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The Maoris of the South Island

Chapter IV — Te Rauparaha

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Chapter IV
Te Rauparaha

“Like a black hawk swooping,
I shall swirl upon the Southern Island,
Sweep it with my name as with a tempest,
Overrun it like the play of sunlight,
Sigh across it like a flame, till Terror
Runs before me shrieking! And our pathway
Shall be sullen red with flames and bloodshed,
And shall moan with massacre and battle.”

It was in the year 1828 that the noted chief Te Rauparaha appeared on the pages of Southern Maoridom. He has been described as a man of small stature, but of a proud and stately bearing; possessing a face deeply tattooed, deep penetrating eyes, and yet a face stamped with the courage of a born leader.1

He had taken Kapiti Island in Cook Strait and from there “like an eagle from his eyrie,” looked towards the South Island and laid his plans for further conquests. “He had carried fire and desolation and terminated his butcheries in horrid cannibal feasts, and left behind him a bloody, smoking trail of misery and tragedy.

From his island pa at Kapiti he made ready his schemes to invade the South Island, and at the same time to possess himself of its coveted greenstone. He accordingly manned his fleet of canoes with Ngati Toa and Ngati Raukawa warriors, armed as far as possible with the musket of the pakeha, and made for D'Urville Island. Primitive weapons were hopeless before the bullets of Te Rauparaha's invading Ngati Toa and the victory was complete. A cannibal feast followed,

1 Strait of Adventure, by S. Gerard.

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Te Mapoutahi, near Purakanui, the scene of the conflict between Taoka and Te Wera.

Te Mapoutahi, near Purakanui, the scene of the conflict between
Taoka and Te Wera.

Rev. J. Watkin's Mission Parsonage at Waikouaiti (Karitane).

Rev. J. Watkin's Mission Parsonage at Waikouaiti (Karitane).

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The Chief Taiaroa.

The Chief Taiaroa.

page 45 and the defeated who were spared the oven were sent off to Kapiti.

Delighted with his success, the Maori Napoleon next invaded Northern Marlborough and conquered the Rangi Tane. Flushed with victory, the conqueror was keen to subdue the Kai Tahu. Accordingly he allied himself with his savage kinsman, Te Pehi, and in the following year, 1829, landed at Kaikoura.

The chief pa of the Kai Tahu at Kaikoura was named Takahaka and stood under the terrace of the foreshore north of the peninsula, where the town of Kaikoura stretches on either side today. Te Rauparaha's victory was swift and complete, for the invaders were not expected. The chief Rerewaka and the people of Kaikoura were expecting a visit from some of their southern friends, and when they awoke in the morning in question, seeing a fleet of canoes on the beach, they took them for their friends. They were, however, soon undeceived, for the visitors fell upon the unarmed people and made great slaughter. The pa was quickly taken. About one thousand of the Kai Tahu were killed and many more captured. The chief Rerewaka was one of the captives. The pa was plundered, the Ngati Toa feasted upon the dead, and the remaining captives were taken to Kapiti. Rerewaka was tortured and put to death.

Before giving an account of the siege of Kaiapohia it is necessary to give a description of the place. Canon Stack, in his book The Sacking of Kaiapohia, gives that information. It was situated about three miles north of the present town of Kaiapoi, and was erected on a promontory which extended into a deep swamp lying between the sand hills and the bank of the river. The swamp protected it on three sides, and the only front of attack, about 250 yards long, was defended by a double line of palisades eighteen to twenty feet high, and a deep ditch with two large outworks from which a flank fire on intending assailants could be maintained. There was an opening in the wall on the western side with a bridge over the lagoon. This pa was considered so impregnable that a saying in regard to it was: “Who can scale the inaccessible page 46 cliff of God?” The pa was also a food depot as the name implies, “Kai (food) must be poi (swung) to the spot,” said its founder. In it were stored potted birds from the bush to the north, fish and mutton birds from the south coast, kiore and weka from the hills of the west. Te Rauparaha was keen to capture this store of food. It must be noted that the chiefs of Kaiapohia were the principal leaders of the Kai Tahu by right of descent from ancient heroes and rangatiras. Tamaiharanui was the leading chief and high priest of the Kai Tahu in Kaiapohia and Akaroa, and travelled much between the two places. He had received information regarding the designs of Te Rauparaha, and ordered that his men should strike the first blow and secure the most important chiefs at the first favourable opportunity.1

