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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

Ahuahu, 1830, and Motiti, 1831

Ahuahu, 1830, and Motiti, 1831.

The record of Mango and Kakaha’s expedition to Ahuahu, or the Mercury Islands in the Bay of Plenty, are more meagre than usual, nor can I ascertain the exact date of their departure from Takou, a few miles north of the Bay of Islands. It was, however, somewhere about July, 1830, for the Rev. W. Williams says, July 18:—“A party from Kororareka who were concerned in the late fight (March, 1830), are about to proceed to the south to fight with any they meet with, though they are not page 427 at hostilities with any in the south at present. They are going to obtain satisfaction for one of their chiefs killed at Kororareka, as they cannot conveniently obtain it from the people
Black and White photograph of a older Maori man.

Tanika Te Mutu, a chief of Ngati-Whanaunga, of Coromandel, a type of the old Maori warrior.

who killed him.” The expedition was a small one, only about one hundred warriors taking part in it, and probably not more than two or three canoes. The war-party fell unexpectedly page 428 on the unfortunates living at Ahuahu, or Great Mercury Island, who were probably some of the Ngati-Whanaunga tribe, and killed a great number of them. They then attacked Maunga-tapu pa at Tauranga, but suffered a repulse at the hands of the Ngai-Te-Rangi tribe, after which they returned home to the north.

On the 20th January, 1831, the Rev. A. N. Brown notes:—“The accounts received from the south are disturbing; many have been cut off.” This apparently refers to the above expedition. He adds, “During the past four months there has been much fighting amongst the people living thirty miles south (of the Bay) and at Hokianga.”

I remember hearing an incident of this massacre at Ahuahu Island, which adds another instance of the remarkable tenacity of life of the Maori. A man had been tomahawked by Nga-Puhi (a terrible wound), and was left for dead. He came to himself, apparently some time after the fight, to find himself the sole survivor of his people. Nga-Puhi had left, after holding the usual feast. The poor fellow bound up his head as best he could, got something to eat, then swam the two and a-half mile channel separating Ahuahu from the mainland, and finally after many days of wearisome travel turned up at Coromandel, where his friends lived. He survived for many years afterwards.

page 429

The defeat suffered by Nga-Puhi at Maungatapu, Tauranga, naturally necessitated a retaliatory expedition to wipe it out; and moreover, the late Hengi’s relatives and tribe felt that the massacre at Ahuahu Island had not satisfied their lust for revenge. Another expedition was therefore decided on, this time to be commanded by Te Haramiti, an old priest of Matauri, near Takou, a few miles north of the Bay of Islands. Apparently the expedition started from the Bay early in 1831, for news had reached there, of the Nga-Puhi defeat in March, as the following extracts show:—

March 6th, 1831.—Rev. W. Williams says, “News has just arrived that a party of about fifty natives from Takou which went down south about two months ago to kill all that came in their way are entirely cut off at (or near) Tauranga.” The Rev. A. N. Brown under March 5th, says: “Went to Rangihoua (at the Bay.) A desperate battle has been fought at the south, only one man has returned out of the party that went from Takou, consisting of twenty chiefs, forty slaves, seven canoes and two cannon. This party, before they were surprised had cut off and destroyed at different places over 300 natives.” March 11th.—“A few of the natives from Whangaruru (a little south of the Bay) joined the expedition from Takou which has been cut off in the south. A large party from inland are now gone to Whangaruru to eat up all the food of those who have been killed, whilst the page 430 children and wives will be left desolate.” This proceeding of course, was the law of muru, and the “inland people” would thus reason: these Whangaruru people had no business to go and get killed; the tribe thereby loses a number of good warriors; their relatives must suffer for it.

The best account of Te Hara-miti’s expedition is that given in Mr. J. A. Wilson’s “Life of Te Waha-roa” so often quoted, which I copy here, with the addition of a few notes of my own.

