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



Here the taua was immediately surrounded by thousands of the Ati-Awa, now thoroughly aroused by the machinations of Te Rau-paraha. Rangi-pito's account given to me is to the effect that on the arrival of the taua at Nga-puke-turua, they found it occupied by some of the Puke-tapu hapu of Ati-Awa. The place was at once attacked, and after firing several vollies into it, killing a good many of its inhabitants, they took it. Ati-Awa had only their rakau-Maori, or native weapons, so could not get at the enemy. Seeing the probability of the pa being taken, the inmates decided to escape; they made a gallant dash for life and succeeded in breaking through the ranks of their enemies and joining their fellow tribesmen from Waitara. The Amio-whenua expedition now occupied the pa abandoned by Ati-Awa, but had not page 360done so very long before the force from Waitara was soon approaching. The invaders were now in their turn besieged by Ati-Awa.

Mr. Skinner continues:"That same day, or early next morning, a desperate fight took place (outside the pa). Both parties lost heavily; the northern taua losing fifty-two, amongst whom were five chiefs of note—Mahia, Kapa, Here-puku, Hape, and Takinga. These losses, no doubt, included those killed in attempting to cross the Waitara, and the subsequent retreat on Puke-kohe and Nga-puke-turua; in both of those latter cases tho taua was very roughly handled. Rameka Te Ami says the taua had only one gun, which was the property of Te Totara-i-ahua of Ngati-Whatua, and with this he shot four of the Ati-Awa. An accident to the gun then happening, it was of no more use."

Now it may be true that Ngati-Whatua had only one musket, but I think it unlikely, and certainly there were a number of fire-arms in the party.* The losses of the Ati-Awa in this affair do not appear. "The Ati-Awa leaders were: Tau-tara of Puke-tapu, Huri-whenua of Ngati-Rahiri, and Rangi-wahia of Ngati-Mutunga, who appears to have been the leading man in this and the following events."

"Ati-Awa appear to have suffered a good deal in this affair, which is called Aro-hoa, for they did not take advantage of their success. Toi-roa of Ngati-Mania-poto says that Ati-Awa were afraid of Tu-korehu in an open, stand-up fight. His weapon was a pou-whenua, of such size that it took two ordinary men to yield it! He was a man of gigantic stature and a great toa, or warrior," as is proved by his many expeditions to various parts of the North Island, in nearly all of which he was successful. Watene Taungatara says,"After the northern taua had occupied the pa and on the arrival of the Ati- Awa forces from Waitara, the besieged made a sortie, and a fierce battle ensued, in which the guns of the northern people created much havoc, twenty men of Ati-Awa being killed, which gladdened the hearts of the taua. After this, the northern people went towards another party of Ati-Awa, which was lying in reserve under Huri-whenua, Towhia, Manu-kino, and Topa-ki-Waikato. This party waited until Tu-korehu's party wore right on them, and, suddenly springing up, fell on the latter with

* The first gun possessed by Ngati-Whatua was captured from Nga-Puhi, when the latter tribe attacked Tau-hinu pa, on the Wai-te-mata, Auckland, situated at the junction of the Paremoremo Creek. As they had no ammunition, the gun was of no use to them. Totara-i-ahua, mentioned above, was the chief of Tau-hinu pa. About 1820-21 he obtained a second musket from some vessel at Coromandel, and there learnt how to use it. This gun was named "Hu-teretere," and is probably the one mentioned above.—See "Wars, North and South," p. 234.

page 361such fierceness that twenty-five men were killed in a very short time. During this fight, a single combat took place between To Tupe-o-Tu of Ati-Awa and Tu-korehu, a chief of the northern taua. They were both armed with Maori weapons alone—the former with a long-handled tomahawk, the latter with a patu-hohatu (stone club). They wore so equally matched that neither could force the guard of the other, and finally both withdrew with their respective parties. Tu-korehu was an immense man—there is no one of this generation to equal him."

Mr. Skinner continues:"The same authority says the Ati-Awa in thousands camped down around the beleaguered pa after the repulse, satisfying themselves with the cutting off of all supplies and by that means hoping to starve the taua into submission. But the necessity for this never arose, as subsequent events will show."

"The case of the taua was indeed a desperate one—a small body of men surrounded by an enemy outnumbering them by nearly ten to one; in a strange country and cut off from food supplies, beyond what they found in the pa, and quite beyond any hope of assistance from their own tribes. Although practically at the mercy of their enemies—for starvation must soon have ended their troubles—the taua does not seem to have shown any sign of fear. Putting a bold face on the matter, the second day and night after their occupation of Nga-puke-turua was spent by them in singing waiatas (songs) and dancing hakas—done, no doubt, to deceive the enemy and hide their losses."