A party of the northern chiefs entering the pa, feigning to be friendly, were received in a cautious manner. Things were not to the liking of these visitors, and they made themselves obnoxious by passing insulting remarks about the southern style of tattooing, and one chief attempted to appropriate a block of greenstone. Tangatahara, unable to restrain his hand until Tamaihara had given the signal that Te Rauparaha was safely within the pa, struck the chief Te Pehi a fatal blow with his tomahawk as that chief tried to escape. The other chiefs were soon despatched but, the alarm having been given prematurely, the wily Te Rauparaha, not having entered the pa, made his escape. The invaders were obliged to retreat and they returned to Kapiti to lick their wounds and vowing threats of vengeance. Te Rauparaha laid his plans for revenge. He was anxious to secure the person of Tamaihara the Chief and Upoko Ariki of the whole Kai Tahu tribe. Tamaiharanui was an outstanding character in whom reposed the power of an absolute monarch. He governed the tribe with a benevolent but despotic rule. So sacred was his person that if his shadow fell upon a whare or upon food, then the whare or food became tapu and had to be destroyed. Te Rauparaha had another chief in mind upon whom he was

1 Manuscripts of Dr. D. L. Sinclair.

page 47 keen to pour out his vials of wrath, namely Tangatahara who had slain Te Pehi. That chief, although not of the same lineage as Tamaiharanui, was a chief of high standing. Moreover, Te Rauparaha was eager to “get even” with the people of Kaiapohia and to deal them a deadly blow. Smarting under the lash of wounded pride, Te Rauparaha was frantic to lay hands upon Tamaiharanui. Was not this southern chief the leading rangatira of the Kai Tahu, and was he not also the high priest and inheritor of the highest ancestral honours? And there was Tangatahara, the slayer of his kinsman, Te Pehi!

His chance came in November, 1830, when a vessel named the Elizabeth, under the command of Capt. John Stewart, an atrocious scoundrel of the deepest dye, arrived at Akaroa from Kapiti, ostensibly for the purpose of barter. Stewart had on board, below decks, Te Rauparaha and Te Hiko (the son of Te Pehi) and a war party of one hundred and twenty warriors fully armed.

The Elizabeth stood off the settlement for two days awaiting the arrival of the absent Tamaiharanui, and no-one was allowed on board. In due time the chief arrived, and Stewart, with promises of blankets, guns and powder, invited Tamaiharanui on board the vessel. The chief agreed and took with him his wife and daughter, Ngaromata. They were invited to go below decks to see the promised goods. Immediately they were seized and were taken below, where they were confronted by Te Rauparaha, Te Hiko and their men. Tamaiharanui and his wife and their daughter were placed in custody. During the night Tamaharanui strangled his daughter so that she would not become a slave or wife of one of her captors. During the same night other canoes arrived with visitors. They were captured and treated in the same way. The next day an attack was made on the settlement, and those who escaped the fury of the Ngati Toa fled to the bush. Having accomplished his object, Te Rauparaha and his gang sailed for Kapiti. Arriving there a feast was held. Tamaiharanui was taken from pa to pa and was made the object of derision by his captors and was afterwards put to page 48 death by the principal widow of Te Pehi.

Ten years afterwards Tangatahara was at Waikouaiti visiting the Rev. James Watkin, and the following is a quotation from the latter's journal:

“September 1st, 1840: In the evening had a long conversation with a chief named Takatahara (Tangatahara), he is a fine person and appears to be desirous of knowing the good things the missionary has to tell … I have had from him several accounts of wars which have been waged between Teraupala (Te Rauparaha) of the North Island and the people of this. He mentioned one instance of an attempt to trepan himself made by that murderer, and in which he was assisted by the captain of a Sydney ship, and for which he should have been hanged.” Watkin then reports Tangatahara's version of the story, how that for a quantity of flax the captain of the Elizabeth conveyed Te Rauparaha and his war party to Akaroa with the object of capturing Tamaiharanui and Tangatahara. The bait was to induce the chiefs to enter the ship where there was a quantity of muskets, powder and blankets for gift or sale. Tangatahara escaped the plot but Tamaiharanui with his wife and daughter were induced to go on board and the captain had them in his trap. Watkin continues: “The bloodhounds started from their hiding place, and the chief knew his fate was sealed. It is said that he manifested no fear … His daughter he strangled to prevent her becoming a slave, or worse. How the chief fell I have not heard, but it is a fact that he was basely murdered, cooked and eaten … The captain's name I could tell, but the name is too good for him, devil would be dishonoured by his bearing that title. The slaughter of the New Zealanders of this Island by Taraupala (Te Rauparaha) has been immense.”

