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Chapter Fifteen — The History of Taraia

page 106

Chapter Fifteen
The History of Taraia

Today the Ngati Kahungunu tribe holds sway over a larger area of country than any other tribe in New Zealand. This area stretches from the border of the Gisborne district to the extremities of the Wairarapa Province and embraces the whole of Hawke's Bay. Kahungunu formed the tribe by his marriage with Rongomai-wahine at Mahia, but it was Taraia, a great grandson, who was responsible for the ultimate spread of the descendants of the "Grand old man" of the Coast. The story is a very involved one, and in this respect it must be explained that although events proved Taraia to be an able leader well versed in strategy, it was not so much the love of travel or conquest that caused him to extend the area under his domination, as the set of circumstances which more or less forced him to seek a new home for his own people in the lower Hawke's Bay district.

First we must tell the story of Tupurupuru, an elder brother of Taraia, whose jealousy started the train of events that divided the tribe. Rakai-hikuroe, the son of Kahukura-nui and grandson of Kahungunu, had four sons and a daughter, their names being Tupurupuru, Taraia, Tawhao, Te-Ao-Matarahi and Hine-teraraku. Tupurupuru had his pa, named Pukepoto, situated on a low hill on the western side of the Wai-a-paoa River opposite Waerenga-a-hika in Poverty Bay. He was the principal chief of Turanga-nui. None were above him in mana. If he visited any particular area, planted his taiaha in any piece of ground, or left his belt there, the people of the surrounding countryside would bring him provisions and respond to his presence as we today would to Royalty. Thus came to pass the saying used whenever one person wanted to compliment another, "Thou hast equal mana with Tupurupuru, the sen of Rakai-hikuroa."

When Tupurupuru's fame was high, twin sons were born to Kahutapere, a son of Tamatea-kota, who was one of the sons of Kahungunu. So Tupurupuru, although an adult, was a second page 107cousin to the new arrivals. As the twins grew to manhood they were greatly loved by the people. Noticing how the pair were lionised by the people, Tupurupuru became anxious lest the mana of the twins became stronger than his own. Surely, he, an adult, had no cause to be afraid that the government of the land with the power thereof would fall to two youngsters, while he the elder was alive? Yet such are the gnawing pangs of jealousy that he resolved that the twins should die.

One of the recreations of ancient Maoridom was top-spinning. On the days when the competitions took place it was the custom of the twins to proceed early to the top-spinning course for practice. The boys were very proficient, in fact, they were usually the only ones who reached the bottom of a slope, the full extent of the course. At night the jealous fellow went to the end of the course and dug a pit. At home he made a double-ended top named whero-rua, similar to the twins' tops. The following morning Tupurupuru was on the ground by daylight, and not long after the twins also appeared. The villain started his top-spinning down the slope and the twins followed, no doubt trying to catch up to their relative. The schemer whipped his top into the pit, and the tops of the boys as they drew level also dropped into the hole. Tupurupuru asked the lads to jump into the pit and get the tops. They did so, and the murderous cousin, having them at his mercy, produced a hidden club and dealt each a death blow. There the youths died and were buried. Tupurupuru filled in and levelled the hole so that little evidence of the foul deed remained. Back at his pa, Tu immediately began to make manuku toko-toko, or spears, which he felt in his guilt that he would soon need. He named the spears after the braves of the war-party which he expected would soon arrive seeking vengeance.

When the boys did not return home for their meals, the father, Kahu-tapere, sought for them everywhere, a search that lasted for several days. When it became certain that some tragedy had happened, the disheartened father made two kites and ramed them Tara-ki-uta and Tara-ki-tai after the twins. The priests of the village were called for and incantations of a powerful kind were repeated. Then the kites were sent heavenwards, and rising to a great height they hovered over the pa of Tupurupuru. Twice they dipped themselves over the pa and to the father of the boys it was a sign that someone from that pa was responsible for the death of the twins. Kahu-tapere went to the pa and interviewed the aged Rakai-hikuroa, saying, "Ehoa, kei a koe tonu pea page 108ia a taua potiki?" ("Friend, have you killed our children?"). Rakai-hikuroa evidently knew that his son was guilty, for he replied: "Waiho ra kia tu takitahi ana nga whetu o te rangi" ("Let there be only one star shining in the sky"). His meaning was that only one person was needed to rule over the people of the district.

