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Legends of the Maori

Historic Manukorihi

page 283

Historic Manukorihi

THE beautiful spot where the ashes of the late Sir Maui Pomare am? his son rest is sacred also to the memory of that other patriot of the race, the chief Wiremu Kingi te Rangitaake. This place, the site of the ancient pa Manukorihi, is a long level-topped hill above the Waitara River. A modern Maori village, the headquarters of the North Taranaki tribe Te Atiawa, occupies a part of the olden fortified hill overlooking the lower part of the river and Waitara town. Manukorihi is a tuneful and meaningful name to the Maori ear; it means the chorus of the birds, a reference to the time when the descendants of the Polynesian voyagers settled here and cleared a space for their homes and cultivations in the midst of the bird-teeming forest.

Manukorihi for several centuries was the great fortress village that kept the north bank of the Waitara. It was of large extent; the outer lines of defence made a circumvallation of several miles, and on the high central part was the tihi, or citadel. The Waitara River formed the boundary and part of the defence on one side, and above the river were successive lines of scarp and trench which are well marked to-day. In the early ’forties Mr. Octavius Carrington, the first surveyor of the New Plymouth settlement, made a survey of the pa, which was not then occupied, and his plan remains to-day as probably the most complete and beautifully finished map of a Maori fortification ever made. A little over a century ago the place was abandoned by the Ngati-Awa, because of the continued war raids of the Waikato tribes, who gave the Taranaki people no rest and in the end almost depopulated the coast. The last people to occupy the place before the evacuation were Wiremu Kingi and his followers. Wiremu bade farewell to his birthplace about the year 1826, when he and his hapus migrated to the Wellington coast to join Te Rauparaha. The Ngati-Mutunga tribe—to which Sir Maui Pomare belonged—and Ngati-Tama and related hapus remained the lords of the country north of the Waitara, and their kinsmen of Ngati-Maniapoto and Waikato had some cultivations in Manukorihi after the original owners left. The return a score of years later of Wiremu Kingi and his people from their homes at Waikanae, opposite Kapiti Island, and their occupancy of the south side of the Waitara River mouth, opposite Manukorihi, greatly annoyed Governor Grey and the New Plymouth settlers, for it quite upset the scheme to farm those desirable lands, and the wars that followed make an unhappy series of chapters in New Zealand history.