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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

Fall of Te Totara pa, 1821

Fall of Te Totara pa, 1821.

After the fall of Mau-inaina, it is not quite clear whether Hongi-Hika returned direct to the Bay page 191 or went on at once to carry out his threats against Ngati-Maru at the Thames. Hoani Nahe says that after taking Mau-inaina, he went at once to the Thames, and he gives the date of the attack on Te Totara as December, so the probability is that he went there at once.

At this period, Te Totara was the great stronghold of Ngati-Maru. The pa is situated about a mile south of the bridge over the Waiwhakauranga stream, on the road from Shortland to Paeroa. It occupies the seaward end of a long spur coming down from the wooded mountains to the east, which terminates in a steep face abutting on the mangrove-lined banks of the Waihou, or Thames, river. The fine grove of karaka trees growing on the western slope of the ridge, just below the old pa, is a noticeable feature from the present main road. which passes along the edge of the grove. The old maioros, or ramparts, of the pa, are still to be seen, and show that it was one of great strength in Maori warfare. There were not many of the Ngati-Maru tribe, however, in the pa at the time of its fall, though there were several people of other tribes. The following account was given to me by Hoani Nahe, of Ngati-Maru:—

“When Hongi-Hika arrived from the north, he assaulted and took the pa of Mau-inaina, killing the chief of that pa, Te Hinaki. From there he came on to Hauraki, and assaulted Te Totara pa, but failed to take it. They were two days page 192 and one night trying to take it, but did not succeed. Then Hongi-Hika conceived a treacherous idea with respect to the Totara, the pa of Te Puhi and his elder brother, Te-Aka-te-rangi-kapeke, and their numerous relatives. There were none but chiefs in the pa—the chiefs of Ngati-Maru—whose names I have forgotten. and remember only those of Te Puhi and TeAka.”

“I will explain what I mean when I referred to the Totara being taken by treachery (he mea kohuru). Hongi-Hika, finding that he could not take the pa by assault, sent a number of his chiefs to make peace with the people of the pa—a deceitful peace—(mounga-rongo whakapatipati). On their arrival at the pa they delivered their message. Te Puhi and Te-Aka agreed to this, thinking it was to be a bonâ fide peace with them and the chiefs of Ngati-Maru, but it turned out to be the worst ever made by the Maori people. So soon as all had been arranged, Te-Aka presented the famous mere. named Te Uira, and Te Puhi, his mere named Tutae-o-Maui, to Nga-Puhi, in order to cement the peace, in accordance with Maori custom. The chiefs of Nga-Puhi, who were sent by Hongi-Hika to arrange this deceitful peace were: —Muriwai, Te Koki, Te Nganga, Te Toru, Whiwhia, Toretumua, Ururoa, Te Whare-rahi, Moka, Manu, Kahe, Whai, Kaiteke, Wharepoaka, Te Morenga, Nga-ure, Te Whare-umu, Kopeka, Kawiti, Mata-roria, Te Awa, Te page break
Black and White photograph of a pa site.

The western face of Te Totara pa near the Thames, taken by Hongi-Hika,1821.

page 194 Kahakaha,* Te Heke, Tareha, Te Hakiro, Kukupa, and Te Ihi, which are all the names known.

“On this same day, Pomare and his hapu (sub-tribe) returned home, because he was aware that Hongi’s designs were treacherous, and he did not approve of them. Hongi-Hika himself remained in their camp at Te Amo-o-te-rangi. with the main body. When this company of chiefs returned to their camp they reported to their chief Hongi-Hika, that peace had been made. and two meres given to cement it.”

Mr. J. A. Wilson, in his interesting “Story of Te Waharoa,” p. 12, says:—“Towards evening Nga-Puhi retired, and it is very remarkable—as indicating that man in his most ignorant and savage state is not unvisited by compunctions of conscience—that an old chief lingered, and, going out of the gate behind his companions, dropped the friendly caution, ‘Kia tupato,’ be cautious, or, on your guard.”

To return to Hoani Nahe’s narrative: “When Hongi-Hika heard the news, he at once commanded his army to launch their canoes, so as to appear as if they were off home. But it was all deceit

* Te Kahakaha was one of Hongi’s great warriors. He was shot at the Whakatere fight, near Waimate, in Hone Heke’s war against the pakeha in 1844. Maning, in his “Heke’s War in the North,” gives a capital description of his death, and of Heke’s attempt to rescue him.

