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

The first ships at Kawhia

The first ships at Kawhia.

Before passing on to the further doings of Ngati-Toa, which are most intimately connected with those of our Taranaki tribes, I will summarize from the evidence of Major Te Wheoro and Hone Kaora, some information given by them as to the visit of the first ships to Kawhia.

First, I may say that on the 3rd November, 1894, Mr. Elsdon Best and I visited an old Ngati-Toa warrior named Te Paki, then living at Takapuahia, a place at the southern end of Porirua Harbour (named after Takapuahia, a mile and-a-half seaward of Kawhia township). This old man came down from Kawhia with Te Rau-paraha in 1821-22, at which time he was old enough to walk most of the way. He told us that up to the time of their leaving Kawhia no ships had visited the place, but they had been seen passing along outside, and were supposed by the natives to be manned by gods—waraki, or retireti, gods of the deep sea. Both these words are interesting: warki was one of the first names given to Europeans as "gods of the sea." The name raises a very big question which cannot be discussed here: Who were the originals of the waraki, gods of the sea and white in colour, known to Maori tradition? Reti, or Retireti, is what may be termed an obsolete word for waka, a canoe, but used nowadays very rarely and then only in poetry. The suggestion is, that the word was originally used to denote a vessel of a different class to the Polynesian canoe. Reti has another meaning, for a kind of sleigh or toboggan used in a game, like the Holua game of Hawaii.

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The following is from Major Te Wheoro's evidence: After describing the peace made with Nga-Puhi subsequent to the fall of Matakitaki in May, 1822, and the occupation of Kawhia by Waikato, he says, "When Nga-Puhi returned, peace was made, and at that time some of my female relatives were left at Matakitaki, viz: Parekohu and Ra-huru for that purpose. This peace was confirmed afterwards, Te Whakaete (of Waikato) was brought here, and Toha (Matire-toha, daughter of Rewa, of Nga-Puhi) was brought as security for peace, by Turi-ka-tuku (Hongi's wife). Toha married Kati, brother of Te Wherowhero". Now, the Nga-Puhi returned to their homes at the Bay of Islands in August or September, 1823, after having cemented this peace, together with several Waikato chiefs.* Te Wheoro proceeds: "After the return of Te Whakaete (from the Bay, which occurred early in 1824 *) Te Puaha went on a visit to Nga-Puhi. When he returned he brought back with him 'Hamu-kete,' a Pakeha; they came back in the latter's vessel to Kawhia, to Heahea, at the entrance.Hone Kaora says, "The first ship that sailed into Kawhia was about this time (i.e., the death of Pomare, which occurred in June or July, 1826), 'Hamu-kete' was the captain, he brought muskets and powder to trade for flax." "Hamu-kete" is believed to be Captain Kent. From the evidence given above, we may assume that he entered Kawhia some time between 1824 and 1826, though it is usually stated that 1829 was the date of his first visit to that harbour. "The people asked the captain to obtain more arms for them, so he made a trip to Sydney, and on his return brought back the following Pakehas:—'Te Kaora' (J. V. Cowell), 'Te Kawana,' 'Te Rangi-tera,' and 'Tamete.' These different Pakehas were appropriated by various chiefs, who settled them as follows:—' Hamu-kete' was taken by Te Wherowhero, and settled at Heahea (near Kawhia Heads, north side); Te Tuhi took 'Te Rangi-tera' and settled him also at Heahea; Kiwi took 'Te Kaora' and settled him at Powewe (Kawhia township); Te Kanawa took 'Tamete' and settled him at Maketu (near the above). 'Hamu-kete' married Tiria, Te Wherowhero's daughter; 'Te Rangi-tera' married Heihei, Te Tuhi's daughter, and 'Tamete' married Rangi-atea niece of Te Kanawa.Who the other Pakehas were, beyond Captain Kent and Cowell, I do not know. They would be appropriated by these various chiefs in order that they might, through them, obtain arms, etc., and with whom to barter their flax.

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Captain Kent is buried at a place named Te Toro, a point of land that projects into the Waiuku Channel of Manukau Harbour, just opposite to the embouchure of the Mauku Channel, where I saw this grave in 1863. The Rev. James Hamlin, in his Journal (MS. in the possession of Dr. Hocken of Dunedin) says, under date 1st January, 1837, "Captain Kent died at Kahawai, Manukau; 3rd, was interred at Kahawai in a sacred place. He lived for many years at Ngaruawahia, the junction of the Waikato and "Waipa rivers, where he employed himself in trading with the natives."

* "Wars of The Nineteenth Century," p. 117.

Loc cil, p. 185.