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The Story of a Maori Chief

Chapter 1 — Mokena Kohere's Antecedents

page 1

Chapter 1
Mokena Kohere's Antecedents

It is often stated that unless a member of the Ngati-Porou Tribe could trace himself back to the grand-ancestor Tuwhakairiora he could not be of any consequence. But then all Ngati-Porou are descended from Tuwhakairiora.1 Surely the whole big tribe could not be composed of chiefs. So from the outset I may say that to be able to trace oneself back to a distinguished ancestor does not necessarily prove that one is a rangatira. To be a rangatira one need not only be a descendant of a chief, but also a descendant of a line of successive chiefs. To be the descendant of a line of fighting chiefs, together with the needed character, constitutes a great chief. A new line of chiefs and chieftainesses could not be created. Thus I do not accept the dictum that to be a chief one must be able to trace one's descent to Tuwhakairiora, for it implies that there was only one grand chief.

I recall a little argument I had with a friend who positively laid down that when Tuwhakairiora married Ruataupare the union gave lustre to Ruataupare's name. I expressed disagreement, contending that Ruataupare was of equal rank with her husband, if not of a higher rank.

It is the Maori custom to name great chiefs after mountains in their domains. The great Heuheu of Taupo was called Tongariro. When Tuwhakairiora as a young man arrived at Wharekahika (Hicks Bay), because he was not invited to stay at Uenuku-tewhana's pa, Aotaki, Ruataupare's father said: “Let him then come to me, to Hikurangi,2 the mountain crowned with snow.” Aotaki, not Tuwhakairiora, was Hikurangi, the highest mountain in the territory of the Ngati-Porou. The tribe composed a song in which Tuwhakairiora is described as a wayfarer because when he met Aotaki he was then on a journey from Opotiki, where his parents, Ngatihau and Atakura, then lived. To be called a wayfarer is not at all complimentary to the dignity of a rangatira, for it means he has no permanent home and no

1 I learned from Paratene Ngata, Sir Apirana Ngata's father, that there was only one man in all Ngati-Porou who could not claim descent from Tuwhakairiora, and yet Karaitiana Pakura was a man of standing.

2 Altitude, 5,606 feet.

page 2 people. The Ngati-Porou have a saying which clearly hints at the legend that Taranaki (Mount Egmont) shifted from the vicinity of Mount Tongariro to where it to-day stands, a lonely bachelor. It is this: “Hikurangi is not a mountain that travels.”1 The saying is not flattering to the wayfarer Tuwhakairiora.

Tuwhakairiora married Ruataupare, and this union produced the Ngati-Porou premier line.

To continue my contention that Ruataupare was her husband's equal in rank, when their family increased in number their children were called “Te Whanau-a-Tuwhakairiora,” that is, “Tuwhakairiora's family.” Proud Ruataupare reflected and discovered that her powerful husband was overshadowing her own mana. She made up her mind there and then to forsake him and to seek for herself an independent name. Without hesitation she told her husband to get Ihiko for his wife. When he remonstrated that Ihiko had her own husband she taunted him by saying: “I thought you were a rangatira.” Tuwhakairiora, resenting the taunt, went to Puketapu, where Ihiko lived, and took her away from her husband, Tuhauanu.

Finally, Ruataupare left the home at Okauwharetoa2 and went first to Tuparoa and later to Tokomaru. She achieved her purpose, for to-day the sub-tribes both at Tuparoa and Tokomaru are called after Ruataupare, their haughty progenitor. Was my friend then justified in his contention that Ruataupare was an inferior person? On the contrary, she was every inch a rangatira, and she hesitated not to defy her powerful husband. It will be shown later that as a chief Mokena Kohere came of both the Tuwhakairiora and Ruataupare lines.

Before the home at Okauwharetoa was broken up by the departure of Ruataupare the news came that Kowhaki, Ruataupare's cousin, had been murdered in Paturangi pa by Rarawa and Aowehea. To call for a war-party to avenge her cousin's death, Ruataupare bared her bosom and pulled her breasts. Her action fired the chiefs to rally. She issued the order: “Smite the land but spare the people.” The result of the dramatic appeal was instantaneous: a war-party was organised, composed of the fighting chiefs Rangitekehua,

1 Uttered by Te Kani-a-Takirau when he was offered the kingite crown.

2 Now a Maori cemetery across the Awatere at Te Araroa.

page 3 Karuwai, Kautaharua and Umuariki. All the lands lying between the Awatere and Maraehara rivers were seized, and thus satisfaction for the murder of Kowhaki was made. This formidable band of warriors was held up by Tinatoka and his brother-in-law, Rarawa, at the Makirikiri stream,1 and further conquest was stopped. Rarawa was one of the slayers of Kowhaki, and it is curious that nothing of his lands was taken by the war-party. He was one of Mokena Kohere's fighting ancestors, and the name is perpetuated in my own family.

Another great name in the history of the Ngati-Porou Tribe is that of Rangitawaea. Here again is a chief identified with Mount Hikurangi, attesting to his high rank. Whenever the mountain is covered with snow the saying is uttered: “Behold, Rangitawaea gathers up his garments.” Rangitawaea was a great chief, as was Tuwhakairiora. A union of the two lines must therefore produce outstanding chiefs. A grandson of Tuwhakairiora, Whaita, married Manupokai, eldest daughter of Rangitawaea and his wife Kirimamae. The issue was a distinguished line of chiefs, amongst whom was Mokena Kohere.

This is not a story of Tuwhakairiora, which would fill volumes. The Rev. Mohi Turei has given the graphic story of Tuwhakairiora in Te Pipiwharauroa, and it is reproduced in one of my Maori books. I shall, therefore, touch only on the focal points in the chief's history.

