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

Chapter IX — Ferocious Ngapuhi Raids on East Coast

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Chapter IX
Ferocious Ngapuhi Raids on East Coast

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.

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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.

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.

Terrible Raids by Hongi and Pomare

Hongi sailed first to the Thames, where his force was joined by Te Haupa's. According to Marsden, Te Haupa wished to avenge three murders committed on his tribe several years earlier. Te Haupa, we are told, had long solicited Hongi's aid to punish the murderers' tribe [probably a Bay of Plenty tribe]. Doubtless, the inclusion of Ngati-Porou among their victims was (as Bishop W. Williams suggests) solely to obtain slaves. Smith says that Hongi journeyed only as far south as Hicks Bay, where Te Haupa was slain. On the other hand, Polack (New Zealand: Travels and Adventures) makes it plain that he penetrated to Waiapu, “sweeping vast numbers of Ngati-Porou out of existence.” According to Bishop H. W. Williams, the southern limit of the raid was five miles north of Tokomaru Bay.

Hongi told Marsden that the inhabitants “between the River Thames and the East Cape” were very numerous; that he burned 500 villages; and that 2,000 men, women, and children were taken prisoner. Seventy heads were also taken back. Te Morenga's spoils of war were negligible compared with Hongi's. Polack states that, as soon as Hongi's fleet got back to the Bay of Islands, Tarria [Taraia]—one of Hongi's chiefs—gave orders that three slaves were to be slain and cooked. Mr. Butler junior told Polack that his father (Rev. J. Butler) fell upon his knees in an effort to save the remainder. Taraia went on to Waimate, where the forty prisoners who represented his share of the spoils were eaten.

This raid proved a terrifying experience for the Ngati-Porou as well as for the Bay of Plenty tribes. It was the first occasion upon which firearms were used extensively against them. Hongi told Marsden that their “enemies” had but few guns, and that all that those who were not taken completely by surprise page 76 could do was to flee to the back country. In evidence before the Native Land Court, the Rev. Mohi Turei said that, on Manga-o-Tawhiti (one of the Ngati-Porou hiding places), two little children had to be sacrificed because it was feared that their crying might attract the ruthless invaders. Their cousin, who was a little older, did not cry and, therefore, her life was spared.

Whilst Hongi was away in England in 1820, a Ngapuhi expedition set off from the Bay of Islands to the south. Its leaders included Pomare, Titore and Te Wera (also called Hauraki). Other chiefs, notably Moka and Te Koki, assisted in the initial raids, which were carried out in the Bay of Plenty. Pomare, it has been suggested, was jealous of Hongi, and aimed at outstripping his rival's accomplishments. The section of the expedition under Pomare and Te Wera went on to the East Coast. When it halted at Te Kawakawa (Te Araroa), some of the local people hastily provisioned Okauwharetoa pa (once the abode of the far-famed Tuwhakairiora). The remainder fled to the higher and more easily defended stronghold known as “Te Whetumatarau” (“The Star of One Hundred Rays”), which overlooks the present township of Te Araroa.

Invaders Resort to Strategy

Okauwharetoa pa, which was attacked first, quickly fell to the invaders. Among the prisoners taken was Te Rangi-i-Paea (a notable woman); Pomare made her one of his wives. She had already had two husbands, from one of whom (Tokomauri) the well-known Potae family at Tokomaru Bay is descended. Upon the death of Pomare in 1826, she again took up her abode on the East Coast. Te Whetu-matarau pa could not be taken by storm and the invaders had to resort to strategy. After they had occupied the Te Araroa Flats for some time, living on the plantations and the contents of the storehouses, they packed up and, much to the joy of the local inhabitants, sailed away. But, instead of proceeding on their homeward journey, they hid behind Matakaoa Point. Stealthily they returned and fell upon the unsuspecting residents, who had descended to their homes. Many were slaughtered and others taken prisoner.

According to Smith's version, only Te Wera's section proceeded farther to the southwards. Other accounts state that it was accompanied by Pomare's. At Waiapu they committed grave destruction. Te Wera went on, murdering and plundering, all the way to Tolaga Bay. The most southern point reached by this expedition is stated by W. L. Williams to have been Mahia, where Te Whareumu, a chief of some importance, was, with others, made prisoner.

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Among a number of fictions that have survived concerning Pomare's doings on the East Coast, none is more fantastic than that which W. E. Goffe recounted at a gathering of Gisborne Rotarians on 12 May, 1931. Pomare (so the story runs) was anxious to take Kahiutara pa, near Tokomaru Bay. To save its inmates, Hinematioro, who was staying there, agreed to pose, Godiva-like, before him. So enraptured was he by her beauty and figure that he invited her to consent to a brief matrimonial alliance with him. A son, it is added, was born of the union. The tale is, of course, spoiled by the fact that, when Pomare made even his earliest appearance on the East Coast, Hinematioro was a septuagenarian, she having been a young woman when Cook visited Tolaga Bay in 1769. Needless to add, no child of the famous couple has ever been traced!

