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


page 444

It is necessary now to turn our attention again to the North Island, where events of considerable importance were happening. In order to preserve the continuity of Te Rau-paraha's doings in the South Island, we have got in advance of our proper dates.

As far as can be made out from several references in what is irreverently called " The fat book," being the early reports of the officers of the New Zealand Company, Richard Barrett, Love, and a party of men from Sydney arrived at Nga-Motu (or the Sugar-loaf Islands) in 1828 or early in 1829, probably the former. Their object was trade with the natives and the establishment of a shore-whaling station—but probably this latter was a subsequent project. According to Maori accounts the name of their vessel was the " Tohora" (or whale); she made several trips in the course of the following years, taking produce to Sydney and bringing back trade. On one of these voyages to Sydney many of the principal natives of Nga-Motu accompanied the vessel to that port, and returned home by way of the Bay of Islands. The names of these people were: Te Puni, Te Whare-pouri, Tu-te-rangi-haruru, Oue-tapu, and Te Keha (who afterwards died at Motueka, South Island). Another early vessel that traded to Nga-Motu from Sydney was the " Ameriki Wati "—a name which looks like "American Watch." A reference to the shipping records of Sydney would no doubt show the real names of these two vessels.

Old Watene Taungatara, who has often been quoted, gives the following account of the early settlement at Nga-Motu: "As the heke (' Heke-whiri-nui') reached the Whanganui river, Hakirau (Love), in his vessel the ' Tohora," of which Tiki Parete (Richard Barrett) was mate, arrived at Nga-Motu. The hapus that lived about there at that time were Ngati-Rahiri, Ngati-Tawhiri-kura, Ngati-Te-Whiti, and Ngati-Tu-pari-kino. Directly the ship was seen sailing along outside, two large war-canoes were launched—named ' Te Pae-a-huri,' belonging to Ngati-Rahiri, and ' Te Rua-kotare,' the property of Ngati-Te-Whiti. They followed in all haste after the vessel, which was south-ward bound, and overtook her off Cape Egmont. After coming alongside page 445the chiefs and people went on board. Then Te "Whare-pouri stood forth and said, ' You must take your ship to Nga-Motu, where there is plenty of muka (prepared flax) and numerous pigs.' Hakirau (Love) consented to this, and then the ship put about and anchored off Nga-Motu. When the white men came ashore, a very fine, handsome woman named Hika-nui was given to Love as a wife, whilst another (afterwards) named Pawinia was given to Barrett. They were both high-born women of Ngati-Te-Whiti.

After this the goods on board were brought ashore; they consisted principally of three cannons, six thousand small-arms! six thousand!* casks of powder, and large quantities of bullets and flints, besides blankets and other goods of the white people.

Then all the people of the Ati-Awa assembled at Nga-Motu to construct a very large house to contain the goods of the white men, which house was named Patarutu. This was the period during which these tribes sold large quantities of muka and pigs for guns, powder, and other things. Right away down the coast to the Taranaki tribe extended the commerce in these articles. The pigs were converted into bacon to be taken to Port Jackson. The vessel was now loaded; she was quite full of muka and pork. According to my idea it took three months to fill the vessel, and then she sailed for Port Jackson, taking several chiefs (mentioned previously) with her to see the wonders of the white man's country.

Not a very long time elapsed, and then the ' Tohora ' returned to Nga-Motu, On this occasion all the crew came ashore except one man, and during the night a gale of wind arose, the anchor broke, and the vessel was driven ashore. But she was not much damaged, for she came ashore on the sandy beach at O-tai-kokako, at Nga-Motu. Everything was now taken out of the vessel, and then there gathered over two thousand men, who, by aid of skids overlaid with seaweed, dragged her into the water again, and then she anchored outside to take in her cargo. Whilst this was being done, a heavy cask of pork fell out of the slings into the hold and broke the ship's bottom, so that the water rushed in. Now was the vessel completely wrecked.

No very long time elapsed, however, before another vessel, named 'Ameriki Wati,' arrived at Nga-Motu, and she continued to trade between Nga-Motu and Port Jackson for a long time, making many voyages." (Here, unfortunately, ends Watene's first volume; the second was lent by his heirs, and is now lost—a great loss, for the old man was one of the best writers that I have laid under contribution.)

page 446

The settlement of these white men at the Sugar-loaf Islands—or rather on the mainland just inside the islands—made a considerable difference to the natives of the district, for Nga-Motu became a small centre of civilization and trade, and a mart for local produce; but above all, the local people were now in a position to obtain muskets, so long and ardently desired by them. The important part these white men played in the course of the ensuing years will be seen as this narrative progresses.

* Probably Watene's figures require dividing by a hundred.