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

The "Kura-Haupo" Canoe

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The "Kura-Haupo" Canoe.

The third of the vessels, the crews of which have left numerous descendants amongst the Taranaki tribes, was "Kura-haupo," and luckily in this case, thanks to my friends of the Taranaki tribe, we have much more precise information about this vessel and her crew. She left the west coast of Tahiti with the rest of the fleet, about the year 1350, but history does not, in her case, as in many others, tell us of the immediate cause of her crew migrating. No doubt they were involved in the many quarrels existing at that time, and partook also of the desire to see the new land which had been reported as lying far to the South-west. The Taranaki tribe hold that Te Mounga-roa was the captain of the canoe, whilst Ngati-Apa, of Rangitikei, say that one named Ruatea was the principal man on board. We cannot decide this question, nor is it of much consequence. They have both left plenty of descendants now living in New Zealand. Before leaving, Te Mounga-roa had secured some treasure, called by the Maoris a kura: but what this was, my endeavours have failed to elicit, any more than that it was connected with a high branch of their system of karakia (or incantations, invocations—religion in fact), and it does not appear to have been a material object. Some old Maoris seem to think it was "the tree of life," or "Philosopher's stone," (so described by my informant), but that does not help us much. It was something that Te Mounga-roa sought and obtained in the realms of the Po, or the nebulous obscurity of the past, and was much coveted by the learned men of the other canoes. Possibly we may best define it as the esoteric knowledge of ancient beliefs and history.

The "Kura-hau-po" called in at Rarotonga with the other vessels, for her name is preserved there amongst the vessels of the fleet; and then came on to Rangi-tahua Island, where the "Aotea" had already arrived, and with her, or shortly after came the "Mata-tua," and probably the "Tainui," "Te Arawa" and "Tokomaru," but of these latter three, we have only inference, to support the belief that they were there. Probably these canoes landed on the north coast of the island (which no doubt is Sunday Island) where there is a sandy beach, fairly sheltered during southerly and westerly winds, and from which the shore rises some fifty feet to a level or undulating terrace, composed of rich soil, about a mile long and a fourth of that in width. Here the canoes were repaired, and their top-sides lashed afresh, for after their long run from Rarotonga, these had become loosened by the leverage of sail and paddle. Heartily glad would the voyagers be to stretch their limbs after the cramped positions and confined space they would be limited to on board, even if, as is probable, the vessels were built on the model of the page 101pahi, with a deck between the two hulls, and probably a cabin on that deck. On the terrace alluded to above, are to be found a few specimens of the candle-nut tree of Polynesia; they are about sixty feet high, and three feet in diameter. It is an interesting question as to whether the fleet of canoes did not bring the seed with them, and plant or drop them there. The nuts being full of oil are used by the Polynesians as lights, by stringing them on a fine stick, or midrib of the coconut palm, and then setting light to them. And it was probably the crew of the canoes that left the stone axes discovered there a few years since.

After repairing the vessels, and making the usual sacrifices to their gods to ensure the continuation of a prosperous voyage, the fleet prepared to depart. All appear to have got off safely except "Kura-haupo" which, in paddling off through the surf, got seriously damaged, in fact the accounts say, broken up.

The name given to this place in consequence was Te Rere-a-Kurahaupo, or the flight or descent of "Kura-haupo." On ascertaining that the vessel was unfit to proceed on her voyage she was—according to Taranaki accounts—abandoned, and her cargo and crew transhipped to the "Mata-tua," though it would also appear that a few of them came on in the "Aotea." It is highly probable, though not so stated in the tradition, that some of the crew remained at the island with the intention of repairing the broken canoe and continuing their voyage in her. But the remainder came to New Zealand in the "Mata-tua," and landed somewhere on the East Coast—where exactly is not known. Judge Wilson says four of the canoes, including "Mata-tua," all met at Great Mercury Island in the Bay of Plenty, and here probably occurred the scene between Te Mounga-roa and some of the chiefs of the other canoes, in which he accused them of having used their powers of witchcraft to wreck the "Kura-haupo"; and when he boasts that, notwithstanding their evil intentions, he had succeeded in bringing with him the precious kura, much to their chagrin. The "Mata-tua" crew were all relatives of the people of "Kura-haupo," and hence were they brought on by the former, says my informant, and the name "Broken-canoe" is born by some of the people of Taranaki to this day, in remembrance of the catastrophy to "Kura-haupo." Te Moungaroa set up a tuahu (or altar) near where they landed in New Zealand to offer the usual thanksgiving, and whereat to recite the necessary karakias to remove all evil effects that might afflict them in the new land, and after that, finding that all the lands in those parts were already appropriated, he with Turu-rangi-marie, Tu-kapua and Akurama-tapu, with their people, travelled along by the East Coast, and up the shores of Cook's Straits, finally settling down in the Taranaki page 102country at Wairau stream, near Capt. Mace's present homestead, in the neighbourhood of Oakura. But Akurama-tapu and Tu-kapua after a time returned to the East Coast, and there settled down.

