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

Tapui-Nikau. — 1818

page 288


But the Northern taua was not satisfied with the taking of Tatara-i-inaka. They proceeded to attack other Taranaki pas. Mr. Skinner says—"From here the invaders moved on and invested Mounu-kahawai, a very large pa at the mouth of the Kaihiki stream, three miles south-west of Tatara-i-maka, on the south bank just inland of the coast road. This pa was of great size, with a large population, but was not a strong position, being built on comparatively flat ground. The invaders fired the dry raupo growing in the swamps (named Totoaro) around the pa, and under cover of the smoke and consequent confusion stormed the place, with great slaughter. Tara-tuha, one of the principal chiefs of Nga-Mahanga, was killed here. After the taking of this pa and the usual feasting, the taua moved on to attack Tapui-nikau." I am not certain whether it was before or after the siege of Tapui-nikau, that a pa, situated about one and a-half miles S.S.E. of the former named Kekeua, was taken with the usual accompaniment of slaughter. Tapui-nikau is situated on the Te Ika-parua stream, about two miles south-east of the modern township of Warea, and five miles from the coast. Mr. Skinner says of Tapui-nikau—" This was another great stronghold of the Taranaki tribe, and was defended by the people of the various hapus (of Nga-Mahanga, Ngati-Moeahu, etc., etc.) who had gathered into this powerful pa to do battle with the invaders. Great preparations had been made and every precaution taken in accordance with the old Maori ideas of defence. Great stores of stones were gathered up into the fighting towers, and on stages erected on trees commanding the trenches and approaches to the pa."

Watene says, there were a great many chiefs in the pa at the time of attack, Kukutai, Te Ra-tu-tonu, Mounga-tu-kau and others. At the first attack the taua was repulsed by the Taranaki people "under (says Mr. Skinner) Ruakiri, and in this affair Rarauhe of the Nga-Mahanga killed two men of rank of the attacking party. After the first attack, the invaders prepared to make a regular siege of the place, with the idea of starving out the garrison," whilst the young men of the taua ranged the country in search of food and plunder.

Now comes in one of those instances of Maori custom which is peculiar and strange to us. During the first attack, the allies had seen and admired the splendid courage of Te Ra-tu-tonu, who was otherwise a fine handsome man in the prime of life. His deeds were the talk of the camp, and it appears that one of the women had also beheld his valour, and on that account desired to have him as her husband. page 289This woman who—Te Watene says—was very beautiful, was Rangi-Topeora, the sister of the celebrated Te Rangi-haeata, and daughter of Te Rau-paraha's sister Waitohi. Topeora is perhaps more famed than any other Maori lady for the number of her poetical effusions, which generally take the form of kai-oraora, or cursing songs, in which she expresses the utmost hatred of her enemies, and consigns them to all kinds of horrible deaths and desecrations so much indulged in by the Maori. At the same time her songs are full of historical allusions. She was also of the best blood of Ngati-Toa, and, therefore, with a good deal of influence in the tribe. Te Ra-tu-tonu was known to Topeora before this event, for he had formerly visited Kawhia. One child was the fruit of this union, who died young.

At Topeora's instigation, Te Rau-paraha arranged that Te Ra-tu-tonu should be "called," i.e.: some one would approach the beleaguered pa, and call him to come to the enemies' camp under a guarantee of safety. This was done, and Te Ra-tu-tonu descended from the pa to the camp, where, after speeches, etc., he was married to Topeora. Mr. Skinner adds to the above (which is Watene's account)—"When Te Ra-tu-tonu was leaving the pa to meet Topeora and Neke-papa (who also had taken a fancy to this handsome warrior) the question arose as to which of the two should have him. But Topeora, being fleet of foot ran to meet the advancing chief and cast her topuni (dog-skin) mat over his shoulders and thus claimed him as her husband. This being in accordance with Maori custom Te Ra-tu-tonu* became the husband of Topeora."

