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The Story of a Maori Chief

Chapter 4 — Bitter Intertribal Feuds

page 18

Chapter 4
Bitter Intertribal Feuds

It may be well to go back a few generations in order to trace the origin of the strange vendetta between two neighbouring tribes who descended from one common stock, viz., Ngati-Porou and Whanau-a-Apanui.

The distinguished Whanau-a-Apanui warrior chief, Tamahae, took it into his head to play the knight errant. Making his way to Wairoa, he showed himself a brave and daring fighter, at the same time displaying traits of humour. Then he thought he would work his way into the Ngati-Porou territory, moving from one stronghold to another, making utterances which have become Maori classics. At Purepureaure pa, by killing the chieftainess Hinetapora and her children, he brought discredit to his otherwise knightly record. From thence he wandered down the Waiapu Valley. He called at Puputa, the stronghold at the back of Waiomatatini. There his fame had preceded him, and he was expected by the chief Makahuri, grandson of Tuwhakairiora. Having tarnished his good name by his killing of Hinetapora and her children, he could not be received with respect by another chief, so Makahuri1 was determined to insult him. As Tamahae approached the earthwork of the stronghold Makahuri, having placed himself in a position of vantage, let out his own natural gas as his greeting to the distinguished warrior. Tamahae, shocked and surprised, stood back and remarked:

“Akiaki ana te whero o tama a Te Atahaia.”

(“How explosive is Atahaia's son.”)

(Atahaia was Tuterangiwhiu's second wife.)

Insulted and belittled, Tamahae visited another stronghold not far off, crossed the Waiapu River, and made his way to Puahanui, Putaanga's pa. As he stood outside, Putaanga appeared on the earthwork and hurled a spear at him. Warding off the missile, Tamahae coolly remarked:

“Te kino tangata, e wero iho nei.”

(“What an ugly man thrusting a spear at me.”)

1 Some authorities say Makahuri himself invited Tamahae to visit Waiapu.

page 19

Putaanga replied:

“He kino ra no tau o te wai.”

(“I may be ugly but I am of the deepest part of the river.”)

Tamahae, as the wag he was, queried:

“No hea, e ? “


Putaanga once more replied:

“No te maara ra a Tumoana-kotore.”

(“I am from Tumoana-kotore's garden.”)

Tamahae again:

“E, taua tahi.”

(“Yes, you and I.”)


“Au anake, no te wa tauware noa hoki koe.”

(“I alone, you are only an offshoot.”)

The explanation is that Tumoana-kotore was a grandancestor of the Ngati-Porou Tribe. Tamahae also could claim to be connected with the Ngati-Porou Tribe—he was not a flower but a “dragon's tooth” from Tumoana-kotore's garden. Tamahae's descent from Tumoana-kotore is not questioned, but there is doubt about Putaanga. Tamahae might have been called an “offshoot “because he lived in the Whanau-a-Apanui district, not in the Ngati-Porou district. (Study the genealogies at the end of the book.)

From Puahanui Tamahae continued his wanderings down the valley, and, turning to his left, he followed the course of the Maraehara River until he came to Puketawai pa, where Hikitai1 ruled. Outside it he stood until Hikitai appeared and hurled a spear at him. Avoiding this with ease, he remarked:

“Te iti tangata e wero iho nei.”

(“What a little man hurling spears at me.”)

Hikitai readily replied:

“He iti ra, he iti mapihi pounamu.”

(“I may be little, but I'm a greenstone of the finest kind.”)

Insulted at Puputa, attacked and insulted at Puahanui and Puketawai, places in the very heart of the Ngati-Porou territory, Tamahae felt he had had more than enough, and so,

1 Hikitai was the son of Hikatoa, and thus a descendant of the great Tuwhakairiora.

page 20 without paying calls at other strongholds, he made for his home in the Bay of Plenty. For a man to go through a country speaks well for Tamahae's daring and self-confidence. After his slaughter of Hinetapora and her children a combined effort by the Ngati-Porou might have been expected to rid their district of a menace. There was nothing. Were the Ngati-Porou afraid of this man or did they tolerate him because he was by blood connected with themselves? It seems also that Tamahae did not on any occasion enter or storm a stronghold after the slaughter of Hinetapora. Moreover, Makahuri, Putaanga and Hikitai were confident that Tamahae could not be in a position to attack them.

