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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

Death of Tu-whare

Death of Tu-whare.

“On the return northward of the Nga-Puhi expedition, the warriors forced their way up the Whanganui River in canoes. The people of Puke-namu (Rutland Stockade, town of Whanganui), Patupo and Taumaha-a-aute (a pa near Shakespeare Cliffs) and other pas in page 121 that neighbourhood fled up the river. As and his party advanced he was attacked and harassed by the people occupying the numerous pas on either side of the river. The Whanganui tribe closed in on his rear as he advanced, thus cutting off his retreat and communication with those left near the mouth of the river. ‘But,’ said the Maori narrator, ‘what was that to Tu-whare! He cleared a path for his party by the terror of his guns. When our people heard the sound of those guns we thought they were pu-tatara (native trumpets), and our old men said, ‘Does this man think to conquer Te Ati-Hau with his putatara? Are the descendants of Ao-Kehu and Tama-whiro, of Hau-pipi and Pae-rangi, flying from a sound?’ So said our warriors. But when we saw our people falling dead around us, struck from afar off, killed by invisible means, then the knowledge came to us that this was the new weapon of which we had heard, and we realised that our rakau-Maori, or native weapons, were of little avail against the pumata, or muskets. Still we resisted the advance of the Nga-Puhi and constantly kept up the attack all the way up the river, some in advance, some following behind and taking advantage of every coign of vantage. For up Te-Awa-nuia-Rua (Whanganui River) did Tu-whare fight his way until he reached Te Ana-o-Tararo near Makokoti, above Pipiriki. Here the river narrows in between high cliffs on either side. On the summit of the cliffs a great multitude of page 122 people of the Whanganui tribes had assembled to try and stay the progress of Nga-Puhi. Our messengers had gone forth to alarm the tribes of the river and the interior, and in response numbers came to the rendezvous. There gathered the hapus of Te Ati-Hau, Patu-tokotoko, Nga-Poutama, Ngati-Pa-Moana and Nga-Paerangi, at Te Ana-o-Tararo. The tribes of inland Tuhua, and even of Taupo-nui-a-Tia sent their contingents to help exterminate the boastful Nga-Puhi.

“When the canoes of Tu-whare were passing through the narrow pass of Te Ano-a-Tararo, we attacked them. From the summits of the cliffs we hurled down on them great logs and huge stones, crushing the canoes, and killing many of their crews. Some turned back on their course down the river, but we followed and slew many. Ah! Te Wai-nui-a-Tarawera (Whanganui River) ran red to the ocean that day. The Nga-Puhi, who thought to conquer the whole world with their guns, were destroyed by the children of Hau-nui-a-paparangi under the shining sun that day!”

Thus far, Mr. Best: but it is clear this was not the final attack, which took place higher up. From five or six miles above Pipiriki for forty or more miles, the river is very generally lined with perpendicular cliffs about one hundred feet high, and any part of this long stretch would fit Mr. Best’s description. I will now follow Te Aitua’s story. “The Nga-Puhi had succeeded in passing the narrow cliff-bound page 123 part of the river and ascended above the junction of Rere-taruke, when the hostile movements of the local tribes became so threatening and their numbers so great that Nga-Puhi considered it time to turn back, especially as they had lost some of their canoes, thus necessitating some to travel overland. As they approached the Kai-whakauka pa, situated half a mile down the stream from the Reretaruke junction, on the east side of the river, the invaders found the Whanganui tribes assembled in vast numbers under the leadership of Turoa and other chiefs, awaiting the return of Nga-Puhi. Finding their route barred, the taua saw their only chance was to trust to their guns and fight it out.

They first occupied the opposite side of the river (where there is a little native village now —1905) and from there fired into the pa, but the distance is rather much for the oldfashioned muskets. The pa of Kai-whakauka is situated on the top of a perpendicular cliff on the river side, with cliffs also on the north, where a little stream joins the main river through a cañon. Nga-Puhi (who, says my informant, were eight hundred strong with five hundred muskets—a very obvious exaggeration, the numbers being probably not more than three hundred men and thirty or forty guns) now crossed and occupied the slopes that rise from the pa towards the south, from which they kept up a constant fire upon the pa. Under this fire, page 124 Nga-Puhi attacked and succeeded in getting into the fort, where, however, the numbers of Whanganui, now able to fight at close quarters with their native weapons, were too much for their foes, a very large number of whom were killed in the pa; others were thrown over the cliffs, to be killed on the rocks below. Whilst Tu-whare was in the pa, and just coming round the corner of a house, he was met by Hamarama, a chief of Whanganui, whom Tu-whare fired at and hit in the shoulder; but before he could reload, Ha-marama struck him a blow on the head with his taiaha, which split his skull, but did not kill him. Tu-whare called out, ‘Mehemea he ringa huruhuru tau, ko tenei he ringaringa mahai kai.’—(‘If thine had been the arm of a warrior I should have been killed; but it is the arm of a cultivator.’)

