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

Siege Of Waimate Pa

page 510

Siege Of Waimate Pa.

After the departure of Waikato from Te Namu, in 1833, as described a few pages back, Mata-katea and his people, whilst elated at their victory over the northern tribes, at the same time felt that Te Namu was not of sufficient size, nor such an impregnable place as others in the event of Waikato returning to seek utu for their losses. With the idea of securing a place of greater security, the tribe decided on occupying Nga-teko or Nga-ngutu-maioro pas, which are generally known as Waimate; Orangi-tua-peka is another name for the second of the places named above. It is a very strong position, formed by the separation of a point of land from the mainland through the action of the Kapuni river, which, however, now runs on the west of the pa, having abandoned its old channel which cuts off the pa on the east, leaving a gorge some two hundred feet deep, with almost perpendicular sides, whilst the abrupt cliffs of the sea-coast form an impregnable barrier on that side. Orangi-tua-peka is quite level on top and perhaps two acres in extent. The ascent to it is on the eastern end, up the narrow ridge shown in Plate No. 18. Major Heaphy has preserved a drawing of this celebrated pa, as seen by him in 1840, when its palisading was intact; but his sketch must have been taken from the bottom of the gorge, and thus omits the level top of the pa, as seen in Plate No. 18, which, however, excludes the deep gorge, a little to the right of the picture. Nga-teko is seen just over the top of this pa, and is also shown in Plate No. 19, taken from the beach under Orangi-tuapeka. Both of these places were formidable positions when palisaded. The Kapuni river runs between the two pas and its mouth formed a landing place for the fishing-canoes. The pas are two and three-quarter miles S.E. from the modern town of Manaia, and are situated within the Ngati-Rua-nui tribal territories.

When the Taranaki people from Te Namu, under Mata-katea, arrived at Waimate, they found no one there, but soon ascertained that Hukanui Manaia—the chief of those parts—together with all his people, were living away in the wilds of the forest, for the dread of Waikato was great. Mata-katea went out himself and sent out other parties also, and gradually brought all the people in, who were found here and there living in twos and threes in separate places. It took them a fortnight to gather together all these fugitives, who numbered about two hundred, and then the whole party agreed to throw in their lot together and renew the fortifications of Orangi-tua-peka and Nga-teko ready for the inevitable return of Waikato, There were thus in the pas —says my informant—three hundred and fifty men, besides women and children, composed of Taranaki and Ngati-Rua-nui. In Mr. T. W. page 511Gudgeon's account of this affair (loc. cit., p. 78), he says (or implies, for he confuses the names of the two pas) that there were eighty Taranaki and forty Nga-Ruahine warriors in Nga-teko, under Mata-katea, Ngatai, and Tihe; two hundred of Ngati-Rua-nui under Titoko-waru, Pakeke, Tiako, and Te Awaroa in Waimate or Orangitua-peka. Every preparation was made by provisioning the pas; Mata-katea was appointed fighting chief, and Nga-Tai-rakau-nui as his assistant, to whom fell the duties of the karakia to the Maori gods and the government of the internal affairs of the pa—" to incite the men to be courageous; to abandon their bodies to death; to feel no fear; and act as true warriors. Such are the encouraging words of a leading chief to the common people" (says my informant)" Mata-katoa had two duties, the one internal and the other external, of the pa. When danger arose it was his duty to lead men forth to fight to the death, whilst Nga-Tai-rakau-nui taught them to be cautious so that they might live long to fight their enemies and preserve the land. The reason of this was, that nearly all had fled to Kapiti, to Wai-kanac, and even to Arapaoa in the South Island, for fear of Waikato, Commencing at Pari-ninihi (the White Cliffs, forty miles north of New Plymouth), right away south to Wai-totara, all the tribes of Ngati-Tama, Ngati-Mutunga, and Ati-Awa, with most of Taranaki and Ngati-Rua-nui, had fled through fear of Waikato. the two last mentioned departed after the others; but some remained, having been restrained by Mata-katea and others under Te Hana-taua, and were now under his guidance."

