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

Te Ruaki. — 1834

Te Ruaki.

This old pa is situated on the Whareroa Native Reserve, immediately south of the junction of the Mangimangi stream with that of Tangahoe, three miles E.N.E. of the town of Hawera. It is still in good preservation, and excepting here and there where the cattle have trodden paths up the terraces, the ramparts are intact. It is a large pa, capable of holding several hundred people. On the north side, and leading from the ramparts down to the Tangahoe stream, is a deep fosse with high embankments on either side, which in former times have evidently been palisaded. This was the covered way down to the water-supply of the pa, and is noticeable because of the rarety of such provision generally in Maori fortifications. Another peculiarity of this pa is the sloping ground to the west, which is fortified, and was evidently a modern addition to the main and more ancient part, due to the fear that this part should be occupied by an enemy possessed of muskets, who could from there command the main position.

Not far from Te Ruaki is another old pa, named Ohangai, which, when I stayed there in 1858, was fully fortified in the old-fashioned way with ramparts, fosse, etc., besides being palisaded with great posts, many of them carved in the usual manner with grotesque heads. A large number of people were then living there, who kept the place beautifully clean and neat. It was surrounded by karaka groves, many of which trees grew in the pa itself and furnished a grateful shade. The views from the pa, where the groves of wood admitted were picturesque and charming in a high degree; and never, in the extensive course of my travels, which have taken me to every corner of New Zealand, did I ever behold so charming a site, or so complete and beautiful an example of an old-fashioned pa. Gillfillan's beautiful picture of the Putiki pa, Whanga-nui, is very like this place as it page 507was in 1858. It may be added that this picture is the best graphic representation of Maori old-time life that has appeared.

But to return to Te Ruaki. The bitterness of Waikato against Ngati-Rua-nui was principally due to the loss of some of their people through the latter tribe, when they came down at the instance of the Nga-Motu Ati-Awa to assist them to avenge the death of Te Karawa, as described in Chapter XV. To this, their late defeat at Te Namu added another take, or reason. So, not long after the return from Te Namu, Waikato again assembled and started for Taranaki under the chiefs Te Wherowhero, Pae-tahuua, Te Kanawa (of Waikato), Waharoa (of Ngati-Haua), Te Kohu-wai and Ti-kaokao (of Ngati-Mania-poto), and others—numbering altogether some twenty-five hundred men. Their avowed intention was to capture or kill Te Rei-Hana-taua, principal chief of Ngati-Rua-nui, who then lived at Te Ruaki pa. The Waikato forces came down by the old war-trail known as Whakaahu-rangi, inland of Mount Egmont, and soon after they got into the open country near Kete-marae they fell across some of Ngati-Rua-nui, and with that extraordinary delight of foolish boasting so often noticed in the Maori, one of the advance guard of Waikato called out, "We have come to fetch Te Hana-taua!"—which of course alarmed the local people, who flew to Te Ruaki and gave the alarm there, whilst another man departed for Orangi-tua-peka to warn those under Mata-katea to be on the alert; and then the taua advanced on Te Ruaki—which was only about three miles away, and where a large number of Ngati-Rua-nui had assembled under Te Hana-taua and Tikitiki—but it is said the majority of the tribe were away at the time. An assault was at once made on the pa at break of day. During this assault Te Hana-taua shouted out to the advancing host, "Whose is this army? Is it Te Wherowhero's?" One of Waikato replied, " Presently thy head shall be food for our guns!" Te Hana-taua replied, " It is well, O people! Tread on your peace-making!"—in which he referred to the doings after the siege of Te Namu, in which Kaihau had stated that they would not return to trouble Taranaki.* After this Te Hana-taua returned within the pa, and the enemy at once commenced firing into it, whilst the bravest rushed up to the palisades and tried to effect an entry. But they were repulsed with heavy loss. Waikato, seeing that assaulting the pa was useless, now proceeded to starve the garrison into submission. They went to the trouble of building a palisade all round outside the pa, so that no one might escape, and kept careful guard all the time, knowing

* One aocouut I have accredits Mata-katea with this conversation, who, says the same story, had come from Orangi-tua-peka to the assistance of Te Hana-taua.

page 508full well that the provisions must fail in the end. During this siege an incident occurred which is very characteristic of Maori life in the old days: Within the pa was a man named Nga-Motu who was related to some of the besiegers, who desired to save his life; so he was karangatia, or called by name, and told to come out, when his life would be spared. But, mistrusting Waikato, he replied that he preferred to remain with his Ngati-Rua-nui relatives, and, if necessary, die with them.

