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


Natives in Truculent Mood—Theft Leads to Casualties—Marines Landed as Protective Force—Fatal Raid on Canoe in Bay—Was Possession of New Zealand Taken at Poverty Bay?

Tuesday, 10 October, 1769—the day following Cook's historic landing at Poverty Bay—was the blackest day during the whole of the Endeavour's six months' stay in New Zealand waters. In the morning, another native, Te Rakau, was shot and left to die for snatching away Mr. Green's hanger, and three others were wounded. During the afternoon, four natives were killed out in the bay merely because they showed fight when molested, and three of their companions were taken captive. Parkinson suggests— and his contention was accepted by Colenso, McNab and others— that Cook took possession of New Zealand for King George III that day. It will be found, however, that the claim was erroneous.

Parkinson's account states:

“Early in the morning of the 10th [the Canberra logbook says at 8 a.m.] the longboat, pinnace and yawl went on shore again, and the party landed near the river where they had been on the night before, and attempted to find a watering-place. Several of the natives came towards them and, with much entreating, we prevailed upon some of them to cross the river: to whom we gave several things, which they carried back to their companions on the other side of the river, who seemed to be highly pleased with them and testified their joy by a war-dance.
“Appearing to be so peaceably disposed, our company went over to them and were received in a friendly manner…. We would have purchased some of their weapons, but could not prevail upon them to part with them on any terms. One of them, however, watched an opportunity and snatched a hanger from us: our people resented the affront by firing upon them and killed three of them on the spot; but the rest, to our surprise, did not appear to be intimidated at the sight of their expiring countrymen, who lay weltering in their blood, nor did they seem to breathe any revenge upon the occasion, attempting only to wrest the hanger out of the man's hand that had been shot and to take the weapons that belonged to their other 2 deceased comrades which, having effected, they quietly departed. After having taken possession of the country in form for the King, our company embarked….”

As several of Parkinson's statements—viz. that the natives appeared friendly; that Cook's party went over to the western side of the river; that three natives were slain during the quarrel over the theft of the hanger; and that the country was taken possession of in form for the King—are not in accord with other accounts, it is practically certain that he was not on shore on that page 29 occasion. Native tradition is also clear upon the point that only the native who snatched away Mr. Green's hanger was fatally injured.

According to Wharton's Captain Cook's Journal, p. 131, Cook, Banks and Solander landed [at Boat Harbour] and went to the [eastern] side of the river. In his rough draft, Cook states that heavy surf prevented his party from landing to the west of the river [on Waikanae Beach], where some natives had assembled. Banks says that the reason why only a few landed at first was because the Indians—about fifty—remained on the farther [western] side of the river, and that their action in so doing was looked upon as a sign of fear. He includes Tupaea as a member of the first party that landed. Cook adds that, when they—probably Tupaea—called to the natives in the George's Island [Tahitian] language, they answered by flourishing their weapons over their heads and by dancing what was believed to be a wardance. Consequently, his party retired [to Boat Harbour] until the marines were landed, “who I ordered to be drawn up about 200 yards behind us.”