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

The capture of the rewarewa pa by A Taua of the Taranaki Tribe. — 1805-10

The capture of the rewarewa pa by A Taua of the Taranaki Tribe.

The next event in the history of this coast was the capture of the Rewarewa pa, which Mr. W. H. Skinner thus describes:—

"The Rewarewa pa stands at the mouth of the Waiwakaiho river, which falls into the sea about two miles north of New Plymouth. The pa was situated on the north bank of the river, between a bend immediately inside the mouth and the sea, and at the time of this story —early in this century or about 1805-10—was occupied by the Ngati-Tawirikura, a subdivision of the Nga-Motu hapu of the great Ati-Awa tribe.*

Before relating the storming of this stronghold, it will be necessary to give a short account of the action that led up to this event, and which was the direct cause of the terrible revenge measured out to the inhabitants of the Rewarewa pa.

The people of Rewarewa, combined with those of the great Puke-tapu pa—the chief stronghold of the powerful Puke-tapu hapu of the same Ati-Awa tribe—in all from eight hundred to one thousand warriors—had some time previously made a raid on the Taranaki tribe, attacking and capturing the then celebrated fighting pa of Koru. This pa probably takes its name from koru, a bend or fold, as it is built on a deep bend of the Oakura river, just below the present township of

* See locality plan, opposite page.

page 259Koru, which is named after the pa. It is situated about nine miles south of New Plymouth, and is a favourite resort for picnics at the present time. The old fort is approached by crossing a most picturesque suspension bridge, which spans the rocky bed of the Oakura beneath the wooded slopes of the now deserted stronghold. The whole of the pa and its outworks are now covered with a dense growth of karaka, rewarewa, ngaio, and other native shrubs, and on my last visit was in an almost perfect state of preservation, excepting, of course, the palisading, which has decayed. Koru is unique amongst old Maori strongholds in the Taranaki district, in the kind of protective works adopted; some of the walls are built up with rubble work, the stones for which were obtained from the bed of the Oakura, which flows immediately beneath. These stone walls—or rather walls faced with stone:—run up in some places to a height of fifteen feet, and all the minor outworks are faced with stone in the same manner. Tu-makuru and Mona were chiefs of the Koru pa at this time. In this affair the former is said to have killed two Ati-Awas with one thrust of his tao, or double-pointed spear, or by a right-and-left thrust. Tu-makuru made good his escape, but Mona was killed in a hand-to-hand fight by the taiaha of one of the Ati-Awas.

After the capture of this pa by Te Ati-Awa, and when all the fighting was over, feasting and the recounting of deeds of valour and daring as a matter of course followed; then it was that a great dispute took place between the two hapus. It so happened that the contingent from Rewarewa consisted almost exclusively of chiefs, and several of these were men of high rank in the Ati-Awa tribe. The Puke-tapu men, on the other hand, though outnumbering their friends by two to one, contained few men of high rank among them. The aristocratic contingent from Rewarewa taunted their friends of low degree from Puke-tapu with only playing a secondary part in the affair of Koru; they intimated that they were there picking the bones of an enemy who, had it not been for the particular prowess of the Rewarewa people, would, have been eating them—the lowly men of Puke-tapu, instead—in fact they took all the credit to themselves, leaving none for the brave fellows of Puke-tapu. The Puke-tapu men withdrew to their homes—the country round about what is now known as the Bell Block—very pouri, to bide their time for taking utu for the insulting swagger of their Rewarewa kin. An opportunity was not long wanting.

At this time the country in and around the present site of New Plymouth was constantly being overrun by war-parties of the Taranaki and Ati-Awa. Originally the boundary between those two tribes was the Manga-o-raka river—six or seven miles to the north of New page 260Plymouth—but in course of years the Ati-Awa had driven their neighbours further and further to the south, and at the time of this story the line of demareation between these two hostile tribes was fixed about the base of Paritutu, the highest of the Sugar-loaves, about two miles to the south of New Plymouth—see Chapter IX. Evidence of the Taranaki occupation of this debatable strip of country is to be seen on every hand; a few of their principal strongholds may be mentioned: Pu-kaka, immediately at the back of St. Mary's Church, New Plymouth, and now known as Marsland Hill; the top of this great pa was afterwards levelled off for military purposes, and during the Maori wars of 1860-5 was the headquarters of the Imperial forces in this part of New Zealand; Pu-kiekie, just to the south of the last-named pa, in Victoria Park; Wharepapa, or Fort Niger; Mataitonga, or Fort Murray, both in the town of New Plymouth, and both used during the Maori war in 1860-5 as military stations; Puke-he, now known as the Mission Hill, near the Breakwater; Okoare, just at the back of Mr. F. Watson's farm-house, Westown; Whakawhitiwhiti, in the same neighbourhood; besides a number of others.

