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


Seizure of Brig by Convicts—Were Stolen Ngapuhi Women Eaten at, or Near, East Cape?—Pomare's East Coast Wife—Te Wera as Protector of Ngati-Kahungunu.

Whilst the Endeavour was at Mercury Bay in 1769, Cook was informed by the natives that they lived in dread of their district being raided by northern tribes. A similar report reached Parkinson's ears, and, on 5 November, 1769, he wrote in his journal, “Some people, it seemed, came to them now and again from the north, plundering them of everything that they could find and carrying their wives and children away captive.”

In Nicholas's Voyage to New Zealand (1814), Vol. 1, p. 393, there appears an account of a plundering expedition which Shoupah [Te Haupa] made to “East Cape” from Thames. The narrator was a Tahitian named Jem, who had lived at “North Cape” since 1809. He told Nicholas that an expedition of 1,000 men had proceeded in canoes and attacked an unoffending people (a great many of whom they murdered and devoured), ravaged their country and burned their habitations.

Jem described the people of “East Cape” as much more ingenious and active than those of any other district. They had, he said, better homes and larger plantations, and made the best mats and war instruments, “but their unwarlike disposition and superior resources served only to expose them the more readily to the devastating incursions of their rapacious neighbours, who conspire to despoil them of that property which they lack courage to defend.” It is not possible to establish the identity of the tribe which Jem says was so ruthlessly attacked by Te Haupa. Jem told Marsden (with whom Nicholas had voyaged) that, within the preceding five years, he had accompanied three war expeditions to “East Cape.” Marsden formed the impression that Jem's “East Cape” was about 300 miles from his “North Cape.”

Some details have been handed down concerning the merciless raids which the Ngapuhi carried out along the East Coast between 1818 and 1824. Hongi, who attacked only the northern and central sections of Ngati-Porou, created by far the most dread, although Pomare and Te Wera, later, wrought terrible havoc in the same localities, and also farther to the south. It is doubtful whether a more sanguinary raid than Hongi's in 1818 ever occurred elsewhere in New Zealand. Unlike Pomare and Te Wera, Hongi never made peace with Ngati-Porou.

page 73

Traces of the widespread devastation inflicted in the Waiapu came under the notice of William Williams on the occasion of his first visit in 1834. Several places in the Whakawhitira Valley where pas had been destroyed were pointed out to him. “The present inhabitants,” he says (Christianity Among the New Zealanders, p. 174) “consist principally of those who escaped to the woods. This desolating war was undertaken, so far as I could learn, without any aggression on the part of these people, but solely for the purpose of taking slaves.”

So terrible were the raids that over a century passed before Ngati-Porou agreed to allow bygones to be bygones and accepted representatives of Ngapuhi as honoured guests. The healing power of time was shown in 1939, upon the occasion of the opening of a new meeting-house at Whangara. One of the speakers—a Ngati-Porou elder—expressed the hope that steps would be taken to acknowledge the great debt that was owed to Ngapuhi for having paved the way for the introduction of Christianity on to the East Coast.