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

Te Tarata at Wai-Rarapa,1829

Te Tarata at Wai-Rarapa,1829.

The date of Te Tarata depends on that of Putiki, described in the last paragraph.

It will be remembered that soon after the arrival of the " Nihoputa" heke from Taranaki, and after they had removed to Port Nicholson in 1825, as related in Chapter XV., page 408, many of the Ngati-Tama tribe removed over to the Wai-rarapa valley into the country belonging to the Ngati-Kahu-ngunu tribe. What the relations were between these two tribes from 1825 for the next few years, I know not, but undoubtedly at first they would be at enmity. I have only a brief note of this period to the effect that one Tamatoa of Ati-Awa was killed at a place named Okorewa, and that soon after Ngati-Tama came into the district, they killed a high chief of Ngati-Kahu-ngunu, named Te Tire-o-te-rangi, which induced some of his particular people to flee to Nuku-taurua on the Mahia peninsula, north of Napier, for safety, for the fear of the invaders was great. This was the first movement of this people to Te Mahia, to be followed in page 450later years by a great many of that tribe. But by 1829 or 1830, matters had changed so much that intercourse between the two tribes had commenced and a transient peace reigned. It was during these times that the celebrated canoe Te Ra-makiri was taken from Wairarapa by Ngati-Tama, and presented to Te Rau-pa-raha as already related.

At the time we are about to refer to, Ngati-Tama and some members of Ati-Awa were living at a place named Te Tarata, on the west side of the outlet to Wai-rarapa lake, but a little way inland from the sea. This old pa still remains in fair preservation, and not far off is Kakahi-makatea,* a good specimen of the old pa, at that time occupied by Paenga-huru, chief of Ngati-Tama. The site chosen by these invaders for a home was a good one, for close to them was the Wai-rarapa lower lake with abundance of eels, and on the west the forest ranges of Remu-taka from which a supply of birds could be obtained. Here they decided to build a fortified pa, and as peace now prevailed with Ngati-Kahu-ngunu, the owners of the soil, Ngati-Tama prevailed on the local people to assist them by cutting raupo rushes on the borders of the lake, with which to build houses. Ngati-Tama, in the meantime, occupied themselves in felling timbers in the forest to be used as palisades and for the framework of the houses. The principal chiefs engaged in these operations were Paenga-huru, Te Kahawai, Pehi-taka, and Tuhi-mata-renga. No doubt, one of the reasons why these people were anxious to possess a fortified pa was (as Mr. Shand says, Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. I., p. 91) that they had been warned by " Te Poki, who was closely related to Paenga-huru—one of the head chiefs of Ngati-Tama—with others of the old men, to be on their guard." Apparently, this warning came about the time they had commenced operations, for at that time Paenga-huru called a meeting of their tribe at Te Tarata to discuss the situation, " when it was decided," says Mr. Shand, " to send Pukoro, —wife of Paenga-huru and a sister of the celebrated Tupoki§ a woman

* A brief history of which is given in Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. XIII., page 126.

Usually spelt Rimu-taka; but the above is correct; renin means the border of a garment, and probably the name originated in aomeone having the border of his mat torn off there.

I learnt from Manihera Maka of Ngati-Kahu-ngunu that Pukoro was not a wife, but a near relative of Paenga-huru's.

§ See account of Tupoki's death at the battle of Para-rewa in 1821—Chapter XIV.

page 451of rank—to Otaki to get Ngati-Mutunga, Ngati-Tama, and other allies to come over and exterminate Ngati-Kahu-ngunu."

The time was propitious for the realization of such a scheme. Ngati-Kahu-ngunu were known to be engaged cutting raupo for the new houses, and were expected shortly at Te Tarata with their canoes laden with rushes.

Mr. Shand says (loc. cit., p. 91): "Unfortunately for the success of the plot, an old Ngati-Kahu-ngunu cripple named Hapimana Kokakoka* was in the house at the time of the meeting apparently fast asleep, and who, on discovering the subject under discussion, feigned sleep to the utmost." The Maoris are very fond of minute detail, hence we learn from old Kokakoka's descendants that the attention of the meeting was called to "strangers within the house." Some one went and shook the old man by the shoulder; but he only snored the louder, so it was decided to leave him alone. The consequence was that he heard the whole of the details of the plot. In the morning Kokakoka communicated with his people, informing them of the design to massacre them, also that reinforcements had been sent for. Messengers were at once despatched with all speed to Rangi-whakaoma (Castle Point) to the chief Te Po-tanga-roa; to Matai-kona, on the east coast; and to Maunga-rake (near Masterton); in fact, to all the settlements of Ngati-Kahu-ngunu within a day's travel by a swift runner. Distant as these places are—forty-five, sixty-five, and seventy-four miles in a straight line from Te Tarata—the message was delivered in the same day, for time was of consequence, seeing that reinforcements were expected by Ngati-Tama. Within two days a large force of Ngati-Kahu-ngunu had assembled at the camp of the raupo cutters under the following chiefs:—Te Hamai-waho of Ngai-Tahu (Wai-rarapa), Te Po-tanga-roa, Nuku-pewapewa (so called from the peculiar tattooing across his face), Nga-hiwa, Tu-te-pakihi-rangi, Te Kaukau, Te Oko-whare, Pihanga, Te Hika, Te Warahi, Pirika-te-po, Te Toru, Nga-Rangi-e-rua (father of Manihera), Te Noho (or Hapopo), Te Huri-po (or Tawaroa), Tama-i-hikoia, Tama-i-whakakitea, Ngairoa-a-puroa (or Takataka-putea), Pu-angiangi, Te Korou, Kokakoka, and Te Rahui. With the party were also women, amongst them Hinemauruuru, wife of Tu-te-pakihi-rangi. This large party proceeded down Lake Wai-rarapa in canoes and mokihis (rafts) laden with raupo for Ngati-Tama, but with the additional object of driving the latter tribe out of their country.

