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Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:

Tau-kawau’s Expedition, 1816–17

Tau-kawau’s Expedition, 1816–17.

The next northern expedition was that under Tau-kawau of Nga-Puhi, and the only means of fixing the date of this is, “that it was one or two years before that of Tu-whare and others”–which latter there is little reason to doubt was in 1819. This party fought its way through the Ati-Awa and Taranaki territories as far as Puara-te-rangi, a pa situated near Pu-nehu, not far from the present village of Pihama. Of the adventures of this expedition on the road we have little information, page 64 except a few notes to be found in the Maori account of the Tu-whare—Te Rau-paraha raid of 1819–20, and these notes are very wanting in detail. But for the fact that this is always alluded to by the Taranaki people as a Nga-Puhi foray, and the known presence of Rewa, a high chief of the Bay of Islands, with the party, we should scarcely know from which part it came.

The following is from the account referred to: “Some of our expedition wished to go a different route from the main body to purchase native garments (kaitakas); there were twice fifty of us of this mind. The reason of this was, the Taranaki people had great knowledge of weaving kaitakas, and their muka (prepared flax) called tihore, or takiri-kau was very superior. When we went to purchase these garments in exchange for Native weapons we quarrelled amongs ourselves and eventually got to fighting. The reason of that strife was, some of our party desired to secure all the best garments; and because of that strife we again divided, fifty of us going one way, fifty another. One company went with Pangari (of Lower Hokianga), and that man decided to do such works as would cause his name to be heard of by the many of the land. As the party of Pagari travelled along they met an old woman who was gathering tutu berries to make wine; her they killed, then cooked and ate her. Whilst they were cooking her, and when the people put “the fish” into the oven, page 65 the fire blazed up; this was said to be an omen for them that they should soon see another pa, and if they assaulted it they would take it. The flame of the oven represented the courage of the old woman welling up and leaving the body, and hence it was believed the courage of the tribe of the old woman had evaporated. This old woman was a tohunga, and therefore the courage of her tribe would cease when they stood up in battle. The oven had been covered in and the “fish” was cooked and being uncovered by the fifty men when the spies returned, who had been sent out to look for the people of the country. The spies said, “The people to whom the old woman belonged have heard of the murder, and the taua hikutoto, or avenging party, has arisen to attack us.”

“Then the fifty men seized their belts, girded themselves and fell into line for the fight. The enemy appeared and occupied the summit of a hillock. They were very numerous and soon the party retreated, in fact they fled. Whilst retreating, Pangari was wounded in the leg with a kotaha (or sling-spear) which had been thrown by the enemy. Nga-Puhi continued to retreat until they got a long distance away, when they laid in hiding in a swamp, selecting a hard place in the bog; here they arranged themselves in rank in three parties. One party went to search for food, because they had left the body of the old woman behind in the oven, and this party met the old woman’s tribe. They took some reeds and bound them together page 66 (to stand on) and fought the enemy at the side of the swamp, and the tribe of Taranaki was defeated, the bodies of the dead becoming food for Nga-Puhi. Pangari declared that hunger, thirst, and fear had deprived his tongue of saliva.

“After this the fifty men returned to the main body of Nga-Puhi and travelled altogether, abandoning their journey to collect kaitakas.

“When we got to the pa at Waimate, and after three nights there we found a woman, whom we cooked and ate. Just afterwards one of the Taranaki people appeared and called out, “To-morrow our taua will appear to chastise you for your murder.” At daylight we occupied an old pa, and later on in the day the Taranaki taua appeared coming up a valley at the foot of the pa occupied by Nga-Puhi. That pa was situated at the end of a point which jutted out into a chasm and was surrounded with perpendicular cliffs, excepting one part where it joined on to the mainland. (This description fits the Orangi-tuapeka pa close to Waimate and three miles south-east from the town of Manaia.) Nga-Puhi heard the encouraging words of the chief of the Taranaki tribe urging his men to assault the pa. The words of the chief to his people were like this, “Au! Au! ki toa!” which in the Nga-Puhi dialect would be, “Ana! Ana! kia toa!”–(“Ha! Ha! be brave!”) Then their shouts of defiance were heard, “Au! Au! ki ka’a ki page 67 ka’a,” which is in Nga-Puhi, “Ana! Ana! kia kaha!”—(“Ha! Ha! be strong!”)

