nobbies.” It then swung sharp to the west between the end of that chain of hills and an isolated peak, where at one time dwelt another robber chief called Tarakihi. He, like the better-known Titi-a-Punga, also levied a toll on the track, until at last, killing some person of importance, he was himself set upon and slain.

Above the sandy ford of the upper Waikari the trail forked, one of the two branches climbing until it reached Patu-wahine and disappeared page 96 into the Urewera country. The other, proceeding roughly parallel with the Korongomairoa stream, continued through the kainga Waipopopo, and skirting a couple of upland tarns, also passed out of our story coastward towards Mohaka.

With it, too, is completed the history of the trails of old heathen Tutira; if they have been at times wearisome to walk, they have at any rate acted as threads upon which to string the facts; they have prevented digression in too outrageous a degree. It must have been consolatory, moreover, to the reader, that, according to its annalists, Anaru, Te Hata-Kani, and 'Pera, the Ngai-Tatara were always victorious, so much so indeed that the station became famous in the land as Tutira upoko pipi—“Tutira where heads become soft.”

Greenstone Tiki. (Presented by native friends to the author.)

Greenstone Tiki.
(Presented by native friends to the author.)

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