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The Story of a Maori Chief

Mokena Kohere Pardons Rebels

Mokena Kohere Pardons Rebels

Prisoners taken at Hungahunga-toroa were entrusted to the care of their fellow-tribesmen of Ngati-Porou and were taken to Mokena Kohere's headquarters at Hatepe.

At Te Pito, three miles south of East Cape, the chief Wikiriwhi Matauru gave the order that all prisoners were to be shot. This incident may sound improbable in the ears of those who do not understand the inner working of the page 58 Maori mind. To kill prisoners would be quite in order according to the law of ito or revenge, and Wikiriwhi Matauru would be quite capable of enforcing the law of ito. After the fall of Ngatapa, Te Kooti's stronghold in Poverty Bay, a large number of prisoners were taken. Amongst these were Renata Tupara and his relatives. Ropata Wahawaha was prepared to put these people to death. The more lenient natives appealed to Wikiriwhi to save these people, who were related to him since his ancestor Te Rangiteremauri had married Tahawai.

Wiki's reply was, “E kimoa atu!” (“Put them away quietly”).

Ropata ordered Renata Tupara and others to be shot.1

When it dawned on the guard that Matauru was determined to kill his own fellow tribesmen they at once knew that the only way to save the doomed prisoners was to send for Mokena Kohere, who was a few miles behind the main body. Pape Hamapiria was to go at top speed to acquaint Mokena Kohere of the impending tragedy. The chief arrived in the nick of time to save the doomed prisoners, the second occasion within two days. The incident is authentically true, for Ngati-Porou composed a haka, containing the words, “Me he kore ana a Te Mokena, a nge!” (“But for Mokena, what then?”)

Amongst prominent men on the side of the loyalists who were killed during the Hauhau rising on the East Coast were Henare Nihoniho, Makoare and Hunia Huaki, a relative of Mokena Kohere's.

Arrived at Hatepe, Mokena Kohere ordered the Union Jack to be hoisted, and on a table at the foot of the flagstaff was an open Bible. Then, raising his voice, the chief cried out:

“E hoki ia hapu, ia hapu, ki te tahu i tana ahi, I tana ahi” (“Let each sub-tribe return home to re-kindle its own fire”).

In these few simple words Mokena Kohere on his own responsibility pardoned the rebellious Ngati-Porou. Time has amply proved that his magnanimous policy of pardon has page 59 been magnificently successful, for no more loyal and progressive tribe than the Ngati-Porou could be found throughout Maoridom.

Before finally dismissing the sub-tribes Mokena Kohere asked them to fall in line and march under the hoisted Union Jack and salute it and at the same time kiss the open Bible, swearing allegiance to the Great White Queen—Victoria. The most recalcitrant of the sub-tribes, like Whanau-a-Hunaara of Horoera, were suspended and kept under surveillance. Several of these were deported to the Chatham Islands, from which they escaped with Te Kooti in 1868.

1 Te Matauru Wikiriwhi's action in not interceding on behalf of his Poverty Bay relatives is not as callous as it might appear. An ancestor of his named Te Rangiteremauri, who had married Tahawai, was taken prisoner by a Poverty Bay party. At first it was decided to let him go, but afterwards his captors changed their minds and followed him. He was overtaken and killed.