This record in Watkin's journal differs in certain details from the foregoing, but the facts are the same.

Not satisfied with his savage achievements, the conqueror set his mind upon the complete destruction of Kaiapohia. In 1831 a taua of about eight hundred men was assembled and set out for Kaiapohia. They found the pa depleted of warriors and only a band of aged men in charge. It appears page 49 that the Kaiapohia fighting forces were at or near Port Cooper where they were bidding farewell to Taiaroa of Otakou and his party who had been on a visit. The defenders of Kaiapohia, small in numbers, made an attempt to save the pa, and Te Rauparaha was obliged to retire temporarily to consider a more effective plan of attack. A siege was decided on and the attackers took post. Scouts were despatched from Kaiapohia to the main force now absent with Taiaroa. As quickly as possible all available forces were collected and led by Taiaroa they set out to raise the siege.

They approached Kaiapohia in the darkness of night, but found that Te Rauparaha's forces were on the alert. The command was given and the relieving column broke from their concealment and succeeded in reaching the beleaguered who gladly admitted them to the pa. Strengthened by Taiaroa and his Otago men the garrison determined to fight to the last. For three months the siege went on with attacks and counter-attacks. Te Rauparaha then decided that investment must be more closely pressed. He now decided to dig in and sap up to the defences. In a few weeks he was but a short distance from the palisades. This done, huge stacks of dried scrub and wood were piled up as near as possible to the pa, and the wily chief waited for a favourable wind in order to set fire to the palisades. The position became desperate, and Taiaroa, it is said, decided to attack Te Rauparaha outside the pa, but failed in the attempt. Another account is to the effect that Taiaroa withdrew in order to obtain reinforcements and then return with a large force. Several weeks passed but no relief. At last the desperate defenders determined to take advantage of Te Rauparaha by firing the scrub from the inside during a north-west wind, anticipating that the flames would destroy the piles of scrub and timber that had endangered the wooden defences. This device failed, for after firing the scrub, the wind changed, and the palisades became a mass of flames. The besiegers seized their chance and hurled themselves upon the unfortunate defenders. Panic seized the luckless Kai Tahu and victory fell to the Ngati Toa. About two hundred of the Kai Tahu made their escape from page 50 the burning pa by way of the swamps, and those who could not escape were killed, save those who were reserved for slavery. Tamihana, Te Rauparaha's son, much given to exaggeration, has stated that the invading forces of the Ngati Toa, strengthened by their allies, consisted of five thousand men. This could scarcely be correct. It is worthy of note that most of the kaikas and hapus near Kaiapohia had been capturned previously by Te Rauparaha. The largest of these was Tuahiwi, about two miles from Kaiapohia, and where a Maori kaika exists today. Those who escaped from Tuahiwi fled to Taumutu near Lake Ellesmere and later to Temuka. Some of the refugees travelled as far south as Moeraki and Purakanui.

The story of the last attack upon Kaiapohia and the part performed in it by Taiaroa varies considerably. In one account it is stated that some time before Kaiapohia fell, Taiaroa called out to the Ngati Toa that they should be merciful to him and his men because they of Otakou had nothing to do with the murder of Te Pehi in the previous attack upon Kaiapohio. About two days before the termination of the siege, Te Rauparaha is described as standing in a sap and calling out to Taiaroa within the pa and saying: “Return to Otakou, lest you be taken, for I say this pa will be captured by us.” Then late at night Te Hiko, son of Te Pehi answered Taiaroa's plea and said: “Follow me and I will lead you out.” According to this version Taiaroa lost no time in escaping from the pa. This story is given by Tamihana, Te Rauparaha's son, who was given to exaggeration. The various and conflicting accounts are largely coloured to the advantage of the participants.

Regarding Taiaroa as a warrior, Dr. H. D. Skinner, in the booklet Centenary of Otago Settlement 1931, pays the following tribute to him: “Among the numerous chiefs in Canterbury, Otago and Southland, there was only one who displayed any real capacity for leadership, and that one was Taiaroa.”

