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History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840

Te Paro-O-Tuwhera. — (Circa, 1770.)

Te Paro-O-Tuwhera.
(Circa, 1770.)

Table No. XLVII.

Table No. XLVII.

The Ngati-Rahiri branch of Te Ati-Awa have always lived on the north side of the Waitara river, and between there and the Onaero river; their headquarters being about Waihi stream and Te Taniwha, a prominent pa situated on a projecting point on the coast, and which—it may be added—was the boundary to the north of what is known as Spain's Award, the land awarded to the New Zealand Company under their purchase, the disallowance of which award by Governor Fitzroy was the source of subsequent troubles between the Europeans and Maoris, leading up to the war of the sixties.

Korehe, shown in the table above, lived at Turangi, near Waihi; he had seven brothers and one sister, named Kopiri-taunoa. This family was connected with the Taranaki tribe living at Raoa, but in what manner I do not know. At this period the Nga-Potiki-taua people of Taranaki, after Tu-whakairi-kawa's conquest, as related in Chapter IX., were in occupation of Nga-Motu, or the Sugar-loaf Islands, and the adjacent shores—always a desirable site for residence on account of the abundance of fish there obtainable. In Korehe's time there happened to be an interlude of peace between the Nga-Potiki-taua tribe and Ati-Awa, so Kopiri-taunoa took the occasion to visit some of her connections living at Nga-Motu. In order, no doubt, to satisfy the desire for utu, or payment for some death due to Te Ati-Awa, some of the Nga-Motu people killed their young visitor and probably put her to the usual use in such cases by making a meal page 235of her.* Some of her bones, however, were put to another use, very common in former days, for they were made into fish-hooks. Needless to say, this was a most deadly insult to Ngati-Rahiri; but it appears that many years elapsed before that tribe were able to secure the revenge so dear to the Maori's heart, or even to find out what had become of her.

Kopiri-taunoa had a younger brother named Pakau-moumoua, who was quite a child when his sister was killed. After he had grown up to man's estate he visited his relatives at Raoa, and on his way back stayed for a time at Nga-Motu, the place where his sister had been killed, not knowing that these were the people who had committed the deed. Whilst there he was invited to go out fishing with the Nga-Potiki-taua people of Rua-taku pa (Sugar-loafs), and when the canoe had reached the fishing-ground off Te Motu-o-Tamatea he heard one of the crew reciting his karakia in order to make the fish bite. In this karakia his sister's name was mentioned, and when the fisherman ended by saying, "Piki ake ra e Hine! i te pikitanga i Onuku-tai-pari" —("Climb up, O Lady! at the ascent at Onuku-tai-pari "—which is the name of the sandy descent to the beach on the south side of Pari-tutu), he knew at once that his sister's bones were being used as fish-hooks in the very canoe in which he was. This was a most disconcerting position for Pakau. At last he came to the conclusion that he must get ashore as soon as possible. To this end he feigned to be ill and asked the fishermen to put him ashore, where he pretended to be very ill indeed—so much so that the people gathered round to hear his last wishes. He then urged them to carry him back to his own home at Turangi, so that he might die amongst his people. Some of the chiefs and people consented and gathered together for that purpose, but when Pakau saw them he said, "Ehara tenei i te ope rahi, e kore e pau nga kumara o Tonga."—("This is not a very large party; they will not be able to consume all the kumaras of Tonga,") Now Tonga is a place near Turangi, celebrated for the excellence of the kumaras formerly grown there in great profusion. The Maoris believe that the excellent crops there obtained were due to the măna of their god Rongo, a stone representation of which Ngati-Rahiri formerly

* Mr. W. H. Skinner has a slightly different version, as follows:—Kopiri-taunoa was on her way to Mounu-kahawai, in the Okato District. On the road there, at Waireka Stream, Omata District, she came across a man of the Nga-Potiki-taua people who was engaged sharpening a stone axe in the water. This man insulted her by making indecent overtures, and, on her refusal to concede to his wishes, he killed her and his people made a meal of her, but preserved the bones for fish-hooks.

page 236possessed. Many generations after this time the image was borrowed by the people of Puke-ariki pa (New Plymouth Railway Station), who ever afterwards stuck to it and finally hid it there. In the excavations made by Europeans at this old pa the stone image was found, and it Is now in the Nelson Museum.* The "saying" applied to Tonga was: "Otonga kai kino," which may be rendered, Otonga the gluttonous.

But to return to Pakau. After his speech, a much larger number of people assembled in order to carry back the young chief with dignity suited to his rank. Before this, however, Pakau had found means to communicate with his own people and tell them of the fate of Kopiri-taunoa's bones, and to urge them to prepare for revenge when he and the Nga-Potiki-taua party arrived. To this end the Ngati-Rahiri built a large new house, and surrounded its walls with dry manuka sticks and other inflammable matter.

So Pakau started away from Nga-Motu, being borne along on an amo, or streteher, for he still pretended he was too ill to walk. The party was a very large one, and on their arrival at Turangi they were received by Ngati-Rahiri in (apparently) the most friendly manner and invited into the new guest-house, whilst food was being prepared for them. All the dogs in the place were now tied up and beaten with sticks to cause them to howl, and this noise made Nga-Potiki-taua think they were being killed to furnish them with a meal. The guests were delighted with the anticipation of a feast of dogs' flesh and the meally kumaras of Tonga, and in the meantime amused themselves with hakas, dances, etc., within the house. Ngati-Rahiri had gathered round the door of the house all armed with short weapons concealed under their mats, ostensibly to witness the hakas, but in reality to fall on any of the guests who should attempt to escape when the time came. All being ready, Korehe gave the signal, and the house was set fire to in dozens of different places. The walls were so densely packed with manuka that there was no forcing a way through, and those who attempted to escape by the door were knocked on the head at once by the men who guarded it. Thus—says my informant—the whole of the large party of Nga-Potiki-taua were destroyed and the death of Kopiri-taunoa avenged.

It is said that the foundations of this house—To Paro-o-tuwhera—may be seen to this day, and that it would hold a thousand people.

Some years after this event Pakau-moumoua, who had originated the above massacre, paid a visit to his wife's relatives who were living

* It is shown in Plate No. 10.

page 237at Raoa, on the Taranaki coast, and he there occupied a house with a few other people. The Taranaki people, on hearing of this, thought it a good opportunity to wipe out the loss of their relatives, the Nga-Potiki-taua, who had been burnt, and made preparations to that end by attempting to surprise Pakau in his house at night. As they came up to the attack Pakau shouted out: "Kaua ahau e taia potia, tuku atu tama a Kura-poupou ki waho!"—" I don't want to be killed in the dark; let the son of Kura-poupou (see Table 47) go forth!" The attacking party, hearing this, thought Pakau had a party of his own people with him, so withdrew, and thus allowed Pakau to escape in the darkness.*

* For part of this story I am indebted to Mr. A. Shand.