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

Te Rau-o-Te-Rangi's Swim

page 535

Te Rau-o-Te-Rangi's Swim.

This old enmity of tribe against tribe is well illustrated by the following incident, which occurred soon after the battle of Wai-o-rua in 1824. Living with Ngati-Toa on Kapiti Island were some of the Ngati-Mutunga people (of Ure-nui, North Taranaki), who, whilst connected with some members of Ngati-Toa, had often been opposed to them. It will be remembered that when Te Rau-paraha migrated from Kawhia in 1822, it was Ngati-Mutunga that gave him and his people a home for the time, and bore a conspicuous part in assisting him to defeat Waikato in the great battle of Te Motu-nui (see Chapter XIV.) One of these Ngati-Mutunga was a chief of some importance, named To Matoha, who had taken part in the battle of Te Motu-nui; indeed, had been instrumental in the deaths of the Waikato chiefs Te Hiakai and Mama, and in consequence his family incurred the ill-will of the Waikato tribes, who would have been only too ready to utilise the first opportunity of wreaking their vengeance on him or his family. It will be remembered that in that great battle, although Ngati-Toa were doing their utmost with the powerful aid of Ngati-Mutunga to defeat Waikato, they had many relatives amongst the latter tribe.

At this time Te Matoha's daughter Te Rau-o-te-rangi was living at Kapiti, when there arrived rumours of a Waikato war-party on their way to attack the island to secure some revenge for their defeat at Te Motu-nui. Te Rau-o-te-rangi's slave dreamed one night that the Waikato would succeed in killing her mistress; so the latter remained on her guard, and with the intention of leaving the island at the first opportunity. One evening the slave saw some canoes approaching; so Te Rau-o-te-rangi, taking her little daughter Ripeka on her back, went down to the water to swim across to the mainland and join her relatives there. She was first (says her daughter) submitted to the ritual observances of the old-time Maori, and all the necessary karakias repeated to ensure success in her undertaking, and to secure immunity from the dangers of the sea, such as sharks, taniwhas, etc. She would not take a canoe for fear it should be seen by the enemy; so started away with her little daughter on her back on her long swim, and battled against the waves with a brave heart, and finally succeeded in crossing the Straits, which at the narrowest part is over four miles wide, and where she landed at Te Uruhi (two miles south of Wai-kanae, near where a white man named Jenkins had his home) is somewhat more. Here she stayed until her husband (who was also a white man, then absent at Cloudy Bay) returned.

Much has been made of Hinemoa's swim to Mokoia Island, Rotorua, page 536but considering the rough waters and the danger from sharks, etc., Te Rau-o-te-rangi's swim was a much greater undertaking.

Te Matoha's uncle (Te Ra-ka-herea) married Waitohi, sister of Te Rau-paraha, and consequently, according to Maori custom, Te Rau-paraha was a great-uncle to Te Rau-o-te-rangi, who made this daring swim.