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

Wai-o-Rua or Whaka-Paetai. — ? 1824

Wai-o-Rua or Whaka-Paetai.
? 1824.

After the defeat of Ngati-Toa at Wai-kanae, the whole tribe withdrew from the mainland and settled at various places on Kapiti Island with the intention of awaiting the second reinforcements from the north, from Ngati-Rau-kawa of Maunga-tautari, with which tribe, as has been said, Ngati-Toa was connected. At this period of his career, Te Rau-paraha appears to have shown a lack of diplomatic power, for his present position was one of considerable danger, and he had practically been driven from the mainland by his treacherous conduct against the local tribes, who had, at first, held out the hand of friendship to him—no doubt through fear. He had alienated the friendship of the Taranaki tribes that came down from Ure-nui with him by his overbearing conduct, and they had returned home. Southward of Northern Taranaki the whole of the tribes along the coast, right away to Wai-rarapa were his bitter enemies. The branches of Ngati-Apa and Rangi-tane inhabiting the southern shores of Cook's Straits were equally inimicable to him, for their relatives had suffered at his hands on the north shore, and, moreover, these southern people were aware of Te Rau-paraha's intention to attack them at the first convenient opportunity.

Hence the time appeared opportune for a combined attack on Kapiti with the view of attempting to put an end to the depredations of the intruding Ngati-Toa before they could obtain help from Ngati-Rau-kawa. It has been stated that Te Raki had been captured at Horo-whenua. He was either Mua-upoko or Rangi-tane—both closely connected. This man effected his escape and reached the South Island in safety. Here he proceeded to preach a crusade against Ngati-Toa and succeeded in raising all the tribes from Massacre Bay (Ngati-Apa-ki-te-ra-to and Ngati-Tu-mata-kokiri); Pelorous Sound (Ngati-Kuia); Queen Charlotte Sound (Rangi-tane and Ngati-Apa); and also the people of "Wairau (or Blenheim). Emissaries at the same time were sent to rouse the tribes on the north of Cook's Straits, and the following responded: Ngati-Rua-nui, Nga-Rauru, Whanganui, Ngati-Apa, Rangi-tane, Mua-upoko, Ngati-Ira; and it is said also, some of Ngati-Kahungunu of "Wairarapa. The following is the list of leaders, as nearly as can be ascertained:—

Mua-upoko.—Rangi-hiwi-nui, Tanguru, Kotuku, Maru, Tawhati, Tu-mata.

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Rangi-tane.—Mahuri, Tutai, Kai-moko-puna, Te Awa-kautere.

Ngati-Apa.—Te Hakeke, Marumaru, Turanga-pito, Papaka, Tahataha, Te Ahuru (who was killed).

Whanganui.—Turoa, Paetaha, Te Anaua, Rangi-te-whata, Te Rangi-whakaruru, Te Kuru-kanga, Te Kotuku.

Ngati-Rua-nui.—Te Hana-taua, Tu-rau-kawa, Te Matangi-o-Rupe.

Rangi-tane, South Island.—Te Ra-maru, Tuki-hongi.


Ngati-Ira.—Te Kekerengu, Huru, and Ta-unuunu.

No doubt, there were many other chiefs, but the above are all the old men who informed Mr. Best and myself of the names could remember. This formidable host gathered in their canoes at Wai-kanae to await a proper moment to attack the island. The fleet is stated by Maori narrators as being a very large one—indeed, one man says there were two thousand canoes (an evident exaggeration)—probably not less than several hundred. My informants say that even on their retreat the sea was so thickly covered by canoes that "the sunlight on the water was obstructed″—a bit of poetical exaggeration. Mr. Travers says,…. "About the fourth year after the first arrival of Ngati-Toa nearly two thousand warriors assembled between Otaki and Wai-kanae…. The sea on the occasion of their attack (says one of my informants, who was present) was covered with canoes—one wing reaching Kapiti from Otaki, whilst the other started simultaneously from Wai-kanae." The attack was made at night, and apparently Ngati-Toa did not expect it at that time. At the northern end of the island, near Wai-o-rua—where was one of the Ngati-Toa villages—"a man and two women were living in a house much higher up the hill than the main village. They heard the fleet approaching and cried out with a loud voice, 'E puta hi waho! Ko te whakaaiki! Ko te whakaariki!'—('Come forth! The army! The army!') As the daylight began to appear we saw the enemy in thousands, like a black mass on the waters, and then we perceived the rau-kura and toroa plumes of the chiefs. They came on until they were close to the shore, and then could be heard the voice of Pararaha (a woman of Wairarapa) shouting out, 'Tikarohia te marama! Tikarohia! Tikarohia te marama!'—('Scoop out the moon,' etc.—meaning, select the chiefs to kill). Soon we closed in battle on the beach to oppose their landing, and the matangohi, or first one killed of the enemy, was thrust through by a long spear from the shore. The second one was the woman Pararaha."

