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

Location of the Tribes at the End of 1834

Location of the Tribes at the End of 1834.

Our story has now reached a point which carries us away from Taranaki, properly so-called, for the wars of the first thirty years of the nineteenth century had left the whole of the country extending from Mokau river on the north to Patea river on the south practically without inhabitants. At the end of 1834 there were a few of the Ati-Awa people still refuging on the Sugar-loaf islands, and on Paritutu mount, a small number of the Taranaki tribe under their chief Mata-katea were still in the neighbourhood of Waimate, with a few of the Ngati-Rua-nui tribe scattered about their large territory in isolated forest villages. But this large district, a few years previously the most thickly inhabited of any part of New Zealand, was now practically without inhabitants. The bulk of the people were gathered towards the south end of the North Island, from Manawatu to Port Nicholson, whilst others of the Taranaki people were in slavery amongst the Waikato and other northern tribes. Many of the West Coast tribes had crossed Cook's Straits and settled at Queen Charlotte Sound, D'Urville Island, Nelson, and the West Coast of Tasman Bay. Ngati-Toa, under their redoubtable chief Te Rau-paraha, still held Kapiti Island as a stronghold, with some of his people living on the opposite mainland, having for their neighbours and allies the powerful tribe of Ngati-Rau-kawa, which by this time held the country from Manawatu to Otaki, under their principal chief Te Whata-nui (or Tohe-a-Pare, which was his other name). Nearly the whole of this tribe had abandoned their homes around Maunga-tautari in the Waikato country and had come south to join Te Rau-paraha. South page 534of Otaki were large numbers of Ngati-Rua-nui and Ati-Awa,* and the latter tribe also occupied Port Nicholson together with some of the Taranaki tribe. Here, also, were many of the Ngati-Taina of Poutama, the bulk of whom, not very long after the defeat of Ngati-Kahungunu at Pehi-katia in 1830-31, had abandoned Wai-rarapa and returned to Port Nicholson, their Ati-Awa allies following them early in 1835, whilst some of the tribe were living at Tai-tapu, on the west side of Tasman Bay, with part of the Ngati-Mutunga and other Ati-Awa tribes.

The original owners of the country now occupied by these migrant tribes had almost disappeared before the exterminating policy of Te Rau-paraha, in which he was seconded by his allies from Taranaki and Maunga-tautari. The Rangi-tane were in "Wai-rarapa and the sounds of the South Island; Mua-upoko were living in the Tararua mountains, or refuging with Rangi-tane, whilst a few were still under the protecting care of Te Whata-nui of Ngati-Rau-kawa, who appears in this age of utter barbarism to have been one of the few great chiefs in whom some spark of humanity remained as a redeeming feature. The Ngati-Ira of Port Nicholson were practically extinct, as were the tribes formerly owning Tasman Bay and the north coasts of the South Island.

Nor did these migrant tribes live a very peaceable life among themselves; there being constant outbreaks, quarrels, and troubles. Old tribal enmities came to the surface every now and then and led to blows and constant ill-feeling, keeping the country in a turmoil. The tribes were in a constant state of restlessness engendered by their wanderings and the abandonment of their ancient homes, and were ready at any moment to accept new ideas of conquest and migration. Hence we learn (from Mr. Shand) that the Ati-Awa of Port Nicholson, having heard of the Navigator Islands through some one of their people who had been on a whaling voyage, were seriously discussing the means of obtaining a ship and proceeding thither to the conquest and occupation of that group. Had they succeeded in their project, my belief is that, with their training, and fully armed with muskets as they were by this time, they would have conquered the group, notwithstanding the fine fellows the Samoans are. But this idea was changed for another, which they carried into effect, as we shall shortly see.

* As late as 1893 the following hapus of Ati-Awa had representatives still living at Wai-kanae, near Otaki:—Ngati-Rahiri, Manu-korihi, Ngati-Uenuku, Ngati-Tuahu, Kai-tangata, and Otaraua; some Taranaki and a few Ngati-Maru at Whareroa—near Parapara-umu.