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Tamatea Ure-haea and Ruawharo

Tamatea Ure-haea and Ruawharo

The lad Tamatea was born to be an explorer. He had in his veins the blood of a Pacific Ocean Viking, his grandfather, and the blood of one who could stride over geographical obstacles, his father. He was an industrious lad, but blood will tell, and as soon as he came to manhood he commenced organising an expedition to explore the land. He first built a large canoe and named it after the original Takitimu. He chose as his crew forty able-bodied men as bold, as himself, and set out to cruise around the island. He called at many places and made the acquaintance of the people living in many parts of the island. It seems that he was a good and friendly fellow who had a facility for making friends. His tour concluded at Rangaunu, near Kaitaia, where he and Kauri, his foreman of works in the building of the canoe, both settled down. Perhaps it was the beauty of the ladies of the land that caused him to make his home in the North, for he married the three daughters of Ira and Tekerauwahine, namely, Te Onoono-i-waho, Iwipupu and Te Moana-i-kauia, whose genealogy can be traced in the history of Kahungunu. The importance of this marriage to the province that we now know as Hawke's Bay, and indeed the whole of the East Coast, lies in the fact that a male child named Kahungunu was born to him by his wife Iwipupu. Other children were born to him, Whaene, a male, the child of Te-Onoono-i-waho; Haumanga and Ranginui, the children of Te Moana-i-kauia.

A claim has been made that the child Kahungunu was born in the Tauranga district and not in the North. However, it seems reasonably certain that he was born at Kaitaia. for around the story of his birth is wrapped the story of the turbulent period through which Tamatea-Ure-haea and his household passed before they fled rather than face the growing wrath of the Northerners.

The fact is that Tamatea was an interloper. All might have been well had Tama used discretion in making his claims, but he page 57seems to have taken too much for granted regarding his right to the land and its products. Being an adventurer himself, he had already gathered around him many of the more turbulent young men of the district, and with these in his pa Tamatea probably imagined himself to be possessed of more than he had a right to.

After marrying his wife, Iwipupu, Tamatea took her to the mainland to feast on the wild pigeons of Takahue. His pa, Tinotino, was built at Orongotea, and it was here that the boy Kahungunu was born. When the child's navel string or umbilical cord (pito) dropped off, the father took and buried it with three sacred pebbles (whatu-kura) in the earth near the pa, thus using it as an Iho-whenua, or binding link, between the man and the soil Jealous of their local property rights, the Northlanders regarded the act as most high handed. Tamatea and his men also made serious inroads into the food supply by taking the wood pigeons in very great quantity; in such great quantity indeed that the name of the district became changed from O-Rungo tea (bright news) to Kaitaia (food in abundance).

The Northerners commenced plans to eject Tamatea and his people before the latter should become too powerful. These measures involved the building of fighting pas throughout the district at Whangape, Rangaunu, Herekino, Ahipara, Hukatere, and Rangiaohia. In particular, one Northerner named Ruakerepeti led the agitation against Tamatea. Seeing himself being slowly hemmed in, Tama realised that he could not hope to stand against such measures. He therefore decided upon a strategic evacuation of the land, and his strategy aimed at making the land he was himself denied unfit for habitation by others.

Although this part of the Northland is only about 20 miles from coast to coast, vet much of it is very low lying and subject to floods. The editor of these lines has very clear personal recollections of serious flooding in the Kaitaia district, and nearer Kaitaia district and nearer Mangonui in 1924. These floods covered the whole of the rich Kaitaia dairying flats, and gentle streams in inland valleys became raging torrents, destroying bridges and doing much other damage.

Roughly 500 years ago then, Tamatea-Ure-haea, in his "dog-in-the-manger" attitude, decided to ruin this tract by flooding it. He and his men commenced digging a canal to allow the sea to flow inland and swamp the low country. Another version of the story is that he made the channel to allow the Kaitaia stream to flow over the land. Whatever the plan it was never finished. page 58The tools were made of wood and stone and the undertaking was a huge one. Obstructions were met that broke the implements and the job was abandoned. From this incident in Northern history two sayings have been preserved and brought into more or less general use. They are: "E Kauri E! Kua whati nga toki" (Oh Kauri! these adzes are broken), and "Waiho ra kia whati ana, e whati ana ki mahi rau a tama a Tawake" (Let them break. They are broken in the numerous tasks of the son of Tawake). We are told that evidence of Tamatea's abortive undertaking can still be seen in the Kaitaia district.