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Mr. Shand says (J.P.S., Vol. I., p. 87) it was some of the Taranaki hapus who were living at Wai-o-rua who were first attacked, and it was they, under Tu-mokemoke and Te Pa-kai-ahi, who repulsed the enemy there. This is probably correct, for Mr. Shand had opportunities of hearing particulars of this and other events from the old Ati-Awa people who took part in them. Mr. Travers' account is largely from Matene Te Whiwhi of Ngati-Toa, who naturally gives all the credit of the affair to his own tribe. Moreover, Mr. Travers had to obtain his information through an interpreter, whereas Mr. Shand, who is one of our real Maori scholars—not a mere linguist—would get it first hand. That Tu-mokemoke of Ati-Awa was there is also proved by other information.

Amongst the details of this fight that have been handed down is a saying of Te Kotuku's, "E Tai-whenua* e! Kawhakina nga whetu!"—("O relatives! Catch the stars!"—i.e., be sure to kill the chiefs of the enemy, who are likened to stars).

Contingents of Ngati-Toa now came up from Ranga-tira—a little to the south of Wai-o-rua—and attacked the enemy with fury. Te Rau-paraha was at his home at Taepiro, a little further again to the south. A messenger was sent off in all haste to summon him and his immediate followers. To quote again from Mr. Travers, ".Before, however, Te Rau-paraha could reach the scene of conflict, the enemy had succeeded in landing and pushing Ngati-Toa towards Wai-o-rua—near the northern end of the island. Pokai-tara, who was in command of that party, being desirous of gaining time in order to admit of the arrival of reinforcements, proposed a truce to the enemy, which was granted by Rangi-maire-hau of Ngati-Apa, who, on his part, hoped to land the rest of his forces and then crush Ngati-Toa. Shortly after the truce had been agreed to, Te Rau-paraha and his warriors reached the scene of action and at once renewed the battle with the utmost vigour, and after a long and sanguinary conflict completely defeated the invaders with tremendous slaughter; not less than one hundred and seventy dead bodies being left on the beach, while numbers were drowned in attempting to reach the canoes that were still at sea.

"The remainder of the fleet made their way back with all speed to Wai-kanae and other points on the coast, where many of them landed, abandoning their canoes to Ngati-Toa, who had commenced an immediate pursuit…. The result of this battle was in every way advantageous to Ngati-Toa, for no further attempt was ever made page 399to dislodge them, while they, on the other hand, lost no opportunity of strengthening their position and of wreaking vengeance on the Ngati-Apa, Rangi-tane, and Mua-upoko, the remnant of whom they ultimately reduced to the condition of the merest tributaries; many of the leading chiefs, including Te Hakeke, becoming slaves."

In this fight Tawhi, a young chief of high rank from the Ngati-Toa tribe of Kapiti, was the only prisoner taken by the allies. He was a son of Te Putu, one of the principal chiefs of the tribe. We shall see later on the vengeance that Te Rau-paraha executed on these southern tribes, in which the Ati-Awa played a very important part.

One of those peculiar incidents common in Maori warfare occurred just as the battle was over and the defeated allies departing from Kapiti. Hine-wai-roro, a woman of Ngati-Toa, recognising a man in one of the canoes with whom she had formerly been intimate, swam off to the canoe, and persuaded this man to come ashore and be her husband. On reaching the shore, her father would not give his consent, and immediately tomahawked the man, who thus became the ika-whakaotinga, or last one killed.

Here, for a time, we must leave the wily chief of Ngati-Toa to gloat over his victory and return to Taranaki.

* Tai-whenua, I take to be the same as toi-whenua, meaning: 1st, the people of any place; 2nd, the home and birthplace of anyone.