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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Child Offered for Tomahawk

Child Offered for Tomahawk

Much more definite information concerning the availability of flax in large quantities at, and to the north of, Mahia was obtained, about the end of May, 1813, by a party aboard the Perseverance, which had been chartered by Sydney merchants to take its representatives to inspect the flax areas about Foveaux Strait and which, en route back to Australia, passed along the East Coast. In his report on the trip (Historical Records of New Zealand, Vol. 1, p. 463) Robert Williams, who had rope works in Sydney, said:

“Found ourselves close in with Table Cape (Mahia). Ran 7 or 8 miles into the bay; fired off a gun. Fires were lighted on shore. Saw the natives. Mr. Jones became timid… and we stood out of the bay. Mr. Murray, having some knowledge of Table Cape, stood close round it. Saw large tribes of natives on shore, launching their canoes. Hove the vessel to.
“The natives brought potatoes and mats for trade. A spike nail would buy 1 cwt. of potatoes and a woman offered to sell her little boy for a tomahawk, but, the child crying, we could not take him, though the mother would part with him. I saw no hemp. The natives gave me to understand that they had plenty of that article ashore and went for it, but we waited not for their return, Mr. Jones thinking it not safe, but made sail along the shore. The canoes continued coming after us, trading as before…. We had every opportunity of visiting every mile of the coast as we sailed along, and I had no doubt of our being able to have collected some tons of hemp….”
page 83

As Mr. Jones (who was the representative of one of the charterers of the vessel) was anxious to return to Sydney, no landing was made on the East Coast. Attention to that locality as a plentiful source of supply in respect of flax is, however, likely to have resulted from the information disclosed in Williams's report.

Trade with the East Coast natives by masters of vessels calling in for supplies of provisions was halted in 1818, when Ngapuhi began a series of raids which covered about six years. What may be described as “The Gun Period” then opened in earnest. Doubtless, the Ngapuhi warrior Te Wera, who had, by invitation, settled on Mahia, encouraged the neighbouring tribes, as well as his adopted tribe, to obtain firearms. In any event, Australian schooners began to call regularly, and the bartering of produce, and later, flax, for guns soon reached considerable proportions.

According to evidence tendered in the Native Land Court (Waiapu minute book No. 5) Pomare, on the occasion of his friendly visit to Kawakawa (Te Araroa) in 1823, made a gift of a gun in return for some potatoes grown on Rangikohua block. In minute book No. 8B, there is an account of the purchase of a gun by Waipiro Bay natives from the vessel of Amokete, or Hamukete (Captain J. R. Kent), whilst it was lying off Tokomaru Bay [probably 1827–28]. Payment was made for it with potatoes grown on Matuapotanga. A brother of Potae Aute was named after a pakeha on the schooner. The witness said he was then too young to remember the transaction, but he did remember when, subsequently, the tribe bought guns from Polack at Tolaga Bay [1835 or 1836].