The suspicion of Chief Kahu-tapere strengthened, he proceeded to ask assistance of his cousin Mahaki and his men in seeking vengeance. So they went forth to battle.

It must be explained here that it was a strict rule that any taua or war-party should kill the first person crossing their path. The body was then eaten in a cannibal feast, but if there was not time to eat the whole corpse, only the heart would be eaten after being roasted on a pointed stick over a fire. The heart would be given to Tu the war god, while the warriors would merely touch the roasting-stick with their hands. This custom was known as mataa-ika (first fish). Should this rule be not carried out, defeat rather than success would be the lot of the taua.

In the case of the present taua, some unfortunate did happen to meet the advancing party, and the grisly custom was honoured. After the treatment of the heart the warriors hurried on toward the enemy's pa. When Tupurupuru observed the approach of the raiders he ordered his servant to dress his hair quickly by plaiting and binding into a topknot. No doubt this was to keep the hair out of his eyes while fighting. When it was being tied, however, the tying flax broke several times, and this was looked upon as a bad omen. Nevertheless Tu was able to give a very good account of himself in the first phase of the battle. At the commencement of the attack he stepped out into the open in front of the pa, and with his stock of prepared spears drove the foremost braves back and checked for a time the advance.

But hurrying up towards the melee was one named Whakarau (the youngest son of Mahaki and his wife Hene-tapuarau), who married Huruhuru, the eldest sister of the murdered twins. Living in a pa known as Pa-werawera, situated inland on the Waikohu River, he had been a little late in arriving, and the war-party had left without him. Hurrying to overtake them he saw the roasting stick, or kohiku manawa. He knew the gruesome purpose of fire and stick, so he touched the stick with his hand and exclaimed, "E, whaka-pa noa a whakarau ki te kohiku manawa" ("Here Whakarau has touched the roasting stick of heart only"). Arriving at the fray just as the first sortie had been driven back, Whakarau rushed towards Tupurupuru. Tu page 109picked up a special spear and hurled it at the advancing foe. The weapon was parried, however, and it glanced to one side. Whakarau caught the defender off his guard and sent a spear right into Tupurupuru's heart. So the death of the twins was avenged. An elder of Whakarau, named Ihu, now jumped forward, perhaps doubting that the villain was dead. He intended to finish him off and thus claim the victory. Whakarau brushed him aside with his taiaha, saying, "Kia watea, kia watea, waiho te ika o te matau a te potika a Hine-tapuarau kia kahakihaki ana" ("Keep clear, keep clear, leave alone the staggering fish of the hook of the last son of Hine-taparau").

The death of Tupurupuru, who alone was responsible for this quarrel among relatives, being accomplished, the fight proceeded no further. The body was taken by the victors and hung by the plaited hair on the end of a swaying kahikatea bough across the stream opposite the pa of Rakai-hikuroa. Actually the body swung over to the other side of the stream, and the weeping father made many attempts to reach his son's body, but in vain. Eventually the corpse was taken away, and there are two versions of its end. One version states that the body was cooked and eaten. A second states that owing to Tu being so high born, his slayers would not dare to eat him but that he was buried. The latter is more feasible, for it had not previously been the custom to eat such a high born chief, especially among close relations.

Shortly after these events, Rakai-hikuroa, unable to bear the shame brought upon his people, and the sights around him that brought back memories, decided to leave the district. With his families and followers, numbering about 150, he migrated to the land of his grandparents at Mahia. Before leaving he asked his half-brother, Rakaipaaka, to accompany him. Rakai refused, saying: "Why should I go? I am not a guilty man." To which the answer was given: "He pai ra kia kore koe e puhia e te hau" ("It would be well in future had you done so, that you would not have been blown away in the storm"). This utterance was proved prophetic, when not long afterwards Rakaipaaka and his sister, Hine-Manuhiri, with their followers, were driven out of the district for the killing of the dog of Tu-te-kohi (Kauere-huanui) and for co-habiting with the wife of Mahaki. This story can be found in the history of Tama-te-rangi.