So far the Taranaki account; but others state that "Kura-haupo" actually came to New Zealand, and this seems probably true; for we cannot neglect certain traditions about the vessel, gathered from various parts of the North Island. It is probably the case that some of the crew remained behind at Rangi-tahua Island, and succeeded in repairing the damages caused at the time the other vessels of the fleet left. Under Ruatea the canoe now succeeded in making the coast of New Zealand, near the North Cape—where, as we shall see, she left part of her crew—and coasting down the East Coast from there, called in at various places no doubt, but the only ones recorded are near Table Cape, when she left an anchor, said to be there now, then to Mohaka in Hawke's Bay; then to a place a little to the south of Matau-a-Maui, (Cape Kidnappers) where, it is said some of the crew remained, and who were afterwards driven out by Ngati-Kahu-ngunu, and migrated to the South Island, and are known as Ngati-Mamoe. Next, some of her crew, with Ruatea, were landed and settled somewhere in Cook's Straits, and furnished some of the ancestors of the Ngati-Apa tribe of Rangi-tikei; probably Kupakupa was one of these—an ancestor of the Wairarapa people, though he died in the South Island, and Awaawa-wetewete-tapiki, a common ancestor of Ngati-Kuia and Rangi-tane. We next find this canoe settling the country of the sounds, north end of the South Island, under Koanga-umu and his wife Wainui-a-ono, who were the ancestors of the Ngati-Kuia tribe of Pelorus. One account says she came down the East Coast in company with the "Takitumu" canoe, which latter went on by the East Coast of the South Island to Moeraki, whilst "Kura-haupo" went to the West Coast, and finally remained at the Mawhera or Grey River, or as another and more probable account says, at Te Taitapu, Golden Bay, South Island.

To go back to the first arrival of this vessel at or near the North Cape. The Au-pouri and Rarawa tribes claim that some of them descend from the crew of "Kura-hau-po," and they specially name Po who came in her and who is one of the ancestors of Te Patu, and Ngati-Kuri, hapus of Te Rarawa tribe. The account states that the "Mamari" canoe arrived first at Hokianga, followed by "Kura-haupo," and that the crews of these vessels intermarried with the original inhabitants, thereby leading to wars and troubles. It is interesting to note that the same account gives twenty-one generations of the original people down to the time of arrival of the fleet, which agrees with the statements in Chapter I.

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It will be seen from what has now been said as to "Kura-haupo," that this vessel has contributed largely to the present inhabitants of New Zealand, and that her crew became more dispersed than that of any other canoe. Wherever they landed they mixed with the original people, and their descendants soon became the leaders and rulers over them.

We can enumerate a good many people that came over in "Kurahaupo" (the name of which vessel, by the way, was "Tarai-po" at one time before she left Hawaiki—possibly named after a famous exploring canoe used by Maori and Rarotonga ancestors some centuries prior to the heke). From the Taranaki tribe we get the following names:—
Te Mounga-roaArai-pawaTe Rangi-awhia
Turu-rangi-marieHatauiraTo Rangi-tutu
Akurama-tapuTe Rangi-tuhi-aoToka-uri
Tamatea-ki-te-aro-a-ukiKere-papaka (Te Mounga-roa's son)

Seventeen names in all as remembered, but there were thirty-five people known to have settled on the Taranaki coast. Toko-poto was the ancestor of Ngati-Haupoto hapu of Rahotu; Toka-tara was the ancestor of Potiki-roa, of whom see infra. And the Oa-kura river, eight miles south of New Plymouth, received its name from the fact of the redness (kura) of the soles of Akurama-tapu's feet when running there, and the Tapuae-haruru river, seven miles south of New Plymouth, was named from the "resounding footsteps" of the same man.

In addition to the above we have from other accounts the following names of persons who came on in the canoe after she was repaired:—

Ruatea, of Ngati-Apa, Po (or Pou), of the Rarawa, Koanga-umu, Wainui-a-ono, Awaawa and Kupakupa of Ngati-Kuia, etc.

Making forty-one in all. But of course there were many more, for we do not know the names of those who settled at Cape Kidnappers, Te Taitapu, etc.

Table No. 32, of the descent from Te Mounga-roa, reputed captain of "Kura-haupo," is recited by the Taranaki people.