Poroumata, with his family, lived at Whangara,2 that nursery of the Ngati-Porou Tribe. Here their ancestral canoe, Takitimu, as stated by some authorities, landed. Before that event happened, Paikea, another grand-ancestor of the tribe, lived and died at Whangara. His burial place on the little island, which at low tide is joined to the mainland by a strip of sand, is known to-day as Paikea's Cave. Here at Whangara, Porourangi, after whom the tribe is named, lived and died, and hither his brother Tahu came from Waipounamu (South Island) to lament over the body. From Whangara Tahu, on his return, took his dead brother's widow, Hamo, to be his wife. (The South Island Maoris are named Ngai-Tahu, and are thus first cousins of the Ngati-Porou Tribe.)

From Whangara, for one reason or another, Poroumata

1 A mile to the N.W. of Rangitukia.

2 The pretty village fifteen miles east of Gisborne.

page 4 and his family set out towards East Cape. They halted near Uawa (Tolaga Bay), where they pitched their camp. When they were short of food, instead of asking the local people, as respectable people should do, they resorted to sneaking and stealing, and at nights they raided their neighbours’ kumara plantations. To strike fear into the hearts of the owners of the kumara they made out that they were a considerable force, by lighting their torches at both ends. This incident has been handed down from generation to generation as the “rama pito-rua,” or “the double-end torch.” Night marauders were not likely to become popular, so Poroumata and his family struck camp and once more were on the move. At Ngamoe1 they again made their camp in the midst of Ngati-Ruanuku sub-tribe. Here, as at Uawa, they did not prove themselves desirable neighbours. As a result the Ngati-Ruanuku became decidedly hostile, and they plotted the murder of Poroumata. They invited him to go with them on a fishing expedition. Far out at sea they killed him, gouged out his bowels and threw them into the sea, evidently to attract fish to their lines.

After the murder of Poroumata, Atakura and Ngatihau, her husband, with their family and relatives, fled to Opotiki, in the Bay of Plenty. There was reason why they should betake themselves there, for Uehenga-paraoa, a grandancestress of the Ngati-Porou Tribe, came from that district. In due time a daughter was born to Atakura and Ngatihau. They named her Aomihia, the Greeted Clouds, for they often turned their gaze towards the east, from whence they had fled, and greeted the clouds as they sped from that direction. Again Atakura conceived, and as her unborn child moved within her she addressed it in these words: “What art thou that movest within me? Wouldst thou he a son to avenge the cause of my sorrow? “Thus before Tuwhakairiora2 was born he was dedicated to Tumatauenga, the god of war. Faithfully in time Tuwhakairiora carried out his mother's cherished wish.

When the young man grew up Atakura told him that his true home was in the east, and thither must he hie. At

1 Near Tuparoa.

2 Tuwhakairiora (Tu-hung-up-alive). The name perpetuates, as the Maoris are fond of doing, the incident when Tumoana-kotore, a grandancestor of the Ngati-Porou Tribe, was hung up alive on a puriri tree at Wai-o-Matatini. The bearers, of course, had thought old Tu (moanakotore) was dead.

page 5 Whangaparaoa (Cape Runaway) his attentions were repelled by Hinerupe by striking him on the jaw with a wooden spade. Leaving Whangaparaoa, Tuwhakairiora continued his wanderings in the direction of Wharekahika (Hicks Bay). On the Kaiarero beach he espied two damsels gathering pipis. By sitting on their clothes Tuwhakairiora roguishly kept the girls in the incoming tide. After a while he relented and walked away to enable Ruataupare and her sister, Auahikoata, for such they were, the daughters of the chief Aotaki, to put on their clothes. Tuwhakairiora followed them to their home at Tokamapuhia, just below the beautiful Waihirere Fall, where their father and their mother, Hinemaurea, lived. The girls told their father that a handsome young man had detained them by squatting on their clothes, and they gave a description of him. By this Aotaki knew the wayfarer was no other than young Tuwhakairiora, whose fame had preceded him. When his daughters told him that the stranger had not called in at a pa on the way Aotaki uttered the saying already mentioned: “Let him come to me, to Hikurangi, the mountain crowned with snow.” Tuwhakairiora met with success, for Ruataupare consented to be his wife. They made their home at Okauwharetoa.

Tuwhakairiora's first exploit towards fulfilling his sacred mission in avenging the death of his grandfather, Poroumata, was an incident in connection with the death of his dog, Tamurehaua. He had gone along the coast in the direction of East Cape when the people in Rangihuanoa pa observed him. He turned for home and they pursued him. Every now and then he reduced his pace and cut down the foremost of his pursuers. He kept on doing this until he came to a flat rock on which was a mound of earth. On to this he leaped and then defied his enemy. By the red kura1 which he wore, his uncle, Hukarere, who was fishing close inshore, recognised him, and by paddling his canoe to the rock he rescued Tuwhakairiora. The rock, with a tuft of earth on it, is still pointed out as “te pa o Tuwhakairiora “—” Tuwhakairiora's pa.”

Tuwhakairiora's greatest deed was performed at Ngamoe,

1 Kura, an ornament of red feathers worn by chiefs in olden times. When the canoes of the Great Heke neared the land at Cape Runaway, the crews saw the bright flowers of the pohutukawa. Some of the chiefs then discarded their kura by throwing the threadbare things into the sea.

page 6 where he slaughtered Ngati-Ruanuku, the murderers of his grandfather, Poroumata.

Taking twenty-five years to a generation, I reckon that Tuwhakairiora flourished about 300 years ago.