The Tarauaki tribe, smarting under the slaughter at Koru, determined to have utu for their fallen chiefs, and soon after an incident occurred which determined Taranaki to proceed forthwith to satisfy their craving for revenge. A certain man of Taranaki, whose name is forgotten, visited Kairoa pa, situated behind Matai-tawa. He was not a chief or man of much importance, but was related to both Ati-Awa and Taranaki. Some of the Kairoa Ati-Awa, finding this man outside the pa, set upon him and tried to kill him; indeed, thought they had done so, for the poor fellow was terribly knocked about the head—so much so that he became unconscious. His jaw was also smashed by a blow. After a time the man came to, and finding his foes still about, feigned death, until he got a chance to creep away into the bush, from whence he made his way with great difficulty to his home. Arrived there, and on beholding the pitiable state in which he was in, he was asked, "Na wai koe?"—("Who maltreated you?") "Kuukuukai——roa," said he, not being able to speak distinctly on account of his fractured jaw. This incident was the "last straw." It was at once decided to send forth a party to obtain revenge. This taua, numbering about two thousand in all, struck into the bush about the Tapuae or Poutoko, 1 and kept along inland so as to avoid

1 Tapuae, a small river which falls into the sea about, seven miles south of New Plymouth. Poutoko, on the high ground above the valley of Tapuae, towards New Plymouth, the pa formerly occupied by Tarnati Wiremu Te Ngahuru before the war.

page break
Photo. by M. Crompton Smith.Plate No. 11.Puke-rangiora pa from the East.

Photo. by M. Crompton Smith.
Plate No. 11.
Puke-rangiora pa from the East.

page break page 261observance by the Ati-Awa in the Pahakahaka1 Fort, and stragglers from Pukeariki.2 They seem to have turned down towards the beach near Ratanui, 3 passing through the upper end of what is now called "Brooklands," on to the present line of the Avenue road, striking the beach at Autere—Major Brown's former residence at the mouth of the Henui River. They must have kept under cover near here for a day—they certainly would have been seen and the alarm given had they ventured on to the beach in the daylight. But it is clear the people of Rewarewa expected an attack, though not knowing the precise moment when it would occur. Rakei-roa, one of the chiefs of the pa, said, "E kore e tata mai i to arainga o nga toka a Tarai."—("They will not come near us owing to the obstruction of the rocks of Tarai"—rocks of Tarai being used for the chiefs of the pa.) The following is the mata, or ngeri, used by Taranaki at the attack:—

I a matiti, e kai ana au
I te aitanga matua
O Tuhoto-ariki.

In the days of summer, I shall be eating
The senior line of descent,
From Tuhotu-ariki.

At this time the country was covered with a dense growth of karaka, ngaio, fern trees, and such like scrub, affording splendid cover for marauding parties of natives. The story goes that they came on to the beach before dawn and hurried along, crossing the Henui river, and reached the mouth of the Waiwhakaiho river just before daybreak. They crossed the river and crept stealthily towards the pa; the doomed inmates, all unconscious of the vicinity of their old foes, slept on. A halt was called, and Koroheahea, 4 a chief of high rank in the Taranaki tribe, advanced alone in the grey dawn to spy out the strength of the

1 Pahakahaka: this pa is near "Woodleigh," and is cut through by the Frankley Road.

2 Pukeariki, Mount Eliot, formerly the Signal Station for the Port of New Plymouth, now cut away to make room for the Railway Station and other improvements.

3 Ratanui, formerly Major Brown's farm on the Carrington Road. [? Is this a bonâ fide Maori name; was it not so named by Major Brown from the great rata growing on the hill there?]

