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Ngamihi; or The Maori Chief's Daughter

Chapter II. Pakeha v. Maori

page 16

Chapter II. Pakeha v. Maori.

The pseudo prophets had very little difficulty in persuading their brethren that they were the possessors of miraculous powers. The following is an instance: An old Maori woman, had purchased in the town of Wanganui some articles of clothing which had been wrapped up in a, newspaper. Rangitauira, one of the prophets obtained this paper, and to display his supernatural gifts, read it aloud in a jargon which the crowd was assured was the English language. When he had finished reading, he obligingly interpreted to them that this was an English newspaper, giving an account of the Waitotara War, in which the number of soldiers killed was 3,800, and the number of friendly natives 400, of these last, 40 Wisemu Kingi's people; and that the Queen wished it to be understood that when the present war was over, all the surviving natives should be used as beasts of burden, and to sweep the streets and cleanse the most filthy localities in European towns.

The despatches published at the time by the late Native Minister, Sir William Fox, give an account of an attempt to prove the Hauhau's invulnerability to English bullets (foretold by the prophets) which occurred at Sentry Hill, a redoubt about six miles north of New Plymouth, occupied at that time by seventy-five men under the command of Captain Shortt, of the 57th Regiment.

page 17

The redoubt stands on an open plain with a slight rise towards the earthworks. It was a beautiful moonlight night, at about eight o'clock, when the men in the redoubt saw a Maori coming across the flat, throwing his arms about in a very wild manner, and singing what appeared to be a native hymn. Walking boldly up to the parapet, he sat down on the edge of the ditch. Some of the men wanted to shoot him, but the officers said, "No, no, go out and take him." A party of one sergeant and ten men went out; and as the sergeant approached the Maori jumped up, threw a stone at them, hitting one of the men, and then bolted. The men, though taken by surprise, fired a volley at him, at which he sat down on a large stone and went on with his song. Another volley being fired, he took to his heels and disappeared. It was evident that the soldiers did not want to kill him, as many of them were first class marksmen. A few days later the detachment in the redoubt heard the Maoris in the pah at Manutahi chanting their war songs in the early morning. The noise gradually approached till the party causing it crossed the Waiongana river, when a force of at least 300 armed Maoris was seen at a distance of 800 yard. They advanced along the road slowly in the military order called "fours," making steadily for the redoubt. Captain Shortt kept his men down behind the parapet till the Maoris arrived within a distance of about 100 yards when they were seen to halt. The word was then given and the troops jumped up and poured in withering fire on the advancing columa, backing it up with grape shot from two small guns. The Maoris stood the fire with great imperturbability as if they did not expect to be hit, but at last they broke and fled, leaving thirty-four dead and wounded behind them. Our men bring under cover, suffered no serious damage. When the Maoris advanced towards the redoubt, our troops saw to their surprise a few yards in advance of the main body, ap-page 18apparently the very same Maori who had visited them a few nights before, again singing and throwing his arms about. This time, however, he was less fortunate, for a rifle ball laid him low. This was in all probability Hepaniah, one of the principal prophets of the new superstition, who is known to have fallen on that occasion. A new prophet named Matene or Martin sprung into prominence, who did a great deal of damage to the settlers. The incantation "Hau Hau," always preceeded their fights. Matene was eventually killed with an axe when swimming a river, by a native policeman named Te Moro. Nearly one hundred sovereigns were found in his camp.

The English Government treated the Maoris with great consideration and paid them fair prices for their land. Millions of acres were purchased from the Ngapuhi, Manawatu, Waitotara, Ngatiwhatua, and a number of other tribes whose names would be unpronounceable to the general reader. The Government also at various times spent large sums of money for benefiting the native race.