Tu-whare’s people succeeded in getting him away, and carried him wounded unto death, to their canoes, and then made off with all speed down the river, followed by Whanganui as hard as they could paddle. A flying fight ensued for some way down the river, until darkness set in —this was winter time—when hostilities ceased, and both parties, exhausted after the exertions of the day, went into camp at no great distance from one another. During this flight. Toki-whati, a son (or perhaps nephew) of Tu-whare, was captured by Whanganui. As the two parties were resting in their camps a parley took place, in which Tu-whare asked his enemies if they had seen Toki-whati; the reply page 125 was that they held him a prisoner. Upon this negotiations took place and Toki-whati was given up to his own people in exchange for part of a suit of armour that George IV. had given to Hongi-Hika when that chief visited England in 1820, and from whom it came into the possession of Tu-whare.*

This incident appears to have ended the fighting, for next morning the northern taua embarked, and with the swift current of the Whanganui under them, in a day or two reached the camp of their allies near the mouth of the river.

Te Aitua-te-Rakei-waho, from whom I obtained many of the above particulars, is a grandson of Ha-marama (whose other name was Te Whaingaroa), who gave Tu-whare the blow that eventually proved fatal, and he still possesses the taiaha that his grandfather used on that occasion, which bears the name of “Ringa-mahi-kai,” so called after Tu-whare’s expression.

The great expedition now passed on its way homeward, going by canoes as far as Patea, where, apparently, a division took place, some going on in their canoes to Waitara, whilst page 126 others, the Roroa people, went overland, carrying poor Tu-whare on a kauhoa, or stretcher. On their arrival at Kete-marae, the old native settlement not far from Normanby, Tu-whare expired of his wounds. So died this great chief, who, in many battles, had shown his courage and ability as a warrior. This was his third expedition to Taranaki, the first having been either with Muru-paenga or Tau-kawau. From Kete-marae, the body was carried on to Manukorihi, at Waitara, where it was buried near Tau-kawau at the Rohutu burial ground. The Manu-korihi people, it will be remembered, were connected with Tu-whare, and hence his bones would be safe from desecration, a point of great moment to the Maori.

After the burial of Tu-whare and the usual tangi, etc., the northern taua passed onwards towards their homes. With the canoes they possessed, probably they went by sea to Kawhia, where the northern tribes took farewell of Te Rauparaha and the Ngati-Toa tribe, their companions in arms for so long. It is said that Nga-Puhi and the Roroa people presented Te Rau-paraha with fifty stands of arms, but, probably this is an exaggeration, though some were given, no doubt, which the Ngati-Toa chief shortly after used against Waikato and in his memorable migration to the south.

The Nga-Puhi contingent of this long expedition reached Hokianga about October, 1820, for when Marsden passed through the homes of these people in November of that year the page 127 women were still in the whare-potae, or mourning over those who had been killed at Taranaki. Two of the northern chiefs became afterwards celebrated for the consistent support they always rendered the British Government—in peace and war—the brothers Eruera Patu-one and Tamati Waka-Nene, both chiefs of Upper Hokianga. They both assisted actively in our war against Hone Heke, 1844. Patu-one died 19th September, 1872, supposed to have been over one hundred years old.

The following is quoted from Marsden’s “Journal” (already referred to) in reference to this expedition:—”24th November, 1820. Patu-one informed me that he had been on the South Island across Cook’s Straits, and that on his way his party was attacked at Taranaki and some of them killed, among whom was Mau-whena’s son and two more chiefs belonging to here (Lower Hokianga). That he had retaliated upon the enemy, killing some, and taking many prisoners, among whom were many women and children; and that at length he had made peace with them and returned their children when redeemed by instruments of war made of green-talc and some mats. He had left ten of his people there who had married, and brought a number away with him, some of whom were present, and that he and the people of Taranaki were now completely reconciled.”

This was Tu-whare’s third expedition to Taranaki, in all of which he displayed the qualities of a great warrior. It is said by some page 128 accounts that his elder brother, Taoho, was with this last expedition, but it is not certain.

* It is reported that the armour has recently been recovered and is now (1908) deposited in the Dominion Museum, Wellington, but it is clear some mistake occurs in the native accounts, for Hongi-Hika had not yet returned from England when this fight took place, and the armour is more probably that presented to Titore long after this event. What the object given in exchange for Toki-whati was, cannot now be ascertained.