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The Story of a Maori Chief

Chapter 3 — Mokena Kohere's Antecedents — (Continued)

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Chapter 3
Mokena Kohere's Antecedents

Both Pakura, the father of Kakatarau and Mokena Kohere, and his elder brother, Hihi, were, like their forbears, great fighters. The brothers were the terror of the whole district; in fact, they were “the Doones” of the Waiapu Valley. Pakura's proper name was Whakatatare, but because of his bad habit of helping himself to other people's kumara crops he was re-named Pakura, i.e., pukeko. The two brothers so regularly received food from passers-by that it came to be regarded as their due. They could not under any circumstances tolerate stinginess. As a matter of fact, stinginess to a Maori mind is an intolerable fault.

Pakura and Hihi lived at first in Hurimoana pa, but later at Waioratane, near the mouth of the Waiapu River. It was their habit to sit on the bank above the beach, where, when the weather was favourable, they could see fishing canoes put out to sea or land, and parties carrying fish, crayfish, seaweed and shellfish, loved of Maori palate. In summer, too, large quantities of kahawai are netted along the beach or in the estuary of the Waiapu. When there was anything to give away the two brothers usually received their share. It happened one day they were not at their haunt, and a party of food-carriers had passed by without dropping the customary tribute. At once they went in pursuit. They caught up with the food defaulters just outside their pa, killed Tiritahua, the leader, who, with his crayfish, was eaten.

It was reported that the fern-root bed at Maunganui was unusually rich and plentiful. Consequently a large number of people gathered to harvest the luscious root. It was a busy scene, everyone bent on gathering a goodly supply. Pakura was also on the scene, but as a rangatira it would be undignified for him to join in the scramble. He looked on calmly, expecting to receive his fair contribution, but in the rush he was forgotten. As his nephew Awatai was digging page 15 close to him Pakura suddenly struck him on the head with his mere, for a chief was never without a weapon. As the young man fell back, protesting that the old man had struck him, Pakura remarked: “Me he po” (“It's not night”). He meant to say that Awatai should have been prepared to meet every possible emergency. However, blood had been shed, and amends must therefore be made. The chief deliberately and coolly stepped towards a man named Takimoana and dealt him a fatal blow on the temple. The body of the unfortunate man was carried to Waioratane and there placed in a hangi.1 The cooked body was stolen out of the hangi by a man called Haupehi and carried to Tikapa, three miles away, where it was shared amongst the sub-tribe.

Here again the Maunganui incident intrigues us. Pakura struck Awatai, but Takimoana, who had nothing to do with striking Awatai, paid the penalty with his life. It may be Takimoana was chosen because he was the greediest. Some years ago a party of Maoris caught a lot of eels from a small lake on the family property. The children saw the people pass by without offering them an eel. My little boy came in and said: “Papa, I now understand why Pakura killed greedy people.” The next day the same people came back again, and my little girl, without a word from me, ordered the trespassers off the place. Even the children could not tolerate stinginess in anyone.

As Hihi and Pakura sat on the bank at Waioratane a canoe was coming in. As their wont was, the latter went down to the beach to meet the canoe and lay down the skids to enable the crew to drag it ashore more easily. Instead of greeting Pakura they attacked him. The old fighter, who had scolded his nephew Awatai for not being prepared for every emergency, snatched a spear from an assailant and cut down his opponents right and left. Before Hihi came to his assistance a number of the enemy were bleeding on the ground. Because they were eaten with their crayfish the incident is known as “paru koura,” or “crayfish pulp.” In addition land was seized as further satisfaction for the unprovoked attack. This small piece of land is known as Kamiti, or Marangairoa, No. 1 D.7. The Native Land Court awarded it to descendants of Hihi and Pakura.

1 The Ngati-Porou call it umu, which is also the South Island Maori name. Elsewhere it is shown that the Ngati-Porou and South Island tribes are cousins.

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The adjoining piece of land, known as Okahu,1 was also seized by Hihi and Pakura and their relatives because its inhabitants were suspected of foul play in the drowning of Hamia's child.

Adjacent to Okahu is another piece of land seized by Hihi, Pakura and their relatives because the owners were caught eating sea food after the coast had been proclaimed tapu. The reason of the tapu was that the son of Hihi was drowned and the body had not been recovered.

The chief Rangimate-moana had two store houses in the Maraehara Valley in which food was stored by food-bringers. It was reported that Haere-aranui, a relative of Hihi and Pakura was amongst the food carriers for Rangimatemoana. The brothers felt that this was derogatory to the proud name of their sub-tribe, so, to put an end to further food-carrying for Rangimatemoana, Hihi and Pakura destroyed the chief's store house.

Over the grave of a young descendant of Rangimatemoana, engraved in solid marble, is this inscription: “Ko Ngati-Porou tenei,” or “This is Ngati-Porou.” When I read this at the unveiling of the monument two thoughts occurred to me: either the inscription was sincerely phrased or it was a piece of propaganda, for the words imply that the deceased was the paramount chief of the Ngati-Porou Tribe. As a matter of history I wish to express sincere disappointment with the inscription. The truest Ngati-Porou are the subtribes living in the Waiapu Valley (particularly those near the mouth of the Waiapu River) from the mouth of the river to Paua-o-Ruku stream. Both Rangimatemoana and Kakatarau or his brother, Mokena Kohere, lived within this area and both the latter were descendants of chiefs who were born, fought and died in the area. Rangimatemoana was a chief, but his grand-ancestress, Whakaohonga, the wife of the Horoera chief Hunaara, and the daughter of Tinatoka, came to Waiapu as a guest of the local sub-tribes. In the year 1943 I was one of a party of Ngati-Porou. At Te Kaha and Omaio it was noticeable one man did not like my presence in the
The Hon. Mokena Kohere

The Hon. Mokena Kohere

Whangara The home of Paikea, Porourangi and other progenitors of the Ngati-Porou Tribe. On the island is Paikea's Cave (page 3). The scene depicted is the opening of the beautiful carved house, Whitireia, Paikea's house.

The home of Paikea, Porourangi and other progenitors of the Ngati-Porou Tribe. On the
island is Paikea's Cave (page 3). The scene depicted is the opening of the beautiful carved
house, Whitireia, Paikea's house.

1 My people and I set up a case for Okahu under a conquest. Our claim was dismissed by Judge R. N. Jones. In its judgment the Native Land Court uses the phrase “a bloodless victory,” thus unconsciously admitting the conquest. Judge H. Carr found the conquest and our occupation proved and awarded us about half the block. The case is still sub judice. See Chapter XII.

page 17 party and the guileless words I used. At Omaio a local elder asked me how I could join a Ngati-Porou party which did not want me. In the evening, in a packed house, I referred to the matter and asked why anyone should object to my presence in a Ngati-Porou party, seeing I was a Ngati-Porou of the Ngati-Porous. You could hear a pin drop and no one replied to my query, although one or two really expressed agreement with me.