Before I go on to describe the series of five conflicts between Ngati-Porou and Whanau-a-Apanui, I must refer to the first fight which occurred between the two neighbouring tribes, that of the trouble at Korau-whakarau ridge. It appears that a party of the Whanau-a-Apanui had come to the foothills of Mount Hikurangi to snare pigeons. The party was successful, but unfortunately another party of Ngati-Porou came upon the Whanau-a-Apanui party and treated them as trespassers. Their swag-traps were cut, and the loads of pigeons were forcibly taken off their backs. The Bay of Plenty party returned home and reported that they had been shamefully treated by Ngati-Porou. The Whanau-a-Apanui took the insult seriously to heart, and a plan of action in revenge was conceived. This led to the fight known as Maniaroa.

After resting for some time, and no doubt after planning for another visit to the Ngati-Porou territory, Tamahae set out with a fleet of canoes, bound for the East Cape. The news of his intended expedition had leaked out and had reached the ears of Kino, who lived at Okarae (Lottin Point). Kino, being related to the Ngati-Porou Tribe, thought it was incumbent on him to warn Ngati-Porou of Tamahae's plan. So he set out alone and carried out his purpose of warning the tribe.

Tamahae and his expedition called at East Cape, where Ruahuia, Tuhorouta's eldest daughter, and her husband, Hikapooho, with their son, Kaapa, had settled after leaving Te Kaha. Ruahuia and her family had taken up their residence at the ancient stronghold, Tamataurei. From down below Tamahae called out to Hikapooho to hurry down to rub noses page 21 with a relative. As Hikapooho was getting ready to descend to meet Tamahae his son, Kaapa, intervened by saying: “Let the grey-haired remain but let the black-haired go out.”

Before Tamahae and Kaapa met, a stranger was seen hastening along the beach, not looking either to the right or to the left. When Kino was asked to call he uttered a saying which is often repeated:

“Na wai te koau ka ruku ki te aromaunga e hokia.”

(“A shag that has flown deep into the mountain face will not turn.”)

Tamahae surmised that Kino had been up to some mischief, and he prepared for any contingency. He had not long to wait. Soon numbers of men were observed crossing the Tutu-o-Ue saddle. Ngati-Porou, warned by him, had planned to meet Tamahae and his party at this vantage point and cut off his escape. Tamahae, assisted by Ngati-Porou Kaapa, advanced to meet the foe on the beach. The two great warriors, Tamahae and Kaapa, made short work of the Ngati-Porou force. It was completely routed and the carnage was considerable. The fight is known as “Te Riri ki nga Taipu o Haronga” (“The fight at Haronga sand-dunes.”)

The reader's attention may be drawn to the treacherous conduct of the chief Kaapa, whom I have described as the Ngati-Porou Kaapa. He was a progenitor of the well-known Ngati-Porou loyal chiefs, Houkamau and Wikiriwhi Matauru. Why he should have taken the part of the Whanau-a-Apanui chief, Tamahae, against Ngati-Porou and within Ngati-Porou territory is hard to understand. Furthermore, he and his parents, Hikapooho and Ruahuia, had been compelled, owing to some quarrel at Te Kaha, to return to the Ngati-Porou territory recently, and they were given a small piece of land at East Cape whereon to live. The party were passing by in its canoe when women of a local tribe who were diving for crayfish invited them to come ashore by waving with their girdles of seaweed. Even to-day descendants of Kaapa are often taunted with the remark: “You were called in with women's girdles of seaweed!” At the same time it must be remembered that the appeal for assistance was to Hikapooho and was intercepted by Kaapa.

Tamahae, having accomplished the defeat of the Ngati-Porou, returned to his home in the Bay of Plenty. At Okarae, near Lottin Point, he sent for Kino in the Upoko-ngaruru pa. page 22 Kino was strongly advised to remain in the protection of the pa, for Tamahae's intentions were well understood. He, however, determined to go, trusting that Te Uanga, Tamahae's elder brother, would intercede on his behalf. Unfortunately for him, Te Uanga had left the expedition at Wharekahika. Kino remarked:

“Tena te ngaru whati, tena te ngaru puku.” (“There's a sea that breaks and there's a sea that doesn't.”)

Tamahae was the curling sea that would swamp him, while Te Uanga was the sea that would not break, but would safely bear him ashore.

As soon as Kino got into the canoe Tamahae ordered him to be bound. While he lay in the bottom of the canoe he asked where about they were, and being told they were off Karani, he remarked:

“Patua Kino i konei, kia taka te wairua o Kino taka i rota o Karani.”

