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

Te Kerikeringa

Te Kerikeringa.

"At the last moment, however, their plans were changed. Arrived before Puke-rangiora, its inmates presented such a bold face and the defences were so strong and well constructed that the allies thought better of the project, and decided to pass that pa and attack the unsuspecting people of Ngati-Maru, living in the neighbourhood of what is now Te Tarata village." In no accounts of this expedition is any mention made of the part that Ati-Awa of Manu-korihi took in assisting the northern taua. There were certainly many of them with the party and, guided by Taka-ra-tai of Manu-korihi, the taua went by the Rimu-tauteka track.

Mr. Skinner continues: "The Ngati-Maru are the people that made the great clearings and built the numerous pas in the forest east of the present town of Stratford, in Manga-o-tuku and Poho-kura blocks, as also the cultivations along the Upper Waitara and in the Tara-mouku, Manga-moe-hau, Makino, and other valleys leading into Waitara, and now known as the Ngati-Maru country."

I gather from a native document sent me by Mr. Best, and written by Te Amo of Ngati-Maru, that the old chief of the tribe, at this time named Tutahanga, had already been engaged against Nga-Puhi in one of their incursions and that he had defeated both that tribe and on another occasion the Waikato. But no localities are mentioned. It is, however, likely enough that Tutahanga had joined Taranaki or Ngati-Ruanui in defeating some of Tau-kawau'a people.

"On their way up, the taua attacked and took a small pa belonging to Ngati-Maru, named Puke-kaka-maru, situated not far from Pukerangiora on the Waitara river, about seven hundred yards down stream page 299from the present bridge on the Junction road, village of To Tarata Here Ngati-Maru had gathered for safety and to offer battle to the invaders, under their head chiefs Patu-wairua and Tutahanga."

Table No LIII.
1 Tut thanga
2 Patu-wairua
Te Amo—(An old man in 1893.)

Evidently Tutahanga must have been a very old man at this time. His brother Patu-wairua and he were in command of the operations against the northern taua. I now quote from Te Amo: It was Tutahanga that had defeated both Nga-Puhi and Waikato formerly; but in the second war he was killed, with many of Ngati-Maru-whara-nui. The pa in which he fought was Te Kerikeringa, and it was there he was shot, and from this cause do Ngati-Maru crow over Nga-Puhi, Waikato, and Taranaki (i e, because they made an able defence with their native weapons against the muskets). When the chief of Nga-Puhi heard of his death (apparently this scene took place during the siege) he said, "He awhiowhio i le rangi, e kore e mau i ahau. Tena he pata ua e tuku iho ki te kapu o taku ringa, e mau i a ahau."—("A whirlwind in the heavens I cannot secure. But a drop of rain in the hollow of my hand I can catch; "probably intending to infer that had Tutahanga fought outside in his native forests he might have been successful in a sudden attack. But being caught in his pa these Nga-Puhi were equal to catching him. When Tutahanga's son heard this, he replied to Nga-Puhi, "Haere mai te rau-kura ki te piki-kotuku kia pipiri raua ki a Uenuku"—("Come on, the Tropic-bird's* plume, and join in strife with the white heron plume before Uenuku" (the Taranaki god of war).

Now when Kere-tawha (? one of the northern taua) heard this defiance of Haere-ao, Tutahanga's son, ho shouted out, "Tena au te haere atu na, penei ake te tupuna a wai, tutu ana te puehu i aku waewae."—("Very shortly will I be with you! As if your ancestor was anyone of consequence! You shall see the dust of my feet fly directly!")

Patu-wairua, who was Haere-ao's son, heard this defiance from Kere-tawha, and perhaps thinking it would be well not to irritate Nga-Puhi, said to his father, "Kia marie hoki te kura taiaha!"—(Softly with the red-feathered taiaha!") Evidently Patu-wairua would have welcomed a peace; but Haere-ao would not listen or be persuaded; and then Patu-wairua felt that the end of his people was near, and so he sung a lament for the tribe:—

page 300

Ra Meremere tahokai ana,
Te tara ki Tau-mata,
Kia mihi atu au,
Ka ngaro ra c,
Taku pokai kura,
Te matangi awhe uta
Ki te whaititanga
Me uta koutou,
Ki te ihu o te waka
Kia koha 'tu mai,
Ki raro Waikato.
E Nga-Puhi ra c!
Kia ata whiu mai
I te kara o te whiu,
Kia tahuri ai au—e—.

Whilst the evening star bestrides
The lonely peak at Tau-mata,
Let me in sorrow here lament
Tho calamity about to fall
On my loved and chorished poople.
By the all-embracing wind,
(By our enemies there encamped)
Within this narrow space.
Better had ye been safely placed
In the bows of our own canoe,
Where some kindly feeling still
By Waikato had been shown us.
O Nga-Puhi! there below,
In mercy hold thy hand
And gently use the weapon,
A! then let me turn aside.

Whatever Patu-wairua may have wished, he did not fail to do his full share of fighting when the time came. Mr. Skinner says, "The first assault by Nga-Puhi was repulsed, Patu-wairua, with his own weapon, killing two of the enemy who attempted to enter the pa by the narrow neck that connects it with the Puketapu peninsula. After the attack had failed the taua camped down along the slopes to the west and south-west of the pa and commenced a regular siege. These slopes—named Tau-maha—commanded the pa, and tho inmates were constantly annoyed and sometimes killed by the muskets used by the taua. Ngati-Maru, of course, had no firearms, and as this was their first introduction to this new method of warfare they were naturally terrified at the loud reports and fatal effects that sometimes followed, and became much dispirited in consequence."