We add further details to the story of this famous ancestor by quoting the words of Hare Hongi (Mr. H. M. Stowell, of Wellington), whose knowledge of Maori history and traditions is profound. In an article dealing with the life of Tamatea and Kahungunu, Mr. Stowell has written:

"Tamatea had had a splendid sea-going canoe built at Whangaroa, and there with 70 picked men he embarked in it bound for Tauranga (East Coast). In order to dispose of him and to be left free to treat of his Kaiataia-born son, Kahuhunuhunu, we will give to him this paragraph and show how (Tamarereti excepted) he became the most famous navigator of purely Maori history. From Tauranga, Tamatea sailed south on a project of circumnavigating the Nuku-roa (North and South Islands of New Zealand). At times with a few companions he walked, sending the canoe forward, from bay to bay. In that way he reached Te Whanganui-a-Tara (now Wellington harbour). He then crossed Raukawa (Cook Strait), and reaching the East Coast of the South Island proceeded southwards in the same way, that is, partly by walking, partly canoeing. Arriving at Muruhiku (compare Muriwhenua), he turned westwards and coasted down its west coast. For he found that owing to its roughness and steeps it was impossible to walk any considerable portions of it. On reaching its Arapaoa end (Cape Farewell), he steered a straight course for Whanganui, where he stayed awhile. He then proceeded north, passing the Waikato and Kaipara Heads, and called in at Hokianga. From there he sailed along, rounded the North Cape, and returned to his starting point, Tauranga. He had circumnavigated the Nukuroa. We are told that it is 1,000 miles in length. To circumnavigate its capes and headlands one would need to cover some 3,000 miles, a bold and hazardous undertaking. From that splendid accomplishment he got his third and fourth names, and of these his descendants are particularly proud: Tamatea-pokai-whenua and Tamatea-pokai-moana (or Tamatea who circled the mainlands; and Tamatea who circum-page 59navigated the oceans). I have already indicated that Tamatea was and is well-known throughout both Islands. Many coastal spots and places of the interior, visited by the indomitable explorer, are named to commemorate him."

Tamatea now took his family on board the canoe, and turned again to the East Coast. They tarried for a while at Te Aurere, from which place can be seen the rock of Nukutaurua, at the entrance to the Mangonui harbour. Some of the local people tried to persuade Tamatea and his party to remain with them but Tamatea replied, "He rangai maomao ka taka ki tua o Nuku-taurua e kore a muri e hokia" (A shoal of Maomao fish that passes beyond Nuku-taurua never returns).

On reaching Tauranga he landed at Kawhai-nui, where his grandfather, the earlier Tamatea had settled and died. The party lived for some time in the pa Mangatawa. But Tamatea II was a restless spirit, and when next the urge to wander came to him he decided to travel by land rather than by sea. With a small party he proceeded down the island via Opotiki until he reached the Heretaunga country, where he became well acquainted with the people of the land. For a while he rested on the small island named Tapu-te-ranga (Watchman Island) in the Whanganui-a-rotu lagoon, now known as the Napier inner harbour. From here he explored inland. He was faced with starvation when he reached Pohokura on the Ruahine Mountains, and it is reported that he looked towards the sea and imagined the screaming of the seagulls over Tapu-te-ranga. He exclaimed: "Oh, the thought of eating the thick sided flounders of Ti-ere (Roto-o-kuri Island in the Napier harbour), the fern root at Pukehou (Petane) the fat rats at Ramareke (near Aropoanui), and the glutinous paua nearby." However, to his credit he turned from the fleshpots of Hawke's Bay and continued across the ranges to the Manawatu and Wellington districts. He later returned to his starting point. Tamatea-Ure-haea goes down in history as the Maori Marco Polo. He received recognition for his explorations in the new name given to him, that of Tamatea-pokai-whenua, or Tamatea the explorer of the land.

The circumstances of the death of this important ancestor seems to be obscure. Some authorities tell us that it happened during an exploratory tour of the inland waterways of the North Island Pokai, to use his middle name and thus again distinguish him from his grandfather Tamatea-mai-tawhiti, canoed up the Whanganui river and somehow dragged his vessel overland into Lake Taupo. Or perhaps he made another canoe on Taupo's shore. He left Taupo by that great waterway the Waikato river. page 60Here he came to grief, some say at Huku Falls, and others at the Aratiatia rapids. Those interested in the story should read Mr. Lambert's note on page 259 of Old Wairoa. He is not the only explorer whose passing is shrouded in uncertainty, and the fact that we cannot name his grave does not lessen our reverence for this early Maori in whose heart was the spirit of wanderlust.