(“Kill Kino here so that Kino's spirit may wander up and down Karani.”)

After Tamahae had struck him a blow on his temple Kino murmured:

“Me he ra e to ana Kino.”

(“Kino, alas, is like the setting sun.”)

Thus ended Kino, with humour playing on his lips to his last breath.

Tamahae's wanderlust and war-lust must be held responsible for the chain of five battles which occurred between Ngati-Porou and the Whanau-a-Apanui. He was indeed a warrior, dauntless and carefree. Because of his consciousness of his strength he began to “throw his weight about.”

An earlier clash between the two tribes prior to the fight at Nga Taipu ki Haronga was that at Maniaroa, midway between Te Araroa and Hicks Bay. It would appear that both tribes were anxious for a clash, and it was arranged that the meeting should take place at Maniaroa.

The northern army was led by a tried warrior chief Apanui-mutu, and the southern army was led by several chiefs. Apanui and his party were encamped on what is now known as Hicks Bay hill, while the Ngati-Porou were encamped on the plain below. As the Ngati-Porou chiefs, one after another, got up on their feet, exhorting the warriors to page 23 put their enemy to flight, Apanui observed a small party approaching along the beach. Pointing to the beach party, he remarked: “That's your enemy, for they are the warrior sons of Tuwhakairiora; but the rabble down on the plain, instructed by so many boasters, you just trample under your feet.” When the opposing sides clashed it was not long before the Ngati-Porou ranks began to waver, and some of their chiefs fell. Just at this juncture the small band, led by redoubtable Tohurouta, joined battle and heartened the wavering ranks. For every turn of Tuhorouta's taiaha1 a foe fell, until his weapon snapped in two. Tuhorouta, helpless, was taken prisoner, but, being a son of Tuwhakairiora, after being shamefully insulted, he was let free. His young brother, Aowehea, who was involved in the murder of Kowhaki already referred to, lost his life at Maniaroa.

I had at first placed the fight at Maniaroa in the series of fights between Ngati-Porou and Whanau-a-Apanui, consequent on the insults to Tamahae during his visit to Waiapu, but as Tamahae was a grandson of Apanui-mutu the victor at Maniaroa, the fight must have taken place prior to Tamahaes’ historic fight.

To wipe out this defeat Ngati-Porou organised a war expedition and met with disaster at the hands of the Whanau-aApanui at Te Piki-a-Te Atawhiua, inland of Whangaparaoa. Amongst the fallen were members of the Ngati-Hokopu subtribe. The Whanau-a-Apanui had, of course, been informed of the intention of Ngati-Porou and had selected a strategic point where to meet the enemy. The East Coast tribe were drawn into a trap and were taken by surprise. Many of them were driven into a swamp, where they floundered helplessly and were slain.

Smarting under defeat, Ngati-Porou once more in 1829 sent a war expedition to the Bay of Plenty to wipe out, as they had wished, the disgrace at Te Piki-a-Te Atawhiua. They stormed the Wharekura pa, to the east of Te Kaha, a strongly-fortified pa, which could be approached only by a narrow sandy isthmus. There Pakura was mortally wounded, and the Ngati-Porou ranks broke and fled. Pakura's voice still called on his people to rally, but it was of no avail. Kakatarau and Horua heard their elder's voice and the latter

1 An elongated weapon of hardened wood with a long, narrow and edgeless blade. The deadliest of all native weapons.

page 24 said: “The voice pains me, so let us return that we may also perish with our elder.” To this Kakatarau replied: “No, let us live to avenge his death some day.”

Beside Pakura, Te Porioterangi, forbear of Houkamau, and others met their death at Wharekura. Wharekura was Ngati-Porou's third defeat in succession.

Elated by their success, Whanau-a-Apanui returned the compliments by entering the Waiapu Valley in 1834. All Ngati-Porou had gathered for protection in Rangitukia and Whakawhitira pas. Kakatarau ruled in the former stronghold. Whanau-a-Apanui were so sure of meeting with another success that they actually brought with them a young chief, Maka Te Uhutu, to feast on the hearts of Ngati-Porou chiefs. For days the enemy encamped outside Rangitukia, and the local people were left guessing what their intention was. Probably they knew that Rangitukia was too well manned to be taken by assault. Tangitaheke, in whose veins coursed Ngati-Porou blood, warned Kakatarau that the Whanau-a-Apanui were plotting treachery. They had asked for a friendly talk and were actually seen approaching the pa. Kakatarau, after humming a well-known song, gave the order to fire with what few guns they possessed. Taken by surprise, Whanau-a-Apanui fled, leaving their dead behind. Kakatarau did not follow up his success, but permitted the enemy to gather their dead. These they burnt to cinders in fires which blazed day and night. And not until they had disposed of their dead did Whanau-a-Apanui leave for their homes in the Bay of Plenty.