“The Taranaki tribe then assaulted the Nga-Puhi pa. The army of that people was one thousand once told strong. They scaled the sides of the gully, and then the one hundred and fifty of Nga-Puhi fled, followed by the Taranaki taua, who killed six of the Nga-Puhi chiefs as they fled. So Nga-Puhi retreated to a distance; their dead were left to the enemy, as also some in the pa they retreated from. Finding that Taranaki did not follow quickly, Nga-Puhi halted and then divided into four parties to await the oncoming of Taranaki; they waited on the path. Presently Taranaki were seen on a ridge across a depression from the hillock occupied by Nga-Puhi. Between the two parties ran a small stream, whilst in the rear of Nga-Puhi was the forest which they could fly to if defeated by Taranaki. It was now evening, and Taranaki made no sign of attacking Nga-Puhi, but instead proceeded to entrench themselves; the inner wall of their maioro, or rampart, was made of fern and korokiu (veronica), and tree-fern stems were used to strengthen the ahuriri, or trench.

“Then Nga-Puhi sent their tohunga, or priest, to the stream to “uplift” his incantations so that Nga-Puhi might be brave and strong to smite their enemies. Whilst the tohunga was engaged in his incantations, Nga-Puhi assembled to discuss such measures as they could devise to put in force when the battle page 68 commenced, for the reason that Nga-Puhi were without take, or cause, in this fight–nothing but a desire to acquire kaitakas.

“Now the Taranaki people were very numerous and far exceeded Nga-Puhi in number. Hence it was decided before the rays of the sun appeared to send one of our divisions against the defences of Taranaki, there to assault them by making a dash and spear as many as they could with their long spears; whilst another party went along by the edge of the forest, so that when the first party assaulted the others should take Taranaki in the rear. Other three divisions were to assault the place in different directions so that Taranaki should be confused at the number of points of attack. The divisions of Nga-Puhi that remained were to guard the camp, lest it should be taken.

“All these various plans were carried out and the result was that a great many of Taranaki were killed, among them fourteen chiefs, who were all eaten by Nga-Puhi, and their heads preserved to be taken back to the Nga-Puhi homes to be jeered at by the people.”

Such is the account given by Pangari to the unknown writer of the account of Tu-whare’s expedition of 1819–20, with which, apparently, Pangari went to Taranaki.

It was after this that Nga-Puhi attacked Puara-te-rangi pa, near Punehu, when in the fight Tamaroa of Taranaki, with his weapon, a pou-whenua made of maire, struck a blow at page 69 Tau-kawau’s legs, both of which he broke. This caused the taua to turn in their tracks, and then make their way homeward.

Mr. Skinner adds, “The Ngati-Mahanga people of Taranaki had fled into the forest around the base of Mount Egmont. Some of them, however, with the southern part of Taranaki, under Nga-Tai-rakau-nui, retired to Puara-te-rangi pa, situated on the sea coast a little under half a mile north of the mouth of the Punehu river. This expedition killed a Taranaki chief named Mokowera, who is said to have been a son of Tu-poki of Ngati-Tama by a Taranaki woman. Tau-kawau’s mere was found sometime afterwards partly covered with sand close to this spot, and, after passing through several hands, is now in the possession of Tohu,* Maori prophet of Parihaka.” Tuakawau’s body was taken back by his people as far as Manu-korihi, where he was buried at Rohutu, on the north bank of Waitara.

The Taranaki people say that Tau-kawau had been specially invited to come on this taua by Ati-Awa in order that he might assist that tribe in fighting Taranaki in order to square some of their tribal quarrels. A great many Ati-Awa from Waitara joined in this expedition. On the arrival of Tau-kawau at Manukorihi, the Ati-Awa people presented him with a taiaha as a rakau-whakarawe.

In this expedition Nga-Puhi had three muskets, a fact which is referred to in the

* Tohu died 5th February, 1907.

page 70 following lament, when, it is said, Rewa, of the Bay of Islands, shot Mokowera.

The tangi for Mokowera will be found in ‘Nga Moteatea,” p. 383, in which it is said that he was killed by Rewa, a well-known Nga-Puhi chief. It is as follows:–

Taku hou kotuku!
Ka whati i te ra,
Moenga rangatira
Ki runga o Puara-te-rangi,
’A kai atu au,
I te tangata toro,
Ara taku kai, ko Rewa,
Nana koe, E hoa!
I mate ai.
Ka kai Tu,
Ka kai Rangi
Ka kai Uenuku, e—i.

Alas, my heron plume!
That perished on the day,
At the fatal sleep of chiefs
Above at Puara-te-rangi,
Would that I could take revenge,
On the people from afar,
Rewa should be my food,
Through whom, O Friend!
Thou died.
The war-god Tu should feast,
The Heavens should consume,
And also Uenuku—

Uenuku was one of the great man-consuming, or war-gods of Taranaki, by some member of which tribe was this lament composed.