So Waikato returned on their tracks from Te Ruaki determined to beard the lion in his den. As the taua reached Kaupoko-nui river, they were seen by Mata-katea's scouts, and soon after they camped at Manga-porua—not far from Kauae pa, a little distance from the mouth of the river. Mr. Gudgeon says another party camped at Te Matihe—above Inaha stream, to the south of Waimate. Mata-katea, taking a chosen band of fifty warriors, marched during the night along the beach to the mouth of the Kaupoko-nui (about seven miles west of Waimate). Arrived there they were able to see the fires of the Waikato camp, and hear the chiefs addressing their warriors, and mentioning Mata-katea's name. "Stay all of you here whilst I creep forward," said Mata-katea. He then went stealthily toward the enemies' camp, and happened right on one of their men who was fishing by the side of the river. As he drew near the fisherman the latter detected the slight noise made by his footstep on the gravel; he sprung up and called out, "Who is that?" Said Mata-katea, "Friend! It is I. How many fish have you caught?" The man answered, "I have none!" He mistook Mata-katea for one page 512of their own people, for the latter had assimulated his speech to that of Waikato. Then Mata-katea sprang forward, and with a blow of his taiaha felled the man—he cut off his head, took out his heart, and left the body on a prominent stone. The head, on his return, was stuck on a pole on the palisades to dismay the enemy, whilst the heart was offered to the gods, Aitu-hau and Aitu-pawa in the Whangai-hau* ceremony; Waikato did not discover the death of the missing man.

"When the light of the sun appeared next morning, the taua marched down towards the pa, which was soon encompassed, and they commenced firing, which was returned by those of Nga-teko. Mata-katea shot one of the Waikato chiefs named Tai-puhi. This caused the taua to fall back inland, to the side of the Kapuni stream. Mata-katea shouted out, "Search for one of your men; last night he was killed. Here is his head stuck on top of this post, and his heart has been offered to the gods." On return to camp, the taua collected together and searched amongst themselves as to who was absent, and then found that Te Waka was missing; they came to the conclusion he had been killed at Kaupoko-nui. Then the taua came to this conclusion, "It is Mata-katea and his people who will prevail in this war, since the heart of this man has been offered to the gods. We shall not be able to take the pa" Te Kanawa and Pae-tahuna were for retreating and leaving the pa alone, for the omens were unpropitious; others wished to continue the assault. The first said, "Even if we remain, the pa will not be taken. As for this great taua, Mata-katea alone appears to be able to beat it! Are not two of us already killed by his hand?"

"However, when next morning came, the pa was attacked. As soon as the taua was seen approaching, Mata-katea and Manaia ascended the tower, and from there kept up a fire on the enemy, shooting one man as they advanced. But this did not stay the taua; they came along pouring a heavy fire into the pa, and continued to do so for a long time. But the assault failed, and the taua had to retreat again to Kapuni. The gun used by Mata-katea was a urumu-ngutu-parera (? blunderbuss). Six of the enemy were shot by Mata-katea, Manaia, and Whetoi. Some of the dead were carried off by the taua when they retreated, but three of their muskets and some ammunition page 513fell into the hands of the besieged—making four then in their possession." This looks as if Taranaki had followed up and fought the taua outside the pa, which is confirmed by Mr. T. W. Gudgeon (loc. cit.), who says: "On the following day the Matihe party attacked Orangi-tua-peka, but were met in the open and driven back, leaving five of their number behind them; the others they carried off and burnt. The brunt of this fight fell on Taranaki, who, highly delighted at their success, cut off the heads of the slain and sent them over to their allies at Waimate to decorate their palisades."

Mr. Gudgeon continues: "On the following morning Waikato made another combined attack. A party of one hundred men was told off to lay in ambush near the pa during the night, while at early dawn the main body was to make a vigorous attack on Waimate, hoping in this manner to draw the garrison away from their pa (? that at Nga-teko), and so give the ambush a chance. Probably this scheme might have succeeded had Waikato's courage been equal to Taranaki's cunning; for no sooner did Waikato attack in earnest than both Taranaki and Nga-Ruahine (of Ngati-Rua-nui) rushed over (from Nga-teko) to assist their friends, but before leaving made their women and boys go outside the pa, as though ready to meet the enemy. The ruse succeeded admirably, and the ambush, believing the occupants of Waimate were waiting for them to attack, remained hidden, while their people, assaulted by the full strength of the allies, were thoroughly beaten and fled unpursued, Nga-Ruahine being suspicious of ambuscades."

"Thus ended the battle of Nga-ngutu-mairo," says Mr. Gudgeon. "Waikato lost in all about sixty men, including the chiefs Mere-kai-kaka and Pungatara, chiefs of Ngati-Hino-tu (of Waikato); To Kohu-wai, a loading chief of Ngati-Mania-poto; Hiahia, Toa-ranga-tira, Tu-pekepeke, To Oi-tai and Rae-taha. The allies lost only one chief, To Kamia, and five men. That day it was ascertained that Waikato really had retreated; and the same night they were followed by the most able-bodied men of the allies, two hundred and fifty strong", and found camped at Otu-matua pa (situated on the coast, at the point fourteen miles W.N.W. from Waimate, and two miles S.W. of the present village of Pihama). Nga-Ruahino hid themselves carefully, intending to storm the camp at sundown; this plan, however, was defeated by a few straggling Taranaki, who, for reasons best known to themselves, gave warning to Waikato, and they taking alarm left everything and stole away, so that when the allies rushed the camp, the birds had flown. The hurry and confusion of the retreat had, however, one good effect, and that was that To Hana-tana and most of his people (captured at Te Ruaki) succeeded in making page 514their escape, and eventually took shelter with Nga-Ruahine and Taranaki at Waimate."