* Uncle of Te Kume-roa, one of the members of the Polynesian Society. He got his name, Kokakoka (or limper), from the fact that in his boyhood he was wounded in the groin by a spear, which caused him to limp ever afterwards.

page 452

There were two settlements then occupied by Ngati-Tama—Te Tarata and Whare-papa—the latter not far from the former, but situated in the forest at the foot of the mountains, over a spur of which the path to it led. At this time Tuhi-mata-renga of Ngati-Tama was the chief of Whare-papa. When the hostile forces drew near Te Tarata, they divided, one party going direct to Te Tarata, the other over the spurs to Whare-papa.

When those at Te Tarata beheld the fleet of the enemy approaching they prepared to receive them with the usual welcome in order, as they thought, to put Ngati-Kahu-ngunu off their guard, for they had now determined to fall on them without waiting for reinforcements. As the party landed and approached, Paenga-huru sung the following ngeri as a welcome:—

Te po i tuku mai,
Mai runga i a Te Pori ra
Ko Nuku-pewapewa,
Ngau mai taua ki te miti—
Ngau mai taua ki te hongi
Kia tu honoa ki roto ki te harakeke,
Ai i te kai aku tapa
To kikoki' kiki tere kaha.

The guests were now ushered into a long wharau, or shed, where their hosts were temporally lodging, and preparations were made to give them a feast, and mutual interchanges of their women took place. All seemed peaceful. Paenga-huru, who carried a celebrated mere* round his neck, gave the signal, and the hosts rose on their guests and commenced killing. But Te Oka-whare, who was sitting next to Paenga-huru, warded off the blow made at him by the latter, and made a thrust at Paenga-huru with his koikoi (short spear) at the same time grasping the mere, which he succeeded in securing, with which he made a blow at Paenga-huru and killed him with his own weapon. By this time the fight had become general, and Ngati-Tama, being outnumbered and demoralised by the death of their chief, were very badly beaten; great numbers being killed, whilst others made their escape. Amongst these latter was Pukoro, the wife (or relative) of Paenga-huru, who, together with some other women, fled away along the forest track to Whare-papa, hoping to be in safety there.

* This mere was named "Tawa-tahi." Although, as my informant says, it was made of jade—it was light in colour, indeed, just the same tint as the mereparaoa, or white whale-bone mere. From Te Oka-whare it passed into the hands of Karaitiana—one of the principal chiefs of Hawke's Bay—and at his death his widow secreted it in some place that is now unknown.

page 453

In the meantime, the other party of Ngati-Kahu-ngunu had proceeded by an inland track over the ranges to attack Whare-papa. As they descended a steep spur just above the village, a large stone was detached accidentally, which, rolling down with great noise, gave warning to Ngati-Tama that strangers were approaching, for none of their own people were out in that direction. Finding their purpose of surprising the village thus frustrated, Ngati-Kahu-ngunu advanced in friendly guise to the settlement. Here they were welcomed by Tuhi-mata-renga of Ngati-Tama, and asked into the village to have something to eat. Whilst they were waiting, Hine-mauruuru (wife of Tu-te-pakihi-rangi, chief of the visitors) sang the following song, as a whakawhare, to put Ngati-Tama off their guard:—

Kowai koe e haere nei,
E hara koe i a Mokau,
E tiki mai ana koe i ahau,
E hiki taua ana
Kei Rua-puke e—i.

Preparations were now made by Ngati-Tama to feed their unexpected guests. Tuhi-mata-renga was busily engaged at the whata, or store-house handing out some baskets of potatoes* when the signal was given, and the slaughter of Ngati-Tama commenced. He jumped down from the whata, but was immediately slain by a blow on the forehead with a mere (? by Tu-te-pakihi-rangi), and then the affair was soon over. The few that escaped rushed off in the direction of Te Tarata. On their way they met Te Pukoro, who, as stated above, was on her way to Whare-papa in hopes of finding shelter there. As the parties met, she cried out, "Heoi ano, ko maua anake te morehu!"—("There are only us two left alive!") After lamenting their losses, the survivors made the best of their way to Port Nicholson to the rest of their tribe living there. "About ten or more of the best men of the tribe of Ngati-Tama escaped, but the majority were killed, a few only being taken prisoners with the women," says Mr. Shand.

Paenga-huru's daughter, Te Whakarato, was taken prisoner at Te Tarata by Takataka-roa, who afterwards married her. She bore him Te Naira-Rangatahi, who married Rēta, and they had Peti, who married a Pakeha and had Tamati Te Naira.

Takaroa of Ati-Awa was also killed at Whare-papa, besides a great many others.

* My informant, Maniera Maka, on being questioned, is not sure if they were potatoes. The question is of interest, because it is said Ngati-Toa first introduced this tuber to South New Zealand in 1822-3. The Wai-rarapa people never grew much kumara, or taro, but largely used the korau, or native turnip.

page 454

Thus the schemes of Ngati-Tama to massacre the Wai-rarapa people fell to the ground, and they in turn became the victims of those they had planned to kill. Mr. Shand (Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. I., p. 92) gives some further details of this affair, to which the reader is referred.