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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

The Wars on the Border-land between Nga-Puhi and Ngati-Hatua

The Wars on the Border-land between Nga-Puhi and Ngati-Hatua.

In the closing years of the eighteenth century the Ngati-Whatua tribe were in possession of the whole of the west coast from Maunga-nui Bluff to Manukau Heads, and eastward to the Tamaki River near Auckland, whilst the east coast of the northern peninsula was occupied by them and their cognate tribes from Tamaki to near Whangarei and thence across the upper waters of the Wairoa River to Maunga-nui Bluff. On their north was the series of tribes known generally under the name of Nga-Puhi, but of which there were many divisions, each distinguished by a tribal or hapu name, some of which will be mentioned hereafter. Intermarriage had often taken place between these tribes, and in the “Border-land” between them were hapus of whom it is difficult to say to which division they properly belonged. Thus the Roroa hapu or tribe, is nearly as much Nga-Puhi as Ngati-Whatua. Their territories laid along the coast from Kaihu (the modern Dargaville) to near Hokianga River, and it is with them that commences the series of events which we have to relate.

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1795.–In the following half-a-dozen events occurring in this Borderland, the dates are somewhat uncertain, but they cannot be far out. Their interest perhaps consists in showing the constant state of intertribal warfare in which the people existed, and the peculiar results of inter-marriages, through which individuals are often found fighting against what may be called their own tribe. The following table shows the connection of some of the people of this period, and one of whom, Tu-whare, was a very famous toa (brave) of the Roroa tribe whose exploits will be referred to later on.


* Approximate dates of birth. Te Rore was still living in 1897.

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Somewhere about the year 1795, there was a dispute about lands in the Kaihu valley, then occupied by some of the Roroa tribe and their relations, and Tara-mai-nuku their chief was driven from Waipoua by a war-party of other Roroa people of Waipoua, under the leadership of Te Waiata. Tara-mai-nuku settled down in the Kaihu Valley, but not in peace, for shortly afterwards Te Waiata followed him up, and defeated him in a battle fought at Wai-tata-nui. This was succeeded by another defeat at Te Hau-o-te-raorao, which caused Tara-mai-nuku and his people to flee to the Wairoa river, where they settled, whilst Te Waiata, his brother Te Maunga, and the former’s son Taoho, settled at Kaihu. The soil of Kaihu valley which runs out to the Wairoa river at the modern town of Dargaville, is very rich, and must always have been a desirable place of residence for the Maoris on that account, and this no doubt was the reason of these fights for its possession amongst fellow tribesmen, who, however, were a few years later found all in arms against the common enemy, Nga-Puhi.

For some of the events in this border warfare I am indebted to Mr. John Webster, of Hokianga, and Mr. C. F. Maxwell, of Auckland, both of whom took great trouble to enquire into points wherein my own notes were deficient Mr. Maxwell’s authority is principally old Te Rore-Taoho, then a very old man of Te Roroa tribe, and the son of Taoho mentioned above. For some particulars I have to thank Paora page 22 Kawharu, his son the Rev. Hauraki Paora, and Hone Mohi Tawhai, the principal chief of Te Mahurehure hapu of Nga-Puhi.

1805.—About the year 1804 or 1805 the Roroa tribe was living principally in the Kaihu valley and Waipoua. Their chiefs at that time were Taoho, Hukeumu, Te Maunga, Tuohu, and Te Toko. On one occasion these chiefs received a friendly visit from the great Nga-Puhi chief Pokaia,* whose home was at that time at Kirioke, near Kaikohe—that rich fertile district on the road from the Bay of Islands to Hokianga. Whilst staying at Waipoua, the news came from Otamatea, one of the inlets of Mid-Kaipara, that the wife of Pinaki, Te Toko’s son, had been seduced by one of the Ngati-Whatua men at Te Hekeua’s settlement where the home of the Uri-o-Hau tribe was, Te Hekeua being the principal chief of that tribe, and father of Paikea-te-Hekeua so well known to Europeans when the Otamatea district was settled.

Naturally, Te Roroa tribe were very angry at this insult to themselves in the person of the son of one of their chiefs, and at once steps were taken to avenge it. A taua or war party was immediately organised, and Pokaia was invited to join in it, no doubt through relationship to Te Roroa people. The Nga-Puhi chief would be nothing loth to see a little fighting; what Maori would? But he little foresaw the

* Father of Hone-Heke, who conducted the war against the British Government in 1844.

page 23 momentous results that were to flow from thus joining in the quarrel of others. The taua was under Te Toko, and it passed down the Wairoa river and up the Otamatea in canoes. Now Te Roroa and Te Uri-o-Hau tribes are nearly related, and probably this is the reason why, on the arrival of the taua at Te Hekeua’s pa, he waved a signal to Hekeumu, Taoho and Te Toko, to enter the pa and leave Pokaia and his party so that he (Te Hekeua) might attack him. A skirmish took place, in which Te Tao, Pokaia’s son was killed by Te Hekeua; but what satisfaction Te Toko got for the insult offered to his daughter-in-law is not stated. It will be seen from the above incident that the Nga-Puhi leader had a take, or cause, against the Uri-o-Hau tribe, and incidentally one again Te Roroa tribe also, for it was they who invited him to assist them, in doing which he lost his son.

