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

Puke-Rangi-Ora (Raihe-Poaka). — First Siege, 1821-22

Puke-Rangi-Ora (Raihe-Poaka).
First Siege, 1821-22.

So Ati-Awa determined, if possible, to secure the deaths of the Amio-whenua taua, and with them some of the Puke-rangi-ora hapu, which had just deprived them of their prey, sat down to besiege the pa.

Mr, Skinner says,"The following hapus of Ati-Awa took part in the ' Raihe-poaka': Otaraua, Manu-korihi, Kai-tangata, of Waitara; the people of Te Taniwha pa (Ngati-Rahiri); the people from Ure-nui, Okoki, Arapawa, Whaka-rewa, Otu-matua (Ngati-Mutunga); Pukearuhe, Katikati-aka, Pa-tangata, Omaha, Te Kawau (Ngati-Tama); Otaka pa (Nga-Motu); and Puke-tapu, of Puke-tapu"(part of them, probably). Watene Taungatara says that Te Rau-paraha and some of Ngati-Toa also assisted at the siege, but this is the only authority who does so. He also gives the names of some of those chiefs of Ati-Awa who assisted the northern taua: Tautara, Raua-ki-tua, page 364Nga-tata, Te Rangi-tu-matatoru, To Whare-pouri, Te Puke-ki-Mahurangi, and Te Puni; all of the Nga-Motu hapu of the Ati-Awa people —some were on one side, some on the other—for instance: Te Manu-tohe-roa himself remained neutral, whilst many of his people joined the northern taua. There were most, if not all, of the Puke-rangi-ora people under Te Morehu engaged there. There were sixteen hundred people (? including the six hundred of the taua) within the pa."

"The besieging Ati-Awa now set to work and built an outer palisading and earthworks around Puke-rangi-ora, and closely pressed the inmates, besides cutting off all communications and food supplies. This shutting up the garrison within the pa gave rise to the name the siege is generally known by, 'Raihe-poaka,'or 'the pigsty.'This was adding insult to injury."…

The Puke-rangi-ora pa is situated just five and three-quarter miles from the mouth of the Waitara river to the south and west of a sharp bend in the river, on a spur that there comes down from inland, and along which the old Maori track, called Rimu-tauteka, went inland to the country of the Ngati-Maru tribal lands. The cliffs fronting the river are some three hundred feet high and nearly perpendicular.* To the south-east the land falls away in a very steep slope to a little stream, along the flats of which was much of the cultivated land of the people. To the west, the land falls more easily, as it does to the north, and in this direction the spur flattens out, and the part towards the cliffs is strongly fortified by ditch and bank; forming, as it were, a projection from the main line of fortifications, which are on higher ground to the south. This projection is called Te Arai, or, in full, To Arai-o-Matuku-takotako, which is, in fact, a whakatau-ki, or saying, from very ancient times—so ancient that the incident which originally gave rise to it occurred whilst the ancestors of these people were occupying the eastern part of the Fiji group. It means "the obstruction of Matuku-takotako," and this is how it came to be applied to the place described above: One of the ancestors of these people was named Tu-horo, and when he was a very old man his people neglected him in the matter of food—as, indeed, was not uncommon. When the young women used to come from the cooking houses. page 365marching two and two, each carrying in their hands, outstretched above the shoulder, two little square baskets of food called kono, and on state occasions accompanied by a song of welcome, called a hari tuku kai, all the people of the pa would arrange themselves in two rows, one on each side, leaving a passage along which the women passed, depositing here and there amongst the family groups the little baskets of food described above. Now Tu-horo, being very old and decrepit, always reached the tahua kai, or feeding-place, late, and consequently had to sit at the far end of the kapa, or rows of people. Hence it often arose that he either got no food or only the indifferent parts. So he said on one occasion, "These young people offer as much obstruction to food reaching me as did the 'obstruction (arai) of Matuku-takotako.' " From this circumstance arises the name of this part of the pa, so well known in 1861, when it was occupied by Hapurona in the war against the Europeans, and up to which the sapient General Pratt dug a sap throe-fourths of a mile long—and then did not take the position.

The fortifications of this celebrated pa are still in fair preservation, and it is to be hoped that, as the land has been recommended for acquisition under "The Preservation of Scenery Act, 1903," it will now have some care devoted to it, or otherwise the cattle will soon destroy it.

To return to Mr. Skinner's account: "For seven long months the northern taua was shut up within Puke-rangi-ora. The main body of these people resided in the south-west part of the; pa called 'Kai-katea'; but Tu-korehu lived with Whatitiri in the tribal meeting-house, named 'Te Waha-o-te-marangai'(the door of the east). This great house was built within the innermost part of the pa and close to the edge of the cliff rising from the Waitara river. It faced towards the north-east and commanded a view of the whole of the Waitara valley, as far seaward as the mouth of the river. From this point, probably, the finest landscape in the whole of the Taranaki district is to be seen at the present day. It must have been, in some senses, still more beautiful at the time of the siege of 1821-22," when the flats on the opposite side of the river were covered with forest, on to which the eye looked down without being able to penetrate the mass of variegated foliage. The grey cliffs below the pa are covered with a rich vegetation, amongst which the mamaku, or black tree-fern is conspicuous. The beautifully clear and rapid river curving and twisting in its level valley, sometimes running under the grey cliffs at one side, then crossing to the other, enhances the most beautiful views here to be obtained. Inland, the country is still covered with forest as far as the eye can reach, whilst seaward the rich undulating plains with their ever-green pastures of page 366the dairy farms, and homesteads peeping out from the clumps of dark woods surrounding them—the blue sea beyond, and in the extreme north the bluer hills of Herangi, Tapiri-moko, etc., which stretch their forest-clad length to distant Kawhia—forms a landscape difficult to surpass,

Watene says that no man was allowed to come outside the pa; he was killed directly, and that great were the losses on both sides. The besieged had great difficulty in obtaining water, and many were killed in the attempt.

"During the seven months," says Mr. Skinner, "that the siege lasted, several messengers—seven in all—were despatched at various times to communicate with the tribes of the north and to tell them of the desperate position in which they were placed, and asking immediate assistance. (The first was sent after the siege had endured three months, says Watene.) It is said that when one of these parties was caught the heads were brought back to Puke-rangi-ora, and there exposed on poles so that the besieged might see that they had not escaped the enemy. All these messengers were intercepted and killed except one, who got through to the Waikato country by way of Kete-marae and Whanganui, thence by Taupo and Waipa." This messenger was Rahi-ora, a young man of the Ngati-Mahanga tribe of Waikato, whose home is about Raglan. On his arrival he communicated with Te Wherowhero, the principal chief of all Waikato, who immediately sent out messengers to the surrounding tribes; and a large party of Waikato, Ngati-Mahuta, Ngati-Haua of Upper Thames, Ngati-Mania-poto, and others at once marched by way of the Mokau river to endeavour to raise the siege and at the same time join the force that had been trying to cut off Te Rau-paraha at Mokau. The junction of these forces had been finally effected—somewhere at Mokau—and thence they came on in a body towards the south.

* Plate No. 11 shows the northern face of Puke-rangi-ora pa. The terraces, which were formerly palisaded, can be distinguished on the summit, but a large part of the pa is invisible from the point where the view was taken. The cliff on the right hand, falling to the Waitara river, is where the garrison jumped over in the second siege in 1831 (see Chapter XVII.) Map No. 5 shows details of the pa from Mr. W. H. Skinner's survey.