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

Ngati-Rua-Nui Tribe

Ngati-Rua-Nui Tribe.

The Ngati-Rua-nui tribe bounded Taranaki on the south, commencing from Raoa, and extending along the coast line to Whenuakura, a distance of about thirty-four miles, where they met the boundary common to them and the Nga-Rauru tribe. Ngati-Rua-nui territories thus marched with Taranaki on the west, Ati-Awa and Ngati-Maru on the north, Whanganui on the north-east and Nga-Rauru on the south-east. It is a splendid district of coastal plains, one of the finest in New Zealand, with rough forest country inland, and everywhere well watered. The seashore is lined with cliffs about one hundred feet high, only broken by the outlet of numerous streams, and along the coast are many strongholds of ancient times, some of which will be referred to later on. The Patea is the largest stream of the district—named by Turi, Patea-nui-a-Turi—no doubt in memory of an ancient Patea in Tahiti. It is navigable for canoes for many miles, and had at one time immense eel weirs on its course, that supplied the people with an abundance of food,

The Ngati-Rua-nui, more than any other tribe, are the descendants of the crew of the "Aotea" canoe, for it was at the mouth of the Patea river that the people first settled on their arrival from Hawaiki. They spread from there in all directions; the Taranaki tribe on the north and the Nga-Rauru and Whanganui tribes on the south, all claiming to descent from those people. This tribe has also some vague traditions of other canoes, now said by them to have come hither from Hawaiki, bringing some of their ancestors, but it seems questionable if these vessels did not rather merely come from some other part of New Zealand, and hence so little notice of them is taken in the traditions. Some of these canoes were: "Motumotu-ahi," in which came Pua-tautahi, said to be an ancestor of Ngati-Rua-nui and Nga-Rauru; "Rangi-ua-mutu," under the command of Tamatea-rokai, which first landed at Te Ranga-tapu, a place that is probably in the Bay of Plenty, said to have brought some of the Ngati-Rua-nui, and also some of Ati-Awa, Again, the "Waka-ringaringa" canoe, under the command of Mawake-roa, landed near Kaupoko-nui at Ngateko, is said to have brought some of the ancestors of this tribe. The absence of more detailed information about these vessels and their commanders points either to the conclusion indicated above, or to the possibility of their having been some of the tangata-whenua canoes.

page 131

After Turi and his companions had settled down on the south bank of Patea, and apparently within a short time of Turi's death, a great division took place amongst his children, which led to very serious consequences, and, amongst others, originated the two tribes of Ngati-Eua-nui and Nga-Rauru, who were one people before that. This separation was due to a kanga, or curse, and as it illustrates Maori manners and customs, the story may find a place here.

To illustrate this, and preserve it for future reference, I quote a genealogy of the people living about that period, which was supplied by Hetaraka Tautahi, of Nuku-maru, a man about seventy-five to eighty years old, and one of the, if not the best, authorities on the history of the "Aotea" people. It differs somewhat from that given in Table No. 25, Chapter IV., and maybe the old man omitted one name (Rongotea-tai-marama, father of Turi). It is, at any rate, the most complete as to the relative positions of people who flourished just before and about the time of the heke that has yet been recorded.

Table No. XXXVIII.

Table No. XXXVIII.

Notes.—Rauru gives his name to Nga-Rauru tribe. Pou-matua, "his descendants are not known," say my informants. If I am right this is the ancestor of many Hawaiian chiefs, see ante Chapter V., p. So, therefore his descendants would not be known to the Maoris. Pahiwa, said by some to be the father of Turi's wife, Rongorongo-a-Pahiwa, but generally Toto is given as her father. Turi, captain of "Aotea." Tapukai—"he came to New Zealand in the 'Aotea' canoe. It was he page 132who removed a portion of Patea, named Rau-mano, which is still to be seen in the Middle Island, where also are his descendants." Te Atua-raunga-nuku—"his canoe was 'Tu-aro-paki.' We of Nga-Rauru are his descendants." Ratiti, daughter of Kauika, one of the priests of "Aotea."