At Mahia the migrators were made welcome by their relatives, and settled expecting to live in peace. One day one of the Mahia chiefs announced his intentoin of travelling to Turanga-nui for some purpose. As he was leaving, Rakai-hikuroa made the page 110friendly request, "Haere kei tahuri koe ki te mau mai i te ahua-tanga o tataua tamaiti, waiho atu tana Wairua kia hae ana i roto o Turanga" ("Go, but do not return with any personal belongings of our son, but leave his ghost to haunt Turanga in revenge"). Kahu-parore went to Turanga-nui and returned soon afterwards. After making some fish-hooks he arranged a fishing party, ostensibly to get provisions for a party which he was taking out to dig fern root. Putting to sea in a large canoe, the party included one of the Rakai-hikuroa emigrants. During the fishing, Kahu-parore baited his hook and cast it overboard, at the same time making an allusion to the deceased Tupurupuru by saying, "Titaha, titaha, titaha i o titahatanga i te Muhunga me to taiaha kura" ("March on, march on, march on your marching tract at Muhanga with your taiaha kura"). Te Muhunga is the flat before Kai-taratahi, past Ormond township. Taiaha-kura is a type of halberd, or standard, with scarlet feathers near the blade end.

This being a mortal insult to a Maori, and the man of the migration understanding the allusion, he pretended to be very ill and the canoe put him on shore. Slowly he crawled up the beach while the fishers went back to their task. The utterance was quickly reported to Rakai-hikuroa, who immediately decided what to do. In the morning Kahu-parore's party, numbering about 140, with an equal number of Rakai-hikuroa people, went together on the fern-rooting expedition. As arranged, the Kahu party dug the root while Rakai's people scraped the harvest. After a time, by arrangement, Rakai's people changed tasks with the others, and so took the karehu, or digging implements. While they turned over the soil, they sang the usual tapatahi, or incantation, associated with the digging. Suddenly as they reached a certain word in the song, they all turned around and assaulted the local natives, who were following sorting and scraping the roots. The surprise was so complete that all of the Kahu-parore parties were killed with the exception of one, Rakai-weriweri, who escaped and fled to Nuhuka. The desecration of the bones of his son had been avenged, yet Rakai-hikuroa was not satisfied, so he again decided to seek a new home.

Turning down the coast, the fighting men went overland while the women, children and old men went by sea. On reaching Nuhaka, they fought and defeated the people of that place, but Rakai-weriweri again escaped. Having no inclination to settle, they continued their journey to the mouth of the Wairoa River, where those in the canoes were met by Taraia, who was in charge of the warriors. Finding the place to be well occupied and popu-page 111lated, they all moved on in the canoes. Mohaka was unattractive to them, so they continued to the mouth of the Aropaoa-nui River. They landed on the eastern side of the stream. On the other side was the pa Puku-wheke. Rakai-weriweri, who had twice escaped them, was seen standing on the hank in his "warpaint," with his hair bound up in a koukou, or top-knot, adorned with huia and kotuku feathers. The distance between them could not have been great, for Taraia, taking a stone, was able to strike Weriweri on the koukou, knocking this adornment off his head. Taraia's forces then crossed over and made battle with the local folk. Taraia's men were not altogether victorious, and drew out in their canoes again. One of the party, Hine-pare, a wife of Taraia, was left on the shore, and standing majestic and defiant on a rock she shouted to them, "Akuanei te hanga kine a tenei wahine waiho ai hei matakitakitanga mate kanohi tangata ke" ("Presently will the evil part of this woman be gazed upon by strange men"). She then broke a calabash of water on the rock. Her brothers thought this to be the breaking of her own skull. Thereupon Taraia, Tawhao, Te-Ao-Matarahi, and their younger relative, Te Rangi-tuehu, took further courage and returned to the fight. The pa was taken, and in this battle of Wai-koukou, Rakai-Weriweri at last met his end.

Among the prisoners was one named Whanganui-a-rotu, from whom his captors enquired about the country ahead of them. They were told that the country (now Port Ahuriri) was named after himself, and that pipis and mussels were plentiful there. On hearing this, Tawhao immediately claimed it as his own hunting ground, thus passing over Taraia, who had captured the prisoner. So the rich mud flats and the surrounding land became te maara a Tawhao. Later Taraia inquired of the prisoner whether there were other rich lands in the country ahead. Taraia was told of the fertile flats around the mouths of the Tukituki and Ngararoro Rivers, and the fact that these rivers had a plentiful supply of kahawai. In the morning, as the party left Aro-paoa-nui, Taraia asked Whanganui to point out the tract he had spoken of. The prisoner pointed out the white headland of Napier bluff. Taraia then threw his calabash into the sea so that it could precede him to the spot, and sure enough it was later found on the beach now known to the pakeha as the "Iron Pot." The spot was named Te Ipu-a-Taraia.