“Undaunted and undiscouraged by want of success, Nga-Puhi again sent forth a taua, led by Te Hara-miti, a noted old priest. As this war-party was a small one of 140 men, it was arranged that a reinforcement should follow it. In 1832 (read 1831) Te Hara-miti’s taua set out, and landed first at Ahuahu where about one hundred Ngati-Maru were surprised, killed and eaten.* The only person who escaped this massacre was a man with a peculiar shaped head, the result of a tomahawk wound then received. He said, as he sat in the dusk of the evening in the bush, a little apart from his companions, something rustled past him, he seemed to receive a blow, and became insensible; when next he opened his eyes, he saw the full moon sailing in the heavens; all was still as death, he wondered what had happened. Feeling pain, he put his hand to his head, and, finding an

* I think this refers to the previous expedition under Mango and Kakaha of the previous year, which, there is no doubt did kill about 100 people at Ahuahu.

page 431 enormous wound, began to comprehend the situation; at length, faint for want of food, and believing the place deserted, he cautiously and painfully crept forth, to find the bones of his friends, and the ovens in which they had been cooked. Food there was none; yet, in that wounded condition he managed to subsist on roots and shell fish until found and rescued by some of his own tribe, who went from the mainland to visit their friends who had been slaughtered. How the wretched man lived under such circumstances is a marvel.*
“From Mercury Island, Te Hara-miti’s taua sailed to Tuhua (Mayor Island) where they surprised and killed, and ate many of Te Whanau-a-Ngai-Taiwhao. A number however took refuge in their rocky and impregnable pa at the east end of the island, whence they contrived to send intelligence to Ngai-Te-Rangi at Tauranga of Nga-Puhi’s irruption. The Nga-Puhi taua remained several days at Tuhua, irresolute whether to continue the incursion or return to their own country. A few men of the taua, satisfied with their first slaughter, had wished to return from Mercury Island; but now all, excepting Te Hara-miti, desired to do the same. They urged the success of the

* It will be noted that Mr. Wilson’s account of this incident differs but little from my account given on a previous page.

Mr. Maxwell tells me, that Kauae-hapainga, a priest of Ngati-Kuri—which tribe formed part of the expedition–had cast the omens, and found them unfavourable to a further extension of the Nga-Puhi operations, and he advised a return home, but Te Hara-miti overruled this.

page 432 expedition; that having accomplished their purpose, further operations were unnecessary, that they were in the immediate vicinity of the hostile and powerful Ngai-Te-Rangi, who, should they hear of the recent attack would be greatly incensed; that their own numbers were few, and there appeared little hope of the arrival of the promised reinforcements, and that though the tribes in the south possessed only a few guns yet they no longer dreaded firearms as formerly, when the paralysing terror they inspired so frequently enabled Nga-Puhi to perpetrate the greatest massacres with impunity—hence Pomare and his taua had never returned from the Waikato. To these arguments Te Hara-miti, their priest and leader, replied that, though they had done very well, the atua (god) was not satisfied, and they must therefore try and do more. He assured them that the promised succours were at hand and that they were required by the atua to go as far as the next island, Motiti, whence they would be permitted to return to the Bay of Islands. To Motiti, or Flat Island, accordingly they went; for Te Hara-miti, their oracle, was supposed to communicate the will of the atua, and they of course like all New Zealanders of that day, whether in war or peace, scrupulously observed the forms and rites of their ancient religion and superstitions and obeyed the commands of their spiritual divinities as revealed by the tohungas or priests.
page 433

“The Nga-Puhi, when they arrived at Motiti, were obliged to content themselves with the ordinary food found there, such as potatoes and other vegetables, with pork, for the inhabitants had fled. But this disappointment was quickly forgotten when the next day at noon a large fleet of canoes was descried approaching from the direction of Tuhua Island. Forthwith the cry arose, “Here are Nga-Puhi; here is the fulfilment of Te Hara-miti’s prophecy,” and off they rushed in scattered groups along the south-western beach of Motiti to wave welcome to their friends.

