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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.
About 1730-40.

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.

Between ten and eleven generations ago there flourished two chiefs of Southern Taranaki—Tu-whakariri-kawa and Kahu-kura-makuru—both of whom were great warriors and who took the most important part in the conquest of Ati-Awa we are about to relate. In order to preserve their descent to the present day the following tables are given:— page 211
Table No. XLVI.

Table No. XLVI.

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…..

"As a rule the Maoris have no great respect for a large and unwieldy war-party, and have a proverb to the effect that a ' rau-hokowhitu ' (340 men) will win the day. This proverb they explain by saying that the above mentioned number would represent the immediate followers and relatives of a chief, all of whom would naturally be actuated by the one impulse, and be ready to die in defence of their leader. The chances of victory would therefore be greatly in favour of a war-party so composed. On the other hand, a large army must of necessity be of many hapus (families), or, worse still, many tribes, who might not be equally interested in the result, and who, experience has shown, could not always be depended upon. For did not the 300 of Ngati-Hau defeat the united strength of Ngati-Rua-nui at Te Puia, on the Patea river, simply because each hapu of the last-named tribe had decided to fight a little apart from the others, with the result that they were beaten in detail, the rout of one hapu involving another. Another fertile source of weakness in a large war-party, was the proneness of one chief to take umbrage at something said or done by another. I need only quote the case of the famous Paeko, who on the morn of the fight sat, with his men hungry, watching the other sections of the war-party eating their scanty meal, and who, when the common foe were rushing upon them, remembered the fact that he had not been invited to share that meal, and therefore lifting his spear high above his head, he called to his people—" My sons the sign of blood," and so stepped on one side,

* 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.

page 214leaving those who had feasted to do the fighting. Is it not also related that his friends, being sorely pressed, oalled on Paeko to aid them, and received this reply: "Karanga riri, karanga Paeko; Karanga kai tē karangatia a Paeko." "When there is fighting to be done you call Paeko, but when there is food to be eaten you neglect to call him." And so saying stood by, and allowed his friends to be utterly routed before he joined in and destroyed the common enemy.

"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."

"These two battles, fought on one and the same day, are the pride and boast of Taranaki, and are known to tradition by the following names: Kakariki-horo-noa and To Upoko-tutuki-pari,* and there are many men of the tribes, who took part in these fights, who believe to this day that the mana thereof caused Mount Egmont to swell with pride, and grow quite visably in height. There is at all times a well understood, but I think undefined, connection in the Maori mind between the mana of a mountain and that of the tribe that owns it. For instance, there are mountains that are regarded as so sacred, that the tribe would loose mana by permitting a party of strangers to tread its slopes. We find, also, the same feeling cropping up in the tribal pepeha (boast); it is a saying of the Taupo people that "Tongariro is

* 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.

page 216the mountain, Taupo the lake, and Te Heuheu. the man" (the chief), and my readers may now understand how it came to pass that the Taranaki mountain took an interest in the success of its tribe."*

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!
Māhu rawa!

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.

The conquest of the Ati-Awa country from the Sugar-loaf islands to the White Cliffs seems to have been more thorough in the southern parts than in the northern, for it is acknowledged that the conquerors only occupied up to the Wai-o-ngana river. Northward of that the Ati-Awa people appear to have returned and occupied their country within a short time—perhaps a year or so-—after the conquest. But Taranaki—or as this particular part of the tribe is generally called Nga-Potiki-taua—entered into possession of the southern part and

* This connection between a mountain and a chief is common to thu Polynesian race. Compare the Tahitian traditions, and others.—S.P.S.

page 217proceeded to build fortified pas, amongst which may be named Whakawhitiwhiti and Okoare (two miles south and south-west of New Plymouth), Pukaka (Marsland Hill), and Puke-ariki, (Mount Eliot the present New Plymouth Railway Station).

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.