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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

The Girls War (so called), 1830

The Girls War (so called), 1830.

In 1830, an occurrence took place at the Bay of Islands, which is very illustrative of Maori customs, and which led to further Nga-Puhi expeditions against the southern tribes. It has been called the “Girls War,” for this reason: —The captain of a whaler, then anchored off Kororareka (afterwards Russell), to which place very many such ships came in those days for fresh provisions, &c.,* took to himself two Maori girls as wives. Tiring of these after a time, he took two other and younger girls, sisters, and discarded the first pair. Not long after, the four girls were bathing on the beach at Kororareka, and were sporting and chaffing page 423 one another, whilst their mothers looked on from the shore. From chaff they got to abuse, and finally to cursing in the Maori sense. The mother of the first two girls rushed into the water and nearly succeeded in drowning the other two girls. The first two girls were said to have been connected with the family of Te
Black and white drawing of a bay.

From D’Urville’s Voyage.
Kororareka beach (now Russell) in 1827.

Morenga, an influential chief of Kawakawa, who has appeared very frequently in these pages, whilst the ladies who succeeded them in the affections of the captain were connected with Rewa’s family, one of the most important of the Bay chiefs. This incident led to great disturbances, for insults of the nature offered could not be brooked by the old-time Maori. page 424 Ururoa, a chief of Whangaroa and brother-in-law of the late Hongi Hika came to Kororareka with a large force and proceeded to plunder the kumara plantations of the local people, i.e., Te Morenga’s and Pomare’s tribes. This was on the 5th March, 1830. The missionaries used their utmost persuasion to avert a conflict, for the two parties were now in close proximity; but on the following day, owing to the accidental discharge of a musket which killed a woman of the invading party, a general fight was brought on in which a good many people were killed and more wounded—Rev. Mr. Davies says nearly one hundred. Amongst the slain was Hengi of Takou, north of the Bay, a chief of some rank.

On the 8th March, 1830, arrived at the Bay, the Rev. Samuel Marsden and his daughter. Naturally he used his great influence to assist the resident missionaries to make peace between the fighting tribes, most of the members of which were related; indeed it is said that often fathers, sons and brothers were fighting against one another on either side. A peace was made on the 17th March in the presence of about a thousand natives, and ratified on the 18th, “When,” says the Missionary Record, “a chief from ururoa’s party repeated a very long song, with a small stick in his hand, which at the conclusion he broke and threw down at the feet of the ambassador of the opposite party. The meaning of this was, that page 425 hostilities had been broken off. The latter chief then repeats a similar form of words and casts down his broken stick at the feet of the former speaker.”

Thus peace was made so far as Nga-Puhi was concerned. But Hengi’s two sons, Mango and Kakaha, were not satisfied with the utu obtained for their father’s death, and proceeded to arrange for a hostile expedition against the tribes of the south, “Kia ngata ai te ngakau pouri”, - to assuage the darkness of the heart. This was, of course, in strict accordance with Maori law: someone must suffer; and as they could not attack their relations, the Bay of Islands people, after peace had been made, they used this as an excuse for a raid on the innocent tribes of the Bay of Plenty.

But, Mr. C. F. Maxwell tells me, there was another take also, inducing the Takou people to seek revenge. He says, “I will now explain why Ngati-Kurti (of Whangape, west coast, north of Hokianga), joined Nga-Puhi and formed part of the ope which devastated Tuhua, and were afterwards cut off and eaten by Ngai-Te-Rangi at Motiti, Bay of Plenty. When Hengi was killed at Kororareka in 1830, by Ngati-Manu, he left two sons, Mango and Kakaha, by a Ngati-Kuri woman, and also a young wife. After his death, Tareha, the great Nga-Puhi chief, of Ngati-rehia hapu took the young widow to wife. The two stepsons objected and brought her back. In revenge, a Nga-Puhi taua came down and destroyed the page 426 kumara cultivations of the brothers. This naturally caused much annoyance and the brothers therefore decided—“We will go south and obtain payment, or die at the hands of strangers, for those who have injured us are of our own tribe.”

They sent to their mother’s people, and about 200 of the Ngati-Kuri joined them. The take or reason of these people consenting to join in the expedition was this:—Whare-tomokia of Ngati-tautahi, had been way-laid and slain by Te Whanau-a-Apanui at Orete, Bay of Plenty, while returning from a visit to Waiapu, some of his people being retained as slaves. It was to obtain utu for this, and to release the prisoners that they joined the expedition.”

The date of Whare-tomokia’s death was apparently 1831; he was with Nga-ure as described a few pages back.

* An old settler informed me in 1880, that he had seen over sixty whale ships at one time, anchored in the Kawakawa river, opposite Opua.