Of the northern expeditions by the east coast, several will have to be referred to at greater length shortly, but I put together here a few notices that I have been able to abstract from page 71 the “Missionary Register,” and from Maori sources, which go to show that during the early years of the nineteenth century such expeditions were very common, and sometimes conducted on a considerable scale.

Korokoro, the well-known chief of Paroa, Bay of Islands, who resided with Marsden at Parramatta for some time in 1814, told the latter that he had been engaged in several lengthy voyages along the east coast, and in one of which he went as far as the South Cape, where they found the weather very cold with much hail and snow. They were away four months, and trading was the object. This must be the south end of the North Island, not of the South Island, for I believe Nga-Puhi never crossed Cook Strait.

In March, 1815, Marsden, on his return from his first visit to New Zealand, called in at the North Cape, where he found a Tahitian named Jem, who had lived with him at Parramatta some years previously, and who could talk English very well. Jem mentioned to Marsden that during the five years previous to that time he had accompanied four different expeditions to make war on the people of the East Cape,* each consisting of about 1000 men. The people Jem was living with were the Aupouri tribe, and these expeditions must have occurred between 1810 and 1815.

* It is necessary to say, that in the old Missionary records, the East Cape seems to include any place south of Mercury Bay.

page 72

When Mr. Kendall was at the Bay of Islands on his first visit in 1814—to ascertain the possibility of establishing a mission amongst the Maoris, for which purpose he had been sent by the Rev. Samuel Marsden—he mentions that on July 17th, 1814, he witnessed the return of two of Tui’s brothers (and consequently brothers of Korokoro) from a “distant part” of New Zealand, where they had been on a trading voyage.

In July, 1815, on his first visit, Marsden whilst anchored in the brig “Active” off Whakatiwai, Hauraki Gulf, saw a number of canoes together with a great many people camped near there, and, on enquiry, he ascertained that this was an expedition on its way to the East Cape to make war against the people there, and that it was composed of people from the west coast, who had hauled their canoes overland to the Gulf. Marsden was anxious to visit a people who were capable of undertaking such an enterprise, but on the advice of Te Morenga refrained from doing so. Probably these were some of the Manukau or lower Waikato people, or, indeed, they may have been Ngati-Whatua, for in former days they sometimes dragged their canoes overland from the head of the Kumeu Stream, which falls into Kaipara harbour, into the Wai-te-mata. I do not know of any Ngati-Whatua expedition to the east coast of that date however, unless it may be one which will be referred to later on, when that tribe and others took Te Roto-a page 73 Tara pa in Hawke’s Bay. On the 10th May, 1815, Mr. Kendall records the fact that he was visited by Te Puhi and Tara, of Whangaroa (both had been concerned in the taking of the “Boyd” in 1809). They had just returned from a five months’ cruise along the east coast, making war with the people, and there were a number of their tribe, Ngati-Pou, with them then on their return to Whangaroa. Tara (George) said they had killed many of their enemies, but brought back no heads. Hongi-Hika and his brother, Kaingaroa, met the ope as it returned. Hine-mati-oro* is mentioned by Kendall as a great “Queen” living on the east coast at that time. So far as I am aware none of the Maori accounts of these expeditions have been preserved.

Nearly the whole, if not all, of these northern expeditions along the east coast went by water, and it was customary for quite a considerable number of canoes to take part in them. This arose from the fact that the sea on the east coast of New Zealand in the summer months was generally calm. It is called on that account Te Tai-tama-wahine. From the North Cape to the East Cape there are also numbers of harbours in which the fleets could lie in safety, and sheltered landing places also. It was not the custom to travel by night, though sometimes done, and all cooking had to be performed ashore, for the war-canoes were much too tapu

* Hine-mati-oro was a very high chieftainess of the Aitanga-a-Hauiti tribe, whose headquarters was Tologa Bay.

page 74 ever to carry cooked food in them, or, indeed, sometimes even to carry food at all. For this purpose there were canoes which acted as tenders to the others, often paddled by the women, who frequently accompanied their relations on these expeditions.

