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

Putiki at Whanganui. — 1829

Putiki at Whanganui.

The next event that must be placed in this year was the attack on Putiki-whara-nui pa at Whanganui. Mr. Travers refers to this incident, but indicates no date; but several circumstances seem to concur in indicating 1829 as the time.* Rangi-pito, to whom I am indebted for so much information as to these times, says it occurred four years after the arrival of the " Heke-niho-puta " at Otaki (see Chapter XV.) or in 1828, but 1829 seems to agree with other data better.

It will be remembered that the heke referred to above had been attacked by the Nga-Eauru tribe of Wai-totara river, and that a party of Ngati-Raukawa under Te Rua-maioro had been nearly all cut off on the Upper Whanganui (see page 402). It was to square the account for their losses in the above places that the tribes interested decided to attack Whanganui. At this period several large parties of Ngati-Raukawa had migrated from their homes between Cambridge and Taupo, and were living in close alliance with Ngati-Toa and Ati-Awa in the neighbourhood of Kapiti. Te Rau-paraha had also his own reasons for assisting the two other tribes; so it was decided to make a combined attack on Putiki-whara-nui pa—situated just opposite the present town of Whanganui, on the south bank of the river.

Rangi-pito (referred to above) gave to Mr. Shand and myself the following account of this expedition: " They (Ati-Awa) had been three years settled at Port Nicholson (besides one at Waikanae) when, after discussion, an ope or war-party was collected at Otaki in order to retaliate on Nga-Rauru for the losses suffered by the ' Niho-puta ' heke when they came down from Taranaki. This was consented to by all (i.e., Ati-Awa, Ngati-Toa, and Ngati-Raukawa), so they started. At this time Te Rau-paraha had some quarrel with the Ngati-Tu hapu of Ati-Awa (related to the Kai-tangata hapu, now of Onaero), and wanted to punish them on the way; but this was overruled by the other allies,

* I observe since writing the above that the Rev. R. Taylor, in " Te Ika-a-Maui," p. 371, states that Putiki was taken two years before 1831, which agrees with my date.

page 448and so the whole force—' nearly one thousand men,' says Mr. Travers (loc. cit., p. 84, but Rangi-pito says nine hundred topu, or eighteen hundred)—started on their way to Whanganui from Otaki. The chiefs of the force were Te Rau-paraha of Ngati-Toa, Te Whata-nui of Ngati-Raukawa, Rere-tawhangawhanga,* Te Manu-tohe-roa, Ngatata (father of Pomare), Te Poki, and Te Arahu—all of Ati-Awa. At Whanga-ehu river the ope was stopped by the people of that place for a time. From here two messengers, Taki-rau and Te Kapu-ahu, were despatched on to Whanganui to tell Pehi-Turoa of Upper Whanganui to keep away from the pa, as they wished to save him. He was ' Kaua e tutaki i te huarahi'—(' Not to stop up the road for the war-party.')

When the messengers arrived at Putiki pa, Pehi said to them, ' Whitia te korero, ka pehea?'—(' Deliver your message! What is it? ') The two men replied, ' Kia haere koe hi uta; kaore i haere mai hi a koe; engari ki te takitaki i taku mate."—(' It is, that you go inland; we have not come against you, but to avenge our losses by Nga-Rauru.')

Then arose Te Whainga of Ngati-Apa, and said, ' A! he tane koe; he wahine ahau?'—(' A! Art thou a man, and I a woman?') He was desirous of fighting the on-coming war-party. He went on, ' Whenei ake koe apopo me te punga-tai neikongakonga ana!'—(' By this time to-morrow you will be like this piece of pumice stone—utterly crushed!') taking up at the same time a piece of pumice and crushing it.

When the messengers returned to the ope, they reported the above conversation. Te Rau-paraha said, ' Ae! ae! ae! Kei kona a Te Rua-maioro!'—(' Yes! Yes! There lies Te Rua-maioro to be avenged!')

It was enough. The war-party arose and marched for Whanganui and commenced the siege of Putiki by making an assault on it. It was broad daylight at the time of the attack. Putiki was a very large pa defended by pekerangi, or palisades. The ope dashed straight at these defences, and by aid of tomahawks cut the lashings and then entered the pa. Thus was the place taken, and those of Whanganui who were not killed fled away inland. Te Pehi-Turoa, Topine-te-mamaku, Te Anaua, Rangi-tauria, and other chiefs escaped, but a great many people were killed, both men and women—the latter during the firing at the pa before it was taken, and besides the deaths a great many women were captured and brought away as slaves. The taua followed after the fleeing Whanganui for some distance and caught many of

* Rere-tawhangawhanga was father of Wiremu Kingi Te Rangi-take, the originator of the Maori war in 1860. The former died at Wellington, 26th September, 1843.

Died at Whanganui, 16th April, 1850.

page 449thom outside the pa. There were great numbers of people in. the pa. Topine was chased, but was not caught. ' Mei i mate a Topine hua waiho hei ingoa mo Te Rau-paraha,' "—said Rangi-pito—(If Topine had been killed it would have boon great fame for Te Rau-paraha.)

Although Rangi-pito seems to imply that the pa was taken soon after the war-party reached the place, Mr. Travers says the siege lasted upwards of two months, and this is most likely to be correct.

The party went no further, and did not carry out their intention of attacking Nga-Rauru. Their action had, however, given Whanganui abundant reason for reprisals, which they were not slow to act on when the time came a few years later.

During the time that the taua was besieging Putiki, a woman of Ati-Awa, who was somewhat out of her mind, suddenly appeared in the midst of the council of warriors, and shouted out so as to call the attention of the whole assembly, " Katahi au ka kihia! kihia!"—(" Now am I utterly cut off, destroyed!") The assemblage all took this as an aitua, or evil omen, and anticipated some calamity befalling them. The very next day arrived messengers from Otaki with the news of the massacre of some of the Ngati-Tama at Te Tarata, South Wai-rarapa, where this brave little tribe suffered very severely at the hands of Ngati-Kahu-ngunu. But as that incident falls in here, and as Ngati-Tama are one of the Taranaki tribes, it is necessary to describe the matter more fully.