4 Koroheahea was the tupuna, or grandfather of Te Kahui, the well-known late chief of Rahotu, near Opunake, and also a near relative of Wiremu Kingi Matakatea, one of the principal chiefs of the Taranaki tribe, whose old pa—successfully defended by him against the Waikato tribes—was Te Namu, Opunake. Wiremu Kingi, in 1834, saved Mrs. Guard and her two children from being murdered when the "Harriett" was wrecked at the mouth of the Okahu river, a few miles south of Caps Egmont; and again in August, 1862, protected and brought safely through the enemy's country the passengers and crew of the "Lord Worsley," when that steamer was wrecked in Te Namu Bay, Opunake. W. Kingi died in February, 1893, at a very advanced age.

page 262enemy's fortifications. He had almost made the circuit of the pa, in vain searching for a weak spot, for the works were in good order and the palisading of the best and strongest workmanship. Presently he came to the gateway, and cautiously approaching, he saw that the watchman was not at his post, so quietly and deftly undoing the fastenings he slid back the heavy piece of wood in the gateway and then, shouting his war-cry (see p. 261), he gave the signal for the onslaught; but before his companions reached him he had to defend his life in a fierce hand-to-hand fight with the inmates of the Rewarewa pa, who were now making frantic efforts to regain the gateway. Koroheahea stood his ground bravely, and killed three chiefs with his own good spear before he was killed himself with a blow from a mere. A desperate hand-to-hand fight ensued, but the Taranaki taua outnumbered the Ati-Awa at all points, and a dreadful slaughter followed.1 The Rewarewa people were caught in a trap; the attack had been made along the sea and eastern fronts, and the inmates of the pa were driven back on to the cliff overhanging the Waiwhakaiho river; there the dead lay literally in heaps. Two of the principal chiefs, To Puni and Rawa-ki-tua,2 made a bold stroke for liberty, plunging headlong from the cliff into the river below, and rising safely to the surface, they struck out for the far side of the stream, which having reached, they ran across the sand-hills and came on to the beach between the Henui and Waiwhakaiho rivers. Running for bare life, they soon reached Pukeariki; here they told their sad story and called on friends and relatives to avenge their loss. It was at once decided to carry out the request—if possible. Messengers were sent off to Puketapu, appointing the following morning as the time for the combined attack on their enemies, now in occupation of the Rewarewa pa. Other messengers were sent to the Ngati-Tama in the north—the great fighting hapu of the Ati-Awa tribe, asking immediate help. Meantime, things were brisk in the captured pa. Between two and three hundred bodies lay stretched out in the marae of the fort; the place was one

1 There were three chiefs of very high rank in the Ati-Awa tribe killed here—Rerewha-i-to-rangi, the father of Te Puni, was one of them.

2 Te Puni and Rawa-ki-tua. These chiefs afterwards led their hapu in the migration south, occupying what is now the site of the City of Wellington.—See Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol. I., p. 88. Te Puni, at this time, was a young man of from twenty-five to thirty years of age. When the Europeans first came to Wellington in 1840, Te Puni's age was estimated at sixty years; this would make the date of the capture of the Rewarewa somewhere between the years 1805-10. Other information is to the effect that this event occurred many years prior to the sailing of Te Pehi for England in a whaler in 1826.—See Now Zealanders, p. 317.

page 263great shamble. In the words of my informant—Heta Te Kauri of Puke-totara—"they were piled up in great heaps like dead sheep," whilst active preparations were being made for the feast that was to follow.

A few of the Ati-Awa that had escaped the general slaughter made their way to Puketapu. Upon hearing the tidings the great war trumpet was sounded, and the whole hapu were soon gathered into the pa, and everything made ready to repel an attack. Later on in the day the emissaries from Puke-ariki reached Puketapu, with their scheme for a combined attack as mentioned before. A council of the whole of the inmates of the pa was called, and it was then decided that no help should be given, or revenge taken—at least for the present—for the capture and slaughter at the Rewarewa pa; for said they," are not these the boasters who said we were of no account, common fellows, not toas (warriors) like them; where is the bravery they boasted about when we stormed Koru? that bravery which they said belonged only to them, the rangatiras of the Rewarewa. This is our utu for their insults." So they remained quietly in their pa, whilst the feasting of their hereditary enemy on the bodies of their own tribesmen went merrily on. In this way did the men of Puketapu get utu for the insults heaped on them by the Rewarewa chiefs, after the capture of Koru.