Uenga-puanake,* shown above as the husband of Tane-roroa, and whose ancestors for twenty-two generations before him are shown in Table 4, Chapter II, was the father of Rua-nui who gave his name to this tribe, and so far as one may judge was a tangata-whenua, though it has also been said that he came here in the "Taki-timu" canoe. Uenga-puanake lived at Patea, where he had a pou, or post, named Tira-a-kaka, and his tree for snaring kaka was called Kura-whao, whilst his house was named Te Poroporo. According to one account, when the "Aotea" canoe was coming down the West Coast, she called in at Kaipara (but not at Manukau) which was then a very populous place. In accordance with Maori custom, Turi's daughter, Tane-ro-roa, was given to Uhenga-puanake, the son of the Kaipara chief, to wife. If this is correct, Uhenga-puanake and his wife must have come down to Patea eventually, for the great quarrel, in which both took a prominent part, took place at Patea. Another account I have gives a different account of this marriage: Ruatea (captain of "Kura-hau-po") had a son named Hou-nuku, whose son was Rau, and this latter as a young man was a companion of Uenga-puanake. Both of these young men aspired to the hand of Tane-roroa, Turi's daughter, who at that time was living on the south bank of the Patea river, where, in fact, her father and his people had first settled down. The two young men were on the north bank of the river, and came down with the intention of crossing, but there was no canoe available, so they decided to swim, but Rau could not swim—he was a parera-maunu (or moulting duck) so called. Uenga-puanake walked in and began to swim, though the water was really only up to his knees; this he did to deceive Rau, who had the chargrin to see his rival cross the river whilst he sat on the opposite bank. Tane-roroa was looking on, and decided that she would prefer the swimmer for a husband. Prom this marriage sprung Rua-nui, eponymous ancestor of Ngati-Raunui. This name, Rua-nui, is said to mean a Kumar a pit, or underground store house, and Ngapourua is also an ancient name for this tribe, having also a reference to Kumara pits.

The cause of the quarrel previously alluded to was as follows: When the child of Uenga-puanake and his wife Tane-roroa was about to be born, she expressed a desire for some flesh to eat. Under

* Uenga, should no doubt, be spelt Uhenga (identical with Ihenga), but these West Coast people arc much given to leaving out the "h,"

page 133similar circumstances, we have numerous instances in Maori history of the husband making special journeys to procure some particular delicacy in the way of food, generally birds of the forest, for his wife. In this case, the only flesh that could be obtained was dog's flesh, which was considered a delicacy in former times—the old native dog was a vegetable feeder—and apparently no one possessed dogs but Taneroroa's brother, Turanga-i-mua, the eldest son of Turi, and these dogs were of the stock brought by the latter from Hawaiki for food, and for their skins, which were made into handsome and valued cloaks. So Tane-roroa pursuaded her husband to go surreptitiously and kill one of her brother's dogs. He killed two, the names of which have been handed down to posterity—Papa-tua-kura and Mata-whare—and then the lady and her husband had a feast. Soon after Turanga-i-mua missed his favourites, and made diligent search and enquiry for them. He asked Tane-roroa if she had seen them, but she denied any knowledge of them. Turanga-i-mua was very much troubled about his dogs, and proceeded to recite incantations, etc., to find out what had become of them—for he was the ariki and chief priest of the tribe, as the eldest son of Turi. He soon discovered that his sister and her husband were the culprits, for on going to their house in the evening, the eructations due to the eating of dog's flesh were evident in those two people. The fact of the theft and the denial of it were now proclaimed abroad, and in consequence a great shame (at being found out) fell upon Tane-roroa and her husband. They were so humiliated that they felt they could no longer live in the same village that had been the scene of their disgrace.

They—no doubt with their people—moved across the Patea river, and there settled, three miles distant from the river along the coast, at a place named Whiti-kau, where they built their house named Kaikāpō, which has some fame in the tribal history. In after days, when Tane-roroa's children began to grow up, she said to them—"See yonder fires from which the smoke arises on the south bank of Patea! There dwell your elder relations; hei kai ma koutou a koutou tuatkana, your elder relatives shall be food for you"—which is a curse of the deepest die that could only be wiped out in blood.

