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

The fall of Kohanga-Mouku

The fall of Kohanga-Mouku.

Rehe-taia, mentioned a few pages back, as the leader of the Ngati-Mutunga contingent that went to Kawhia to assist the Ngati-Toa, was a warrior of some fame. His position in the tribal pedigree will be seen by a reference to Table 33a, Chapter VII. For the following incidents I am indebted to Te Rangi-hi-roa:—

About this period there lived at Wai-iti, some four miles north of the Mimi river, and which was the ancient home of Ngai-Tara-pounamu as described in Cpapter VII., seven brothers of the Ngati-Mutunga tribe, of whom Rangi-nui-te-ao was the eldest. On one occasion he and his brothers, with forty of their men, attended a feast given by Ngati-Rahiri (of Te Ati-Awa), by their special invitation. For some reason not now known, the whole of this party were massacred, including all the brothers but the youngest who had remained at home. Now Tuku-tahi, the elder brother of Rehe-taia, had married Heke-nga-tini, a woman of Ngati-Rahiri; and in order to secure some utu for the massacre, Rehe-taia wished to kill the woman and her children, who of course were his nephews and nieces. But Tuku-tahi, their father, held the children up before Rehe-taia's face, saying, "Me patu ko a taua keakea!" ("Shall we kill our own offspring!") This action stayed Rehe-taia's hand; but, determined to have revenge, he sent off a special messenger to Wahie-roa, of Kawhia, to come to his assistance on a certain night of the moon, to help him on a moditated attack on Kohanga-mouku pa, near Turangi, five miles north of of Waitara, belonging to Ngati-Rahiri.

When the time came, Rehe-taia went down to the beach and there waited on the sands the arrival of the expected reinforcements. Ere long he heard the crunching of the sands as Wahie-roa and his one hundred and forty men tramped along the beach, in each others foot-steps, so that it might appear as if only one or two men had passed along. Sending the taua forward, Rehe-taia went on to Aro-pawa pa (an isolated hill situated just south of the mouth of the Mimi river; it is defended on the south and east by swamp, with the river on the north; the pa is still in good preservation, see Plate. No. 9), where he entered the house occupied by his brother, who was asleep, and carefully abstracted his patu, or weapon, from beneath his head without waking him. He then charged his wife, Nga-Rongo-ki-tua, to look to the south in the early dawn, and told her if she saw a red blaze against the sky, it would be a sign to her that Kohanga-mouku had fallen.

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Overtaking Wahie-roa and the rest of the party, they all marched forward through the night for the doomed pa; and on reaching there, heard the sentinels calling the mata-ara, or watch song. Waiting until the sentinels had retired, Rehe-taia now persuaded Wahie-roa, who was a very tall man, to place his arms against the defences of the pa, in order to form a living ladder. Up this human ladder Rehe-taia quickly mounted, followed by the whole party, and they soon made themselves masters of the pa. Rehe-taia slew one of the head-chiefs named Kuri, but his brother managed to make his escape, and at a place a little distant from the pa uttered his poroporoaki, or farewell to his brother, saying, "Hei kona ra E Kuri! Mou te po, moku te ao!" ("Farewell, O Kuri! Thine is the night, mine the day!" Meaning, his brother was killed in the night, he would soon fall in daylight.) Rehe-taia heard this, and sprang forward in pursuit. The chase was a long one, but Rehe-taia gradually overhauled his man, and springing upon him, slew him.

The pa, Kohanga-mouku, was set fire to, and as the flames ascended upwards, Rehe-taia's wife, Nga-Rongo-ki-tua, acting on her husband's directions, gazed to the south, and saw the blaze. She then went to her brother-in-law, Tuku-tahi, and said, "Kohanga-mouku has fallen before your brother's strength." Tuku-tahi shook his head, but said nothing. On the return of Rehe-taia, his brother reproached him, "E Rehe! tangata kino!" ("O Rehe! thou art a bad man!")