As mentioned before, the Rewarewa pa was stormed just before dawn, and later on in the day the Taranaki taua moved inland and took up a position at Wanangananga, now called Katere-ki-te-moana—the rise seaward of Devon road, at the top of what is now called Mangaone Hill. The change of names was made at the time of the purchase of the Hua and Wai-whakaiho block, about 1844 or 1845; the owners refused to sell this portion of the block. The word denotes "let it float away to sea," or "float it out to sea," hence the name "Katere-moana." There a great cannibal feast was held, lasting some days, at the end of which time all that remained of their victims was carefully baked, and then packed away in calabashes after the manner of what we call "potted meat." Certain bones also of the higher chiefs were—after being carefully picked and scraped—packed away in their pikaus and taken with them for future domestic use, such as combs, flutes, fish-hooks, ornaments, etc. They were so elated with their late victory that it was decided to surprise Puke-ariki on their homeward march.

Everything being in readiness, they left Katere soon after midnight, timing themselves to reach Puke-ariki just before dawn—the favourite time for Maori attacks. Keeping the Wai-whakaiho Flat on their page 264right, this great taua, now increased in numbers by the captives from Rewarewa, passed on through To Rerenga, or what is now the Glenarvon Estate, keeping on the high ground just at the back of the homestead, thence down into the Wai-whakaiho valley, crossing the river just below the deep pool used for swimming matches at picnic times, then up to the western slope, and on to Puke-o-tipua, now known as Shuttleworth's Hill. Crossing the Mangaorei road—Hospital road—just seaward of Mr. Campbell's residence, they passed on through Mrs. Randolph Smith's farm and over the Henui stream just above Puke-tarata, into Sole Brothers' farm, over the present line of the Avenue road, passing through Hawehawe, close in front of Mr. C. W. Govett's residence into the Kaimata1 clearing, now the site of the homestead on Brooklands. From here they went down across the Pukekura 2 stream, about the upper end of the Recreation Grounds, passing through Taraketo, or Gilbert's farm, and coming on to the Carrington road at its junction with the Mill road, thence down the spur on which the Mill road now runs towards the Huatoki river. A halt was called on the brow of the hill, and after a short korero (talk), four or five hundred men were sent on as an advance guard to break a track through the dense fern and scrub, and make good the crossing of the Huatoki; this party consisted of common men only—privates, as my informant put it—the chiefs remained with the main body on the hill.

We will now leave the advancing taua for a short time, to see how things are going on at Puke-ariki and its neighbourhood. When it became known that the enemy had captured the Rewarewa pa, all the outlying forts were abandoned and the hapu concentrated within Puke-ariki pa. Within these lines, what remained of the hapu had gathered. On the refusal of the Puketapu hapu to assist in a combined attack on the Taranaki people, fears were expressed that the enemy would attack Puke-ariki, the inmates of which were numerically much weaker than the taua. Accordingly an appeal for help was sent off immediately to the Ngati-Tama, another hapu or subdivision of the Ati-Awa tribe, and who were renowned throughout the land as great toas.

The Ngati-Tamas decided at once to send help to their tribesmen; three hundred toas, or warriors, were (quickly assembled in the vicinity

1 Kaimata, now Brooklands, once the residence of the late Captain Henry King, R.N., now occupied by Mr. Newton King.

2 Pukekura, name of the stream running through the Puke-kura Park (late Recreation Grounds), which joins the Huatoki river at Pitawa, just above Carrington road railway bridge.