Tu-tanuku of Ngati-Maru says that before the northern taua had reached Te Kerikoringa, enquiries had been made of the local people as to the personal appearance of Tutahanga, and the reply was, "E hoa! he whetu!"—("He is a star;" implying that he would easily be recognised from his great size and valiant bearing.) So when the first attack was made, which occurred at the entrance to the pa, Tutahanga and Patu-wairua stood in the forefront. The former disposed of four of his enemies before the northern people got a chance to shoot him, which they did on recognising the description already given.

It was no doubt during this period that the chiefs of the two parties—the red plumes and the white plumes—hurled defiance at one another as already related.

"The depression had its effect when the final assault took place, for the inmates of the pa had not the spirit to defend themselves with page 301their accustomed courage. Their brave leaders, Tutahanga and Patu-wairua, had been killed, together with a large number of the inmates of the pa. The remainder succeeded in making their escape across the Waitara river to the eastward along the Tara-mouku valley, and thence into the numerous clearings throughout the great forest that extends inland for very many miles."

"After the usual cannibal feast, Nga-Puhi and Manu-korihi returned to the coast, some of thoir number being waylaid and cut off by the Puke-rangiora people. Whatitiri, the present (1893) chief of Puke-rangiora has in his possession two old. Maori fish hooks, the bone points of which were made from one of the Nga-Puhi there killed. One of these hooks" (is accredited with) "the faculty of foretelling a good day for fishing, and also of warning its owner of approaching danger."

"Among those who escaped was Tu-ihu, then an infant; another Wirihana Hihi-mua so well known to the early settlers of Te Tarata; he was a very small boy at the time. He told me one story of the siege that lias been related of other sieges in Maori-land "(for instance Pohatu-roa, Te Ati-amuri) "when in similar straits. When Ngati-Maru were very closely pressed at the end of the siege, they sent all the young women of the pa to the camp of the taua, so that they might by this means induce their foes to relax their vigilance, whilst the men in the meantime made their escape."

Watene says that amongst the slain was Tua-rua, a chief of the Puke-rangiora hapu, and that his people composed the following lament for him:—

Tera hoki koia te pae tonga
Te tau mai ra kei Whare-o-Tu,
Ho po mihinga atu
Nahaku ki a Tua-rua,
Ka mahue atu ki taku, E Hine
Ka tauwehe.
Kia whakarongo nga tai e paku,
Ki waho Wao-kena ra, tu mai ai,
E ki ana ra Te Ati-Awa,
Te puru o Tainui ka maunu!
Taku whakatero papa
Ka tahuri i a Ranga-whenua,
I Turanga ra,
Noho maru kore nei hoki au.

There away towards the south
Evil rests on the house of Tu
(The house of war and death)
page 302 This night do I lament
Thy loss, 0 Tua-rua!
Left there them art, and from my love
Separated for ever, O Lady!
Listen then to the sounding waves
Outside at Wao-kena, when they arise
('Tis the omen of death)
As all Ati-Awa say.
The plug of Tainui is withdrawn1
(That keeps back the flood of death)
My beloved canoe is overturned
By the waves of Ranga-whenua, 2
That are seen at Turanga;
Hence am I now shelterless.

It is stated above that the northern taua returned to the coast after the fall of Te Kerikeringa, but Watene, who was a very good authority, confirmed by Tu-tanuka, says, on the contrary, that they proceeded along the old forest track which leads by way of Whakaahu-rangi (the present site of Stratford), and so out of the forest into the open country near Kete-marae (near present site of Norman by). It is tolerably clear from the absence of any detail as to their doings as they passed onward through the territories of Ngati-Ruanui and Nga-Rauru, that these tribes had retired to their fastnesses in the rough forest country. Probably the news of the fall of Te Kerikeringa and the destructive effects of the muskets had quickly spread and alarmed the two tribes mentioned. One account, however, says the taua attacked and took the Otihoi pa at Waitotara, belonging to Nga-Rauru.

At any rate, the next we hear of the taua is at Whanganui, where they found the local people gathered in strength at Purua pa, believed to be on the east bank of the river, a little above the town. Here Ngati-Hau had gathered under Te Anaua and his brother. The northern taua here met with an unexpected difficulty, howevor, in reaching the Whanga-nui people in the pa. The river is large and deep and cannot be crossed without the aid of canoes, and all these the local people had carefully withdrawn from the north side and sent away up the river. But Tu-whare and Te Rau-paraha were not the men to be deterred by an obstacle of that nature. They sent every man to the little lake named Koko-huia, near the mouth of the river, where page 303abundance of raupo grew on its sedgy banks, and there they built mokihi, or rafts, which were then taken to the river, and by this means the force was enabled to cross. It is said that the work occupied a month. The taua then crossed and attacked and took the Purua pa, and then passed on to Whangaehu and Rangi-tikei, having some skirmishes with the Ngati-Apa tribe of those parts, who mostly, however, fled to the forests as the taua approached, for the fame of their muskets had preceded them.

* The Tropic-bird (Amokura) is occasionally, but not often, found at the North Cape.