Hence came the great division in these people, even so soon as the first generation after Turi their great progenitor. The offspring of Tane-roroa, Turi's daughter, and their descendants, remained: on the north side of Patea—as Ngati-Rua-nui—from that day to this, whilst the offspring of Turi's son, under the name of the Nga-Rauru tribe occupy the south side. This curse has operated from those days down page 134to the date of Christianity, for the two tribes have constantly been at war.

I have mentioned above the house Kai-kāpō, it was the whare-maire of this tribe, the temple in fact where the people assembled to discuss tribal affairs, and where teaching of the history, etc., took place. Near it was the spring named Rua-uru. When Sir Greo. Grey visited Patea during the war, in 1868, lie was taken by the people to see this celebrated place. The Rev. T. G. Hammond says of it: "A little further along the coast is the fishing station of the Ngati-Hine tribe (hapu) called Whiti-kau. Here there has been at one time a numerous people, as the locality is surrounded with Maori ovens. There may still be found some stone sinkers, and from time to time have come to light some of the finest stone axes known on this coast. Mr. James Fairweather, of Otarite, dug up one, which for size and quality of stone cannot be equalled. It is said to be a told tinana (an important axe), one of the three brought from Hawaiki, one other having been carried away by Ngati-Maru when they went north many years ago (i.e., under Hotu-nui, see ante). Not far from Whiti-kau stood, of old, the sacred house Kai-kāpō. Near by is a spring of water over which the priests contended, which contention led to the scattering of the people. The descendants of these people, as they journey up and down, turn aside even in these days to weep beside the spring." (Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. X., p. 196.)

There are but few references to the cause of this trouble at the Rua-uru spring, but one of my Maori informants says—"During the time the people dwelt at Whiti-kau, occurred a (further) division of the people, and this hapu went one way, that hapu another; the cause of this was due to the action of Ue-whatarau, who smashed the calabash named 'Tapotu-o-te-rangi' belonging to Rua-uri." No doubt this would be one of the elaborately ornamented calabashes used for drinking water. "The man who owned the house Kai-kāpō at that time was Rakei-matua, and Rua-uri, Ue-whatarau and other chiefs entered it"—apparently in some manner distasteful to the owner, which led to the trouble.

Kai-kāpō is often alluded to in poetry, For instance see "Nga-Moteatea," p. 153—where Turoa, of Upper Whanganui laments the death of To Kotuku-raoroa, killed at Patoka, 1842.

Moe mai e Pa! i roto Matangi-rei,
Ko te whare o Turi i u ai ki uta,
I hui katoa ano nga tauiwi nei ki roto
Taria e tukituki ki rofco Kai-kapo

Sleep on, O Sir! in Matangi-rei,
The house built by Turi on his arrival,
And where gathered the stranger tribes,
'Twas later that strife arose in Kai-kapo,

page 135

Mo Whakapapa-tuakura, mo Mata-whare-te-uia
Ka mau te pakanga c—i.

Originally caused by the killing of the dogs,
Of "Whakapapa-tuakura" and "Mata-whare-te-uia."

Here is another reference in a song composed—or more probably recited, for no doubt it is ancient—by Maruera-whakarewa-taua, about the sixties of the nineteenth century, in answer to a question by a stranger as to whether Titoko-waru (our enemy in the sixties) was of chiefly rank or not.