We learn from Marsden that the chief Waikato was also of the party, at any rate, at the taking of Mau-inaina, but that he did not accompany Hongi-Hika to Rotorua. Waikato was Ruatara’s brother and Hongi’s brother-in-law.

page 195 on his part. When they reached Tararu, about five miles from Te Totara, they landed there to await darkness. From Tararu they returned in the night to Te Totara, and entered the pa without opposition, none of Ngati-Maru being on guard, as they believed the peace just made was a true one, and, moreover, they had witnessed Nga-Puhi’s apparent departure towards home. In consequence of this, the pa was taken, and men, women, and children fell an easy prey to Nga-Puhi, sixty of Ngati-Maru alone, besides many others, meeting their death, all the former being chiefs. There were many more people killed by Nga-Puhi at Matakitaki (in May, 1822) than here, because there was only one hapu of Ngati-Maru in the pa, that named Te Uri-ngahu, who indeed owned the pa, and very few of the other hapus of Ngati-Maru, most of whom were at Matamata, on the Upper Thames, and some away in the southern expedition with Waikato and Ngati-Whatua against Ngati-Kahu-ngunu and the tribes of Cook Strait. The greater number of people in the pa belonged to the Waikato, Arawa, Ngati-Awa, Ngati-Pukenga, Whanau-a-Apanui, and other tribes.” It is said that this scheme of Hongi’s to take Ngati-Maru unawares originated with his blind wife, Turi, who always accompanied him on his expeditions.

Mr. J. A. Wilson says:—“…It is said that one thousand Ngati-Maru perished. page 196 Rauroha* was slain, and Urumihia, his daughter, carried captive to the Bay of Islands. where she remained several years.”

Hoani Nahe adds:— “There was only one gun in Te Totara pa, and very little powder, and it was this gun that killed many Nga-Puhi before the peace was made, but the powder was all consumed. There was only one man of Nga-Puhi killed at the pa itself, and that was done by Ahurei, who felled him with a toki-panehe. or adze, made of hoop-iron. This was all the payment the people of Te Totara got for their great losses. It is said the man’s name was Te Hotete (? Tete). It was in revenge for this that Wetea and Tukehu, the children of Te Puhi and Te-Aka, were killed by Hongi-Hika. They had been taken prisoners when the pa fell, but were only wounded, not killed. They had been speared, and then left so that their blood might be drank by those who made this deceitful peace. Before, however, they had been speared. they requested they might have time to take farewell of their tribe and their lands. This was consented to by Hongi-Hika. The boys then took farewell of those left alive, and of their home. They did this thinking they would be taken away as slaves, but on learning that they would

* In the “Orakei Judgment,” already quoted, Mr. Fenton says Te Rauroha was living at Mangapiko, Waikato, in 1824.

The Rev. W. R. Wade says that on July 12th, 1835, he visited Kawakawa, and there found Urumihia on a visit from the Thames with many of her tribe. She had formerly married Kinikini, but was now separated from him.

page 197 be killed, they recited an old song of their tribe, which is as follows:—

Takoto ai te marino, horahia i waho ra,
Hei paki haeranga mo Haohao-tupuni,
Noku te wareware, te whai ra nge-au,
Te hukanga wai-hoe, nau E Ahurei!
Kai tonu ki te rae ki Koohi ra ia,
Marama te titiro te puia i Whakaari.
Ka taruru tonu mai ka hora te marino,
Hei kawe i a koe, “Te-pou-o-te-kupenga
Kowai au ka kite.
Kurehu ai te titiro ki Moehau-ra ia,
Me kawe rawa ra, hei hoko pou‘-e-,
Ki tawhito riro ra, ki te ketunga rimu.

Kaore te aroha, a komingomingo nei,
Te hoki noa atu i tarawai awa,
Tenei ka tata mai te uhi a Mata-ora,
He kore tohunga mâna, hei wehe ki te wai,
Kia hemo ake ai te aroha i ahau,
He kore no Tukirau, kihai ra i waiho,
He whakawehi-e, mo te hanga i raro nei,
Non nga turituri, pawera rawa au
Taku turanga ake i te hihi o te whare,
E rumaki tonu ana he wai kei aku kamo.


