History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840
Tu-Whakairi-Kawa's conquest of Ati-Awa. — About 1730-40
Tu-Whakairi-Kawa's conquest of Ati-Awa.
In the beginning of this chapter the first recorded trouble between the Ati-Awa and Taranaki tribes is described. This took place at the Kurukuru-mahe fight, about the year 1420. It seems to have been the commencement of a struggle between these two tribes which did not end until about 1830. During this long period of 400 years there were frequent quarrels and frequent interludes of peace, during which inter-marriages took place, bringing for a time periods of tranquility, in which each tribe increased numerically. But it took but little to page 210embroil the people anew; the memory of some unavenged death, some supposed act of makutu or witchcraft, some disparaging remark made by one side or the other, was sufficient to start the war-trumpets a-sounding, calling the tribesmen to arms against their foes.
What may have been the details of the many conflicts that took place we know not; we must be content with the general statement that troubles were constantly occurring; and as the later migration from Hawaiki infused into the old tangata-whenua stock more of their warlike spirit and capable leadership, these quarrels became more frequent and were carried out on a larger scale. In fact, they became inter-tribal rather than inter-hapu.
The Taranaki tribe say that they wore like a wedge inserted between other tribes which were always at war with them—Ati-Awa on the north, Ngati-Rua-nui on the south—and that their only and occasional allies were the Ngati-Apa tribe of Rangitikei. This alliance is due to the fact that their ancestors crossed over from Hawaiki in the same canoe—the "Kura-haupo." It has already been pointed out that the "Kura-haupo" immigrants settled down in the Oakura district, which is on the north part of the Taranaki tribal territories, and from there they would naturally spread both ways, incorporating the original element of the Kahui-maunga people, and coming into contact with the Ati-Awa on the north, about the Sugar-loaf islands, which appear from the names to have always been the boundary common to the two tribes—Te Motu-o-Tamatea, one of the Sugar-loaf islands, for instance, is said to have been named after Tamatea, an Ati-Awa ancestor.
Somewhere about the year 1730 to 1740 this constant state of intertribal trouble was brought to a head by the following incident:
Tamakā, of the Taranaki tribe Nga-Mahanga, was on a visit to the Ati-Awa people of Pekerau, and for some reason not now known was killed by them at that place. Tamakā was the husband of Ueroa, also of Taranaki. As soon as the news of this murder reached the home of Ueroa, she urged her tribe to take measures to avenge his death. Nga-Mahanga arose at once and started for the Ati-Awa country, but at the first onslaught they suffered a defeat, and retired to their own homes to raise more forces, for this party was few in number and hence their defeat. After this reverse the rest of Nga-Mahanga and the Patu-pai (or Ngati-Moeahu) and Upoko-mutu hapus at once determined on returning to avenge the people who had been killed. The taua came on cager for the fight until they reached the Timaru river, near where one of the old chiefs of Taranaki lived, named Rangi-pakira, an experienced warrior and man of influence. Knowing that the taua was coming he went out to the cliff on the sea-shore to watch for them, and as they came along in the early morning just page 212before dawn, he listened as the party passed over the shingle beach, called Whenua-riki. Hearing but little noise (ngaehe) as the naked feet trod on the gravel, he knew it was but a comparatively small party and not sufficient for the purpose they had in view. Kahu-kura-makuru was the chief of the party; so Rangi-pakira called out to him, "E Kahu E!"—"O!" "Ko pekapeka i nuku, ko pekapeka i rangi. Toia a Taranaki ki te wharau!" ("O Kahu!" "Yes," replied Kahu. "A bat on the earth, a bat in the heavens. Drag back the Taranaki canoe to its shed!") By this he intended to imply that the party was too small to effect any useful purpose. Consequently, the old man's advice was taken, and the party returned; they were already fatigued from the previous expedition, and were altogether too few in numbers.