So the siege continued until Ngati-Rua-nui were reduced to straits for want of sustenance. Three months—the Native accounts say—did they hold out, and then one of the Waikato chiefs, Tikaokao of Mokau, was admitted to the pa to discuss terms of surrender. Some of Ngati-Rua-nui proposed to kill the emissary.* This was not agreed to by the others, but when the surrender of the pa took place shortly after, it led to the killing of some of those who had entertained the treacherous design. The rest of the principal people of the pa were taken as prisoners, and amongst them their high chief Te Rei-Hana-taua. It was principally the Tangahoe division of Ngati-Rua-nui who suffered in this affair.

It is said by one of my informants that Te Hana-taua was not taken at Te Ruaki, but after the pa fell Waikato raided into that part of Patea occupied by the Paka-kohi hapu of Ngati-Rua-nui, when, in an engagement, he and others were captured. After these events Waikato moved off to try conclusions again with Mata-katea, who then occupied Waimate pa.

The following is the lament composed by Waikato and sung for those of their tribe who fell at Te Ruaki. It was obtained from the well-known Waikato chief Honana Te Maioha in 1895:—

Tera ia te pae-whenua
He ata ka marama,
E mihi ana au—e—.
Ki te kino kainga i raro i nga muri
Ma Tama na Tu—e—,
Hurihurihia iho ra
Te kiri o te makau—u—
Kia hongi atu au—e—i,
He kakara ka ruru,
Te kakara o te ipo,

* One account says he was killed, but I saw the man at Upper Mokau in 1858, then of a considerable age.

Te Hana-taua had a son named Tai-te-ariki, who, says my informant, was named after the son of Whiro—an ancestor who lived in Hawaiki, shown on Table XVI. Chapter III., hereof—from whom he descended, as do the Ngati-Tangiia tribe of Rarotonga.

page 509 Te rangi e tu, te papa e takoto,
Nau mai e haere,
E tae ki raro ra,
E uia mai koe, ka hinga to rahui,
He aha i hinga ai?
Mo nga korero whakataki rau,
I runga o Tawhiti, he moenga rangatira,
E whai ana ahau—e—i,
Te mata o Tuhua, kia haehae au—e—i,
Mo koutou ra e haupu mai ra,
Te wetekia atu, tau o "Te Awhiowhio"—
Te "ika o Ngahue," he ika hu atu.
Mo koutou ki te po na—e—i.

On the bounding line of vision,
The clear light of dawn appears,
Whilst I in sorrow here lament,
For deeds done in that ill-favoured land.
'Twas there the sons of the war-god Tu
Were overwhelmed and slain.
Handsome was my loved one;
Oh! that I could now salute him,
And feel the sweetness that was his.
The fragrance of my lover
Was of the heaven above and earth below.
Welcome then, and now depart,
And when thy spirit roaches the north,
Thou wilt be asked, "Have the noble ones fallen?
And what was the cause that laid them low?"
(Thou ahalt reply),
" 'Twas the many urgent incitations
Beyond there at Tawhiti1 stream,
The death-bed of the chiefs."

And, now, alas, I seek
Obsedian of Tuhua, my flesh to score
In sorrow for ye all, that there in heaps do lie.
Why didst thou not unloose
The wrist-band of "Te Awhiowhio?2
The "fish of Ngahue," the weapons that
Caused ye all to death to descend.


Tawhiti stream flows near Te Ruaki pa.

2 Is probably the name of a mere, called in the next line "the fish of Ngahue"—an emblematical name for the greenstone, often aaid to be a fish.