Before reaching these promised lands the party must over-power a very powerful pa known as Heipipi, which stood in a commanding position on a high hill on the western side of the page 112main road just on the Wairoa side of Bay View. We propose to tell the story of the taking of this pa in the words penned by Mr. Thomas Lambert. This story is one of the purple patches in Mr. Lambert's writings:

"The pa, the remnants of which may still be seen, its mounds, dykes and battlements as clear cut as when in the dead past it challenged attack and stood impregnable to the forces of arms, but, as we shall presently see, merely a toy in the lap of luxury. It was inhabited by a people known as the Ngati-Awanui-a-rangi, or better known as 'Te Tini-o-Maruiwi' (the multitude of Maruiwi), a section most likely of one of the older migrations. Heipipi was located on an eminence looking towards the eastward, over the sea on whose bosom their ancestors were borne from far Hawaiki. To the west, an unbroken vista stretched out to the snowcapped Ruahines. No cover of slope or hillock, from spy or outpost, and the ever-vigilant, eager-eyed sentinel from watch tower scanning the horizon kept Taraia and his phalanx secreted in the fastnesses of the distant hills. Heipipi also felt itself to be doubly secure, in that it dwelt under the aegis of their familiar spirit Tunui, whose magic powers on sea and land made his subjects feared, and left them unmolested to work out their own destiny. Days passed, days of planning and councils of war, wherein the veterans, shrewd and adroit, dilated on the tactics resorted to when the odds were great against them; but in this case the odds were too great unless the gods were good. Night was at its darkest in proud Heipipi, and the inmates slept, all but the one on guard, the watchman with the eyes of the ruru, who was charged with not only the duty of detecting the enemy, but also to let those in shelter know that he was awake and about. Then soft grey lights appeared across the bay, hinting that another day was about to be born, and from grey to amber, and from amber to rose, there flashed across the sky the early shafts-men of the morn, battling with the rearguard of the night. The wavelets kissed the cinnamon sands that sloped seawards from Heipipi's base, and whispered, but falsely, that all was careless peace. Then lo! standing transfixed, moving not a muscle, still and stately as some noble masterpiece in bronze, the guardian of the night from the heights of the pa, with sharp-sighted penetrating gaze, looked to the silver fringed surf. And then with voice cutting the dewy stillness of the early morn, like the notes of a bugle, 'Upokohue! Upokohue! Upokohue!' he reiterated with increasing strength. In answer to the call there came rushing to points vantage, as they would in times of peace, the chiefs, the page break
The Wai-tahora Pa of Te-O-Tane. The lower photo shows the triangle forming the pa, the Wai-tahora stream (left), the Wai-roa river (right), and the rampart on which Mr. Mitchell (white coat) and his friends are standing in the fore-ground. The descent from the pa to both river and stream is quite steep, even to-day. On the flat behind the figures can still be seen the foundation pits of some of the whares. Te-O-Tane's enemies forded the Wai-roa river to attack the pa. The upper photo shows the deep trench below the rampart. The rampart in Te-O-Tane's day, about 200 years ago, would have been higher and surmounted by a palisade.

The Wai-tahora Pa of Te-O-Tane.
The lower photo shows the triangle forming the pa, the Wai-tahora stream (left), the Wai-roa river (right), and the rampart on which Mr. Mitchell (white coat) and his friends are standing in the fore-ground. The descent from the pa to both river and stream is quite steep, even to-day. On the flat behind the figures can still be seen the foundation pits of some of the whares. Te-O-Tane's enemies forded the Wai-roa river to attack the pa. The upper photo shows the deep trench below the rampart. The rampart in Te-O-Tane's day, about 200 years ago, would have been higher and surmounted by a palisade.

page break page 113 cohorts, the slaves, the women and the children, and following the line of vision indicated by the outstretched hand of him who slept not during the long night hours, their eyes feasted on a gift from Tangaroa, the god of the ocean, for there, idly struggling with the outgoing tide, were score upon score of Upokohue or blackfish, stranded, gripped in Nature's kupenga (net). Surely great were the gifts of their great patron, Tunui and his comrade Tangaroa. Gates were thrown wide, every available egress was an outlet for the rushing avalanche of humanity making seaward, until but the old and the decrepit occupied the fortress. As the fleetest runners reached their prey with eager lust each "fish" cast from itself a black pake, or mat, and there stood revealed the bravest of Taraia's legions, armed with huata, taiaha and patu. Without pause, with relentless hatred, the exultant yellow mass turned on the now defenceless ones, and simultaneously from the palisades of Heipipi came the echoing reply of triumph from Te Aomatarahi and his gladiators left behind in ambush to make complete the morning's carnage. It was terrible. It was done. Caught between two fires, as it were, a moment's fierce fighting concluded the holocaust. Fighting and flight had been alike impossible to the dwellers at Heipipi. Blood and lives went out with the falling tide, and Heipipi owned a new king; but it still stood deserted, an obelisk to the dead, a monument to the prowess and strategic artifice of the victors—for the Maori of old was a classic equal to rank with the Greek or the Roman—and the fate of Heipipi proves it."