“Let us leave this party for awhile to see how in the meantime Ngai-Te-Rangi had been occupied. As soon as the news from Tuhua reached Tauranga, the Ngai-Te-Rangi hastily assembled a powerful force to punish the invaders. Te Waha-roa (of Ngati-Haua, of Mata-mata, Thames Valley inland), was on a visit to Tauranga, and by his prestige, energy, and advice, contributed much to the spirit and activity of the enterprise. In short, so vigorous were Ngai-Te-Rangi’s preparations that in a few days a fleet of war canoes bearing one thousand warriors led by Tu-paea* and Te Waha-roa, sailed out of Tauranga harbour and steered for Tuhua. (My notes add the following:—Prior to starting, recourse was had to the seer or matakite, to communicate

* Tupaea subsequently escaped from the great slaughter at Te Tumu, 7th March, 1834, when his tribe suffered very severely at the hands of Te Arawa.

page 434 with his god to ascertain whether the expedition would be successful. The seer’s name was Tawaha, and in his sleep he heard his atua chant to him the following:—

Maunga-nui, nau mai haere!
Maunga-roa, nau mai haere
Kia kite koe i Wai-hihi,
Kia kite koe i Wai-haha,
Te makeretanga o tona ure,
Ki roto te wai o Hiha!

Great mountain, thou art welcome,
Tall mountain, thou art welcome.
When thou shalt see Wai-hihi,
When thou shalt see Wai-haha,
Then shall his courage fail,
In the waters of Hiha.

This was deemed quite satisfactory and the taua proceeded joyfully on its way. The following chiefs of Ngai-Te-Rangi were engaged in this expedition:—Te Kiri-tata, Hika-reia,* Tawaha, Te Rangi-hau, Te Panepane, Tahere and others.) “The voyage was so timed that they arrived at the island at daylight on the following morning, when they were informed by Te Whanau-a-Ngai-Taiwhao, from the shore, that the Nga-Puhi had gone the previous day to Motiti. The warriors, animated with hope, and thoroughly set upon revenge, or to perish in the attempt, made old ocean hiss and boil to the measured stroke of their warlike tuki; while the long, low, warcanoes glided serpent-like over the undulations of an open swell. At mid-day, as they neared

* Hika-reia was killed as he fled from Te Tumu, 7th March, 1834, by Te Ipu-Tarakawa, at Wairakei, half-way between Maketu and Tauranga.

page 435 Motiti, the enemies’ canoes were seen ranged upon the strand at the isthmus that connects the pa at its south end with the rest of the island; and now Ngai-Te-Rangi deliberately laid on their oars and took refreshments before joining issue with their antagonists. The Maunga-tapu canoes forming the right wing of the attack, were then directed to separate at the proper time, and pass round the south end of the island, to take the enemy in the rear, and prevent the escape of any by canoes, that might be on the eastern beach.

“All arrangements having been made, Ngai-Te-Rangi committed themselves to the onslaught, which, as we have seen, the doomed Nga-Puhi rushed blindly forth to welcome. The latter, cut off from escape, surprised, scattered and outnumbered, were destroyed in detail almost without resistance.” (The first man or mata-ika was killed by the Ngai-Te-Rangi chief Te Panepane). “Old Hara-miti, blind with age, sat in the stern of the canoe ready to receive his friends; but, hearing the noise of the conflict, he betook himself to incantations to insure the success of his people, and was thus engaged when the men of Ngai-Te-Rangi came up and with their fists beat him to death, a superstitious feeling prevented each from drawing his sacred blood. Only two Nga-Puhi survived–a youth to whom quarter was given, and a man who it is said, swam to Wai-rakei on the main; in respect of which feat we will only say that it was an uncommonly long swim.”

page 436

The Nga-Puhi story says that more than one of their people escaped this massacre, and that they together with the survivors of Wharetomokia’s party (see ante) were rescued at Tauranga by Titore’s ope of the following year. Such was the end of the so-called “Girls War,” at the Bay of Islands. The quarrels of a few girls bathing on the beach at Kororareka, had thus led to the deaths of many hundreds of people, a great many of them having not the remotest connection with the quarrel, or with the people to whom the girls belonged. One of the cannon, or perhaps mortars, used by Nga-Puhi, called by the Maoris a pu-huri-whenua, and named Te Hara-miti, is still in possession of the Opotiki natives.

