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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

Pomare’s First Expedition to the Urewera Country, 1822

page 238

Pomare’s First Expedition to the Urewera Country, 1822.

We have now arrived at a period in our history, when the great Nga-Puhi chief Pomare begins to take the most prominent part in the east coast expeditions of his tribe. The years 1821–22 were prolific in Northern expeditions against the Southern tribes. In 1822 the Nga-Puhi were to meet for the first time, an inland tribe that had not yet felt the weight of their arms, but which tribe in the years following immediately after this date, began to play an important part in the struggle between North and South. The Urewera, or Tuhoe, tribes occupy the mountainous region extending inland from the eastern part of the Bay of Plenty, nearly as far south as the present coachroad from Taupo to Napier, and are bounded on the north by the territories of the Ngati-Awa, Ngati-Pukeko and Whakatohea tribes, and on the east by those of the Ngati-Porou and Ngati-Kahu-ngunu tribes, on the south by the Ngati-Hine-uru and Ngati-Tu-whare-toa tribes, and on the west by Te Arawa Ngati-Manawa and allied tribes. The Urewera tribes—for there are many page 239 hapus amongst them—claim to be the direct descendants of the original people occupying New Zealand before the migration hither from Tahiti Island of about 1350. They have been a warlike tribe of mountaineers, that have held their broken forest-clad country from the earliest date to the exclusion of outsiders, (except on occasional forays) and have never been permanently conquered. It was against these tribes that Nga-Puhi now turned their arms.

There is some uncertainty as to whether the Nga-Puhi chief Pomare, after the fall of the Totara pa at the Thames in December, 1821, returned to the Bay, but in any case, it was during 1822 that he appeared in the Bay of Plenty with a fleet of canoes and a large force, bent on the usual errand of slaughter, maneating, and slave-hunting. As an adjunct to these objects was that of procuring heads, for the trade in “preserved heads” with white people was by this time fairly established. There is little doubt that Pomare had in view likewise the obtaining of some revenge for the losses of his tribe at the hands of Ngati-Pukeko and Ngati-Awa in the year 1818, during the expedition of Te Morenga, for which see ante.

When, therefore, Pomare appeared off Wakatane in 1822 with his fleet of canoes and numerous followers fully armed, the alarm was spread and preparations were made for flight. The Ngati-Awa of Whakatane gave the alarm, and commenced moving off, whilst the Urewera hapus, Ngati-Koura and Ngati-Rongo, under page 240 their chiefs Pa-i-te-rangi, Te Ehutu, Matenga, and others, at once fled inland up the valley. The Ngati-Awa followed as far as the neighbourhood of Ruatoki, and then occupied the abandoned pas of the Urewera. When Nga-Puhi arrived, a skirmish took place at Te Matai on the west side of the river near the mouth of the gorge, in which Ngati-Awa were defeated, losing a Ngati-Pukeko chief named Torona, killed, whilst several prisoners were taken, amongst them a man afterwards christened Hohaia, a son of Mata-te-hokia’s. The Ngapuhi then attacked the pas in the neighbourhood, and took those named Te Tawhero, Otamahaki, Te Huā, Waikirikiri, and Waitapu, all situated near the entrance to the gorge. A great many people were killed and captured. Amongst the Ngati-Awa chiefs killed were, Kahukahu, Papata, and Hako-purakau (of Ohiwa) whilst Ngahau was taken prisoner.

Ngati-Awa and Ngati-Pukeko now fled after the Urewera people, up the Whakatane valley, Pomare with the Nga-Puhi following close on their heels, killing many people before they reached a place of safety in the mountains near Rua-tahuna, over fifty miles inland from Whakatane. The principal chiefs of Ngati-Awa at this time were, Te Hāmai-waho,* Te Ngarara, Tirau, Te Hokowhitu, and Te Mau-tara-nui—a name we shall frequently come across again, as well as that of Te Ngarara. The sub-tribes, or page 241 hapus, of Ngati-Awa and Ngati-Pukeko engaged in these events were, Ngati-Wharepaia, Ngati-Ikapuku, Ngati-Mou-moana, Ngati-Paraheka, Ngati-Whetenui, Ngati-Hokopu, and some of the Pahi-poto. The Ngati-Awa people of Whakatane itself fled before Nga-Puhi in a different direction, namely to Te Tiringa on the present road to Te Teko where the Ngati-Tapahi and Ngati-Hinenoa lived, and these people escaped the persecution of Nga-Puhi.

Pomare returned down the valley before reaching Ruatahuna, laden with the spoil of the battlefield in the shape of provisions and “heads,” and from Whakatane took his departure for his home at the Bay of Islands, much to the joy of the Ngati-Awa and Urewera, who then returned to their desolated homes at Whakatane and Ruatoki. The latter tribe, however, had not long been settled at Ruatoki when they again had to flee inland, owing to a raid made by the Whakatohea tribe, of Opotiki, who inflicted on them a severe defeat at Otairoa, and carried away as prisoners many of the chief women of the Urewera tribe. This event does not, however, belong to this story.

* Subsequently killed in the war between Te Whakatohea with Ngati-Awa, at Ohiwa about 1825. See the interesting account of his death in the Appendix hereto.