Te Kahui says, "Nino days were occupied by Waikato in assaulting the pas, but without success; and on the last day the besieged sallied forth and fought their enemies in the open and beat them (as described above), losing six men killed, and thirteen wounded —who all recovered." Mr. Gudgeon says (loc. cit.) that after the above fight Waikato departed for their homes, but Te Kahui tells a different tale, as follows:—

"After the defeat of Waikato, the principal chiefs of the taua desired to make peace with Taranaki, and communicated with Matakatea to that end. Mata-katea proceeded by himself to the enemies' camp, where he was greeted by the whole taua, and a tangi for the dead was held with some of the Taranaki prisoners still in the hands of Waikato. Then arose Te Wherowhero, and addressing their visitor said, 'For the first time has my weapon been broken on this day.' This was all he said. Next Mata-katea addressed the assembly, 'On the morrow we will talk; after which I shall know if this is a true peacemaking.' To this the chiefs of Waikato—Te Wherowhero, Te Kanawa, Te Waharoa, and Pae-tahuna—consented. Mata-katea now proposed to the taua that their arms should be left in charge of the Taranaki and other prisoners, to guard, at the meeting. After this had been assentod to, Mata-katea returned to his pa, and reported proceedings, saying to the people, 'The enemy desires peace, let us consider this very carefully, whether it is to be a permanent peace or not. If so, it will be well.'"

The proposition being favourably received, "When morning came the whole of the people from the pas marched out and went to meet Waikato, carrying with them a great abundance of food—potatoes, kumara, taros, haraka berries, dried fish, dried shark, etc., and finally, on reaching the Waikato camp, laid it all down before them. It formed a great, high pile; and as the people came up they were welcomed by the women of Waikato, Mata-katea going over and joining the ranks of Waikato. Te Wherowhero now stood up to address the two bodies of people, saying, 'This is my final peacemaking; I have ended—ended for ever; and shall return at once and not come back. Your lands remain with you on account of your prowess. Were I to fight again after this my arm would be broken under the shining sun.' He was followed by Nga-tai-rakau-nui, who assented to the peace. Next Mata-katea called on Te Wherowhero and Nga-tai' to approach and stand on either side of the pile of food. He, together with Manaia, Toi, Titoko-waru, and Whetoi, being joined page 515by some Waikato chiefs, stood not far off, and then Te Wherowhero and Nga-tai' (as the chief priests) repeated some karakias usual on peacemaking, all the others joining in. And so peace was concluded,"

Neither of these narratives mention the fact that Te Awa-i-taia, after visiting the Waikato camp at Te Ruaki, had come on to Waimate, and was actually in the pa during" the time of the Waikato attack. As he says himself, his object was to induce them all to accept Christianity, and no doubt his influence helped to cement this peace. Taranaki people say Waikato committed a breach of Maori tikanga, or etiquette, in attacking the pa, whilst one of their own chiefs and his party were inside its ramparts.

Te Awa-i-taia says (A.H.M., Vol. VI., p. 8), "Beyond Orangi-tua-peka there were no inhabitants on our return. We passed through the deserted district of Taranaki and came to Nga-Motu. We found a remnant of the people living on Motu-roa Island. We passed through the uninhabited district of Waitara and came to Mokau—there we saw the face of man; the people residing there were Ngati-Mania-poto. When we arrived at Waikato, Christianity had greatly spread."

It will be noticed above that Te Kohu-wai, a high chief of Ngati-Mania-poto was killed before Waimate. Very shortly after the return of Te Wherowhero's taua, the celebrated warrior Tu-korehu, and Taonui, of the above tribe, made a raid with a small party into the Ngati-Rua-nui country to seek revenge for Te Kohu-wai's death. They fell on a small party of the local people, and there killed Piri-mai-waho—a Ngati-Rua-nui chief—and thus squared the account, and at the same time ended the Waikato raids into the Taranaki district for ever.

* Whangai-hau, "feeding the wind," is a ceremony performed over the first slain in battle. The hau is any part of a corpse which may be taken by the priest, over which to repeat incantations; it is therefore an offering to the gods who reside in the wind (hau meaning wind). J. White's Lectures, 1860.

All these sayings and doings of the taua would be learnt from the Taranaki prisoners after they escaped from Waikato, as we shall sec -I am quoting To Kahui here.