Now this other lady, Neke-papa, who belonged to the Ati-Awa tribe, was also a poetess of some fame in her time. It is somewhat remarkable that this warrior chief should have thus been sought after by two well-known poetesses. There was no doubt a hope in the Taranaki people, that this marriage would bring about a peace, and the retirement of the taua, for there are many historical instances of a similar result, as indeed in the case already quoted, in their own tribe when Rau-mahora was given in marriage to Taka-rangi, at the siege of Te Rewarewa pa (see page 245, Chap. X.). But Watene says, the taua had no such intention and continued the siege as closely as before. The probability is that the Northern element amongst the besiegers was determined to have revenge for the loss of some of their people. And hence, says Watene, was this chief-woman Topeora belittled by the taua. The great bravery of Te Ra-tu-tonu had been

* Te Ra-tu-tonu was subsequently killed by the Nga-Rauru tribe at Wai-totara during Te Rau-paraha's migration to Kapiti.

page 290exhibited in the assault on the pa, when a great many of the taua fell, notwithstanding that they possessed guns, whilst the defenders had only their rakau-maori, or native weapons. Few of the besieged fell on this occasion.
Amongst the taua were some of the chiefs and people of Te Ati-Awa (of Waitara, etc.). One of these, an old man named Pahau, was desirous that the Taranaki people should be saved, and for that purpose he proceeded to the ground below the pa by himself and there stood, awaiting a chance to communicate with the besieged. Mounga-tu-kau of the pa saw him, and from the palisades called out, "Who is that man?" The old man replied, "It is I, Pahau!" The other then said, "Do you not remember your grandfather Rakei-tahanga, who was saved alive by us when we took the Awa-te-take pa.* (This pa is situated behind Tikorangi on the high cliffs that overlook the Wai-tara river on the east side of the great bend, about a mile and a-half from Puke-rangiora, and had been taken by Taranaki in former times.) So Pahau returned to the camp, and repeated to the chiefs of his hapu, Otaraua of Ati-Awa, the conversation that had taken place. These

* I have no particulars as to what led up to this attack on Awa-te-take pa, nor as to its date, but apparently it was not very many years prior to the utterance of Mounga-tu-kau's speech above. But as there are some "sayings" about it that illustrate some peculiarities in the Maori language I introduce them here. Te Tuiti-moeroa was the chief of Awa-te-take pu, and he had apparently been threatened by some one of the Taranaki chiefs whose residence was in the forest. On this threat being made known to Te Tuiti, he said, "E kore an c mate i te tangata takahi mouku."—("I shall not be killed by a man who is a mouku-treader;" mouku being the Maori name for the common forest fern named Asplenium bulbeferun; or, in other words, by a forest-dweller.) Nevertheless, his pa was attacked by Taranaki in the night, he and his son alone being there, when the "fern-treader" called out to Te Tuiti in his house, "Ka mate koe i te waewae takahi mouku!"—('Now will you die by the mouku-treader!") Te Tuiti shouted out in reply, "Mei i whaka-te-aotea mai koe, ka kite koe i a Te Tuiti; ko tenci, ka whaka-te-potin mai e koe, e kore koe e kite i a Te Tuili."—("Had you come by daylight you might have seen Te Tuiti; but as for this, you have come by night, and will not see Te Tuiti.") Saying this, Te Tuiti got out at the back of the house and made his escape. But the taua followed as soon as daylight came and chased Te Tuiti down to the sea-coast, where they caught and killed him. Then Ati-Awa raised a taua to pursue Taranaki (or, as another account says, Ngati-Ruanui) and came up with them, at, or near Pekatu, inland of Puke-rangiorn, Waitara river, where they caught and killed them all, and hence was this place ever after called Te Whakarau-ika (heap of dead bodies). Te Tuiti married Whakaweru, a daughter of Moko-tuatua, of Ngati-Ruanui; he himself was half Taranaki.

page 291chiefs were Te Tupe-o-tu* and Hau-te-horo, who after further consultation agreed that the besieged Taranaki should be allowed to escape from the pa by night.