"As stated previously, there was a section of Ati-Awa that was adverse to the action taken by the bulk of the tribe in attacking the taua, and it was some of these people who warned them of the proposed ambuscade at Waitara. Amongst those who sympathized with the northern people (possibly through relationship, more or less distant) were the principal chiefs of the great Puke-rangi-ora pa, situated three miles inland of Nga-puke-turua: Whatitiri (the elder, father of Mahau), Pekapeka, Ngata, and Te Morehu; together with the whole of their hapu (Puke-rangi-ora),* with Koro-tiwha, Te Iho-o-te-rangi, and Whakaruru, and a few of the Puke-tapu hapu. In the words of Whatitiri, nephew of Whatitiri, senior, the present head of Puke-rangi-ora hapu: 'Their fathers were sad at the thought of

* Tho Puke-rangi-ora hapu takes its name from the pa. It is said to be the rangatira hapu of Te Ati-Awa, i.e., the hapu whoso chiefs were the principal men of all Te Ati-Awa, and whose original home—and the head-quarters of the hapu, where their meetings took place, and where was the principal luāhu—was at Okawa, n little way inland from the Puke-rangi-ora pa. They, at any rate, have the longest pedigree of any of Te Ati-Awa, as may be seen in Table No. I.

page 362these taas being shut in without escape and nothing but death before them, and so their hearts went out to them.'"

There were probably other reasons, which have not come down to us, that caused this change in the feelings of the local people and the ensuing division amongst them. Rangi-pito says:"Several of the chiefs of the Puke-tapu branch of Ati-Awa, as well as some of Ngati-Rahiri * of Northern Waitara, were engaged in the siege, and, as provisions fell short within the pa, the besiegers (ka whai koha e ratou ki a Waikato) became possessed with a feeling of generosity (or pity) towards Waikato. Negotiations ensued and then Te Manu-tohe-roa of Puke-tapu, springing into the midst of Tu-korehu's warriors, caused all fighting to cease…."

Mr. Skinner continues,"It was at once decided to help Tu-korehu to escape from Nga-puke-turua to their own great pa of Puke-rangi-ora, the great fighting pa of all Ati-Awa. Their scheme was made known secretly to the northern taua and the following night or early dawn was fixed upon for the time to evacuate Nga-puke-turua. Some time during the night, Whati-tiri and Tai-ariki of Puke-rangi-ora came down from their pa with about thirty of their people, accompanied by a number of young women. They came by way of Manu-tahi (Lepperton) and Te Morere (Sentry Hill). Approaching the neighbourhood of Nga-puke-turua in the dark, the women commenced a haka, accompanied by a ngeri, or war-dance, on the part of the men. As this reached the ears of the rest of Ati-Awa, Rangi-wahia and the men fell in to receive the enemy, but soon recognising the Puke-rangi-ora people they at once started a war-dance on their part. The women continued their hakas in order to attract the rest of Ati-Awa, and thus allow of Tu-korehu and his people to effect their escape. With the same object these latter people had been holding hakas all the night, and thus between them Rangi-wahia and his people were thrown off their guard."

"Whatitiri and his party from Puke-rangi-ora had approached Nga-puke-turua on the side away from that on which the most direct way led to Puke-rangi-ora, thus leaving it open for the escape, by attracting the Ati-Awa, who guarded that side, to witness the hakas, which took place on a flat piece of ground to the south-west of the pa. When the proper time came, Tu-korehu and his party took advantage of the absence of all guards on the south side of the pa and evacuated

* Te Awataia, in his brief account—A.H.M., Vol. VI., p. 2—also says it was Ngati-Rahiri who took the taua to Puke-rangi-ora. Ho also gives the following names of chiefs who were befriending Waikato: Te Manu-toha-roa, Raua-ki-tua, Tau-tara, and Matatoru.

page 363the place, and struck off by the track leading to Puke-rangi-ora, crossing the Wai-o-ngana river at Kai-puku—the present ford on the Kairau road—then skirting the clump of bush on the same road, called Repo-roa, and then along Te Arei road to the sheltering protection of the fortifications of Puke-rangi-ora pa."

"Whatitiri and his party, in the meantime, had kept the hakas going until such time as it was considered would allow Tu-korehu to be well on his way. Having accomplished this, they then withdrew in all haste, some along the track Tu-korehu had taken, others, apparently, by the way they had come. Daylight was now approaching, and the fact of the northern taua having escaped was soon evident to Ati-Awa. The party of Tu-korehu, with their rear guard of Whatitiri's people, had barely reached the pa and made all secure when Rangi-wahia and his host made their appearance. Whatitiri and the other chiefs of Puke-rangi-ora now told the Ati-Awa chiefs that they had taken the taua under their protection. This caused a furious altercation between the two parties, and Rangi-wahia, who seems to have had an implacable hatred of Tu-korehu, said, 'If I could get at Tu-korehu I would make short work of him, and strike him on the nose '—adding an insulting expression which was never forgotten or forgiven, and Ati-Awa paid dearly for it in after years."

It is not difficult to understand the bitterness of Rangi-wahia against Tu-korehu, for, closely as the former's tribe, Ngati-Mutunga, is connected with Ngati-Tama, the losses of the latter at Tihi-Manuka, Pāra-rewa, and other places recently by Tu-korehu's tribe, Ngati-Mania-poto, would easily account for it.