page 265of the Tong-a-porutu river, and this war-party is said to have covered the distance between there and Puke-ariki—about forty miles—in five hours. It was a night march, made so that the enemy should not know of the reinforcements coming into Puke-ariki, and so timed that the flowing-tide would, before daybreak, effectually wash out all traces of a large body of men having passed along the beaches to the southward.
"We will now turn our attention to the advancing Taranaki taua, whom we left breaking a track through the dense growth down into the Huatoki Valley. As mentioned before, the main body stayed on the brow of the hill overlooking the valley, waiting until the track should be opened out down to the river. It was now getting on towards day-dawn.—"the time of the calling of the birds," as the Maoris poetically term it—and the chiefs, fearing the daylight would be upon them before they could reach Puke-ariki, and becoming impatient of delay, one of them unguardedly called out to the advance party, now well down the hill, to push on. In the stillness of the early morn this was heard by one of the Ati-Awa scouts on Pukaka, who immediately gave the alarm to the inmates of Puke-ariki. Prompt action was at once taken, and a plan arranged to surprise the approaching taua. About four hundred of the best fighting men filed out quietly, and passed along what is now Brougham street (New Plymouth) up the spur between the Huatoki river and the Mahoe stream.1 At a spot called Mawera—junction of Powderham and Brougham streets—they turned slightly to their right, passing through Puta-taua, the present site of St. Mary's Parsonage garden, and took up a position on the seaward face of the rise upon which the residence of Mr. W. D. Webster now stands. Here they decided to await their foes, as from this vantage ground they could overlook the slope down to the River Huatoki, and watch every movement of the Taranakis, who could now be plainly heard approaching straight for the rise, behind which they were concealed. The Ati-Awa of Puke-ariki, seeing their opportunity, divided their party into two, forming a well-laid ambuscade, a practice in which the Maoris were acknowledged masters. The advance party of the Taranakis was now almost in their midst; the wily Ati-Awa lay crouched in the fern at either hand, awaiting the pre-arranged signal for the onslaught. Their foes were now well into the net, but still the signal was delayed,

1 Pukaka: Marsland Hill. Huatoki: small river running through New Plymouth and crossing main street of town alongside the railway line. Mahoe: a small stream, one of the branches of which took its rise near the junction of Brougham and Powderham street; this stream joined the Mangaotuku, just about where the Criterion Hotel now stands.

page 266and it was not until the head of the Taranaki column had passed through and beyond the ambuscade that their leader thought fit to give the signal. And now with a blood-curdling yell Koronerea1 sprang into the air, and mere in hand, gave vent to the truly awful notes of the war-dance. As one man his four hundred followers answered back his cry, and then fell on their enemies from both sides at once, who, completely taken by surprise, had no time to rally and form up in the narrow track, and were struck down as they stood. Those in the rear, seeing what had happened to the advance guard, and thinking the Ati-Awa were far more numerous than really was the case, were seized with a panic, and broke and fled down the slope at the back of where the Windsor Castle Hotel2 once stood, and by Mr. Andrew Morton's garden to the river. Meeting on their way the advance of the main body, a dreadful scene ensued; the river with its steep banks cut of all hope of a hasty retreat along the way they had come, and the under-growth around was so dense that they could not escape in any numbers to the right or left. The panic-stricken advance party, pressed back by sheer weight of numbers those who had reached the seaward bank of the stream, and who were climbing up the steep bank of the river; the Taranakis struggled for a moment on the brink, and then with a dull groan of despair, reeled backward into the bed of the Huatoki river a heaving mass of humanity, forming a slippery causeway of the dead and dying, over which their tribesmen essayed to pass to the further side, the causeway ever rising higher until—as my informant said—'the Huatoki was choked with the dead of Taranaki.' The Ati-Awa crossed over the river on the bodies of their routed enemies, and pursued the broken taua but a short distance up the spur, having already in their opinion taken sufficient utu for the slaughter at the Rewarewa pa. The main body of the Taranakis fled up what is now known as the Carrington road, through Broadmoor's farm, across the back of Woodleigh, and thence by Okoare, Ararepe, Ratapihipihi, and Tapuae-harurtu3 into their own country. Small bodies of the fugitives escaped up the western slope of the Huatoki valley, and

1 Koronerea died about twenty-five years ago at a very advanced age, and was buried at; Puketotara. The head chief of Puke-ariki was Rangi-apiti-rua. Koronerea. was the fighting chief of this sub-division of the hapu.

2 The Hotel stood in Bulteel street, on section 785. town of New Plymouth; it is now removed,

3 Okoare, the old pa behind Mr. F. Watson's homestead. Ararepe, and Ratapihipihi around Rotokare lake, between Elliot and Barrett roads. Tapuaeharuru, the river just beyond Omata.

page 267by Otumaikuku and Pipiko, 1 others by way of the Waimea2 stream, coming together again in the neighbourhood of Tukapa, 3 and joining the main body towards the Herekawe4 stream. In this affair only two men of rank were killed, most of the Taranaki chiefs being in the rear holding themselves in reserve for the actual assault on Pukeariki.