The taua now returned to Opanake in the Kaihu valley, where the body of Te Tao was buried, whilst Pokaia returned to his home. Before doing so he enjoined on Taoho the necessity of seeking revenge for “our son” (ta taua tamaiti). It was no doubt due to this unsuccessful expedition that Pokaia invented the saying applied to a taua that returns without accomplishing its object:—

Hokinga taua, te rae i Pakau-rangi.

(A returning war-party from Pakau-rangi point.)

Pakau-rangi is a point on the Otamatea where this taua went to.

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1806.—A year elapsed and Pokaia returned to Kaihu, to carry out the hahunga or exhumation of his son’s bones, in order that they might be conveyed to his own home, when the usual tangi would be held over them by the relations. Pokaia now learnt that Te Taoho had taken no steps to avenge Te Tao’s death, and consequently his take against Te Roroa tribe assumed such proportions that he was bound in Maori honour to take notice of it. Soon after his return home, events occurred which brought this feeling to a head. It was probably at this time that Pokaia made up his mind to attack Te Roroa tribe, and therefore took back with him to Wai-mutu the wife and children of Toretumua-te-Awha, to whom he was related. This would be done in order to save their lives.

In the meantime matters had come to a head between Nga-Puhi and Te Roroa in another direction. A woman belonging to the former tribe had been killed at Waituna, a place inland of the Wai-mamaku river two miles south of Hokianga. This was said to have been done

* Parore-te-Awha was a very fine specimen of the old Maori chief—a fine stalwart man, beautifully tattooed, whose mana over his people was very great. He died at Kaihu in 1894, between 90 and 100 years old. His mother, Pehi-rangi, was of the Ngati-Rangi tribe of Kaikohe, and a descendant of Rahiri (see p. 29).

page 25 at the instigation of, or with the knowledge of, Hekeumu and Te Toko. This appears to have led to a skirmish, in which Nga-Puhi (probably the Hokianga people) suffered a severe defeat
Black and white photograph of elderly Maori.

Eruera Maihi Patuone, a Nga-Puhi Chief of Upper Hokianga. (One of the leaders in the great southern expedition of 1819–20.)

at the hands of Te Roroa. This fight took place at Waituna. Eruera Patuone* was

* Eruere Maihi Patuone, brother of Tamati Waka Nene, the great friend of the pakeha, died 14th September, 1872, at the probable age of 108. He was of the Ngati-hao tribe of Hokianga.

page 26 present with the Nga-Puhi, and barely escaped with his life, after slaying the Roroa chief Tataka-hua-nui.

This event, though Pokaia was not engaged in it, was a further inducement for him to attack Te Roroa tribe; but there were other causes as well, for Mr. Carleton in his “Life of Archdeacon Williams,” tells us that, “Pokaia, ancestor of the famous Hone Heke, was deeply in love with Kararu, sister of Hongi Hika, and persecuted her so to become his wife that she, to be rid of him, became the wife of Tahere, a much older chief. Pokaia, in order to vent his rage and vexation, made a wanton attack on Taoho, chief of Kaihu, a brave of the Ngati-Whatua tribe.”

These causes combining, induced Pokaia to raise a taua and proceed to Kaihu, where he suddenly fell upon a small pa of Taoho’s called Whakatau, near Maropiu in the Kaihu valley, which he took by surprise, killing, and then eating all the inhabitants.

“This,” says Mr. Maxwell, “was the firs overt act of war between Nga-Puhi and Te Roroa,” but the Nga-Puhi losses at Waituna may also be included as an additional take. From subsequent events, these fights may probably be fixed as occurring in the year 1806. We do not learn who the people were that were killed, but it is clear that they—being Te Roroa tribe—were nearly related to Ngati-Whatua of Southern Kaipara, for it was that tribe that rose in arms to avenge them. page 27 For the first time in the history of Ngati-Whatua we learn for certain of the doings of their great leader, Muru-paenga, who belonged to the branch named Ngati-Rongo. His home was on the eastern shores of the Kaipara river in the neighbourhood of Makarau, where he was visited by Marsden in 1820. At this time (1806) he would be about 35 to 40 years of age, and an accomplished warrior, who afterwards became celebrated for his prowess. It was Muru-paenga who now raised a taua of his own people to avenge the deaths of the Roroa people at Whakatau. He was joined by 100 men under Te Waru and Te-Wana-a-riri of the Ngati-Whatua proper tribe, whose residence was at Otakanini, on the opposite side of the harbour to Muru-paenga’s home. The taua proceeded northwards by canoes up the Wairoa river to Kaihu, and thence crossing the Waoku plateau, fell suddenly on the Nga-Puhi settlements at Mata-raua, taking the pa Te Tuhuna, and killing a number of people. Mata-raua is situated on the upper Punaki-tere river, a branch of the Hokianga, and not far from Pokaia’s home. Subsequently the taua attacked Tai-a-mai, near the present home of the Williams family, and were equally successful there. This slaughter was called “Te-Patuturoro.” According to Ngati-Whatua accounts a peace was then concluded with Nga-Puhi, but this truce did not affect Te Roroa tribe, who had not apparently joined in the Ngati-Whatua expedition.

