Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

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

The Siege of Miko-Tahi, Sugar-Loaf Islands. — 1833

The Siege of Miko-Tahi, Sugar-Loaf Islands.

In the beginning of this Chapter, the expedition of Ati-Awa to Motu-tawa at Mokau was described. At that place some of the Ngati-Mania-poto people fell to the prowess of the invaders, notably the chief Tikawe. According to Maori law, this death could not be passed over without notice, so Ngati-Mania-poto and some of the Waikato tribes determined on again visiting Nga-Motu (or the Sugar-loaf Islands), notwithstanding the defeat they had suffered at the siege of Otaka in 1831—see Chapter XVIII. In the meantime the news of the "Tama-te-uaua" migration, in which most of their late enemies had departed for Kapiti, reached the Waikato country; and this emboldened them to attack the few remaining people who were living in the neighbourhood of Nga-Motu. These people, page 498anticipating that revenge would be sought for Motu-tawa, and not being strong enough, after the departure of so many of the tribe for the south, to hold Otaka, removed to Miko-tahi—the half-tide island close to the foot of the present breakwater—which they fortified by strengthening the palisading, collecting provisions, and making arrangements for storing water, for there is no spring on this little island, nor could water be obtained within some distance on the main land. Ati-Awa had not in this case the advantage of the presence of the whalers who had so materially assisted them at the siege of Otaka, for they had all gone south with the great migration of the previous year, and (it is believed) had moved across the Straits to Te Awa-iti on Tory Channel—which, a few years later, became a whaling station of some importance.*

Although so many of Ati-Awa had departed for the south, a considerable number still remained living about Nga-Motu, under their chiefs Te Puke-ki-mahurangi (who mamed Tautara's daughter, and their daughter, Rawinia, married Richard Barrett), Tautara, Kāpūia-whariki, Waiaua (Rawiri), Katatore-te-waitere, Te Huia, Ngahuka (Piripi), Poharama, Te Kiri-kumara (Ihaia), and others. They numbered altogether, says Watene Taungatara, nearly three hundred people—men, women, and children; and must have been very closely packed in so small a space as is offered by the flat top of the island, even though some few of them occupied the pa on the summit of Paritutu. Plate No. 15 shows Miko-tahi with its perpendicular sand-stone cliffs and level top. Palisaded, it was impregnable; for a few determined men could hold it against a great number in the days when Maori weapons and old flint muskets were used. It is clear from the names of the chiefs mentioned above that there were people right away from Onaero to the Sugar-loaf Islands included within the garrison, and some of these people had returned home from Kapiti after the fail of Kaiapohia (near Christchurch), in 1831.

The Waikato taua was under the chiefs Te Wherowhero, Waharoa (of Ngati-Haua, Upper Thames), Hau-pokia, Tariki, Tao-nui (of Upper Mokau), Te Tihi-rahi (of Waipa), Te Pae-tahuna, Te Kanawa, Kaihau, (of Ngati-Te-Ata), and Tu-korehu (also of Waipa, Kawhia, etc.) The

* I have been unable to ascertain when Barrett's companions returned to their homes at Nga-Motu; but it is certain that they were not there in April, 1834, as we shall see. In fact, it seems probable that they did not again occupy Motu-roa until after the year 1840, though Barrett himself came back with Colonel Wakefield, and landed there in November, 1839.

In "Nga-Moteatea," page 106, will be found a song by this man; but it has, apparently, nothing to do with these events.

page 499latter, who was the celebrated warrior so often mentioned in this narrative, was an enormous man, distinguished (according to my informant) by a profusion of grey hairs hanging down from his chest like a garment. The taua occupied the point of land on which is now the Harbour light, opposite the island and the adjacent shores, and kept up a musketry fire on the pa, but with little or no result. The place was too strong to take by assault; so the invaders sat down to starve out the garrison. Watene Taungatara says they were a whole year before Miko-tahi was taken, but probably this is far too long a period. The garrison would have been starved into submission in no very long time had it not been for canoes from the Taranaki tribe to the south and also from Waitara to the north, which, taking advantage of calm weather and dark nights, managed from time to time to convey supplies to the garrison, the canoes landing on the rocks outside the island where musket balls could not reach them. In one of these canoes, a woman of Ati-Awa named Koro-pïkī—a daughter of Te Rangi-matoru, and married to a Kawhia man named Karu-whero—got away from the pa and proceeded to Kawhia to obtain assistance through her relatives for the purpose of mediating between the hostile parties.

