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Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay District)

Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay District).

The title conferred on this people is in one word, but of double meaning:—

"Heretaunga hauku nui." (Heretaunga of heavy dew.)

The word hauku nui or heavy dew denotes first: the richness of the land, both in cultivated food and natural production, such as fish, eels, birds and abundance of shell-fish. Since the settlement of the pakeha in the district, the Maoris of that district have become the richest people of New Zealand, and put up many tribal feasts.

The second meaning refers to their inactivity in warfare, and, of late, being a very rich people; in travelling to places they page 251were burdened with an enormous amount of luggage, which gave their hosts extra trouble in handling and accommodating it. The people then would say: "E; ko Heretaunga hauku nui ra hoki." (O; it is a specimen of Heretaunga heavy dew.)

One instance worthy of note is that when a contingent of this people under their leaders was sent to Gisborne to fight the notorious rebel Te Kooti. Makaretu was the scene of the battlefield where these people were surrounded by the enemy and were reduced to eating horse-flesh and fern-root. After some ten days, Major Rapata Wahawaha arrived with his Ngati-Porou warriors who charged the enemy and released them. A war song composed and sung over this liberation was:

"E Ngati-kahungunu taupoki parepare, kei Rapata ra te kokiri i i ra." (The Ngati-Kahungunu (of Heretaunga) are imprisoned in their trench, but Rapata will go forth and charge the enemy.)

These people are closely related to the Wai-roa people through intermarriage.

We have now come to the most deserving people of all, in obtaining their title. "Ngati-Porou nuka rau." (Ngati-Porou the deceiver.)

Sir Apirana Ngata conferred an added title in his recruiting war-song:

"He iwi moke, he whanoke." (A lonesome people and dare-devils.)

By the way, this people was well known to be experts at deceiving people. Of late years, a number of pakehas, who were in possesion [sic] of a much-desired commodity became the victim of many deceitful tricks by this people.

A pakeha farmer had reared some fat pigs which were running loose, close to his homestead. A party of Maoris, returning home, came across these pigs, when one of the party got off his horse and handed the rein to another to hold it. By alluring the largest one of the pigs, he managed to kill it with a blow from an axe. He was about to lift the dead pig on one of the horses when the farmer was seen galloping towards them on horseback. Evidently the suspicious farmer had no trust in his mischievous neighbours, and went to see what they were doing on his property. The thieves, realising their unescapable position, all dismounted and tied up their horses. Taking off their coats they covered up the dead pig with them. The person that killed the pig had slipped away to inform the folk at home of what had happened and they made up a plan. As the farmer approached, he was struck by the sight of the men, who were page 252wailing and confusedly building a stretcher. The soft-hearted farmer inquired of the trouble, when he was told by the person holding the spare horse, that their companion had fallen off his horse (pointing to the horse he was holding) and had broken his neck.

The kind-hearted farmer offered to assist by examining the dead man, but was cried down by the men, begging that it was the strict custom of the Maori that in the case of any dead person by accident the nearest of kin should have the first and the last look at the face, therefore he would have to be taken to his wife at home. By this time a gang of women was seen approaching, wailing and waving their hands. The leader of the men asked the farmer, who was also a storekeeper, to supply some flour and sugar for the tangi, and the sad farmer consented. Two of the men went with him to bring the stores. The dead pig was carried on the stretcher, but was not to lie in state, but went to the kitchen.

Next day the sympathetic storekeeper went to pay his last respect for the dead. Finding no dead body lying in state and no wailing and speech-making, he inquired about this most extraordinary behaviour, when he was told that the widow had threatened to do away with her life and the people were forced to put away the body and stop the tangi. "O; what a sensible thing to do," exclaimed the storekeeper. Perhaps it was more for ending the draw on his store than real sympathy.