This slaughter, called 'Pakirikiri'5 took place near the site of the old mill (now demolished) known as 'White's,' that used to stand on the Huatoki immediately below the Gaol, and just down the stream from the smăll bridge that spans the river on the Mill road. The Ati-Awa ambuscade was laid in what is now Mr. W. D. Webster's garden, between Fulford and Bulteel streets, New Plymouth.

This is the story as told to me by Heta Te Kauri, of Puketotara, a member of the Ngati-Te-Whiti hapu of the Ati-Awa tribe. The capture of Rewarewa pa, according to the Taranaki version, was given me by Te Kahui—see Koroheahea—and all the main points verified by Piripi Ngahuku of the Ngati-Te-Whiti hapu (Moturoa) of the Ati-Awa tribe."

It would appear from the following that Takarangi, whose marriage with Rau-mahora has already been described in connection with the siege of Te Whakarewa (circa 1740) was in the Rewarewa pa at the time of its fall, and there taken prisoner by Taranaki. The following from "Te Waka Maori" Newspaper, 1877, p. 47, alludes to this event, and it is inserted here to preserve it in more permanent form: —

"Nikorima Te Rangi-noho-iho who died 27th July, 1876, at Taranaki was—says his son Tamati-Kaweora—the last of the ancient chiefs of the tribes of Taranaki. He lived before the coming of Capt. Cook, and we are of opinion he must have been nearly two hundred years old (sic) for he was a grown up man when the first ships were seen off this coast, which ships the Maoris called "Te Tare-a-tu-paenga-roa,' (the fleet of the horizon). Nikorima was a chief of

1 Otumaikuku and Pipiko. The locality around the site of New Plymouth Hospital; this building stands on part of the Pipiko reserve

2 Waimea, the name of stream that crosses the Frankley road, and flows into the Huatoki at the tannery, about a quarter-of-a-mile inland of the Hospital gates.

3 Tukapa, this locality is still known by its old name.

4 Herekawe, the name of a stream that crosses the Main South road, about three miles from New Plymouth, in the Omata District.

5 Pukirikiri, a name given to this battle in derision, on account of the large number of common people—tangata-ware—-that were killed. Pakirikiri is the name of the fish called "Rock-cod."

page 268high birth, and a great warrior of Ngati-Haumia and Nga-Ruahine hapus of Taranaki tribe. He was a descendant of Ao-nui, 'nana i karihi te niho o Taranaki' (who pricked the teeth of Taranaki, see ante. Chap. IX.), also of Tu-te-pupu-rangi, and Rua-korero, (see Table III.), and of those later chiefs Tu-haka-raro, Te Rangi-i-runga, Tu-te-raina and Rangi-manihi. The first war-like expedition in which he took part was that under Te Rangi-i-runga, at Patu-pohue, where he himself killed two men. The next in which he joined was also under Te Rangi-i-runga to Te Aho-roa, Waipa, (? Hinga-kaka, see supra) and there three men fell by his hand. He was also at the battle of Rewarewa (see supra) where he took Takarangi, a chief of Nga-Motu, prisoner, besides a woman. Nikorima had a narrow escape at the battle of Tawhiri-ketetahi where he received two spear thrusts, one by Whakataka, the other by Tihau. The spear was armed with the spines of the sting-ray (he tete tara what) and was plumed with red feathers (puhi ki te kura). A thrust from behind penetrated his back and came out at his belly. A large party of Ngati-Rua-nui once invested his pa, Puke-kohatu; all but some boys were absent. He blocked up one of the entrances to the pa, and the ladder of the other he threw over the cliff so that there was no way by which the war-party could enter. His arms on this occasion was a spear named 'Nawenawea,' and a tipua, ara, he harakia, (an incantation) named 'Rua-hoata.' His plumes were made of hawk's feathers, and he proved his valour here, for the enemy did not take the pa."*

* Knowing the very great age to which the Maoris lived, it is not impossible Nikorima, might have been born about the time of Captain Cook's last voyage in 1777; and that the Taranaki natives may have seen his ship pass. This would only make Nikorima about 100 years old, not, an uncommon age for a Maori. The "first ship" to visit the coast came about 1825.