Whilst she was absent, the siege went on; but the Waikato forces began to tire of it, for they met with no success, and provisions were getting scarce. They, therefore, made overtures of peace, which the garrison, now much reduced by hunger, agreed to consider, and towards that end admitted a few of the Waikato into the fortifications to discuss the matter. Whilst this was going on, the garrison detected what they considered signs of treachery in the emissaries, so turned on them and killed Te Aria and others—only one man named Te Heru escaping, which he did by jumping from the cliff into the sea, and then swam round to join his friends. One of the garrison named Whakapapa killed Kere of Ngati-Haua in this affair. Just at this juncture the party from Kawhia arrived, and Koro-pïkī, through her relationship to both sides secured a truce and took the garrison away to her camp. Here Waikato were most urgent to fall upon them and slay the whole party as utu for Te Aria; but Tu-korehu and his Ngati-Mania-poto party would not consent, and, indeed, prevented what might have been a massacre. Negotiations now proceeded, but I do not know the details beyond this, that several of the chiefs of the garrison were taken away to Kawhia by Koro-pïkī; amongst them the Puke-tapu hapu, besides Poharama, Te Waitere, Miti-kakau, Waiaua, Tamati Waka, Iharaira, Te Waitere, and Te Huia; and they appear to have become vassals, if not slaves, to some of the Waikato chiefs, and did page 500not return to their homes "until the days of Wairaweke," as my informant put it, i.e., "until Colonel Wakefield arranged to purchase all this coast in 1840."*

Those of the garrison who did not go to Kawhia, Waikato, etc., retired to Motu-roa Island, where they lived as best they could in the caves, rock-shelters, and in little huts built on any tiny spot that admitted of the erection of a roof, for many years to come, occasionally sojourning on the mainland to cultivate their little patches of kumaras, etc., etc.

The following incident in the career of Te Huia, mentioned above, during his sojourn in Waikato, is interesting as depicting the manners and customs of the times. It is taken from the Rev. James Hamlin's journal during his residence at Manga-pouri, on the Waipa river, the MS. of which was in the possession of the late Dr. Hoeken: "August 17th, 1836. Wednesday evening about nine o'clock, Kaihau came to tell me he expected a fight, and asked what he should do, whether or not he should commence making cartridges. I enquired into the case, and he then said it was on account of Te Huia (the head chief—sic—of Taranaki, but who had been routed and brought to Waikato as a slave) who had run away from his master after having witnessed the killing and eating of his daughter and her child at Otawhao, and he supposed he should share the same fate, and that his master had sent for him, but he would not go….." 18th August, "Te Huia's master came for him, and used both kind and rough words to him, as did the Manga-pouri chiefs. But Te Huia would not move, so fully persuaded was he that he would be killed….. The Manga-pouri chiefs were distantly related to Te Huia, or else he would have been dragged off by his master, who urged him again and again to go with him. But he replied, 'There are firewood and stones here' (meaning to roast him with) 'as well as at their place.' My feelings may be better imagined than described, for the natives here seem to think more of a pig than a slave….. After Te Huia's master had returned, Kaihau told me that Te Huia had been the means of saving the lives of as many as twenty of the head chiefs of Waikato at one time at Taranaki, and if he had said the word not one

* Colonel Wakefield mentions on his visit to Nga-Motu in February, 1840, that many of the returned slaves from Waikato were at that time passing through to their Taranaki homes.

Of the Ngati-Te-Ata tribe of Waiuku, Mauukau; grandfather of Henare Kaihau, M.P., which tribe was then in exile in the Ngati-Mania-poto country.

page 501would have escaped.* I said, 'Is this how he is served in return? Do you think they would have killed him if be bad returned?' Said they, 'No doubt they would; for he has just told us someone warned him that if he returned he would be killed.' 'Then,' said I, 'how could you have the heart to tell him to go in the manner you did?' He replied, 'What is that to us what that man does with his slave?' "

* Probably this was at Motu-tawa, as described in the early part of this Chapter.