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Legends of the Maori

Chapter IX. — Tupahau’s Adventures at Marokopa. — The Story of a Fishing Expedition

page 44

Chapter IX.
Tupahau’s Adventures at Marokopa.

The Story of a Fishing Expedition.

IT came to pass after these events that Tupahau heard of the great abundance of the kahawai fish (arripis salar) at the mouth of the I Marokopa river, south of Kawhia. He remembered then a certain sacred stone of his ancestors, the stone called Rangipaetaha, which had been taken to the Marokopa by the people of that place, Ngati—Taranga. So he and many of his people arose and prepared to go to the Marokopa, to obtain the teeming fish of that river-mouth. They travelled by the inland path to the upper part of the river.

When the tribe of this place, the Ngati—Taranga, heard that some of the people of Kawhia were coming to fish for kahawai in their waters they became very angry, and they resolved to waylay them and slay them. They discovered that Tupahau and his fishermen intended coming down the river from the upper part, where they were making canoes, or obtaining those of the local people. So they made flax ropes to obstruct their passage, and they stretched these lines across the river just below the surface of the water. Parties of men were stationed in ambush in the bush on each side of the steep-banked river, ready to haul the ropes taut the instant the canoes were passing over them, and so upset the canoes.

Tupahau and his warriors came paddling down the forest-girt stream, and they came to the place, in a narrow gorge, where these ropes were stretched in the water, and the men lying in ambush. But Tupahau was on the alert. He had a premonition of danger ahead, in that country where it was so easy to lay ambuscades, and he divined that the tangata whenua, the people of the place, would try to capsize his canoes, and slaughter him and his men in the river gorges.

So the Kawhia chief took precautions. He called Rueke, one of his younger brothers, and told him to stand in the bow of the canoe and look out for ropes in the river, and to catch the ropes with his pole and push them out before the canoe as it came to them, so that when the tangata whenua hauled on them, to pull them taut, they would swing harmlessly overhead. This Rueke did, and the bowmen in the canoe following him were ready to do likewise. Thus the ambush of the rope—haulers was page 45
Tupakau’s Canoe Avalanche.

Tupakau’s Canoe Avalanche.

page break page 47 foiled, and Tupahau and his men passed safely through the dangerous places, and reached the mouth of the Marokopa in safety.

There, in the tidal waters, the men of Kawhia beheld the people of Marokopa netting the kahawai in thousands. Those people greeted the newcomers, and when they brought their take of fish to the beach, they gave to Tupahau and his men one hundred and forty fish, which was exactly the number of his party.

This niggardly gift of food, from so abundant a haul, was regarded by Tupahau as a very great affront. It was in Maori eyes a deadly insult. For it, he resolved to obtain utu. After taking the whole of those fish presented to him—not one was eaten for food—and laying them on the sacred stone at the river mouth, he took some land for himself and his men, and he built a pa. This fortified village he built on a high cliff site above the river, at Mangaroa.

Tupahau of course knew that he would not be permitted to rest there in peace, and fish for those teeming kahawai undisturbed. He prepared for defence against the warriors of Marokopa by building a strong stockade, and by so defending the only way up to the pa from the river that no enemy would be likely to reach the camp. He hauled up his canoes from the river and suspended them by ropes over the track. Then he had each canoe well weighted with stones from the river side. This having been done he and his men awaited the attack they knew must come.

When Rakapare and Tamaoho, the leaders of Ngati—Taranga, saw that the pa at Mangaroa was completed, and that Tupahau intended holding the land he had taken, they resolved to attack, and eject or slay those interlopers and trespassers. So they assembled in great numbers, and they essayed to carry Tupahau’s pa by storm.

The defenders of the cliff-top pa watched intently the preparations of the Marokopa warriors for the attack. The advance party of Ngati—Taranga came towards the pa, then the main body came closely following them, and they climbed up along the narrow track which led to the village. When they were well under the canoes, suspended there over the trail, held in place only by the ropes, Tupahau gave the order to cut them away. This was done instantly.

Down crashed those heavy canoes with their loads of stone right on top of the attackers, who were crowding up the narrow pathway to the main gateway of the pa. Canoes and rocks fell on the heads of the storming parties, and so killed many, and injured a great many more.

When Tupahau saw the havoc which had been wrought in the ranks of the Marokopa warriors, and the confusion into which the attacking army had been thrown, he ordered his hokowhitu to dash out of the pa and drive page 48 home an attack. The hundred and forty men of Kawhia rushed down upon the men of Marokopa with spear and club, and slaughtered right and left. They killed many and the rest took to flight, and Tupahau’s men pursued them, slaying many more before the chase was ended.

During the pursuit Tupahau caught up to the chiefs Rakapare and Tamaoho. Rakapare, as he ran, called out to Tamaoho, who was ahead, “E, ’Oho, do not run quite so fast!”

To this Tamaoho replied in words which have become proverbial among the people: “Fight, he who eats by night; he who eats by day is off!” So Rakapare was left to his fate at the hands of Tupahau, and Tamaoho escaped.

Tupahau and his warriors kept up the chase, killing as they went, until they reached the mouth of the Marokopa river. There he approached closely to Ngaawa-purua, one of the chiefs of that place. He poised his hardwood spear, and he cried, “Behold the strength of the pairea!” With these words he hurled his spear, and it pierced right through the back of that man of Marokopa as he ran. And with that feat there ended the fighting at the Marokopa.