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

Attack on the Sugar-Loaf Islands

Attack on the Sugar-Loaf Islands.

Mr. Skinner adds: "To get the assistance of the Nga-puke-turua and Waitara people, Te Rangi-apiti-rua told them of a sacrilege that had been committed on the remains of their ancestor Rata-nui. Two brothers, members of the tribe living around Nga-motu, had gone on a visit to Puke-aruhe, and while there had stolen the two shin bones of Rata-nui, who had been buried in the south-western corner of the pa—at the back of the present school-house. Rata-nui was an ancestor of both Potaka and Te Rangi-apiti-rua and had been a great chief of both Ati-Awa and Taranaki in his day. The bones had been stolen page 241for the purpose of making fish-hooks—for it was a strong belief of the Maoris that hooks so made were particularly efficacious in catching fish. These stolen bones had been taken away to Te Ngahoro pa (called now Major Lloyd's pa, Omata District)."

"Immediate revenge was determined on, and one party, under Miro-ora, left the Waitara river in the war-canoe already referred to, the name of which was "Eanga-nui" (the great revenge or compensation). She was a very large canoe, so much, so that the whole of the party, numbering two hundred, proceeded by her to attack the Nga-motu islands. The canoe left the Waitara at night, timing its arrival at the islands just before daybreak. As the canoe drew near to Motu-o-Tamatea (the Sugar-loaf just to the north-west of Paritutu, an island at high water), the people in the pa there were roused by hearing a canoe song, and on looking down from the summit beheld a large canoe paddled by only a very few men, whilst some others were apparently hauling in fish as fast as they could. The bulk of the two hundred warriors were hidden in the hold of the canoe so that the Nga-potiki-taua people should not guess their number. The gleam of the shining sides of the Kahawai fish was seen as they were hauled in. As a matter of fact Miro-ora had brought from Waitara with him a few Kahawai to delude the other people into thinking that a great shoal of that fish was near the island. It was the same fish over and over again that were hauled in, together with the white whale-bone meres, of the warriors who manned the canoe, which the dim light before daybreak prevented the islanders from recognising. Tai-whaka-pu was chief of that section of Nga-potiki-tau that occupied the island, though his home is said to have been at Tapuae-haruru river; and as the canoe drew near he recognised Miro-ora and called out to him—" E Miro'! He whetu te pa!"—("O Miro! are you using stars for the hooks!"); implying that the fish could not see the ordinary glistening shell-hook (or pa) at that early hour. Miro-ora replied—" There is a great shoal of Kahawai, Launch your canoes and help to catch them." The people of the island now rushed down to get ready the canoes, whilst Miro-ora and party slowly passed on beyond the island, still, apparently, hauling in fish as fast as they could, until they got opposite the Omata pa. By this time it was daylight, and the people of that and other pas about, thus seeing as they thought a great catch of fish in prospect, all put out to sea in their small fishing canoes. In the meantime Mira-ora had manœuvred so as to get inshore of the other canoes, and as soon as this was accomplished he gave the word and immediately two hundred paddles were flashing in the sunshine as the great canoe bore down on the fleet of fishermen. page 242These canoes were capsized and the occupants killed as the heavier vessel passed over them, and before very long the whole party and their canoes were destroyed. Many men wore killed with the paddle, for which purpose it is well suited, being sharp at one end, with a lanceolate blade, and usually made of some heavy wood, such as manuka. From two to three hundred people were killed in this naval engagement. After this second victory over Nga-potiki-taua, Miro-ora and his party returned to their home at Waitara.