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

Te Rau-Paraha Starts for the South Island. — 1828-29

page 423

Te Rau-Paraha Starts for the South Island.

The captured canoes, taken from the allies at the battle of Whakapaetai or Wai-o-rua, Kapiti, in 1824 (see last chapter), now came into use to further Te Rau-paraha's schemes of conquest, by enabling him and his allies to cross the rough waters of Cook's Straits. "Te Ahu-a-Turanga" was the name of Te Rau-paraha's own canoe used in many of his southern expeditions; it still lies rotting away at Motu-hara (Porirua Harbour), says Mr. Best. It probably came from Manawa-tu originally, for its name is that of a place on the old track over the southern spurs of the Rua-hine mountains, the origin of which will be found in Chapter VIII. Another famous canoe of this period was "Te Ra-makiri," originally captured from Ngati-Kahu-ngunu of Wai-rarapa by Ngati-Tama, and presented to Te Rau-paraha. "It is,"—says Mr. Best—"exceedingly tapu, where it still lies on Mana Island. If anyone breaks off the smallest fragment a dreadful thunderstorm will ensue, and the lightning destroy the offender! 'We know that this is true'—says Mr. Best's informer—'because when the canoe was hauled up at Kapiti many years ago the carved ihu, or bow, was broken, and instantly a violent storm arose!'" Such is the old-time belief!

The expedition which started in 1828 for the southern side of Cook's Straits was an extensive one, consisting of Ngati-Toa under Te Rau-paraha, Te Rangi-haeata, Rawiri Puaha, and many another noted warrior of that tribe and their related hapus of Ngati-Rarua and Ngati-Koata. With them were some of Ngati-Mutunga (of Ure-nui), Puke-tapu (of Bell Block), Manu-korihi (of Waitara), and Ngati-Tama (of Poutama) under Te Puoho, Ngati-Rau-kawa, under the chiefs of that tribe; Te Whata-nui, head chief, joining the force later on. This formidable force crossed the Straits from Kapiti Island, having, no doubt, made sure that this dangerous transit was safe, by observations at Omere—the point south of Ohariu Bay, as the old song says:—

Ka rou Omere ki waho,
He maunga tutainga aio.

Where bold Omere projects outside,
The mount where calms are watched for.

and which was the invariable custom before crossing. Equally would these superstitious people comply with ancient custom in the case of those who had not crossed the Straits before, and avoid looking at the Brothers rocks, for so surely as they did so would a violent storm arise and swamp the canoes—so says the old tradition.

They made for Te Tao-o-Kupe (Kupe's spear), named on the maps Koamaru, or Jackson's Head (so called after an old whaler of that page 424name who took up his residence under Te Rau-paraha's protection, about the time we are writing of), the eastern entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound. Here a division of the forces took place, for a time, and the Ati-Awa portion proceeded up Queen Charlotte Sound, killing or driving away to their mountain fastnesses the original inhabitants, who were part of the Rangi-tane, Ngati-Apa, and other tribes, about whom we know very little. It was this people that cut off Captain Ferneaux's boats' crew in 1773 at a little bay in Arapaoa Island, which lies to the east side of the Sound. Ati-Awa went on to the head of the Sound to Te Wera-a-Waitohi, which is the name of the place where the town of Picton now stands, and is so named on account of a big forest fire that occurred many years ago, which was lit by a man named Waitohi, from whose time the place has been open land. Here the Ati-Awa took possession of the country, but I am not quite clear whether any of them settled down there permanently at that time, or whether it was later. In after years they occupied the little island of Moioio as a pa, which is situated at the junction of Queen Charlotte Sound and Tory Channel. My notes say, "They did not occupy Wairau Valley at this time because it was under a state of tapu, consequent on the death of some of Ngati-Toa there;" which is the only note we have in reference to some raid of Ngati-Toa across the Straits prior to this great expedition.