We continue the story by adapting Mr. Lambert's dramatic version:

Heipipi proved not to be the Mecca sought by the wandering braves from the North. There was Otatara yet to vanquish, and its people were similarly fated to feel the prowess of Taraia and his fellow rovers. From the lips of prisoners came stories of rich plains, and of rivers abounding with fish, to the south, where from his tower on Otatara's heights Turauwha held sway from the sea to the western ranges. Otatara with its summit skywards, its trenches, earthworks, barbicans and fortifications planned by master-minds and made by strong men was surely a citadel. With its twin fortress at its feet on the banks of the Tutae-kuri River, near the present Taradale, it bade the world defiance. But in its strength lay its weakness. For years no alien feet had dared tread Turauwha's domain, no foreign tribe dared test his might. From vain security and contempt for God and man was born a fatal lethargy. It is said that the gods sent the man, for he came, page 114saw, and conquered. Once more after days of search and reconnaissance, nights of tracking and trailing, the plan was set. Forces were again divided, one-half being hidden among the rocks and undergrowth guarding the northern ascent to the main pa, the other hidden in the flood-washed caves above the stream. At early morning when the stars were gone, a pale, cold light, more desolate than the dark, streamed from the east. The river let loose its torrent of bloodthirsty humanity. The crash of battle rent the morning air and rose to the hilltop. In response the scarred height gave forth its sons, to rescue and oblivion. From every side came the unknown foe whose strange, foreign battle-cry struck fear into hearts before even the patu or taiaha had delivered its message. As the morning sun increased in strength, it shone upon Turauwha and his hordes, a vanquished, homeless people; upon Taraia, the all-conquering crusade ended, emperor of all he surveyed. The ownership and mana over Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay) had passed to Ngati-Kahungunu.

Passing over fourteen generations, the years recount tragedy and feast, but never a tinge of alien blood to break the purity that flowed from the fountain head of the unfoiled victor of the plains, Taraia.

It came to pass that Te Rangi-tuehu, the son of Tupurupuru, nephew of Taraia, took to wife Tu-Rakura, the daughter of Turauwha, who begat Hine-i-ao. Hine-i-ao married Te Rangi-taumaha, son of Taraia, who begat Te Huhuti. Te Huhuti married Te Whati-a-piti (the origin of the principal tribal name of Heretaunga, "Ngai Te whati-a-piti").

Tuaka (male), the second child of Te Rangi-tuehu and Tu-rakura, begat Mahina-a-rangi (female), who married Turongo, and begat Ruakawa (male). This was the origin of the tribe named Ngati Raukawa, which name is perpetuated in the carved house at Otaki. Mahina-a-rangi is the ancestress of the Maori King whose carved house in the Waikato is named "Mahina-a-rangi." The King's private residence is named "Turongo."

The reason why peace came so quickly and amicably and without further bloodshed was through the relationship by marriage of Kahukuranui to Tu-Teihonga, as is related in the history of the former. Kahukuranui was the grandfather of Taraia, while Tu Rauwha was the grandson of Tu-Teihonga. The whakapapa is as follows: page 115 A black and white diagram showing the whakapapa of Taraia and Tu-Rauwha

The result of this union was that the Ngati-Kahungunu became firmly established in the Heretaunga district and spread over the island, through the Wairarapa, Otaki, Rotorua and Waikato districts, ultimately to become the most numerous, influential and wealthy tribe in the whole of New Zealand.

With a number of alterations and recoi structions we have been greatly aided in this chapter by the fache pens of both the late Mr. A. L. D. Fraser (who had closely associated himself with Maori land claims, making him the greatest authority on native history in Hawke's Bay) and Mr. T. Lambert, the author of Old Wairoa.