Tenei ka noho i roto te whare-nui—
I roto o Kai-kapo
Te Whare o Rakei-matua.
Tomo kau a Rua-uri,
A Ue-whatarau ki roto-o—
Whakatakune riri ai
Ka pakaru Tapotu-o-te-rangi-e-i
Ka waiho he take unuhanga mo nga iwi.
Haere atu Rua-uri ki runga o Wai-rarapa
Tutohungia iho kauaka Te Tini-o-Ue-whatarau
E whai ake i a ia,
Ma Tini-o-Rangi-hawe ia e whai ake.
Kaore i whakarongo.
Huna iho ana ki te umu-pakaroa na Rua-uri
Ka mate Tini-o-Ue-whatarau e-i.
Hua i huna ai, e ngaro te tangata,
E kore e ngaro i toku kuia —
I a Rongorongo-nui-a-Pahiwa
I tohia ai taku ingoa nei
Koia Rua-nui-a-Pokiwa
E toe nei ki te ao.

Let us then in imagination dwell,
Within the great house of Kai-kapo
That to Rakei-matua belonged.
There entered therein with unbecoming mien,
Both Rua-uri and Ue-whatarau,
Causing strife and anger to arise.
When "Tapotu-o-te-rangi," famed calabash, was smashed,
This, undying hatred caused,
And the withdrawing of the people from their common home.
For far Wai-rarapa, Rua-uri purposed to depart
Leaving command to Tini-o-Ue-whatarau not to follow.
But rather, if they so willed, might Tini-o-Rangi come.
page 136 They listened not, and thus
Were Tini-o-Ue-whatarau within
The long ovens of Rua-uri baked.
'Twas thought that this killing of men
Would destroy the tribes,
But never will the offspring of my great ancestress,
Of Rongorongo-nui-a-Pahiwa
From whence I take my name
Of Rua-nui-a-Pokiwa*
Be lost to this world of light.

The rest of this song is modern, and relates to Titoko-waru and the European War.

It is probable that we may be able to assign an approximate date to this second division of Turi's descendants alluded to in the above song and story of Kai-kāpō. By referring to Table 5, Chapter II., we shall find the name Rua-uri, (one of those who caused the trouble at Kai-kāpō) who is there shown to have been the son of Tamatoa-kurumai-i-te-uru-o-Tawhiti-nui, a man who visited Turi at Patea, and as my informant adds, is identical with Tamatea-pokai-whenua—which I doubt. At any rate, this man with the long name (what a burden it must have been to carry about!) having been a contemporary of Turi's, and his son Rua-uri—probably then a man of mature age—being an active agent in the disturbance, we may fix the date at somewhere about the year 1400.

Among the folk lore of the Ngati-Rua-nui are to be found many strange stories denoting the "culture-plane" in which the Maori people lived down to the introduction of Christianity. Many of these can be traced back to the old world; but, as so frequently happens, the stories have become localized, and the deeds accredited to well known ancestors of the people. Prominent in this class of story is the belief of the people in the powers of their Tohungas, by aid of Karakia, or incantation, to remove hills, lakes, portions of land, etc. Even so simple a thing as a landslid is usually accredited to the action of some taniwha, or fabulous monster, inhabiting the sea, the rivers, or the earth itself. In the portion of this chapter devoted to Ngati-Tama, a description of the removal of the Pou-tama reef from near Cape Egmont to the Pou-tama district was given. The people of Patea have their own story of a somewhat similar nature. It is thus told by Mr. Hammond in his

* Pokiwa was the name of an ancestor, And in former times the Ngu-Rauru tribe was known by this name.

page 137paper "Tai-tuauru" (Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. X., p. 106); but I can add to that, that the name of the man whose powerful Karakia effected the transportation of this land, was Tapu-kai, who came to New Zealand in the "Aotea" canoe (circa 1350), and whose descendants, say my informants, are to be found in the Middle Island.

Rau-mano is a place a little seaward of the Patea Railway Station. Mr. Hammond says: "The men of Rau-mano had gone out to sea on a fishing expedition. Among those left at home were two little boys who amused themselves flying a kite. They at length disagreed, and one said to the other, 'You are a person of no importance; your father has to go in my father's canoe to catch fish.' The little fellow so addressed was much offended, but nursed his anger until his father's return, and then told him what had been said to him. The father determined to be revenged; so when all were sleeping soundly, he repeated incantations, thereby causing the land upon which this boy and his relations slept, who had insulted his son, to part from the main land, and float down the river and out to sea, and over to the West Coast of the South Island, causing those parts to be peopled. It is remarkable that without any communication the two peoples" (i.e. I suppose those of the South Island and of Patea is meant) "should have retained, in song, the memory of such an event. These wonderful tales served to keep alive some simple fact that only the initiated knew how to strip of the marvellous."

