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

The Ati-Awa in exile, and re-conquest of Wai-O-Ngana. — About 1760

The Ati-Awa in exile, and re-conquest of Wai-O-Ngana.
About 1760.

After the most disastrous defeat inflicted on the Ati-Awa hapus that lived between Nga-Motu (Sugar-loaves) and the Wai-o-ngana river, at the hands of Nga-Potiki-taua, the people were in a deplorable state. They had lost their pas, their villages, their cultivations, their fishing places, their sacred burial grounds—which latter were now open to be desecrated by the conquerors, a dreadful thing to the Maori people—in fact, everything but their arms and clothing. Their bravest warriors had fallen; many of the women had been killed or taken prisoners. Some families had disappeared altogether; in others none but one or two members remained. There were children without parents, husbands without wives, wives without husbands; in fact, the particular hapus that suffered so terribly by Tu-whakairi-kawa's conquest were next door to extinguished. But the people did not lose heart. Those that escaped massacre fled to the forests and secret hiding places known only to themselves, and where, as at all times in anticipation of defeat, there were small cultivations and rough wharau or sheds, in which they found shelter and food. In the first stages of their discomfiture, the birds of the forests and cels of the streams furnished them with the means of keeping body and soul together.

Mr. Skinner says: … "They were driven to the great forests around and along the banks of the Manga-mawhiti, Wai-puku, Make-tawa, and Manga-nui rivers, in the districts now known as the Moa,* Tariki, and Manga-nui. Another body of these fugitives lived at the head waters of the Manga-o-raka and Wai-o-ngana rivers….. Rakei-tiutiu, chief of Nga-Puke-turua (near Sentry Hill), with his wife and family, fled seaward and sought safety in hiding in the swampy seaward bush, then of large extent, on the sea-coast between the

* Te Mua, from which the district takes its modern name, was an old Maori clearing on the south side of the Norfolk Road School-house, known in early days as Tamati's clearing.—W.H.S.

page 218Wai-o-ngana and Waitara rivers. Their cooking was all done at night for fear that the smoke by day should disclose their place of concealment. This family appears to have lived in hiding for a very long time*—how long I caunot say—but they were there when Koro-tiwha and Whanui recovered the country for Ati-Awa….. The Puke-tapu hapu—whose home was at the pa of that name situated on the sea-coast, just to the north of the Bell Block—secured shelter in an old pa of refuge, called Weraroa, built on a ridge between Awai and Kai-kokopu streams (on section 44 and 45, lower Taruru-tangi district). Here, under their chiefs Amaru, Tu-huia, Amaru-rore, and Amaru-ariki, they appear to have remained undisturbed until summoned from their hiding place by the messengers sent by Koro-tiwha after the victory at Omaru. It was probably at this time that the clearings along the King and Hursthouse roads were made for the cultivation of kumara, taro, and other food."
Heta Te Kauri and his wife Merc Taura, of Wai-o-ngana, to whom as well as Mr, Skinner, I am indebted for what follows, say that the principal homes of the Ngati-Tawake hapu of Ati-Awa, at this time, were at Te Moa-nui and Te Moa-iti, two pas on the Make-tawa stream, and here was the head quarters of the chief men when they assembled to discuss matters for the benefit of the tribe. But most of the people were scattered in small groups, seeking a precarious existence on the products of the forest. It was decided by the chiefs, of whom the principal was Koro-tiwha, of the Kairoa pa—a very strong position situated just south of Matai-tawa, and two miles inland of Lepperton, aud which is happily preserved from destruction by careful fencing under the auspices of the Taranaki Scenery Preservation Society; it is an excellent specimen of the old Maori pa; it was nob occupied, however, at the time we write of; it was too near the enemy's position, and liable to marauding parties—and Whanui, that the tribe should adopt an old Maori custom, which, indeed, was not at all uncommon in similar cases of a defeat which approached annihilation, as in this, instance. This was called whakatupu langata, or "to grow men." That is, the tribe decided to postpone any idea of recovering their former homes, or of seeking revenge, until the people had again become sufficiently numerous to ensure success. Knowing as we do the extreme power exercised over the mind of the Maori by the desire for revenge—a feeling that was never allowed to die, even if it remained in abeyance for several generations—we must allow that the subordination of every consideration to the attainment of this end, the patient waiting

* Soo infra, probably not less than fifteen to twenty years.

page 219during long years until the children had grown to manhood; the suppression of the one ruling desire, and the strenuous exertion of every faculty in the one direction, is a trait in Maori character, which, if directed into a proper channel should lead to great results. But with the passing of the măna-Maori, the object of such a subordination to one idea has disappeared, and his European teachers have failed to supply an adequate substitute. Under the Pax Britanniea this ruling passion has now passed away, and the exercise of the tribal or private vendetta has become a function of the law.

In regard to the case in point, my informants say that for many years the energies of the people were entirely directed to the one object of the growth. and training of warriors, with the idea of eventually returning from their exile and driving their enemies from the lauds which had been their's and their ancestors for not far short of a thousand years. To this end the old warriors still left to the tribe were unceasing in their admonitions to the young girls to marry early, and bring forth children to be trained as toas or warriors. The boys as they grew up were incited by tales of war-like deeds; the wrongs the tribe had suffered were incessantly kept before them, and the duty of redressing them constantly dilated on. The military education included in the term "nga mahi a Tu" —the works of the war-god, Tu—were especially attended to by the old warriors, and consisted in the occular demonstration of the use of weapons—of the taiaha, or wooden sword, which was a science in itself, consisting of blow and guard; of the tao or spear with the proper thrust and karo, or guard, in which latter the Maori was very clever; in the use of the shorter weapons, such as the mere) the onewa, the koti-ate, made of jade, stone or heavy wood; of the kotaha or sling-spear—indeed of all classes of Maori weapons, not omitting the ki-tao or reo-tao, charms repeated over weapons to give them măna, power or prestige.

