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

A Gay Lothario

A Gay Lothario

It seems that the loyal natives were also glad to see Te Kooti banished. Tuta Nihoniho told James Cowan—vide an article in the Lyttelton Times—that Te Kooti, on one occasion, abducted a dusky charmer by means of a clever and daring stratagem. In broad daylight he rode up to his inamorata's home, carrying, balanced on his saddle, a dead pig wrapped up in several folds of canvas. Without undue delay he deftly substituted the lady—fortunately she was on the petite side!—for the porker, and then rode off. In this particular case, however, Te Kooti, in Tuta's eyes, richly deserved his prize: the husband, he held, should have taken better care of his wife!

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This amusing and daring feat led to retributive action being taken against Te Kooti's relatives. Colonel T. W. Porter (Gisborne Times, 21/2/1914) says that the wronged husband and his people muru'd (plundered) them. In retaliation Te Kooti raised a band of 200 malcontents, who, in turn, plundered the hapu to which his lady-love belonged. Laden with their loot, the freebooters retired to an inland pa. [It stood on the western side of the Waipaoa River, close to the site now occupied by the Matawhero bridge.] Porter adds that they were ejected and scattered by a force recruited from the adjacent tribes.

Wi Pere, in the story of his life (published posthumously in the Gisborne Times, 16/2/1916), says that the trouble occurred in 1853. Te Kooti assembled a strong following of young men belonging to Rongowhakaata tribe. They stole all the horses, pigs, cattle and grog that they could lay their hands upon, and then gathered in a number of young women, some of whom were married. When the angry fathers and husbands protested, the culprits pointed to their loaded guns. The chiefs were afraid to make an attack on the pa, lest some of the women might be killed.

According to Wi Pere, he headed 100 young men belonging to T'Aitanga-a-Mahaki tribe, who crept upon the pa held by the terrorists. Climbing a tree, he called to Te Kooti to come over to him, as he wished to speak to him. Whilst they were in conversation, his force rushed through the open gate of the pa and overpowered the occupants. Te Kooti escaped by swimming across the river. Wi Pere added: “I took all the prisoners to Manutuke, and handed them over to their own people. The Church Committee demanded £400 from Te Kooti for the damage he had caused. He only laughed at them, and sent back insolent messages. So we seized all his pigs and cattle and sold them, realising £1,000!” As Wi Pere was only 15 years old in 1853 it is plain that he did not understate his part in the raid. For all that, the story bears out the contention that Te Kooti was loathed by many members of his own race as well as by the pakehas.

Tuta Nihoniho, however, held that it was on account of another fickle native beauty that Te Kooti was exiled. She was, he said, the wife of Hamiora Whakataka, a Rongowhakaata chief. For a long time the amorous Te Kooti had sought after her, but she feared her husband. Scenting that all was not well in his matrimonial abode, Hamiora caused a strict watch to be kept, and, on that account, he was enabled to retain his spouse. He would have liked to have burdened Te Kooti with a bullet, but, instead, he complained to Paratene Turangi, who, after consulting the other chiefs, advised Major Biggs to include Te Kooti in the next batch of prisoners to be sent to the Chatham Islands.

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It is difficult to believe that Te Kooti was exiled merely to please some of the settlers and some of the loyal natives who felt that it would be better to have him out of the way because he was such a bad character. The delay in rearresting him until after two batches of rebels had been sent away appears rather to indicate that, at the time he was apprehended, he had only recently committed some act which was held to have been designed to aid the rebels.