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

Tatara-I-Maka. — 1818


After the northern war-party had stayed some time at Te Taniwha, Te Puoho * of Ngati-Tama came to see them, indeed it is possible he may have been at the siege of Te Taniwha, for the relations between his tribe and Ngati-Toa were friendly through intermarriages, and it was through this relationship, no doubt, that the taua had been allowed to pass the "gates of Taranaki" without interference from the redoubtable warriors of Ngati-Tama, under their chiefs Raparapa and Tupoki. Now Te Puoho, of the latter tribe, had a grievance against the Taranaki tribe, for his sister (or perhaps cousin) Te Kiri-kakara had been killed by Puke-toretore of Taranaki, and he saw in the presence of these northern tribes a fine opportunity for paying off this score if he could secure their assistance. This was not difficult of accomplishment; Tu-whare, Muru-paenga, and Te Eau-paraha were not the men to hold back when there were any hard knocks to be given, and moreover an attack on the Taranaki tribe would result in the acquisition of more fine mats, heads, and slaves. At this time the two latter articles were becoming of much value; the first to barter with the whalers frequenting the Bay of Islands, the latter to prepare flax to exchange for muskets.

The taua, now reinforced by some of the Ati-Awa people, started on their march for the Taranaki country, passing on their way several of the Ati-Awa pas, and soon arrived at Tatara-i-maka ("the garment cast away," pronounced Tatarai-maka). This place was, and is still, a very strong pa, situated on the sea-coast eleven miles south-west of New Plymouth, and between the mouths of the Kati-kara and Pito-one streams, and which gives its name to the block of land purchased by the Government from the Taranaki tribe, 11th May, 1847. Its high page 286ramparts and deep ditches that defended it on the land sido are still in good preservation, and it is to be hoped will remain so, for the pa has been acquired and preserved by the Government under "The Scenery Preservation Act, 1903." The taua marched on to the attack of this strong place and were met outside by the Taranaki people, and a fight took place, in which the latter people were defeated, and then took shelter in the pa. Mr. W. H. Skinner says: … "Tatara-i-maka was the great fighting pa of these parts, and into it all the inhabitants of the smaller pas in the vicinity had gathered…. The possession of a few firearms by the invaders caused them to treat this affair as a pleasant outing, for they felt sure-of victory—a hunting excursion, in fact, in search of game, on which they subsisted, together with the immense supply of vegetable food (in the shape of kumara, taro, etc.) found in the neighbouring pas scattered over this thickly-peopled district. Tatara-i-maka was stormed with great slaughter, and amongst the slain was Kahu-roro, the chief of the pa, and great numbers were taken prisoners, amongst them Pori-kapa, the afterwards well-known chief of the Nga-Mahanga hapu of Taranaki, who, in later years, dwelt at Kai-hihi. He was then a lad and managed to escape shortly after capture. The prisoners were bound together in couples by flax ropes round their necks, notwithstanding which, during the night, many of them made their escape." Watene adds these names to the chiefs killed: "Wetenga-pito, Parehc, Para-tu-te-rangi, and Tiotio, and further says, "Here was seen the work of the guns of Nga-Puhi. The Maori mode of warfare formerly was hand to hand in close proximity. But here the Nga-Puhi chiefs asked their Ati-Awa allies to point out the chiefs when attacking the pa, and then the guns did their work, shooting the men whose names have been mentioned. And then the pa was stormed."

The people who suffered in this affair were the Nga-Mahanga hapu of Taranaki (and probably other hapus). This hapu takes its name from two brothers, Moeahu (hence Ngati-Moeahu) and Tai-hawea, who were twins, which is the meaning of the hapu name.

These people dwelt at the Matai-whetu pa not far from Tatari-i-maka, Tai-hawea being seventh in descent from Te Ha-tauira, of the Kura-hau-po canoe, and consequently flourished about the middle of the page 287sixteenth century. He and his sons were great warriors in their day, and about them has come down the following saying: "E Turi' a Tai! E Hotu" a Tai! Mara a Tai! Te toka i tauria e te kukwpara, araio mimingo. Kit tu matou ko aku tama, he whetu kau;" which refers to their courage and likens them to the mussels that adhered to the rocks, for they could not be removed from their pa by their enemies.

The following lament appears to have been composed by one of the Taranaki people for those who fell at Tatara-i-maka. It will be found (in Maori) at page 242 of "Nga Moteatea."

E paki ra fce paki o Au-tahi,
Hei roto au, hei toku whare,
Koki atu ai, ki te iwi ka kopa,
Ki te ana o Rangi-totohu,
E whanake ana kia takitaki
E Uru, e wehi ana.

Ka tu te whakapipi
Ki te puke ki Tatara-i-maka,
Kei te karanga ake aku huinga
I te whatitoka
Hei tomokanga mo Muru-paenga
Whakatere ope, nana
Te tipi ki te pikitanga
I Tuhi-mata
I maroke kau atu ai au i konei.

Sweet is the Spring, the September month,
When brilliant Canopus stands aloft,
As I lay within my solitary home,
Dazed with sad thoughts for my people
Departed in death like a flash.
To the cave of Rangi-totohu—
Emblem of sad disaster.

They are gone by the leadership
Of Uru, of the fearsome name.
'Twas there, at the hill of Tatara-i-maka
The foe advanced in wedge-like form,
Whilst our gathered people bid defiance
At the entrance of the pa,
Where Muru-paenga forced his way—
The army raiser; the leader—
His was the fatal blow delivered,
At the ascent of Tuhi-mata;
Hence am I dried up here in sorrow.

* Te Puoho and many others were subsequently killed by the Ngai-Tahu tribe near Gore, in the South Island, in 1835-6; see Chapter XX.