Another of these cunning tricks which gave this people the full honour of the title mentioned, was played on a schoolmaster, who was the happy owner of a beautiful horse, saddle and bridle. He had to ride to school and back to his residence on schooldays. One morning on arriving at the schoolhouse, and being a little late, he left his horse tied up on the bridle inside of the front gate, and proceeded to open up his school. A Maori came along and finding the horse, saddle and bridle at his command, hidden behind trees from the schoolhouse, he mounted the horse and went tearing along the road to some distance. On reaching a hill he saw a mob of sheep with the drover coming towards him. On reaching a creek and finding some flax bushes he dismounted. Taking some gum from the flax he applied it to his eyelids and turning them up left the insides of his eyelids protruding, and smearing his eyes down to the cheeks, he rode up to the drover. He told a pitiful story of his trouble. He said that he was on his way to pay his debt which was due next day, and he had no page 253means of paying it other than to sell his horse, saddle and bridle. The wishful drover, seeing a golden prospect of snapping up a cheap bargain, hastily inquired the price. The Maori said that he owed £15 and anything below that was of no use to him. The horse alone being double that value, the ambitious drover pulled out the money and proceeded to write out the receipt. Of course the Maori was an illiterate person, but made his cross and walked away with the money. On reaching the first pool of water, he washed his eyes, let down his eyelids and became himself again.

The jubilant drover went on the road happily until he reached the schoolhouse, where he was confronted by the angry schoolmaster. "It's all right," said the drover. "He can't get away very far; I can pick the scoundrel out of thousands, for he has defective eyes. I'll get my money back or take it out of his hide in gaol." The vindictive drover, in company with a policeman, visited every Maori village, but nowhere could the person with defective eyelids be found.

One of these amusing stories told about this people was as follows: An attractive work of grass-seeding in the Poverty Bay district brought many people from other districts who were engaged in cutting and threshing grass-seed for sale to the local stores. One day a long and dusty-bearded man who spoke in a nasal manner stepped into a country store and boldly asked for 50 empty sacks and to have another 50 ready the following week. The alert storekeeper pricked up his ears at this enormous amount of grass-seed and asked who was supplying stores to him. The proud man said that he with his gang had brought a large supply but had run out and wanted to know if the storekeeper would advance to him a credit until he could bring in the 50 bags full of grass-seed. Immediately the storekeeper threw open his shop and invited his prospective customer to help himself. It did not take long to run up an account and at the end it amounted to £30. After the goods had been neatly packed and wrapped up, the storekeeper asked for the name of his new customer, when he was given a long name, "Kawehe-ite-rekareka." "O, it's an uncommon name, but anyhow I just call you Kaweke. Now, where do you come from?" "I come from Ngati-Porou," said the customer, "and my residence is Haere oti atu, my post office is Wai-ngaromia." "O, that is all right Kawehe; I will be seeing you again next week." "That's for sure," said the happy customer.

Kawehe-ite-rekareka took the empty sacks, and then returned for the goods, and went home joyfully as his new name meant.

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The storekeeper waited some time and went to hunt for his customer, but he could not be found anywhere. He sent a warrant to arrest the guilty man, but neither a man of such name, dusty beard, nasal voice, nor such names of place or post office were to be found. The disappointed storekeeper learned that "Kawehe-ite-rekareka" was "joyful parting"; "Haere oti atu" was "Going and never return," while "Wai-ngaromia" was "Out of sight."

These qualities of boldness and vigilance were not confined to the men, but equally inherited by the women folk.

Two women went out and caught a medium-sized lamb and killed it. As they were about to carry the dead lamb to some convenient place to skin and dress it, the farmer who was the owner of the lamb was seen to approach them. Quick as a flash of lightning, one of the women knelt down on her knees, with the dead lamb between her thighs and her shawl over herself, covering everything down to the ground. "Halloo!" said the suspicious farmer, "what the devil are you doing here?" By this time the other woman was also kneeling in front of the first woman with her arms around her companion's waist. With a fearful expression on her face, she waved her hand to ward the farmer away, and in an excited voice informed the farmer, "My mate getting a baby." "Oh, is that what you are doing," said the scared farmer apologetically, as he disappeared quickly from sight. The two women arose and hurried home carrying their baby sheep wrapped up in their shawls.

There have been numerous stories told of the remarkable and daring character displayed by these people in the adventurous old days. The same spirit of boldness and presence of mind is borne out by the fact that the first member of the Maori race to gain the highest award for bravery, the Victoria Cross, was the late Second Lieutenant Ngarimu, who is descended from the same vigilant stock.