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

Nga-Rauru Tribe

page 141

Nga-Rauru Tribe.

The tribes already described, all inhabited the Province of Taranaki—excepting the few Tai-nui tribes alluded to in the beginning of Chapter VII. We now come to those living in the Province of Wellington, about whose boundaries there is much less information available. Many of them, however, spring from the same sources as we have dealt with, and particularly Nga-Rauru. The boundaries of this tribe on the north-west was the Whenua-kura river, which was common to them and Ngati-Rua-nui. Their coastal frontage extended from the above river to about the Kai-iwi stream,* a distance of about twenty-three miles, where they were joined by the Ngati-Hau, one of the series of tribes known under the name of Whanga-nui. This same tribe bounded them also on the east and north-east, until the boundary closed on to Ngati-Eua-nui again, somewhere on the upper waters of the Whenua-kura. The Wai-totara river runs through the middle of this territory, and is navigable for canoes for many miles, thus affording the tribe an easy means of retreat, in case of invasion, to the wooded hills in the interior, and as it was formerly full of large eel weirs, was a great source of food supply. The coast line is low, and generally occupied by sand-hills, inland of which is a very fertile undulating country, which, at about six or seven miles from the coast, rises gradually into wooded hilly country, often a good deal broken, due to the papa rock of which it is composed, and which is much given to extensive land-slips.

The name Rauru, is said to refer to the upper part of a kumara pit. The name was brought from Hawaiki with the people who came here in the "Aotea" canoe, and is the name of their ancestor.

There are some notable old pas in this territory, many of which have an interesting history, but they are not so numerous as the next district to the north, already described. There are also some noticeable modern fortifications occupied by these people during the wars with the Pakeha, in the sixties of the nineteenth century, such as Taurangaika, near Nuku-maru, Te Weraroa on the Wai-totara, etc.

The eponymous ancestor of this tribe is Rauru, shown in Table No. page 14238, a few pages back, and also in Table 25, Chapter IV., by these people said to be a grandson of Toi, but by the East Coast people, the latter's son. They are essentially descended from migrants to New Zealand by the "Aotea" canoe, indeed, the main lines from Turi's sons are to be found amongst Nga-Rauru, which the quarrel on account of Turanga-i-mua's dogs explains, for the sons all settled on the south side of Patea, and they have possessed the whare-maire, or houses of learning, in which the priests taught, from the days of Turi down to Christianity—(see Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. IX., p. 229, for a list of these houses and the names of those who taught in them). The people also claimed descent from those who came in the canoe "Tu-aro-paki," under Te Atua-raunga-nuku, but nothing is known of the history of this canoe, beyond the statement of the tribe, that some of their ancestors, came in it.

Mr. John White says that one of the ancestors of Nga-Rauru named Rakei-wananga-ora, came to this coast from Hawaiki in the "Panga-toru" canoe, but the people would not allow the crew to land, so they returned to Hawaiki. He does not explain how the Nga-Rauru get over the conflict between the two above statements—probably this is one of the local canoes already referred to.

I have just said that Rauru was the eponymous ancestor of this tribe. The Nga-Rauru people are very precise and positive in their traditions as to the fact of this ancestor living in Hawaiki—at any rate for part of his life. At the same time, it is clear he is identical with Rauru, son of Toi, of the tangata-whenua—but on this subject see Chap. IV. He flourished about twenty-nine generations ago according to Table No. 25, or approximately the middle of the thirteenth century; and he was apparently one of those daring voyagers of the Polynesian race, whose exploits fill us with wonder. It is this Rauru who is accredited with making the voyage from Hawaiki—in this case there is little doubt, Hawaiki-raro, or the Samoan and Fiji Groups are meant—to Wairua-ngangana, a place that can be no where else than in Indonesia, if not beyond, on the coast of Asia. Mr. Hammond's account, is as follows (see Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. III. p. 106):—"The expedition consisted of two canoes well-manned and named respectively 'Pahi-tonoa' and 'Haiti-rere.' The former was commanded by Rauru, the latter by Maihi. On the outward voyage 'Pahi-tonoa' was wrecked, Rauru and the survivors being rescued by the crew of 'Haki-rere.' Going on her way, 'Haki-rero' arrived safely at Wairua-ngangana, and application was made to the inhabitants of the island for roots of the taro, which were presented to them by two women, who also gave them directions as to the cultivation of page 143the plant, and the requisite behaviour on their return journey with such valuable food on board. Following their directions Maihi was enabled to return safely to Hawaiki, and accordingly introduced the taro to that land "—and planted it at Te Papa-i-kuratau, which from other traditions can be located as being either in Samoa or Fiji—probably tho latter.

There is some confusion in the traditions as to the canoe "Pabitonoa," The above account says she was wrecked, whereas Tautahi holds that she was one of the fleet that afterwards carried the migration under Rauru, from Western Hawaiki (Samoa, Fiji, etc.) to Rangi-atea of the Society Group (see Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. IX., p. 213). This, however, is not a matter of great moment—another canoe may have been called after the old one, by the samo name. The important thing is that Rauru led a migration from the Western to the Eastern Pacific, where they settled down in Rai'atea and Tahiti, and lived there for seven generations, until the war with Ngati-Puna and Ngati-Ue-nuku, at Rai'atea, forced Turi and his compatriots to migrate to New Zealand in circa 1350.

* Kai-iwi is a stream six miles north-west from the Whanganui river; but this has not always been its name. Formerly, a certain man from the East Coast set out in chase of a very peculiar fish, which was in fact a Kahawai, but it had a tree growing out of it! He chased this fish all along the coast till he came to a stream, where he cast his net, and from that circumstance the place was called Te Kupenga-o-Mamoe; but he failed to catch the fish there, but did so at Wai-ngongoro. Subsequently the same stream was the scene of the death of some men by a taua, who were eaten there, hence its modern name—Kai-iwi.