Had Rangitukia fallen the Whanau-a-Apanui would probably have attacked Whakawhitira. Kakatarau and his people thus fought Ngati-Porou's battle and brought relief to the whole tribe.

The fight at Rangitukia took place in the year 1834. Soon after that Kakatarau, Pakura's eldest son, commenced preparations for an expedition to the Bay of Plenty as a final reckoning with the traditional enemy.

Word was sent to Nukutaurua (Mahia Peninsula), where chiefs from Hawke's Bay and the surrounding districts had gathered for fear of an invasion of their districts by Taupo and Waikato tribes. Te Wera, the Ngapuhi chief, was then living at Nukutaurua. Chiefs from Wairarapa were also asked to help, which they readily did, for Ngati-Porou, under page 25 Kaapa, had come to their assistance on a previous occasion. Some say that Kakatarau personally visited Nukutaurua. The result was a large fleet of war canoes, each manned by a distinct tribe under its own chief, was got ready. All chiefs from Wairarapa to Hicks Bay joined the expedition. The enemy had already fortified themselves in Toka-a-Kuku pa, at the point of the Te Kaha Peninsula, with the sea on two sides and a high wall formed on the landward side. The stronghold was large enough to include kumara plantations, and it proved impregnable.

The fleet set sail early in 1836. The invading tribes took up their position on the western side of the local tribes’ position, where they entrenched themselves. They laid siege to the pa, but after a few months it was found impossible to storm it. Fish and shellfish were easily procured in abundance by the defenders, and reinforcements came by sea. The defenders, to relieve the pressure, sent out sorties, who suffered severely. The besiegers, too, suffered from shortage of food and exposure to the weather. The first to break away from the ranks of the invaders by returning home was the chief Te Kani-a-Takirau; but Kakatarau, Te Wera and other chiefs held on persistently. Reinforcements from as far north as Whakatane came by land to the assistance of the defenders of Toka-a-Kuku. These were met at Puremu-tahuri stream and were severely punished. Those who tried to get away were pursued and slain. Paratene Ngata told me that at every spot where a chief was slain a carved wooden figure was erected and covered with a mat. These figures were still standing in his day.

Percy Smith, in his account of the siege of Toka-a-Kuku, reckons that the Bay of Plenty tribes lost 140 in the first battle. Mohi Turei puts down the number of killed as over 205. Amongst the fallen of the local tribes the most notable were Tuteranginoti and Kakapaiwaho, and of the invading tribes Parata, Kakatarau's brother, and Marino, Te Wera's son.

The Toka-a-Kuku campaign was remarkable for the fact that it was the last encounter between Ngati-Porou and their cousins, the Whanau-a-Apanui. Since then no tribes could be on more amicable terms than these two. The campaign was also remarkable for the fact that it was an occasion for the introduction into Maori warfare of Christian sentiments, page 26 which were propounded by Piripi Taumata-akura. During the Ngapuhi raids on the Ngati-Porou Tribe in 1824 Piripi was amongst the captives whom the conquerors carried off to the Bay of Islands. Whilst there he came under the influence of the missionaries at Paihia. With the Ngati-Porou chiefs who were carried away in a whaling ship to the Bay of Islands he was brought back by the Rev. William Williams in his little vessel, the Herald. He settled down at Whakawhitira, where, although he was not baptised, he began to preach the Gospel to the Ngati-Porou. Hundreds listened to him in wonder as he unfolded the wondrous story of the Cross. At Toka-a-Kuku he told the invaders that it was against Christian teachings to kill the wounded and to despoil the dead. Those of the invaders who fell were known to have disregarded Taumataakura's instructions.

Kakatarau died at Rangitukia and was buried in the Okaroro cemetery. He married the two daughters of the chief Te Rangimatemoana, viz., Poreterete and Waipounamu. All his children died, and he left no issue to perpetuate his name. Naturally his mantle fell on his younger brother, Mokena Kohere.