The attack upon Kaiapohia, it is believed, commenced in November or December 1831, and continued for three page 51 months and thus ended in March 1832.

The victory of Te Rauparaha and his Ngati Toa over the Kai Tahu at Kaiapohia stimulated his ambition for further slaughter and additional conquests.

Te Rauparaha's next venture was to attempt the destruction of Tangatahara, the kinsman of Taimaiharanui who had slain Te Pehi. In order to defend himself, Tangatahara had built a strong fortress at Onawe, a promontory jutting out into the Akaroa harbour, and was prepared to fight to the last man. The fortifications were of enormous strength. A deep trench was dug round the place, the excavated earth forming a bank on whose summit a strong palisading was erected. The pa was thought to be impregnable. Canon Stack, in his history, The Sacking of Kaiapohia, gives the number of the defenders as 400. Tamihana, son of Te Rauparaha, gives the number as 600. Te Rauparaha, with a large force of seasoned fighting men, marched to Onawe. He had with him many Kai Tahu prisoners captured at Kaiapohia whom he kept in front of his warriors. Finding the Onawe pa strongly fortified, and not desiring a long siege, he began to parley for surrender, and appealed to the fact that his many Kaiapohia prisoners whose lives he had spared, was a proof that Tangatahara might have confidence in his promises to spare their lives. While this discussion was proceeding, some of Te Rauparaha's men under instructions from him, crept up to the entrance of the pa, and the sentries, not being on the alert, allowed some of the Ngati Toa men inside the pa. Once inside the fortress, they attacked all within reach, panic followed, and the result was fatal. The struggle was swift and decisive and the stronghold fell to Ngati Toa. Tamihana, son of Te Rauparaha, has stated that not a defender escaped, but that is not correct. Many escaped to the bush, and then to the southern kaikas. The conquerors' canoes and boats set out for the north, carrying off their prisoners. Te Hiko, however, remained behind. Among those in his charge was Tangatahara who had killed Te Pehi, the father of Te Hiko, at Kaiapohia. One day when Te Hiko was busy mending his boats, two women relations of Te Rauparaha claimed page 52 Tangatahara for the oven. Te Hiko regarded this demand as an interference with his dignity as the captor of Tangatahara. The demand of the women was bluntly refused, and for some inexplicable reason he made up his mind to set his victim free. That very night, secretly, Te Hiko aroused Tangatahara from his sleep and took him to the adjacent bush and set him free.

The subsequent story of Tangatahara is referred to in Watkin's journal. He died at Akaroa in 1847, and was buried in the old kaika. A monument was erected to his memory in 1900.

After the fall of Onawe, messengers were sent from the survivors of that pa and of Kaiapohia to the southern chiefs requesting their support. The tragedies in Marlborough and Canterbury convinced the Maoris living at Otakou and in Murihiku (Southland) that their lives and liberty were endangered, and they set about making plans for counterattacks against the common foe. The southern Maoris were better able than their northern friends to purchase from the whalers equipment in the way of muskets and powder.

The first of these counter-attacks took place in 1833, and was led by Tuhawaiki of Ruapuke and Karetai of Otakou. In this encounter Te Rauparaha narrowly escaped capture at Grassmere in Cloudy Bay, and many of the Ngati Toa were killed. Tuhawaiki, Karetai and their warriors followed the invaders to the Marlborough Sounds, where a stiff fight took place, to which they gave the name Oraumoaiti. After the battle, being exhausted and needing equipment, Te Rauparaha crossed the Raukawa Strait to Kapiti in order to recuperate. For lack of provisions the Kai Tahu turned homeward feeling that they had won the honours of victory. In this encounter Karetai lost an eye. He also received a leg wound and ever afterwards walked with a limp.

In 1834 another attempt was made against the Ngati Toa, this time by Taiaroa, assisted by Te Whakataupuka of Murihiku, as second-in-command. Haereroa also took part in charge of a taua party. The entire force consisted of about five hundred men from Otago and Southland. They had a page 53 flotilla of at least thirty canoes and boats in which they proceeded to Queen Charlotte Sound and Oraumoa, and compelled their foes to retire. Taiaroa and his confederates, having exhausted their supplies, were obliged to return. Some historians believe that if Taiaroa had had the necessary equipment and supplies, he would have carried the war into the North Island. This was known as the Oraumoanui campaign. Taiaroa and his confederates, in anticipation of further triumphs in the future, as they turned homeward, relieved their feelings by plundering the Cloudy Bay whaling station. Taiaroa, at that time, had no love for the pakeha intruders. They also killed several Maori women who were living as wives of the whalers.

