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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

The Death of Ngarara

The Death of Ngarara.

I have said that the taking of the “Hawes” was connected with our story and the following copied from J. A. Wilson’s “Life of Te Waharoa,” shows the connection and the sequel. “When the news of the cutting off of the “Hawes” reached the Bay of Islands, some page 417 Europeans resident there, considered it necessary to make an example of Ngarara. They therefore sent the “New Zealander” schooner to Whakatane, and Te Hana, a Nga-Puhi chief acquainted with Ngarara, volunteered to accompany the expedition. The “New Zealander” arrived off Whakatane, and Ngarara encouraged by the success of his enterprise against the “Hawes,” determined to act in the same manner towards this vessel. But first, with the usual cautious instinct of a Maori, he went on board in friendly guise for the double purpose of informing himself of the character of the vessel, and of putting the pakehas off their guard. Ngarara spent a pleasant day, hearing the korero (news) and doubtless doing a little business; so much so that his was the last canoe alongside the vessel, which latter it was arranged should enter the river the following morning. Meanwhile, our Nga-Puhi chief sat quietly and apparently unconcernedly smoking his pipe on the taffrail, his double gun, as a matter of course lying near at hand; yet was he not unmindful of his mission or indifferent to what was passing before him. He had marked his prey, and only waited the time when Ngarara, the last to leave, should take his seat in the canoe. For a moment the canoe’s painter was retained by the ship, ‘but in that drop of time,’ an age of sin, a life of crime, had passed away, and Ngarara had writhed his last in the bottom of his own canoe—shot by the Nga-Puhi chief in retribution of the “Hawes” page 418 tragedy, in which he had been the prime mover and chief participator.

“One of the natives who took part in the “Hawes” tragedy was a Nga-Puhi man, who at the time was visiting at Whakatane, but usually lived at Maunga-tapu, near Tauranga, having taken a woman of that place to wife. It so happened that Waka-Nene, of Hokianga, afterwards Tamati-Waka, and our ally in the first war between the Maoris and the Government, at the Bay if Islands, 1843–4, was on the beach at Maunga-tapu, when this Nga-Puhi man returned from Whakatane to his wife and friends. Tamati-Waka advanced to meet him and delivered a speech, pacing up and down in Maori style, while Ngati-he, the people of the pa sat round. “Ugh! you are a pretty fellow,” said Tamati, “to call yourself a Nga-Puhi. Do they murder pakehas at Nga-Puhi in that manner? What makes you steal away here to kill pakehas? Has the pakeha done you any harm that you kill him? There! that is for your work,” he said, as he suddenly stopped short and shot the native dead, whom he was addressing amidst his connections and friends. This action, bold even to rashness on Waka-Nene’s part, stamped his character for the future, throughout the length and breadth of New Zealand as the friend of the pakeha-a reputation he has since so well sustained.”

The revenge taken by the Whaka-tohea people, with which tribe Ngarara was connected, for his death, belongs only indirectly page 419 to this story. But in the course they took they secured the death of an unfortunate white man then staying at Hicks Bay.

It would appear from a narrative written by the late Major Ropata Wahawaha, that on board the “New Zealander” schooner were some Ngati-Porou people on a visit to the Bay of Islands, to which place they had been urged to proceed by Uenuku, a chief of Ngati-Porou, and that it was in course of their voyage back to the Bay that Ngarara was shot. After the occurrence, the Ngati-Awa people of Whakatane (Ngarara’s people), having seen the Ngati-Porou on board, came to the conclusion that Ngarara’s death was due to the influence of the latter tribe. So they arose, together with the Whaka-tohea, Whanau-a-Apanui and Whanau-a-Ehutu tribes and proceeded to Wharekahika (Hicks Bay), and laid siege to the pa at Omaru-iti there. Here Tu-tohi-a-rangi, Uenuku’s son was killed, together with a white man named Tera (?Taylor), whilst another named George, escaped by swimming off to a rock, whence he was rescued by a ship’s boat belonging to a whaler, which happened to call in at that place in the very nick of time. Tera’s body was burnt. This was either in the end of 1829, or the beginning of 1830.

Subsequently, in 1831, Nga-ure and Wharetomokia of Nga-Puhi, with their people were returning from a friendly visit to Ngati-Porou, of the east coast, by canoe, when Te Whanau-a-Apanui tribe, having heard of their passing page 420 along the coast, thought this too good an opportunity to be lost, so manned a canoe and gave chase. They came up with the Nga-Puhi chiefs off Whakaari, or White Island, and after a fight succeeded in capturing the canoe, and killed most of the crew. Thus was some revenge obtained for Ngarara’s death, but it led to consequences perhaps little anticipated by Te Whanau-a-Apanui tribe, as we shall see later on. At this time the Nga-Puhi chief Te Wera was still living at Te Mahia Peninsula, and had been at enmity with Ngati-Porou, but the death of the two Nga-Puhi chiefs, together with that of Tu-tohi-a-rangi, son of one of the principal chiefs of Ngati-Porou, appears to have ended the enmity and engendered a common desire for revenge against the people of the Bay of Plenty in which Nga-Puhi played a prominent part, but not till 1834. But to return to the North, for a few items from the “Missionary Record.”

On May 22nd, 1829, the Rev. W. Williams met at Kawakawa, Bay of Isalands, a Maori chief who had lately returned from a visit to Tahiti. This is worth noting, in order to put us on our guard against accepting as original traditions of the Maori, matters that this and other Maoris may have learned in their whaling voyages to the central Pacific. Not that there is much danger of this occurring from Nga-Puhi sources, for that tribe has probably contributed less so far towards the ancestral history of the Maoris than any other tribe.

page 421

22nd June, Rev. W. Williams went to Kerikeri to visit the well-known Nga-Puhi chief Rewa, “who had severely injured his hand by the bursting of a gun. It was necessary to amputate three of his fingers, which I proposed to do, but the superstitions of the people were so great that everyone was opposed to it, and I was also given to understand that if I had cut his hand, a party of strange natives who had just arrived from the southward to visit Rewa, would probably have been cut off by Rewa’s people as a payment for this accident.” This was strict Maori law; some one had to suffer, whether he was the wrong-doer or another was not of much consequence. A noticeable instance of this occurred the following year, as we shall see. This party of natives from the south appears to have returned on August 6th. Who they were is not stated, but probably were some of the Ngati-Porou people. The Rev. J. D. Lang describes Rewa in 1839, as follows:-“He is as fine a looking man as I have ever seen, tall, muscular, athletic, with an expression of kindliness on his open countenance, which it is impossible to mistake, notwithstanding the tattooing with which his face is disfigured. His daughter is one of the handsomest native women I have seen.”

At this period there appears to have been a Maori god of some note, established at the Bay, named “Whiti,” who communicated with the people by a whistling sound, produced by the priest by means of ventriloquism, which, page 422 indeed, was the common mode of manifestation of the presence of an atua.

April 24th, 1829. All the natives round Waimate proceeded to Whangaroa to the hahunga, or “bone-scraping” of Hongi Hika’s bones. This was an old custom and the occasion of much feasting, together with some wailing by the relatives when the bones of distinguished persons after the body had been buried for about a year, were exhumed, scraped clean, painted red with kokowai, or red ochre, and then finally deposited in the family vault, usually a cave or chasm only known to a very few.