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The Story of a Maori Chief

Tender-Hearted Chief

Tender-Hearted Chief

I could add incidents in the life of Mokena Kohere to illustrate the fieriness of his nature. On the other hand, it is on record that during the absences of a missionary from home it was the habit of the great chief to sleep at night on the verandah of the missionary's house so that the missionary's wife and her young children could feel secure. No woman could boast of a nobler and humbler guardian.

Mokena Kohere's action in pardoning on his own responsibility the rebels whom he helped to subdue stamped him for all time as a magnanimous peacemaker. (See Chapter 8.)

It is well known that Mokena Kohere did not approve the deportation of Te Kooti Rikirangi and others to the Chatham Islands without first being tried. When Te Kooti invaded Poverty Bay after his escape from the island in 1868, after page 49 killing Paratene Turangi, he compelled a large number of peaceful natives to accompany him in his wanderings.

After the fall of Ngatapa these people broke away from Te Kooti and tried to return to their homes. They could not be sure whether they would be permitted, so for some time they camped in the bush on the Poverty Bay hills without coming out into the open. Smoke of fires was observed, so the relatives of the unhappy natives went out to investigate. As a matter of fact, feeling ran so high amongst the white settlers after the brutal murders committed by the escapees that it was considered unsafe for the natives to come down to their homes. Mokena Kohere was acquainted of the plight of the wanderers and he arranged for them to accompany him to his home on the East Coast, where they stayed for several years until feeling in Poverty Bay cooled down.

This was not the first time that members of the NgatiMaru Tribe emigrated to the East Cape district. When I was quite a little boy I remember seeing the remnants of these people. Amongst them were Irihāpeti, Te Kooti's wife, and her son, Wetini Rikirangi. Wetini was well known in Poverty Bay, and his descendants to-day live at Opou, near Manutuke.

Old Pakaku, long generally suspected of having caused the death of several people by indulging in the black art, was found shot dead in his little hut at Tuparoa, East Coast. Very little fuss was made over the case, for the murderer was regarded as having rid the tribe of a menace. And it was also generally expected that beautifully tattooed and handsome old Makaea would be the murderer's next victim. To prevent another atrocity and to save an innocent old man Mokena Kohere took Makaea to Pohakiu, near Horoera, where we were living at the time. As a child I used to wonder why my grandfather took interest in the old man, especially when people whispered into my childish ears that old Makaea was a wizard. I thought then that he did look like one. Makaea was always busy looking after my grandfather's taro1 patch.

Only late in life did I find out why my grandfather had taken the old man under his wing.