Arriving at Otakou, they raided Weller's whaling station situated near the Black Rock in the harbour.

In the following year (1835) an epidemic of measles broke out and took its deadly toll of the Maori people. Te Whakataupuka became a victim, and was succeeded by his nephew Tuhawaiki who, not because of his superior birth, but because of his strong personality and dominating character became the leading figure of the far south.

At this time Te Rauparaha had trouble in the North Island from vengeful tribes who had felt his heel, and was glad to make peace with his southern enemies. Calling together his Kai Tahu captives into his marae, he asked for the chief who was nearest of kin to Tamaiharanui, the fallen chief, and appointed him to take back the survivors to Akaroa. Some of the captives had intermarried with their captors and elected to remain. The majority, however, returned to their old homes where their descendants remain today. A treaty of peace was drawn up at Akaroa between the Ngati Toa and the Kai Tahu.

Te Puoho was a torceful chief who had acted as a lieutenant of Te Rauparaha in many of his campaigns. He was anxious to attack Tuhawaiki, capture Ruapuke Island and get a footing in Otago and Southland. He sought the aid of Te Rauparaha, but that chief had enough worries in the North Island and he did not approve of Te Puoho's under- page 54 taking, indeed, he warned him that no good would come of it; besides, peace had been made with the Kai Tahu tribe. Nothing daunted, Te Puoho led his men overland to the West Coast, where he expected his kinsmen Niho and Takerei, living near the Grey River, to enter into the venture. These men were of the same mind as Te Rauparaha, and would only provide the expedition with guides. Disappointed with the refusal of his kinsmen, Te Puoho travelled over the Haast pass and into Central Otago at the head of Lake Wanaka where there was a Maori kaika. Some of the people were killed, others were captured and taken as carriers. A youth escaped and proceeded to Hawea where he warned the people of their danger. The Hawea people cautiously proceeded to the coast and thus escaped annihilation. One person who escaped capture was Wawiri Te Maire who later became one of Watkin's teachers. The invaders crossed the mountains to what is now Kingston, and then proceeded down the Mataura River to Tuturau. The invaders suffered much hardship en route and some of them died. Arriving at the small kaika on the banks of the Mataura River, two miles below the present town of Mataura, dating, it is said to the days of the Waitaha tribe, they soon despatched the surprised inhabitants. Resting for two or three days, they made their plans for their attack upon Tuhawaiki. An escapee carried the news of the disaster at Tuturau to Tuhawaiki at Ruapuke who called to his aid Taiaroa, Haereroa and Teone Tope Patuki. It is also on record that Karetai took part. They crossed to the mainland in their canoes. Marching at night, and hiding by day, they reached Tuturau, and found that the Ngati Rarua, a sub-tribe of the Ngati Toa, were off their guard. In the early morning, at a given signal, they rushed upon their enemy, who were sound asleep. Taiaroa and his Otakou men captured the entrance to the kaika. Te Puoho tried to rally his men, but a shot from Tope Patuki's musket was fatal to the chief. Those of the Ngati Toa who escaped the musket and the mere were captured and taken to Ruapuke as slaves. So ended the final battle in which the southern natives were page 55 engaged. The date is given as 1836.1

From 1840 and thereafter it was safe for the northern Maoris to visit any part of the South Island. The greatest factor in bringing about this happy understanding was the introduction of Christianity. When Tamihana, the son of Te Rauparaha, visited the South Island in 1843, he was in no danger of his life, but was received by his former enemies with great courtesy and consideration. To the Rev. J. Watkin, who on May 16th, 1840, in Otago, and to the Rev. S. Iron-side, who on December 20th, 1840, in Marlborough, followed by other missionaries, belongs the honour, under God, of bringing to a land with a blood-stained past, the Gospel of peace and goodwill, and thus prepared the way for European settlement.

1 Two or three women, one of whom was Te Puoho's favourite wife, escaped extermination. The latter died at Kaiapoi in 1862. The Maoris and Fiordland, Herries Beattie.