Without being one of the "initiated," I would nevertheless offer a simple explanation of this story: It would soon get about that Tapu-kai was determined to avenge the insult to his child, and that he would do it by makutu, or witchcraft, in which all Maoris had the most profound belief. The offending family, knowing that their doom was fixed, simply slipped off at night in their canoe, crossed the Strait, and settled in the South or Middle Island. Soon afterwards a landslip occurred, and buried the site of the village, and extended into the river—for this country is much given to landslips. After ages impute to Tapu-kai's Karakias the fact of the landslip having occurred, and of the people having travelled on it to the other island.

My informants tell me that Stephen's Island, at the north-east end of D'Urvilles Island, represents at this day the Rau-mano removed from Patea, and that Tapu-kai's people killed the offending boy, leading to great troubles. I feel sure the above story refers to an early migration of some of the Patea people to the South Island, which must have occurred somewhere at the end of the fourteenth century.

To quote again from Mr. Hammond (loc cil p.197): "A short distance from Whare-paia (a place on Mr. Pearce's farm, a little to the page 138north-west of Kakaramea Railway Station) is Turangarere on Mr. Ball's property. From this place a beacon fire (bale-fire) could be seen far away north and south, and such fires were lighted to intimate the coming of war-parties, or to summon the tribes to defence, or the discussion of impending trouble … At the foot of the hill runs a clear stream named Mangaroa, and where this stream turns in its course, the Tohungas devined the omens by watching the course sticks would take in the current, and advised the warriors accordingly…..' Mr. Hammond gives me this further information as to the origin of the name Turanga-rere: "When any great event occurred amongst the local tribes, there was one place above all others where the principal chiefs summoned the people to meet them; and from the fact of such place being named in the summons, everyone knew that the affair was of great importance. When the people had assembled, the priest went outside the marae of the pa and cast the niu, or divination sticks, in order to foretell the success or otherwise of the proposed course of action. Whilst this was going on, the warriors assembled in the marae according to their various hapus, all sitting in their ranga, or ranks. So soon as the priest announced the probable success of the enterprise, all stood up in their ranks, and as they did so, the plumes ou their heads would wave, or rere—hence the name, turanga, the standing, rare to wave, or float." Mr. Hammond goes on to give a modern instance of this custom: "A man came from Wai-totara to one of the villages of Patea where a meeting had been called on account of the death of a woman at Wai-totara, through a beating administered by her husband. One of the Patea people—a Tohunga—said to the visitor, "Mehemea ko te tikanga o mua, ka kanikani taua i Twanga-rere," Had the old customs been in force, you and I would have danced at Turanga-rere."

In Turoa's lament, a part of which I quoted a few pages back, occurs the following lines referring to the above place and custom:

E tika ana koe i te ara kai riri,
I runga Turanga-rere,
Mo te Rangi-hau-ora

Thou goest direct on the path of war,
Above there at Turanga-rere.
On account of Rangi-hau-ora.

The Hapus of Ngati-Rua-nui are:—


* It is questionable if the Pakakohi was originally a Ngati-Rua-nui hapu, for I learned through Judge Gudgeon, in 1893, that the people of Port Awanui maintain that the ancestors of Pakakohi migrated from Wai-pari, near Wai-piro, (fifty miles north of Gisbornc) after the great fight with Pakanui at To Mara-hutihuti, and Ngati-Forou say that Nga-waka-tauma (of Pakakohi) admitted this to be true. If so, they have only been at Patca since about 1650; but they have so intermarried with Ngati-Rua-nui that they may now be looked on as the same people. This shows, however, how much the tribes have become mixed, and illustrates the many migrations that have taken place.