In 1823, Pomare and Te Wera, after assisting Hongi to subdue the Arawa tribe, paid another visit to the East Coast. Several places between Maketu and Whangaparaoa were attacked. Towards the northern section of Ngati-Porou and the Mahia people, however, the invaders were disposed to be friendly. Pomare had brought back with him his Ngati-Porou wife (Te Rangi-i-Paea) on a visit to her relatives and Te Wera was taking Te Whareumu back to his home at Mahia.

When the Ngapuhi fleet reached Te Araroa, the Ngati-Porou, not being aware of the visitors' friendly intentions, fled to Taitai, their inland refuge. Reassured by messengers, they agreed to return and make peace. However, when they observed that only a small number of the northerners had landed, they launched an attack. Being defeated, they again returned to Taitai. It was not until Pomare called in at Te Araroa on his homeward journey that peace between him and the northern section of Ngati-Porou was cemented. Ngapuhi again wrought considerable destruction in the Waiapu district. Among the prisoners whom they took, according to W. Williams (Christianity Among the New Zealanders) was Taumata-a-Kura, who became the first native to spread the Gospel on the East Coast.

Pomare and Te Wera parted company off Tokomaru Bay, the former turning for home and the latter proceeding to Mahia to return Te Whareumu to his people. En route, Te Wera made peace with Te Kani-a-Takirau, and agreed to lend his aid in punishing the section of Ngati-Porou which had laid siege to the pa on Pourewa Island and had brought about the death of Hinematioro. This promise Te Wera carried out when he assisted T'Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Rongowhakaata to take Tuatini pa (Tokomaru Bay) circa 1828.

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Upon the solicitations of Te Whareumu, Te Wera and his section of musket-armed Ngapuhi returned from the Bay of Islands (1824–25) and settled at Mahia to unify the Ngati-Kahungunu tribe and to assist its various branches to ward off aggressors. W. Williams says that Te Wera freed his slaves before he left the Bay of Islands, and that he was received by the inhabitants of Mahia both as a great chief and as their protector.

Hawke's Bay Tribes Refuge on Mahia

Mahia now became a place of refuge for very large numbers of southern Ngati-Kahungunu, who, for many years, had had to endure the harassing attentions of Urewera, Waikato, Taupo, Hauraki and Bay of Plenty invaders, and who now also feared Rauparaha and his Ngati-Toa (who had driven many of their relatives north from Wairarapa) and Ngati-Raukawa, of Maungatautari, near Cambridge (who appeared to be anxious to secure Hawke's Bay for a new home, but who were ultimately expelled by Ngati-Kahungunu with Te Wera's aid.) Some years prior to his death, Te Wera returned to the Bay of Islands.

Early in 1824, Pomare came down by sea to Mahia to assist the Urewera and their allies to punish a northern section of Ngati-Kahungunu for slaying Te Rangiwai-tatao, an important Urewera chief. On a similar errand, Waikato, Taupo, Hauraki and Bay of Plenty forces journeyed overland. Pomare returned to Northern Hawke's Bay in 1825 to aid Urewera in avenging the death of his great friend, Te Mautaranui, a Urewera chief, who was treacherously slain at a feast at Kaitarahae, near Te Reinga Falls. He was himself killed at Te Rore, on the Waipa River, in May, 1826.

Among the pas which Pomare assailed in 1825 was that which stood on lofty Moumoukai, near Morere. When he found that its defenders could neither be driven out nor starved out (they had food enough and to spare, and a plentiful supply of spring water) he made a diplomatic offer to them. Learning that an infant was about to be born in the pa, he promised that, if it proved to be a boy, he would retire. Next day, word was sent to him that a male child had been born. Pomare kept his word, and the infant was named after him. This child was Otene Pomare, who, whilst giving an explanation in the Native Land Court at Wairoa as to how he had come by his surname, emphatically denied that Moumoukai (a hill 2,065 feet high) had ever fallen to an invader.


Whilst the Revs. J. H. Bumby and J. Hobbs, of the Wesleyan mission, were en route from the Bay of Islands to Kapiti late in 1838, they called in at [?] Hicks Bay [Te Araroa: the whole of the indentation between page 79 the Awatere River and Matakaoa Point is referred to by some early visitors as Hicks Bay]. A letter to the London Wesleyan Missions Committee (20/8/1839) states:

“Here, we had painful evidence of the disasters and desolation that war, coupled with unbridled passions, brings in its train. There had, at one time, been thousands of natives living in the neighbourhood. The Ngapuhi, having obtained firearms, came upon them in force whilst they dwelt in fancied security. A large pa on one of the hills overlooking the bay was besieged. Many were captured, killed and eaten. The remainder were reduced to such straits that families exchanged children in order not to eat their own offspring. In all, about 3,000 persons were cut off. The residue of the tribe, about 300, are now under the charge of native teachers of the Episcopal mission.”

What became of the Venus and her crew has never been satisfactorily cleared up. The captain of the schooner Mercury reported in Sydney that he had learned, whilst off the coasts of New Zealand, that the vessel had been taken by the natives, that her crew had been eaten, and that the hull had been burned.