After the return of the party to their homes about Okato, they decided that vengeance must be obtained and the number of the war-party increased; but they were in this difficulty, that they had quarrelled with the southern hapus of Taranaki and were doubtful if they would assist them. Whilst in this doubtful frame of mind, some old woman (probably Ueroa, widow of the murdered man) composed and sung a pathetic lament for Hawea-nui and Rakai-were, who had been killed in the last fight, and in which she called on Ngati-Atua and other hapus to come to their assistance. This so oxcited the people that it was decided to send Kahu-kura-makuru to the southern hapus to sing this song to them, and try and prevail on them to take up the quarrel. Ngati-Atua were then at inland Wai-wiri. So Kahu' started to arouse southern Taranaki, the principal chief of whom was Tu-whakairi-kawa. When he reached Punga-ereere, he asked the people where Tu-whakairi-kawa was to be found. A woman replied: "Kei roto pea o Punga-ereere tē rangona te pato." ("Perhaps he is away at inland Punga-ereere, who knows where his strength will take him?") Kahu' then said: "When your old man returns tell him I have come to rouse all the hapus to go against Ati-Awa," and then he went on to the other hapus. He was successful in his mission, and all the fighting men of Ngati-Atua, Ngati-Haumia, and Ngati-Tama-ahuroa (of Oeo), under Rakai-takiha and others arose. These were the most numerous hapus of Taranaki in those days, and they all came in response to the request, under the chiefs Tapapa-ngarara, Tu-waipa, Taurua, Kawa, Rongo-karangaranga, Whangai-ariki, Tu-kapua, Kopu-tangi, Tau-tahi-ariki, Haexe-karawa, Pu-kauae, whilst Tu-whakairi-kawa and Kahu-kura-makuru were the leading chiefs, who directed all the movements of the taua. It was agreed that this expedition should inflict on Ati-Awa a serious blow, if possible.page 213
As the party came along they were joined by contingents from every pa they passed, from Whatino, Matai-kawa, Taunga-tara…..*
For the reason stated in the foot note, I continue the narrative by quoting from Colonel Gudgeon's account of some of the doings of this taua:—
"As an instance of the importance of a really good and efficient tohunga to a Maori tribe, I may quote the following tradition:—During one of the numerous battles between the Taranaki tribe, and the Ati-Awa of Waitara, the principal chief of the former people, one Tamaka, and most of his companions were slain. The dead chief had, however, two sons, Kahukura-makuru and Tu-whakairi-kawa,† both of whom were already famous warriors whose duty it was to avenge their father…..
* At this point my informant, Tu-tahan, was unable to proceed further with, his narrative, through illness. He was in a consumption at the time, and died a fortnight afterwards, on the 7th April, 1907; after having given me a brief summary of the subsequent operations of the taua.
† Whilst it is true that the two chiefs named did avenge the death of Tamaka., they were not the latter's sons, but distant relations.
"The decision of a tohunga may not be gainsaid by any prudent leader, so Tu-whakairi-kawa returned home to collect more men, and when he had done this he marched northwards, halting for the night at Punga-ereere where Ueroa, the widow of Tamaka resided. Here they met with a very cold reception, for the widow, acting strictly in accordance with Maori custom, refused to supply the war-party with food from her late husband's stores, until his death had been avenged.