Mr. John White, the author of the "Ancient History of the Maori," was at Waitara in 1860 as interpreter to H.M. forces, and whilst there gathered many notes on the history, etc., of the Ati-Awa people. In a long letter of his (known to be his but not under his name) published in the "Taranaki Herald," 9th and 10th June, 1860, in which he writes of the causes of the war of the "sixties" from the Maori point of view, and wherein he touches on the matters we are now dealing with, he says, "only one hundred of Ati-Awa escaped (at the conquest by Nga-Potiki-taua), and these men had eluded their enemies by being at the back of Mimi, in the forest…." Our Maori historians say nothing of this, but Mr. White had excellent opportunities of getting good information at that time, and it is not at all improbable that a page 220party of Ati-Awa might have been away at the time of the conquest. If so, they would form a useful contingent to their fellow tribesmen when the time came for the reconquest.

How long it was that these branches of Ati-Awa remained in their forest homes after their escape from the destructive effects of the Nga-Potiki-taua conquest, cannot be fixed definitely. But as they had "to grow men" it would probably be not less than fifteen to twenty years. As soon, however, as the tribe felt strong enough, the old chiefs felt that the time had come to strike a blow for the recovery of their lost homes. Matters were brought to a head in the following manner: A woman who was a sister or cousin of Whanui's, dreamed that she was back on the coast, fishing at their old fishing place at Whatiwhati, on the beach near Rewa-tapu (just south of Wai-o-ngana mouth). In the morning she told her dream to Koro-tiwha, Whanui and Ranga-tapu, saying that she had heard the rollers breaking on the shore, etc. She was crying and lamenting the loss of her old home, the beaches on which she had played as a child, her corapauions killed by the enemy; and wound up by asking: "Ma wai au e kawe ki nga tai e whati mai ra, ki taku hau-kainga?" "Who will take me back to the breaking seas, to my home?" Koro-tiwha replied, "Maku koe e kawe ki to kainga. Taihoa ka kawea koe e au?" "I will take you to your home, yet a little while and I will do so."

Old Rangipito, another learned man of Ati-Awa says: At this period a council was held by the people to discuss the possibility of reconquering their old homes. It was decided to make the attempt, but before doing so, the priest was to secure the approval and aid of the war-god Maru (who, I may say, was the god of Taranaki, "Whanganui, etc., whilst Ue-nuku was the war-god of Ati-Awa.*) Probably the people felt that Ue-nuku had deserted them in their need, and they hoped by propitiating the enemy's god, to secure his aid. "Maru," says Rangi-pito, "was a very powerful god, indeed he was like Jehovah. Offerings (whakahera) were made to him of kumara, taro, aruhe, birds and fish; and after the offerings the god would communicate with his priest, through the medium if the proper karakia had

* Rangipito adds, in reference to the god Maru, "That he was the principal god of Taranaki, indeed of all descendants of those who came in the ' Aotea' canoe, as also of Ati-Awa. This god was brought over by Turi in the ' Aotea,' as a spirit, not an image, and the priests ou board wore those of Maru. He was an evil god, who was very particular as to the behaviour of his worshippers, who were nover to quarrel amongst themselves, and always to bo on their good behaviour. He was their god of war, to whom kurnkuai were addressed and offerings made, Whea Titoko-waru abandoned Christianity (about 1868) ho called up Maru to be his god, and hence his success in tho war against the Europeans—1868-1870. The old karakias that were still remembered were made use of again."

Rev. Mr. Hammond has a note, "The stone image of the god Marn, which the Patea people formerly possessed, was burnt by Tamati Te Ito, and his ope whakanoa (or party who took the old tapu off the pas, etc., in about 1855. To Ito is still alive, a very old man, at this date, 1906). The stone broke in pieces when burnt. The distinguishing name of the people who had it in charge was Wai-o-tuere. Tapo, of the 'Aotea' canoe was Maru's particular priest, and it remained in charge of his descendants from that time (1350) till burnt."

page 221been recited." The medium in such cases was a small figure of a man, about two feet high, made of wood, with carved head and shoulders, fully tattooed, and with a rod projecting from the lower extremity by which the figure could be stuck into the ground at the tuāhu, or sacred place. The body of the image was lashed round with braided cord in a peculiar manner. It was the Maori belief that the recitation of the appropriate karakia, and the offerings, would induce the spiritual god to take up his abode in the imago for a time, and from there communicate his answers to the priest, who alone could intoi'prot them. It must be clearly understood, the offerings were not to tho image, as such, but to the god ho represented. The Maoris were in no sense idolaters. The questions asked on-such occasions would generally be, as to whether a cortain course of action would meet with tho desired success. It is clear in this case the answers woro favourable. At a certain place between "Waitara and Wai-o-ngana, the priest directed, at the will of the god, that a fishing-net was to be made from the flax growing there, and then the net was to be used on the beach at Wai-o-ngana. If the catch was successful, then tho Ati-Awa would conquer their enemies. Such was tho oracle of the god Maru.