The youngest of the seven brothers, the sole survivor of the family after the massacre of the others by Ngati-Rahri, already referred to, lived on at Wai-iti. But the Ngati-Tama tribe which at that time occupied part of the country south of the White Cliffs, cast longing eyes on the lands occupied by the few remaining people of Ngati-Mutunga in that neighbourhood, and especially did those who dwelt at Waitangi. When the Ngati-Mutunga went out fishing, and returned home, they found their fish stolen. Fern-root neatly laid out to dry was also taken—even the live embers of the fire, covered over with ashes to keep it alight, had disappeared. All this was done to make the young man uncomfortable and to induce him to leave the place. Then the young man, who was fully tattooed, thought of the days when his brothers and their hapu were alive, and such outrages would have been impossible, as they had been strong enough to resist aggression. His sense of helplessness found vent in the following words, "Ko te moko, tae kau ki ahau. Mehemea ko te moko i a Rangi-nui-te-ao, e mana ana te kowhatu, e mana ana te tukituki," which may be paraphrased, Although I am tattooed as a warrior should be, it is useless. Had my elder brother Rangi-nui-te-ao been alive, it would have page 198been otherwise; stones were stones, and killing was killing. This saying travelled far and wide as it was meant to do, and reached the ears of Tuku-tahi and Rehe-taia at their pa of Aropawa. These two brothers roused their people, and immediately attacked Waitangi, in order to avenge the insults to their kinsman. One division of the pa fell without great loss, and Tuku-tahi, who was a humane man, seeing that abundant utu (or payment) had been obtained, sprang before the fence of the remaining division, crying out to his brother, "E Rehe! patupatu a waka!" ("O Rehe! do not slay all!") But Rehe-taia, eager to make a complete victory, replied, "Whanō! kia motu te kaka o te roi! ("Forward! sever the stringy fibres of the forn root!" or in other words, give no quarter).

However, the more gentle counsel of Tuku-tahi prevailed, and the remnant were spared. According to the old men, Rehe-taia was one of the best fighters Ngati-Mutunga ever had. When he died of his wounds received in battle against the Taranaki tribes, the following tangi, or lament, was composed for him:—

Tenei Pounamu moehau te tangi nei na;
Kihei to matua i tangihia i a Rongo;
Tangihia to matua, te peka o Houmia.

Taku mahuri totara ka hinga i a Rehua—
Taku piki-kotuku ka mawhe i a Matiti.
E tama na Pare! tena taku manu,
Naku i tuku atu ki roto o Maru-wehi,
Te ika o te akau e whanatu na è,
Wai here taniwha i roto o Ure-nui.
E tama na Rua! kia whitikia koe
Ki mua ki te upoko, i te ika whakarewa
Ki runga o Turangi.
Hoaia to maro, te maro o Houmia, o Hauenuku ē
A koaina koe e te puni wahine,
Hei whakautu-rua mo o matua ē
Ka tika i te ara i runga o Nga-Motu,
Ka whakarauikatia koutou ki roto o Timaru.
Ngongro tangi mai i te iwi toi-ora ē
Whakahokia mai ki te hau kainga.
Rehua ai koe ki te kupu a Hoi,
Te mangai o Uenuku e
Hekenga ihu waka ki roto o Piwara
Ka tu mai tama i te ihu o te waka,
To uru mahora ka māngi i te hau ē
Tama taringa turi ki te turanga korero,
Tama taringa turi ki te tira haerenga,
To mata i tuhia ki to renga wai-tio
page 199 E kore e ngaro te ika o Wahie-roa
Kirikiri ka taka i runga o Moe-here
Ki tua 0 Manuka ē

Wawara ana te tai ki tua Te Rangiora
Ka he nga tohu i haere ai koe,
Kia ruku atu ana, kia ea ake ana,
He taniwha kai tangata ē.

Here is Pounamu-moehau, bitterly weeping;
Thy parent is not bewailed through ways of peace,
But rather through the effects of war.

My young totara sapling has fallen
During Rehua, the months of war,
My gallant heron-plume has faded
In the month of Summer
O son of Pare! there is my bird.
'Twas I that let him go forth from Maru-wehi
Like the fish on the coast, forth he went,
In Ure-nui's waters where taniwhas are found.
O son of Rua, thou crossed to the front,
At the head of the advancing war-party.
In front of Turangi, the pa.
Thy war belt with spells was empowered,
Spells of Houmea, spells of Hau-enuku,
Thy heart was gladdened by woman's applause,
Double satisfaction for the elders to obtain.
Thou went by the route, south by Nga-Motu,
And there in heaps lay the dead at Timaru,
Loud was the lament of those who escaped
And brought thee back to thine own home.
Thou wert wounded by the words of Hoi
The mouth-piece of Uenuku the god.
Like the canoe's bow, descending at Piwara,
And thou, O son! stood forth in the bow,
Thy waving locks, flying forth to the wind,
A deaf ear thou turned to the council of chiefs,
Nor listened to the departing company,
Thy face that was adorned with fine tattoo,
Never shall be lost the victim of Wahie-roa
Beyond there, the other side of Manuka.

The seas are moaning beyond at Rangiora
The omens were false when thou departed,
Then dive thee down, and arise again
Like a man-eating taniwha, alas!