"When the second war-party had reached Timaru, To Rangipakira again refused to approve their further advance, saying, "I have not heard the footsteps of Tama-ahuroa," thereby alluding to a kindred tribe of noted warriors. This reply was accepted as an omen of disaster in the event of their making any further advance; the chief accepted the position, and returning once more succeeded in inducing the Ngati-Tama-ahuroa to join in the raid. On this occasion tho tohunga, or rather his gods, approved the composition of the war-party, and assured them of success through the medium of an inspired song chanted by a young man, who for this occasion had been chosen by the gods as their mouthpiece. Very joyfully did the warriors move on to the northern bank of the Waitara river, where they camped in five divisions under as many leaders. That same night Tu-whakairi-kawa, who had been chosen as war-chief of the assembled tribe, dreamed a very strange dream. It seemed to him that he alone kept watch over the assembled tribes, and while looking in the direction of the forest, he saw a flock of Kakariki (Paroquets) flying towards him as if in menace, and while preparing to defend himself from the enemies he suddenly became aware that he was threatened from the rear, and turning towards the sea saw an immense shoal of Kahawai (a fish) swimming towards the shore. So vivid was the impression left by this dream that the chief awoke, and knowing that he had received a warning from his ancestral gods, he roused up his brother, who was a tohunga, and demanded an immediate interpretation of the dream. I may here explain that the dream of a war-chief or priest on the eve of battle is of the utmost importance, and must never be neglected. When Kahukura had heard all the incidents of the dream related, he called the leaders of the army together, and explained that the dream was clearly a message from the page 215spirit world, and he warned them that shortly before dawn they would be attacked from the direction of the forest, and while so engaged would be assailed in the rear by the main body of Ati-Awa, who by this disposition of their forces hoped to gain an easy victory. He further warned all of his men that the enemy were in great numbers and evidently prepared for them, hence it was necessary that they should use great caution. Above all he warned them that they should not scatter in pursuit of the first party when they had defeated them, but should wait for the second and more serious attack.
"Shortly before dawn a furious onslaught was made on the Taranaki warriors, from the direction indicated by the dream; but the numbers and the prowess of the Taranaki men were too much for the Ati-Awa, who after a gallant stand were driven back and fled southwards, pursued by a small body of men who had been previously selected for the purpose, and who slew many of their foes in the Waitara river. The main body ever mindful of their chief's warning stood fast, and awaited the real event of the day. Not for long were they left in doubt, for the main force of the Ati-Awa, foeling certain of victory and anticipating only a feeble resistance from a disorganised and scattered force, precipitated themselves on their foes. ' Of the truly Homeric combat that ensued, I can only say that it ended in the defeat of the Ati-Awa, who were driven northwards in headlong confusion and pursued for many hours, the last man being slain at Pukearuhe, twenty miles from the field of battle. Here Tu-whakairi-kawa thrust his spear into the earth as a sign that he would go no further, and calling his men together, said, "We have accomplished the work of vengeance that brought us here, let there be no further bloodshed."
* My information is to the effect that these two battles were fought on another occasion, and against Ngati-Rua-nui, but I may be mistaken.—S.P.S.
This expedition was a very large one and included all the hapus from Punehu (four miles south of Opunake) to Omata. They carried every pa they came to and were victorious in every battle, though having a very tough fight with the Waitara people at Te Rohutu (as described by Colonel Gudgeon), on the north bank of the river. They carried their victorious arms as far as Puke-aruhe, near the White Cliffs, which place they took—it was a pa of Ngati-Tama, From here the taua returned home, after having desolated the whole of the territories of the Ati-Awa lying along the coast, and having either killed or driven the inhabitants into exile in the forests.
Tu-whakairi-kawa, the leader of this successful expedition, is noted in his tribe for his exploits. There is a peculiar saying about him that I have never seen applied to anyone else—" Nana i karihi te niho o Taranaki" ("'Twas he that pricked the teeth of Taranaki.") Which is explained to mean that Tu-whakairi-kawa had conquered his enemies and covered himself with glory. On such occasions there was a very curious ceremony performed: one of those left behind at the home would advance to the returning taua with a wi or rush in his hand, which he inserted in the leader's teeth, reciting at the same time the following kiri-ora, or charm:—
Homai to niho kia karihitia
E tipu akuanei, e tipu apopo,
Taetae mai to kiri, to toki
To mata-niho; mahu! mahu!
Give us thy teeth to be pricked,
They will grow to-day or to-morrow
Thy teeth edge, be cured! be cured:
Be effectually cured!
It seems to have been a cleansing from tapu, after having eaten human flesh.
* This connection between a mountain and a chief is common to thu Polynesian race. Compare the Tahitian traditions, and others.—S.P.S.
In these pas the people were living when—as we shall see—Ati-Awa again acquired the ascendancy and drove them out or killed them. But it was not for many years yet that the latter people felt themselves strong enough to attempt the undertaking.