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

Convicts Kidnap Women

Convicts Kidnap Women

Two raids were carried out to the southward by Ngapuhi in 1818. Morenga's was definitely a sequel to the kidnapping of some native women—chiefly Ngapuhi—in 1806 by Australian convicts, who had seized the Sydney-owned brig Venus in Tasmanian waters. Marsden says that the convicts stole two women at North Cape, one at Bay of Islands, one at Bream Cove, and one at Thames. Te Haupa (the principal chief of Ngati-Paoa) was also captured at Thames, but, watching his chance, he jumped overboard and reached the shore. His daughter was the Thames woman who was carried off.

Smith (Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, p. 57) states that, with the exception of Te Morenga's niece, who, he claims, was slain at Tauranga by Te Waru, “most of the kidnapped people were landed at or near East Cape, where, after a time, Ngati-Porou killed and ate them.” At page 89 et seq., he says that “one of the women left among the Ngati-Porou near the East Cape was Te Morenga's sister” and that “she was killed and eaten by the Ngati-Porou tribe.” He continues: “… Hongi's object in raiding the Ngati-Porou was practically the same as Te Morenga's, for one of the women taken away was a relative of his and she met the same fate as Te Morenga's sister” [i.e. was killed and eaten by Ngati-Porou]. It will, however, be found that Ngati-Porou were not in any way connected with the deaths of these Ngapuhi women.

In his journal, Marsden (27/8/1819) states that Te Morenga's sister was sold by the convicts “at an island near the East Cape page 74 for some mats,” and that “two of the natives afterwards quarrelled about her, in consequence of which she was killed.” Te Morenga set off “to the East Cape” [January, 1818] to avenge her death. He killed the chief of the island on which she had been murdered and brought away the chief's wife as prisoner and gave her to his brother, with whom she now [1819] lives.

Under date 15 September, 1819, Marsden says that the convicts also took away a woman belonging to Hongi's tribe and landed her “at or near the East Cape on the mainland.” Spies sent out by Te Morenga travelled as traders “all along the coast” and brought back information concerning what had become of these two women. One of them, it was reported, had been killed and eaten on an island and the other on the mainland. [On his return to the Bay of Islands, Hongi, however, did not claim that he had avenged the death of a relative during his absence. His fleet sailed a month after Te Morenga's and the two fleets never met.]

To a considerable extent, the position is clarified by what Te Morenga told Marsden just after his second expedition in 1820. Marsden says that whilst they were sitting on a hilltop overlooking Tauranga, Te Morenga mentioned that his more recent expedition had been in connection with the loss of one of his nieces, who had been sold by the pirates to a Tauranga chief named Shoukori [Hukori] and had become his slave. Shoukori had quarrelled with another chief named Te Waru, and, in consequence, his niece had been slain by Te Waru, or by one of his tribe, and had been eaten. Te Morenga added that he had not been able to avenge his niece's death until a few months previously. One of his sisters had also been carried off, and had met with a similar fate “farther to the south,” but he had already avenged her death [in 1818, when he overthrew Matarehua pa, on Motiti Island].

Marsden says that the place of the then recent fight was “a level space just opposite where Captain Cook had anchored.” [Cook spent some days at anchor at Mercury Bay, but he did not anchor off Tauranga.] W. Williams (Christianity Among the New Zealanders, p. 24) gives “Shoukori” as “Hakori,” and says that Te Morenga's niece was abducted at Bream Cove, landed at Mercury Bay and eaten by Te Waru, of Tauranga.

When all the evidence is sifted, it is plain that Motiti Island was the place where Te Morenga's sister was slain and eaten and that his niece met a like fate at or close to Tauranga. As these places are at a great distance from the territory occupied by the Ngati-Porou, that tribe could not have been in any way connected with the deaths of the unfortunate women. Seemingly, Smith was misled by Marsden's loose use of the earlier elastic page 75 term “East Cape.” Believing that Marsden's “East Cape” was Cook's East Cape, it was no trouble to him to embellish his account by introducing into it the name of the Ngati-Porou tribe, which inhabits that and other portions of the East Coast.

In the circumstances, it is not at all surprising that the Ngati-Porou people have no tradition concerning the slaying of any Ngapuhi women in their territory. Nevertheless, W. L. Williams (East Coast, N.Z. Historical Records, p. 4) says: “These women were afterwards landed by them [the convicts] one near Tauranga and the other somewhere south of East Cape, where they were ultimately killed and eaten by the people of those parts.” He, too, must have been misled by Marsden's faulty geographical knowledge and, seemingly, he also neglected to make inquiries among the Ngati-Porou people.