Behold! the ocean calm that spreads outside,
Fit weather for the cruise of ‘Haohao-tupuni.’
Mine was the fault that I followed not,
The foaming waters of thy paddles, O Ahurei!
Now in vain, Te Koohi point meets my gaze,
Whilst on beyond Whakaari volcano is seen.
The enticing calm spreads on the ocean,
To carry thee onward to Te Pou-o-te-kupenga—
O-Taramai-nuku, which I have never seen.
Through misty distance Cape Moehau shows up;
Then let me be taken some powder to buy,
To far distant shores, to the swirling sea-weed,
At Te Reinga; place of departed spirits.

page 198

Alas! this sorrow that writhes my heart!
Why didst thou not return, from the river’s far side?
This pain is like that of Mataora’s chisel;
Nor is there near a powerful priest, with proper rites,
Mete to asperge with sacred water fresh,
And end the sorrow that pervades me through and through.
Thou didst not listen! ’Tis I that suffer.
As I stand at the side of the carven house,
Whilst tears in streams from my eyes descend.

“So soon as they had finished their song. Hongi-Hika jumped up and speared one of them, and drank his blood. Both the boys laughed. for they felt no fear. Then jumped up another of the Nga-Puhi chiefs and did the same for the other lad. These were the same chiefs who, the previous day, had made peace with Ngati-Maru!

“The other people, Ngati-Maru and their allies, who dwelt in the neighbourhood, finding they could not rescue their friends in the pa, fled to the mountains, for the fear of Nga-Puhi was great.”

Thus Hongi-Hika avenged the defeat of his tribe at Wai-whariki in 1793 and other battles in which—before the days of guns—the Thames people had been victorious. In the fight at Te Totara Nga-Puhi lost very few of their braves. but amongst them were Tete and his brother Pu, the former of whom was husband of Aku Hongi’s daughter. The death of these young chiefs gave Nga-Puhi a pretext for invading Waikato the following year, as it was believed they were killed by some of the Waikato who page 199 were in Te Totara pa, as mentioned above by Hoani Nahe.

On the 19th December, 1821, three canoes belonging to Hongi’s expedition, under Muriwai, arrived back at the Bay with over one hundred prisoners, whom they took on with them the same day to their homes at Hokianga. together with many heads. The “Missionary Register” for 1823 describes with some detail the horrors which were perpetrated on the unfortunate prisoners on the return of Hongi-Hika to the Bay, which occurred on the 21st December, 1821. It is said they brought back about 2,000 prisoners. The dead bodies of Tete and Pu were also taken to their home for the usual rites to be performed.

Mr. Francis Hall on the 19th December, 1821, says: “Tete was the most civilized, best behaved, and most ingenious and industrious young man we have met with in New Zealand. His brother Pu, a fine young man, is also amongst the slain. This has created great grief in the family. Tete’s wife and Mattooka (? Matuku), his brother, are watched and bound to prevent them from putting an end to their lives. Pu’s wife hung herself on hearing the news. Hongi’s wife has killed a prisoner of war, which is customary on such occasions.”

Again on December 19th, he says: “We received the painful news this morning that Hongi-Hika and his people had killed more prisoners. making the number which we know of to 18 who page 200 have been murdered in cold blood since they returned from the fight.”

Another missionary says: “January 19th, 1822. Hongi-Hika came this morning to have his wounds dressed, he having been tattooed afresh on his thigh. His eldest daughter, the widow of Tete, who fell in the late expedition, shot herself this morning through the fleshy part of the arm with two balls; she intended to have made away with herself, but we suppose in the agitation of pulling the trigger with her toe the muzzle of the musket was removed from a fatal spot.”

A young man related to the celebrated Te Rauparaha was killed at Te Totara, and that great warrior on his visit to Te Waru at Tauranga the same year, being incensed at this death—foolishly and unnecessarily as he thought—is said by Mr. Travers* to have secured Pomare’s consent to allow him to kill some of the Nga-Puhi, who shortly after this visited Tauranga, as utu for him. Mr. Travers says it was on account of the death of the infant children of Tokoahu, who had married a grand niece of Te Rauparaha’s, but I believe Tokoahu’s children were killed at the taking of Mauinaina. But both Tarakawa and Colonel Gudgeon tell me that the real cause was the death of Te Whetu-roa, a nephew of Te Whata-nui, of the Ngati-Raukawa tribe, who was living at the time with Ngati-Maru in Te Totara pa, and who

