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

The Ohariu Massacre. — 1835

The Ohariu Massacre.

The above massacre occurred about the year 1835, but it is difficult to fix the date exactly. The causes leading up to it were these: It will be remembered that the Mua-upoko people had treacherously killed several of Te Rau-paraha's children in 1822 at Papa-i-tonga (see Chapter XV.) Although abundant utu had been taken for these deaths, and the unfortunate tribe almost exterminated, the wily old chief still bore them bitter animosity; indeed, but for Te Whata-nui, probably none of them would at this time have remained alive. Ohariu is a little bay directly west of the city of Wellington, on the shores of Cook's Straits. At that time it was occupied by some of the Ati-Awa, Ngati-Tama, etc.; all of whom, however, shortly after this time, moved over to Port Nicholson and resided at Rau-rimu—a village that was situated just at the junction of Molesworth and Murphy Streets, Wellington. During their occupation of Ohariu, the noted Whanganui chiefs Te Mamaku and Pehi-Turoa, with some of their people, also resided there. But they could not have been present at the massacre.

I quote from Mr. Travers* the account of the massacre as my notes are deficient. "But it is clear, nevertheless, that although Te Rauparaha refrained from directly molesting them (Mua-upoko) he was not unwilling to join in any indirect attempt to exterminate them, for we find on one occasion Wi Tako (of Ati-Awa) in conjunction with some of the Ngati-Toa chiefs—having been instigated by Te Rau-paraha to do so—invited the whole of Mua-upoko to a great feast to be held at Ohariu; upon some one of the numerous pretexts which the Maoris know so well how to use for engaging in festivities, it having been arranged beforehand that the guests should all be murdered and eaten. The bait took, notwithstanding the advice of Te Whata-nui, who, distrusting the reasons assigned for the festival, cautioned the Mua-upoko not to attend, predicting some disaster to them. Notwithstanding this caution, upwards of one hundred and fifty attended the festival, all of whom were slaughtered and their bodies page 537duly consigned to the ovens; but this was the last great slaughter of the kind that took place."

Ngati-Tama was the tribe that took the most prominent part in this affair, and their head chief Te Puoho (whom we shall shortly have to deal with more particularly) was present. Though no doubt taking a principal part in the massacre, it is related of him that he endeavoured to save a number of unfortunate Mua-upoko, some of whom were related to his latest wife, who belonged to Mua-upoko. As a matter of fact he saved her brother Nga-whakawa, whose wonderful journey will be alluded to later on. Many of these murdered people were relatives of the celebrated Whanganui chief, Major Kēpa Te Rangi-hiwi-nui, our loyal ally in the Maori war, and whose mother was a Mua-upoko woman.

* Loc. cit., p. 88.