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

Historic Services in Waiapu

Historic Services in Waiapu

On the following day, the visitors, accompanied by a large number of natives, went by sea to Waiapu, halting at Rangitukia, where was situated the outer and well-fortified pa of the Waiapu Valley, which was capable of mustering 560 fighting men. Referring to the service held in the evening, Mr. Williams says:

“There were upwards of 500 men, women and children at prayers. It was the largest assemblage I had yet spoken to in this country. Many old priests were present, but they showed no disposition to cavil, nor any symptom of fear lest their craft should be endangered; on the contrary, they seemed ready to listen to any new thing which might be told them.”

Next day, a visit was paid to the inner pa at Whakawhitira (about ten miles off) which, it was said, had attached to it two thousand fighting men. Many of its fighters were also away. “This village,” Mr. Williams says, “is very large and very well page 158 situated in the midst of extensive cultivations. Waiapu, as a place for a mission station, surpassed any other that I had yet seen.”

Sunday (12 January, 1834) was the first Sabbath observed by the East Coast natives under the auspices of European missionaries. Rukuata and his friends made the arrangements for the services, which were held at Rangitukia and Whakawhitira. About five hundred natives were present at the former place and seven hundred at the latter. As there was no bell, the people were called together by the sound produced by the business end of a European hoe being struck by another piece of metal.

“There was, as yet,” Mr. Williams records, “no prospect of forming a mission station among these interesting tribes, for the simple reason that there was no one to undertake the work; but an important step had been taken, for the district had been explored and there was sufficient proof that it was a promising field for future occupation.”

Mr. Yate's description of the native menfolk who attended the service at Whakawhitira bears out what Mr. Williams says concerning the wild appearance of the East Coast natives:

“Some of them,” he says, “had their beards plastered with red ochre and oil; others, with blue clay and a deep mark of red ochre over each eye, which, together with the tattooing, gives them the most ferocious aspect which can be conceived, strongly resembling some of the pictures of Apollyon in the older editions of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.

The missionaries went on by sea to Table Cape (Mahia) before returning to the Bay of Islands.

Although Rukuata is credited with having made the arrangements for the religious services which the visiting clerics held on the East Coast, it was Piripi Taumata-a-Kura who became the outstanding evangelist among the Ngati-Porou. According to Bishop W. Williams, Taumata was carried off into captivity on the occasion of the Pomare-Te Wera raid in 1823. W. L. Williams suggests that he was among the slaves who were restored to their people in 1834. His father was under a like impression. On the other hand, J. G. Baker (a son of the Rev. C. Baker) says that Taumata returned on the mission schooner Columbine some months earlier.

As soon as he got back home, Taumata, who had attended the mission school at Waimate (Bay of Islands), began to share with his kinsfolk his scanty knowledge of Christianity and civilisation. W. L. Williams says that he had never given anyone in the north any reason to suppose that he took a special interest in the pakehas' religion; he had learned to read, but had not been even a recognised catechumen. However, Mr. Baker held that Taumata was baptized at the Bay of Islands.

For his new rôle as an evangelist, Taumata was ill-equipped. page 159 He had brought back with him only a few Scripture texts, a few prayers and some hymns. Mr. Baker says that they were in printed form, but, according to W. L. Williams, they were merely written upon scraps of paper. Luckily, Taumata was of an inventive turn of mind. With the aid of charcoal he made some copies on flat pieces of wood. For a like purpose he also used pieces of flax, first covering them with grease and then dusting them with ashes so that they might be written upon with a sharppointed stick.

Among the self-appointed native teachers, Matenga Tukareaho was not less remarkable than Taumata-a-Kura. He, too, had been a great warrior and a cannibal. Prior to the opening of the first mission station in Poverty Bay (1840), he had laboured in Northern Hawke's Bay. Bishop W. Williams says that, in the first instance, the Gospel was carried to Wairoa and Mahia by three natives who found their way there in quest of their relatives, one having come back from the Bay of Islands and the other two from Rotorua. Probably the two last mentioned had received some instruction at the Rev. T. Chapman's mission station at Rotorua in 1835.

It is certain that the native who had been at the Bay of Islands was Matenga. The year of his return is likely to have been 1834. In the judgment in the Hereheretau No. 2 case, it is stated that he went to the Bay of Islands “either as a captive, or as a guest, of Pomare.” Evidence was given by Ihaka Whaanga to this effect: “Matenga was the first Christian native preacher in the Wairoa district. When he returned from the Bay of Islands, he preached at Te Uhi. Some of the people wanted to kill him. Taitauhi shut him up in a house called ‘Herenga.’ He was saved by going to Turanga, but, eventually, he returned to Nuhaka.”