Now within the pa was a young chief named Rongo-nui-a-rangi, who was the son of Hau-te-horo's sister by a Taranaki chief to whom she was married. So Hau-te-horo went to the front and called out for the young chief. He came down out of the pa and there had a talk with his uncle. Hau-te-horo's final words to his nephew were, "Listen to my words. Evacuate the pa this very night, all of you go to Te Kohatu pa"—which was situated on Te Iringa mountain (Patuha Range), and was a stronghold of Kukutai's, the principal chief of Taranaki. The young man returned to the pa and communicated the subject of Hau-te-horo's advice to them, which was finally agreed to, for provisions were beginning to fail, and it was evident the taua, having all the country at their command, was determined to reduce the pa by starvation. That same night, with secrecy and despatch, the garrison passed out of the pa with the connivance of the Ati-Awa sentries, and made good their escape to Te Kohatu.

In the morning, the taua was surprised at seeing no smoke or hearing no voices in the pa, for Hau-te-horo had managed the thing so well that no one but his immediate friends and followers knew of the arrangements made. Great wonder was expressed as to how the besieged had got away.

During the siege, Tawhai (afterwards Mohi Tawhai), of the Mahurehure hapu of Nga-Puhi—who live at Waima, Hokianga—and father of the late Hone Mohi Tawhai, M.H.R., who was with the northern contingent of the taua in the attack already described, was close under one of the towers of the pa, when one of the defenders cast a big stone at him, which split open his head (as his son told me). But by careful doctoring he recovered—careful doctoring according to Maori ideas; they poured hot oil into the wound, then sewed it up!

Mr. Skinner has a story illustrating the instruction given to a Taranaki slave in the use of firearms: "One of these slaves was anxious to know how the musket was used. A Nga-Puhi man explained the procedure, then told the other to look down the muzzle of the gun. The Nga-Puhi then pulled the trigger and the unfortunate slave's head was shattered, much to the amusement of the surrounding crowd."

* Afterwards shot by Puke-rua at Pahiko, Otaki, about 1834.

Killed at the battle of Hao-whenua, near Otaki, in 1833-4. See Chapter XIX.

page 292

After the escape of the garrison of Tapui-nikau and the plunder of the pa, the Whole taua returned to their respective homes; Ati-Awa to Waitara, Ngati-Tama to Poutama, Ngati-Toa to Kawhia, Ngati-Whatua to Kaipara, Nga-Puhi to Hokianga; taking with them numbers of slaves * and other booty in the shape of mats and dried heads. It was at this time, when passing through Kawhia, that Tu-whare arranged with Te Rau-paraha another and more extended raid into the Taranaki country. The great Ngati-Whatua chief Muru-paenga did not return again to the south. It is probable he and his taua reached their Kaipara homes early in 1819, and in the next year he met the celebrated Nga-Puhi chief Tareha, in several fights at Kaipara itself. In August, 1820, the Rev. Samuel Marsden met him at the former's home in Kaipara. In 1823, he and many of his tribe are found assisting Hongi-Hika at the taking of Mokoia island, Rotorua, and finally this great warrior was killed by a party of Nga-Puhi in 1826. Muru-paenga was certainly a great warrior and leader, who set all the strength of Nga-Puhi at defiance and constantly defeated them, until the overwhelming number of muskets they had acquired enabled Hongi-Hika to inflict a crushing defeat on Muru-paenga's tribe, Ngati-Whatua, at Ika-a-ranga-nui in February, 1826.

Te Taoho, father of Tu-whare, Muru-paenga's companion in the campaign against Tapui-Nikau, thus refers to Muru-paenga in a tangi or lament, given at p. 349 of "Nga-Moteatea":

Tenei nga patu-e-
Kei o matua,
Kei a Muru-paenga-e-
Hei here i te waka,
Hei korero tu-e-
Hei whakaaro i te riri
He atua rere rangi-e-
Ki runga o Taranaki
Ka rangona te panga-e-
He waka utanga nui.

Of all the weapons renowned
Those of thy parent—
Of Muru-paenga are most famous.
He it was with restraining hand
Could hold the people in.
Or with his warlike eloquence,
In military command,
His people make obey.
Like a god in heaven flying
Was his descent on Taranaki,
Where his charges are still famed.
He was like a richly-laden vessel
With all knowledge and great courage.

* We shall see in Chapter XVII. the revenge these Taranaki slaves took on Te Ati-Awa at Puke-rangiora.