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