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



Whilst the "Tainui" tribes were thus practically confined to the north of Mokau, there was one small tribe whose ancestors formed an inclusion within the "Toko-maru" boundaries. This was the tribe of Ngai-Tara-pounamu.

After the "Tainui" canoe had landed most of her people and cargo at Kawhia, she was brought on south by some of the crew, under a chief named Tara-pounamu, who apparently was not satisfied with Kawhia as a home. They put in at Mokau, and for some reason one of the stone anchors of the canoe was left there near the bluff under the Mokau Township, in a cave on the north side of the river, half-a-mile within the entrance.* It was here also that, as tradition states, some of the skids of the canoe, or, as others say, some of the whariki, or flooring of branches was left, and from them sprung the trees called Tainui or Nonokia (Pomaderris Avetelatainui) a handsome shrub, which was originally confined to a few small clumps between Mokau and Mohaka-tino, and also at Kawhia (now extinct in the latter place says Mr. Cheeseman, N Z. Flora, p. 100), but which is common in Australia. It is suggested that the original spot on which this shrub was found growing was at Kawhia, and that when the canoe came on page 110to Mokau some of the branches were placed in it for whariki. In after times it came to be believed that the shrub was brought from Hawaiki. It grows readily from cuttings.

From Mokau the "Tainui" went on to Wai-iti, a stream some twenty-seven miles north of New Plymouth, where they found thats Turi and his party of the "Aotea" canoe had preceded them, and had burnt all the fern along the sea shore. It is said also that at Mimi, a few miles further south, they came across some of the crew of the "Toko-maru" who claimed that particular country. So Tara-pounamu settled down at Wai-iti with his party, and the "Tainui" was hauled up on the sandy beach there. After a time, one of these men desecrated the canoe by easing himself within it. When Hoturoa, the captain, who was at Kawhia, heard of this, he was extremely angry at their sacred vessel having been so shamefully used. So he sent a party of men all the way from Kawhia, who took the canoe back with them, and left her near the Maketu village, where, as has been said, she eventually rotted away.

But Tara-pounamu and his people remained at Wai-iti, and built a pa and lived there, probably for some few generations. We will now quote from Journal Polynesian Society, Vol. II., p. 216, Te Whetu's story of the end of this tribe:—"After living there many years some went on a fishing excursion in their canoes, which were forty in number." (Probably this is an exaggeration; the old fishing canoe usually carried from four to six people in it.) "While out at sea, a fierce storm came on, and this 'Puhi-kai-ariki' (as they call it) drove the canoes before it. On the fourth day they reached Rangitoto or D'Urville Island at the north end of the Middle Island, and here the people landed. After a short stay there they removed to the western side of the Island, to a place called Moa-whiti, or Greville Harbour, where they permanently established themselves. There they engaged in cultivating the soil and fishing; and when they saw the plentiful supply of food to be obtained there they decided to fetch their women and children from Wai-iti. They accordingly set out, and by-and-bye they all returned to Rangi-toto Island. Then it was that they were first seen by the inhabitants of the island, who, being very numerous, could not be either opposed or molested; so wives were given them, and thereafter the two tribes became one and lived together." It was in the time of Kao-kino's son that these people left Wai-iti.

Apparently all this tribe left the Taranaki Coast, for they are not known by that name now in the locality where they formerly lived. page 111Hohepa Te Kiaka, the last of the tribe of Rangi-toto, died at Kaiaua, near Wakapuaka, Nelson, in 1890.

Now the inhabitants of the island who were found at D'Urville Island by the migration from Wai-iti, must have been some of the original tangata-whenua, for, even if they had been descendants of the crew of 'Kura-haupo,' some of whom settled at Pelorus Sound near D'Urville Island, as has been shown in Chapter VI., they could not have increased in numbers to the extent indicated by Te Whetu's narrative, so that they 'could not be either opposed or molested.'

It may be remarked as significant, that the name of the chief who came across Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa from Hawaiki to New Zealand in the 'Tainui' canoe, and who settled at Wai-iti, was Tara-pounamu or 'Jadite-barb.' This shows a knowlodge of the pounamu or jadite prior to the departure of the fleet from Hawaiki in 1350, and appears to support the well known tradition of Nga-hue's voyage to New Zealand and back to Hawaiki, when he took back with him a block of jadite, afterwards converted into axes with which some of the vessels of the fleet were hewn out. We shall see later on at what an early date after the arrival of the heke, these Taranaki people made expeditions to the Middle Island to procure the green jade.

* This anchor has had some strange adventures, for it was taken away from Mokau by a European, with the intention of making money out of its sale; but such an outcry was raised that in the end he had to take it back to the place it came from.