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

Nga-Tai-Pari-Rua. — 1815

page 279


Te Wharau-roa,* who at that time was the leader of Ngati-Rakei, Ngati-Hia, and other Mokau hapus raised a war party from those tribes and started from Otorohanga on their long and risky journey. They came up the Mangapapa valley and by Te Ana-uriuri on the Waipa-Mokau water-parting, and thence to the head of the Mokau and down that river by canoes to Te Mahoe, a bend in the river some two miles from the mouth. Here the party went into camp, carefully concealing all signs of smoke, etc., whilst spies were sent out to see where the Ngati-Tama were. They returned and reported that the enemy was all over the country at the mouth of the river, and along the coast southward, but that the principal number were gathered at a village they had built about half way between Mokau and Mohaka-tino. A council was then held to consider how the war-party might reach this village without being seen, and finally a plan was adopted. Starting at dawn one morning they crossed the river and concealed their canoes in the little creeks just opposite Te Mahoe, and from there climbed the steep forest range which leads up to the high hill named Tawariki, on which there is now a Trig Station. From here they followed the ridges that run parallel to the coast until they came out at the Mohaka-tino river, about a mile from its mouth. The party was now between Ngati-Tama and any succour they might receive from their own people to the south. Arrived at the sea-beach, Wharau-roa instructed all his party to trail their spears and other arms along the sands, with one end fastened to their ankles by a flax string. The party now advanced along the beach in careless order, some shouting, some singing, some skidding flat stones along the wet sands, all of which was done to make Ngati-Tama think it was a party of their friends from the south coming to visit them.

The war-party was one hundred and forty topu (i.e., 280) strong, whilst the Ngati-Tama and Ati-Awa were said to be more numerous. As they drew near the village many of the women, children, and some of the men came down to the beach to meet the visitors. When Wharau-roa saw the time was come he gave the signal, and in an instant the spears were seized and a charge made into the unsuspecting Ngati-Tama, all of whom were killed. The rest of Ngati-Tama in the village, seeing what was going on, armed and rushed down to the beach to meet the foe. Here, on the beach, these ancient enemies fought it out, it is said, during two flood tides—hence the name of the battle, page 280Nga-tai-pari-rua (the twice-flowing tide). No doubt there is some truth in the story, or the name would not have been given. The end of the fight saw Ngati-Rakei and their allies victorious for once over Ngati-Tama, who, after losing a large number of men, were obliged to retreat. They fell back on their impregnable stronghold, Te Kawau, where they were safe. The Mokau people went on and occupied their old homes on the river, greatly to their delight, says my informant, and he adds, "The Mokau people have to thank my grandfather Te Wharau-roa for saving their country for them."

The above battle seems to have been the beginning of the end, so far as Ngati-Tama were concerned, although it was not yet. Hitherto this brave little tribe, never very numerous, seems always to have got the best of their enemies as we have seen. But the constant fights that had occurred during the previous two hundred years must have weakened them considerably. However much they suffered in numbers, their spirit was not broken. They still had with them the two gallant brothers, Eaparapa and Tupoki, as leaders, and they were not men to sit down and accept a beating quietly.

* Grandfather of my informant.