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

Tiwai and Pomare

Tiwai and Pomare.

Arising out of the fighting just described was the following incident, which is very characteristic of Maori life in the old days: Tiwai was a brother of Pomare (one of the young chiefs of Ngati-Mutunga of Ati-Awa at that time, afterwards to become a leading man at the Chatham Islands, a nephew of Ngatata) and was killed at Hao-whenua. After his burial, the brothers of Pomare's wife (who was named Tawhiti, and was a daughter of Te Rau-paraha) dug up tho body find desecrated the grave. The perpetration of this indignity by his brothers-in-law so enraged Pomare that he abandoned his wife, sending her and the two younger children back to her people, while he rotained the eldest. At this time Pomare was about thirty years of ago, and a fine looking man. He had taken Hera Wai-taoro, tho daughter of Te Manu-tohe-roa (of Puke-tapu) as a wife. Topeora, sister of Kangi-haeata and aunt of Te Rau-paraha, the lady celebrated for her compositions referred to in Chapter XI., camo to see Pomare to try and heal the family quarrel, bringing with her Tawhiti, and two younger women—one of whom was another Topeora (afterwards married to Te Hiko-o-to-rangi, Pehi-Kupe's son) who was a daughter of Mokau, or Te Rangi-haeata—and offered them all to Pomare. The latter refused them with disdain, not looking at or speaking to them on account of the indignity offered to his brother's remains. Whereupon, the elder Topeora threw off the cloak round her shoulders, leaving only a very short mat round her waist, and commenced to pukana, or grimace, singing the following song:—

Aue taku tane! taku tane!
I kukume kau ai taku kaki, ka roa,
I kite pea te makau i tohoku,
Ka whai ngaio, ka putere te haere,
Whawhai, E Koeke! te teke
I whakapiria ki to ware-kauri
Ka hua ai i ara
E koro e takatiti
To hua o te inanga ki waho na
Ana! ka whatoro to arero-pipi kei waho.

page 523

The above was told to Mr. Shand and myself. Some time after, Mr. Shand sent me the following note:—"Tapu-Hirawana (a Moriori who knew much of the Ati-Awa history) recited to mo Pomare's lament —about 1843-4—when he went from the Chatham Islands to Wellington, and his former wife, Tawhiti, came to sec him. She fell on his neck lamenting most bitterly, whilst he was overcome by her affection after—it must have been—nine or ten years' separation. In her sorrow she cursed her people for the separation, and also her then husband who was really a rangatira, though she called him a mokai, saying he was not like her first husband Pomaro, who had always been kind to her and had nover maltreated her until the remains of Tiwai were desecrated. At that time Pomaro had buried some negro-head tobacco with Tiwai, and it was this that Tawhiti's brother dug up and smoked, in the Maori ideas, equivalent to eating the body. So Pomare, for a time, got the name of 'Nika-heti' (Nigger-head). The lament Pomare sung was that of a Ngati-Mania-poto chief for his wife who had been inveigled by her Ngati-Tama brother named Te Whare-kura (who died at the Chatham Islands) under the pretence of visiting him. When she did so, she was detained and given to another man of her own tribe."

The celebrated Topeora, according to Rangi-pito, was a short woman and (at that time) plain, with mahunga-pura, or short, crisp hair, not at all well favoured; her mental qualities and her birth alone made her celebrated. "Ko Topeora, ko te aha? Ka pa ho Nga-rewai, ko te tamahine o Te Ahuru"—("Topeora indeed! What of her? If it had been Nga-rewai, the beautiful daughter of To Ahuru, chief of Ngati-Apa! ") is a saying about this great lady, that enjoyed much favour about the time her tribe, Ngati-Toa, occupied Kapiti.

It was not long after the Ati-Awa removed to Port Nicholson, as stated a few pages back, that parties of them moved across the Straits to join their fellow tribesmen who had already settled there—see Chapter XVI.