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Nga-Puhi were now the sufferers, and were in honour bound to obtain utu for their losses. Pokaia again took the field and attacked and took Te Kawau pa near Kaihu, killing several people. He then attacked another of Te Roroa pas named Tirotiro, which was situated close to where Taoho was living. Hitherto Taoho had taken no notice of the killing of his people; he had said, “Let Pokaia take payment for the death of his son.” But finding that Pokaia seemed determined to push matters to extremities, he came to the conclusion that he would be the next victim, so abandoned his settlement at Opanake in the Kaihu valley, and removed to Te Puka on the Wairoa river. Nga-Puhi finding that Taoho had gone, followed him up and attacked him at Te Puka, but suffered a repulse and lost one of their chiefs, Taurawhero, of the Ngati-Manu hapu, who was killed by Taoho. Taoho again moved down the Wairoa to Arapohue (just opposite the modern township of Aratapu, the full name of which is Te Aratapu-a-Manaia), where Nga-Puhi followed him and were again repulsed. After this Nga-Puhi appear to have retired, for a sufficient time elapsed to allow of Te Roroa constructing pas at Tiki-nui (the bluff about four miles below Tokatoka) and at Tokatoka itself. In these fights we first hear of the celebrated Hongi-Hika,* who took part in them

* The following table shows Hongi Hika’s connection with the great Nga-Puhi ancestor Rahiri, who was their “Tinoariki,” and “Taumata-okiokinga,” supreme chief and head of all Nga-Puhi, and ends in the names of many celebrated Nga-Puhi chiefs.

page 29 under Pokia’s leadership. The Hokianga tribes of Ngati-Korokoro, Ngati-Manu, and Te Hikutu, formed part of the taua, no doubt anxious to avenge their losses at Waipuna. The result of this series of fights seems to have been not very decisive for either side, for both claimed the victory.

Whether Nga-Puhi now left the district or not is uncertain, but it is clear they withdrew for a time, for in the next event we find Taoho and his people sufficiently assured of safety to proceed to the west coast on a fishing expedition, leaving the women and children at Tikinui. During his absence Nga-Puhi attacked and took that pa, killing most of the women and children, and then retired towards Maunga-nui Bluff.

Taoho now dwelt in his pa at Tokatoka, the graceful mount on the Wairoa river. From page 30 here, on one occasion he again went to the west coast to preserve tohe-roa, the giant cockleshell of those parts. He was overtaken there by a small taua under Te Pona, of Ngati-Kawa, a sub-tribe of Te-Uri-o-Hau, who stated that they were on their way to attack Nga-Puhi. They proceeded northwards along the coast to a place called Pa-hakehake, where they met Nga-Puhi under the leadership of Te Kahakaha, who fell on Te Pona’s party in the night (it was moonlight) and killed 30 of them, but few escaping to carry back the news. It is not quite clear from the conflicting accounts preserved, but probably Wai-tarehu, of the Roroa tribe, was killed in this affair. Pa-hakehake is situated a few miles south of Moremonui nearly opposite Dargaville, on the coast.

These events occurred about 1806, and on the whole Nga-Puhi had gained the advantage. As Carleton says, these successes gave Pokaia a great name as a warrior, and therefore when he proposed a further campaign against Te Roroa. he found plenty of people willing to follow him, and amongst them Hongi-Hika, who was now beginning to come to the fore as a leader. In addition to this, the Nga-Puhi defeats at Wai-tuna and Mata-raua had to be wiped out, and in 1807 they made a great effort to do so, with what result will now be shown.

It is said by Nga-Puhi that their southern neighbours had a “saying,” or whakatauki, which referred to the dread inspired by the former in their wars. It is as follows:—

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Ka tere te Tai-tapu
Ka tere te Whakarārā,
Ka tere ki Hokianga–
Ki te tai i turia ki te maro-whara;
Tana ukuinga, ko Para-whenua-mea.

Should Taitapu’s flood arise,
And Whakarara’s current foam,
In swirling currents at Hokianga—
The sea with war-belt girded;
As the deluge will be the effacement.

Taitapu and Whakarara are two rocks in Hokianga, against which angry currents swirl, that are death to all canoes that come within their influence. Para-whenua-mea is emblematical for the traditional deluge of the Maoris. The “floods,” &c., mentioned in the “saying” are used for the tribes.