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

Ngarue and whare-Matangi. — (Circa 1420.)

Ngarue and whare-Matangi.
(Circa 1420.)

Raumati, on his way north to visit his relatives at Tauranga, had stayed some time at Kawhia, and there married his wife, Te Kuratapiri-rangi, and their daughter, Uru-te-kakara (see Table 39a) was born there, and grew up to womanhood at Taharoa, a lake about three miles south of Kawhia. Another version of the story, which follows, says that Uru-te-kakara lived at Awakino, about three miles north of Mokau—possibly both are correct.

Ngarue was a native of Waitara, said to be a grandson of a younger brother of Te Mounga-roa, who was chief and priest of "Kurahau-po" canoe. As a young man, Ngarue paid a visit to Kawhia, where he met Uru-te-kakara, Raumati's daughter, and fell in love with and married her. Time passed and Ngarue and his wife were spending some time at one of their cultivations, living in a temporary shelter for the time. Whilst here, some of the people of the place were overheard to make some disparaging remarks in reference to Ngarue, to the effect that he was a landless man and had to cultivate other people's land to obtain crops. This so deeply offended Ngarue that he decided to return to his own home at Waitara. Before doing so, he said to his wife: "If the child that you will shortly bear proves to be a son, call him Whare-matangi (or windy house); if a daughter, call her Kaimatangi" (to eat in the wind). In thus saying he alluded to the temporary shed in which they dwelt, which was open to the wind. So Ngaruo returned to his home at Waitara, leaving his wife amongst her own people. In due course, a male child was born to Uru-te-kakara, which, in accordance with his father's wish, was named Whare-matangi. As the child grew in stature, he became very expert at all kinds of games such as young Maori boys indulge in, and was generally the victor over his young companions. On one occasion the game of niti was in season and all the boys of the village were engaged in it. This game consists in throwing a light dart, usually made of toetoe reed, or the stalk of the bracken, in such a manner that it strikes on a low ridge of earth and then flies upwards and onwards for a considerable distance. The dart is called a teka. The game is common to the Polynesian, wherever page 163found. Now on this occasion Whare-matangi's dart far exceeded all others in the distance to which it carried. This at length annoyed the other boys, one of whom said in Whare-matangi's hearing: "This bastard throws his dart farther than any of us." The boy retained this in his heart, for he was much ashamed at being called a bastard, and, on one occasion, asked his mother where his father was. For answer, she took him to a high ridge near the coast, and pointing across the sea said, "You see that white snow-clad mountain that projects above the horizon (like a bell-tent)? That is Taranaki (Mt. Egmont); below it lives your father." "I will go in search of my father," said the boy. "Not yet," said his mother, "first become accomplished in all the arts of the warrior." So the boy grew up, living with his mother until he was a young man and was tatooed; he became expert in all the accomplishments of a chief, such as the use of the spear, the taiaha, and other weapons; the knowledge of harakias and the rites of old, which were taught him by his uncles on his mother's side.

At last the time came when he decided to go in search of his father, and accordingly he told his mother and other relations of his determination. His relations gave him directions where to find his father, together with a magic teka, or dart, to aid him on his way. From a point on the coast near his home he cast his dart, which flew in a southerly direction and stuck in the ground at Tirua Point. (Reader! the distance is sixteen miles! but then it was a magic dart!) Wharematangi followed along the coast until he found his dart. Again casting it from there, the dart flew on and landed at Mokau (a distance of twenty-one miles). Again the young man followed and found his dart. From Mokau he again started the teka, and after a flight of fifteen miles it fell on Pari-nihinihi, or the White Cliffs. The next flight carried it to To Taniwha, a point distant about thirteen miles, and the succeeding one—at about five miles distant—it stuck into Ngarue's house, which was situated on the north bank of the Waitara river, just opposite where W. Kingi'pa, Te Hurirapa, stood in 1860, Ngarue's home being about three-quarters of a mile seaward of the present bridge over the Waitara, at the town of that name. Ngarue himself was sitting in front of his house when the dart struck the ornamental maihi, or bargo board, and then fell close beside him. He at once divined that something out of the common was about to occur.

Presently Whare-matangi appeared, coming over the sand hills from the sea shore, and, as he drew near, saw his dart and the old man sitting beside it, so he came to the conclusion that probably this was his father. Ho approached and sat down near the old man, who said page 164to him, "Whence come you, and for what object?" "I am in search of my father," said the young man. "What is your name?" asked the elder man. "I am Whare-matangi, a name given me by my mother in accordance with the request of my father to that effect, if she should have a male child after his departure." Then said Ngarue, "Thou art my son!"

After this, and the usual tangi on like occasions, Ngaruo took Whare-matangi to the wai-tapu, or sacred water of the village, where his father duly performed the rite of tohi over him; this was, in fact, the giving of his name to him, which, as a rule, must be done by the father. Then to. the tiuilu, or altar, where other karakias were recited, to take the tapu off. They then returned to the house where food was placed before the guest—he could not have eaten, according to Maori custom, until the tapu had been removed at tho tuilhu. Tho people of tho pa were all out at work during the day, so none of them saw the arrival of Wharo-matangi. Tho father now took his son down to the river to bathe, and on his stripping, tho father saw that his son was fully tattooed on the rape and legs in a very handsome manner.

When the people returned, the news soon spread that Ngarue was entertaining a stranger; but the father kept his son in the house and would not let him be seen until tho next morning, when he assembled all the people and introduced Whare-matangi to his uncles and aunts, brothers, sisters, and cousins, etc. After a time, a fine young woman named Awe-pohewa, who was distantly related, was given to Wharematangi as a wife. She was a woman of rank, and was specially selected so as to preserve tho status of the family in their offspring.

The grand-children of this couple were Moeahu and Tai-hawoa, twins, from whom are descended most of the principal families of Taranaki at the present day—they also gave their names to the Ngati-Moeahu and Nga-Mahanga tribes of Taranaki proper.

We may roughly fix the date of Wharo-matangi's journey in search of his father at the year 1420.

The full name of tho Waitara river is Waitara-nui-a-Ngarue, so called after this Ngaruo; and a learned Maori friend of mine suggests that the name Waitara originated through Whare-matangi's action in following up his dart, and that the name is in reality, Whaitara, (not Waitara) which means ' follow the barb.' These West Coast tribes constantly omit the "h" where other tribes use it. The matter is, however, doubtful.