* “Transactions N.Z. Institute,” vol. v., p. 59.

page 201 was also related to Te Rauparaha, and this last seems the most reasonable take, for it is well known that the Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Toa tribes are closely related. However this may be, there is no doubt that Te Rauparaha and Te Whatanui were the authors of the disaster that befel Nga-Puhi the following year, as we shall see.
The fact that Te Rauparaha was at Tauranga, trying to secure Te Waru’s aid in his expedition against the people of Cook Strait, when the news of the fall of Te Totara reached Tauranga, is tolerably certain, and by the aid of this fact we shall be able to fix the date of another important event in New Zealand history. It is well known that as soon as possible after the battle of Okoki, fought on the Motu-nui Flat, between the Urenui and Mimi rivers, Taranaki;* Te Rauparaha settled his tribe—the Ngati-Toa—at Waitara and its neighbourhood, amongst the Ngati-Mutunga and Te Ati-Awa tribes. So soon as their welfare had been provided for he started off to Taupo and Rotorua, to try and induce Ngati-Raukawa to join him in his proposed settlement at Cook Strait. Failing their acquiescence, he went on to visit Rotorua, and then Te Waru, of Tauranga, with the same object, and was there in December, 1821, when Te Totara fell. Allowing him two months for these operations, it results that the battle of Okoki must have taken place about the

* See “History and Traditions of the Taranaki Coast,” p.366.

page 202 beginning of November, 1821, and this will serve to fix another date.

It is also well known that the ope of Tukorehu (called Amio-whenua, to be referred to later on), of Ngati-Maniapoto, with his allies, the Ngati-Whatua under their chiefs Apihai-te-Kawau, Uruamo and others, were at the date of the battle of Okoki, shut up in the Pukerangiora pa, Waitara, Taranaki. This ope was then on its way home after having come round by Port Nicholson; and after Okoki, Te Wherowhero and other chiefs of Waikato escaped to and joined Tu-korehu in the besieged pa. From here Te Wherowhero returned to Waikato, arriving in time to take part in the defence of Matakitaki in about May, 1822. We may, therefore, assume that the siege of Puke-rangiora by Te Ati-awa was from about October, 1821, to say January or February, 1822.*

The story of Pomare’s consent to Te Rauparaha’s demand to be allowed to kill some of the Nga-Puhi to assuage his injured feelings seems to me improbable, and moreover I doubt if Pomare was with the Nga-Puhi at Rotorua in 1822 at all. What seems more probable, and for which there is some authority, is that the party of which Pomare was leader, retired just before Te Totara, and he then proceeded to the Bay of Plenty and attacked Tuhua Island at this time. The following account is from “The

* This siege of Puke-rangiora must not be confused with the more celebrated siege by Waikato in 1831.

page 203 Life of Paratane-te-Manu”* “My fourth fight was at the Island of Tuhua or Mayor Island, in the Bay of Plenty. We were armed with guns as well as with our native weapons—the spear, the club, the battle-axe of stone, and the greenstone and whale-bone meres. We proceeded by sea and landed at the Island of Tuhua, where we fought with the people of that place, and their pa fell to us. The name of the pa was Nga-uhiapo. Here we took prisoner the wife of Puru —the chief of the pa—and her children. At daylight next morning Puru approached us, and coming into the midst of our war-party, he cried and lamented for his wife. Then spoke the chief of our party, ‘Let us return his wife to him.” So the woman was returned to her husband. On this Puru called out, ‘Let a warrior from your taua come with me.’ So Te Tawheta and three others went with Puru and returned him, his wife and children to their own people. On arrival at one of the island villages where the people were gathered peace was made, and a certain woman was given to us to cement the peace. The name of the woman was Te Rautahi, and Te Ruruanga was her daughter. Te Rautahi was a chieftainess of Tuhua. We then returned to our homes.”
A very good description of Tuhua will be found in “Transactions N.Z. Institute, vol. xxvii., p. 417,” by E. C. Goldsmith, Chief Surveyor of the Auckland District, in which he

* By James Cowan, author of “The Maoris of New Zealand.” Whitcombe and Tombs, 1910.

page 204 describes the many pas, some of which are very strong, that formerly belonged to Urunga-wera and Te Whanau-a-Ngai-taiwhao branches of Ngai-Te-Rangi tribe. This was not the only time these tribes suffered at the hands of Nga-Puhi, as we shall see.