Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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

Tau-Kawau's expedition. — 1816-17

Tau-Kawau's expedition.

The next northern expedition was that under Tau-kawau of Nga-Puhi, and the only means of fixing the date of this is, "that it was one or two years before that of Tu-whare and others"—which latter there is little reason to doubt was in 1818. This party fought its way through the Ati-Awa and Taranaki territories as far as Puara-te-rangi, a pa situated near Pu-nehu, not far from the present village of Pihama. Of the adventures of this expedition on the road we have little information, except a few notes to be found in the Maori account of the Tu-whare—Te Rau-paraha raid of 1819-20, and these notes are very wanting in detail. But for the fact that this is always alluded to by the Taranaki people as a Nga-Puhi foray, and the known presence of Rewa, a high chief of the Bay of Islands, with the party, we should scarcely know from which part it came.

The following is from the account referred to: "Some of our expedition wished to go a different route from the main body to page 274purchase native garments (Kaitakas); there were twice fifty of us of this mind. The reason of this was, the Taranaki people had great knowledge of weaving Kaitakas, and their muka (prepared flax) called Tihore, or Takiri-kau was very superior. When we went to purchase these garments in exchange for Native weapons we quarrelled amongst ourselves and eventually got to fighting. The reason of that strife was, some of our party desired to secure all the best garments; and because of that strife we again divided, fifty of us going one way, fifty another. One company went with Pangari (of Lower Hokianga), and that man decided to do such works as would cause his name to be heard of by the many of the land. As the party of Pangari travelled along they met an old woman who was gathering tutu berries to make wine; her they killed, then cooked and ate her. Whilst they were cooking her, and when the people put "the fish" into the oven, the fire blazed up; this was said to be an omen for them that they should soon see another pa, and if they assaulted it they would take it. The flame of the oven represented the courage of the old woman welling up and leaving the body, and hence it was believed the courage of the tribe of the old woman had evaporated. This old woman was a tohunga, and therefore the courage of her tribe would cease when they stood up in battle. The oven had been covered in and the "fish" was cooked and being uncovered by the fifty men when the spies returned, who had been sent out to look for the people of the country. The spies said, "The people to whom the old woman belonged have heard of the murder, and the taua hikutoto or avenging party, has arisen to attack us."

"Then the fifty men seized their belts, girded themselves and fell into line for the fight. The enemy appeared and occupied the summit of a hillock. They were very numerous and soon the party retreated, in fact they fled. Whilst retreating, Pangari was wounded in the leg with a kotaha (or sling-spear) which had been thrown by the enemy. Nga-Puhi continued to retreat until they got a long distance away, when they laid in hiding in a swamp, selecting a hard place in the bog; here they arranged themselves in rank in three parties. One party went to search for food, because they had left the body of the old woman behind in the oven, and this party met the old woman's tribe. They took some reeds and bound them together (to stand on) and fought the enemy at the side of the swamp, and the tribe of Taranaki was defeated, the bodies of the dead becoming food for Nga-Puhi. Pangari declared that hunger, thirst, and fear had deprived his tongue of saliva.

page 275

"After this the fifty men returned to the main body of Nga-Puhi and travelled altogether, abandoning their journey to collect Kaitakas.

"When we got to the pa at Waimate, and after three nights there we found a woman, whom we cooked and ate. Just afterwards one of the Taranaki people appeared and called out, "To-morrow our taua will appear to chastise you for your murder." At daylight we occupied an old pa, and later on in the day the Taranaki taua appeared coming up a valley at the foot of the pa occupied by Nga-Puhi. That pa was situated at the end of a point which jutted out into a chasm and was surrounded with perpendicular cliffs, excepting one part where it joined on to the mainland. (This description fits the Orangi-tuapeka pa close to Waimate and three miles south-east from the town of Manaia.) Nga-Puhi heard the encouraging words of the chief of the Taranaki tribe urging his men to assault the pa. The words of the chief to his people were like this, "Au! Au! ki toa!" which in the Nga-Puhi dialect would be, "Ana! Ana! kia toa!"—("Ha! Ha! be brave!") Then their shouts of defiance were heard, "Au! Au! ki ka'a ki Ka'a," which is in Nga-Puhi, Ana! Ana! Kia kaha!"—("Ha! Ha! be strong!")