A few additional items from the “Missionary Record,” of 1831, may be of interest:–January 7th: Mr. W. Williams visited Titere (?Titore), who was a great chief (mentioned several times in this narrative) and had married Hongi Hika’s sister. In the same month there was fighting going on at Manga-kahia and the Upper Wairoa between the people of the latter place and the Ngai-Tawake of the Bay, which Messrs. Baker and Shepherd tried to prevent without success. Mr. Baker says, “Amongst the Wairoa people was Moe-tarau, from Kaipara, I never saw so lion-like a man in my life, and his language agreed with his appearance.” In this expedition the two missionaries ran much danger from the excited page break
Black and White photograph of a Maori girl in the forest.

Type of the young Maori woman.

page 438 state in which the natives were. In February, it was estimated that the number of natives within five miles of the new Mission Station at Waimate was between two and three thousand. Alas! how many are there now, probably not two hundred?

On May 14th, there was a party of Whakatohea natives at the Bay, who were living under the protection of Mata-karaha. June 15th, “A small cutter has returned from Tauranga, which left the Bay a fortnight since. She took from Rangi-houa thirty natives under Whare-poaka, for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of a report that a sister of his had been killed by the people of that place. Their intention was to fight, but they were overawed by the numbers.” August 5th, Rev. H. Williams visited Oruru, near Mangonui, the first visit of a missionary. Tarepa was then one of the principal chiefs, who appeared to think “the Nga-Puhi are much changed since the missionaries have lived amongst them.” December, Mr. Davis visited Maui, whose son had recently died, the boy was laid out on a bier in a shed dressed up in feathers and mats; and his father and mother and other relatives were dreadfully cut about the face and limbs, in token of grief. ‘A man was just preparing to kill one of the slaves as a sacrifice to the manes of the child.”

On April 12th, 1831, the Rev. Mr. Yates describes the ceremony of consulting the oracle as follows:—“After the two men who called page 439 themselves priests were strictly tapued, they entered for a time to pray that they might be rightly directed in the important business before them. In about five minutes they returned, each with a cockle-shell in his hand, and with which the hair was immediately cut off the forehead—each one performing very ceremoniously the office for the other. On finishing they ate some sacred food, and with another cockle-shell tied to their garments, they went into the thickest of the fern, where, having cleared a small, circular space, they sat and prayed again. Two small sticks were then cut with the cockle-shell and nicely balanced upon another stick stuck in the ground for the purpose. The circle, from the height of the fern, was well-sheltered from the wind, and the sticks were left balanced when the priests retired. They are to return again at sunset, when, if the sticks have not fallen down, their deity has not heard their prayers and the whole ceremony has to be repeated. But if they have fallen towards the rising sun, success will attend their undertaking; if the contrary, there will be no success and probably the tribe will be cut off.” This is a species of divination allied to the niu, but differs slightly from the latter ceremony.

The destruction of Te Hara-miti’s expedition naturally caused great excitement amongst the Nga-Puhi tribes, and immediately led to steps being considered for obtaining utu for page 440 this serious blow to the prestige of Nga-Puhi. We gather from the “Missionary Record,” a few notes of occurrences at the Bay in connection therewith: April 4th, 1831, Rev. H. Williams “saw Morunga (?Te Morenga), Kawiti and Hiki,” all renowned Nga-Puhi warriors, “preparing for an expedition to the south on the 12th. Kawiti’s party moved on to Kororareka, twelve canoes manned by between 200 and 300 men.” On the 13th, Moka, another great Nga-Puhi warrior, “nearly blew his hand off with a musket. This is his first meeting with this party since their fight on March 6th, 1830. The expedition was postponed till the summer. On the 18th, Te Tirarau (of Whangarei) was at Kororareka; he came to join the expedition but returned, as Kawiti had done.” On the 20th, “Visited old Wata, of Takou, from which place came the principal people in the expedition, as it was their relatives who had been cut off.” 22nd April, “Mate, of Mangakahia, Te Tirarau’s late opponent, also came to Kororareka to join the southern expedition. The Takou people also had just arrived; they were the most aggrieved of any of the people, as it was their relatives principally who fell at Motiti. Titore, Tareha and Rewa were also there. They advised the Takou people to wait until summer, when all Nga-Puhi would go with them. Titore said he could not attend to Christianity till he returned from the proposed expedition to Tauranga.”