"The Taranaki tribe then assaulted the Nga-Puhi pa. The army of that people was one thousand once told strong. They scaled the sides of the gulley, and then the one hundred and fifty of Nga-Puhi fled, followed by the Taranaki taua, who killed six of the Nga-Puhi chiefs as they fled. So Nga-Puhi retreated to a distance; their dead were left to the enemy, as also some in the pa they retreated from. Finding that Taranaki did not follow quickly, Nga-Puhi halted and then divided into four parties to await the oncoming of Taranaki; they waited on the path. Presently Taranaki were seen on a ridge across a depression from the hillock occupied by Nga-Puhi. Between the two parties ran a small stream, whilst in the rear of Nga-Puhi was the forest which they could fly to if defeated by Taranaki. It was now evening, and Taranaki made no sign of attacking Nga-Puhi, but instead proceeded to entrench themselves; the inner wall of their maioro, or rampart, was made of fern and korokiu (veronica), and tree-fern stems were used to strengthen the ahuriri, or trench.

"Then Nga-Puhi sent their tohunga, or priest, to the stream to "uplift" his incantations so that Nga-Puhi might be brave and strong to smite their enemies. Whilst the tohunga was engaged in his incantations, Nga-Puhi assembled to discuss such measures as they could devise to put in force when the battle commenced, for the reason that Nga-Puhi were without take, or cause, in this fight—nothing but a desire to acquire Kaitakas.

page 276

"Now the Taranaki people were very numerous and far exceeded Nga-Puhi in number. Hence it was decided before the rays of the sun appeared to send one of our divisions against the defences of Taranaki, there to assault them by making a dash and spear as many as they could with their long spears; whilst another party went along by the edge of the forest, so that when the first party assaulted the others should take Taranaki in the rear. Other three divisions were to assault the place in different directions so that Taranaki should be confused at the number of points of attack. The divisions of Nga-Puhi that remained were to guard the camp, lest it should be taken.

"All these various plans were carried out and the result was that a great many of Taranaki were killed, among them fourteen chiefs, who were all eaten by Nga-Puhi, and their heads preserved to be taken back to the Nga-Puhi homes to be jeered at by the people."

Such is the account given by Pangari to the unknown writer of the account of Tu-whare's expedition of 1819-20, with which, apparently, Pangari went to Taranaki.

It was after this that Nga-Puhi attacked Puara-te-rangi pa, near Punehu, when in the fight Tamaroa of Taranaki, with his weapon, a pou-whenua made of maire, struck a blow at Tau-kawau's legs, both of which he broke. This caused the taua to turn in their tracks, and then make their way homeward.

Mr. Skinner adds, "The Ngati-Mahanga people of Taranaki had fled into the forest around the base of Mount Egmont. Some of them, however, with the southern part of Taranaki, under Nga-Tai-rakau-nui, retired to Puara-te-rangi pa, situated on the sea coast a little under half a mile north of the mouth of the Punehu river. This expedition killed a Taranaki chief named Mokowera, who is said to have been a son of Tu-poki of Ngati-Tama by a Taranaki woman. Tau-kawau's mere was found sometime afterwards partly covered with sand close to this spot, and, after passing through several hands, is now in the possession of Tohu,* Maori prophet of Parihaka." Tau-kawau's body was taken back by his people as far as Manu-korihi, where he was buried at Rohutu, on the north bank of Waitara.

The Taranaki people say that Tau-kawau had been specially invited to come on this taua by Ati-Awa, in order that he might assist that tribe in fighting Taranaki in order to square some of their tribal quarrels. A great many Ati-Awa from Waitara joined in this expedition. On the arrival of Tau-kawau at Manu-korihi, the Ati-Awa people presented him with a taiaha as a rakau-whakarawe.

page 277

There is a tangi, or lament, for Mokowera, the Taranaki chief killed by Tau-kawau, which will be found at p. 29, "Wars of the Northern against the Southern Tribes in the Nineteenth Century."

In this expedition Nga-Puhi had three muskets, a fact which is referred to in the above lament, when, it is said, Rewa, of the Bay of Islands, shot Mokowera.

I have fixed the date of Tau-kawau's expedition at 1816-17 because all my numerous enquiries show that it was about that date, and my informants are consistent in their statements about it. But the following quotations from Marsden's "Journal" (in possession of Dr. Hocken) seems to contradict it, though I think it probable from Marsden's unfamiliarity with the Maori language he has mixed up two expeditions in the one statement."…. Another party connected with Hongi was carrying on war on the west side of the island at Taranaki; said to be very populous, with two hundred men from the Bay of Islands. A man of high rank, named Tau-kawau has been killed in this expedition, but his head was severed and brought back with them. They also cut off all the flesh from his bones and burnt it, but brought back the bones which they carried a very long way overland. They arrived to - day—29th September, 1823."

* Tohu died 5th February, 1907.