The war-canoe of old was a fine sea-going vessel, and notwithstanding its great length in proportion to breadth, could stand very heavy seas. They were sometimes double, fastened together with cross ties, but these were rare, though Captain Cook mentions them, and it is known that the Ngai-Tahu people of the South Island used them in their war expeditions as late as 1830. They were called taurua, unua, or unuku. Such were some of the canoes in which the ancestors of the Maoris crossed the seas from Hawaiki, the “Arawa” and others being specially mentioned as tauruas. The Rev. T. G. Hammond tells me that the “Aotea” canoe, in which came the ancestors of the Patea and other Cook Strait tribes, was a waka-ama or canoe with an outrigger. Excepting the “Toki-a-tapiri” canoe, now in the Auckland Museum, there is probably not another specimen of the waka-taua, or war-canoe, left in the country, and even that is not a first-class one; it is wanting in the handsomely carved rapa, or stern-post. These vessels averaged from 50 to 100 feet in length, with a width of from four to eight feet, and many would carry a hundred paddlers.

page break
Black and White photograph of a Waka being paddled.

Maori War Canoe.

page 76

Hoani Nahe describes as follows some of the Ngati-Maru war-canoes of the early years of the nineteenth century:—“ It was Ngati-Paoa and Ngati-Whanaunga who supplied the wakataua nunui, great war-canoes, that enabled Waikato to escape in the night,” (after the battle of Tiko-rauroha); “their names were ‘Otuiti,’ ‘Okunui,’ and ‘Whenua-roa.’ These canoes were very much larger than any I ever saw. ‘Okunui’ and ‘Otuiti’ would hold five ranks of men abreast, right from the bows to the stern; a row of men on each side would paddle, whilst three others sat in the middle ready to take the places of those who became tired. ‘Whenua-roa’ was not so large; only three men could sit abreast on the seats.”

A canoe was seen at the Thames some 40–50 years ago lying in the forest—never having been finished—which measured 110 feet in length, and this was the hull only, without the projecting stem and stern pieces, which in such case would not be less than 15 feet long each.

The old war-canoe was a very beautiful object. Painted red and black, with elegantly carved head and stern pieces, the bows adorned with gracefully projecting curved rods (puhi), ornamented with tufts of white albatross feathers, and with white feathers every few feet along the battens which covered the joint where the solid hull was built up by the top boards. They were very fast, and could, in favourable weather, travel 10 miles an hour under the rhythmical dip of over a hundred page 77 paddlers. They sailed too, but not very near the wind. The sails were triangular in shape with the apex downwards; two were generally carried. The rapa, or stern-post, stood up often over 15 feet in height, and was beautifully carved in delicate spirals, besides being adorned with albatross feathers. When one thinks of the enormous labour connected with the building of one of these beautiful vessels–from the first cutting down of the majestic pine with stone axes, the subsequent hollowing out and trimming into shape, the dragging out of the forest to the water, and final carving and adornment of the whole, its numerous beautifully-made paddles—often carved — carved bailers, and other appurtenances, one cannot but have a high opinion of the industry and taste of a people who could turn out so handsome an object.

I have seen a modern and small fleet of canoes, about eight or ten in number (besides ten or twelve boats), coming down the Wairoa river, Kaipara, and a pretty sight it was; but, still, as nothing compared to the fleets of old often consisting of from 50 to 60 large warcanoes, such as frequently left the Bay of Islands in the early years of the nineteenth century bound on warlike enterprises to both north and south.

It was by the aid of these vessels that Nga-Puhi spread terror and desolation right down the east coast to Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara or Port Nicholson; they never could have done the same page 78 if their expeditions had been made overland, although the great northern expedition by the west coast under Patu-one, Te Rau-paraha and , was made without canoes for most of the way. Travelling without other roads than foot-tracks was too slow.

To each canoe there was one or more fuglemen—Kai-tuki—whose duty it was by song and action to give time to the paddlers. They stood up on the bars which served for seats, or on the long fore and aft beam which ran from stem to stern amidships, and there flourished their weapons, accompanying this by one of their canoe songs, of which there are several still preserved. The chiefs sat in the stern, and sometimes used the powerful steeringpaddle, or urunga. Running fore and aft was a hurdle-like arrangement of stout manuka poles, which served as a deck, on which the paddlers placed their feet, or knelt on, which also served to keep the cargo out of the hold, or riu, in which there was always more or less water. In one or two places there was a break in this deck, where the scoop-like bailers, or tiheru, could be used.

The war-canoes were very tapu; every step in their construction was accompanied by incantations or prayers said by the priests, part of whose special functions it was to act as naval architects, and direct the whole proceedings, from the cutting down of the tree to the last finishing adornment of the vessel. In former times, in the first launching of a canoe, the page break
Black and White photograph of War Expedition.

Maori War Expedition

page 80 skids were the living bodies of slaves. When not in use, the canoes were kept in sheds, or wharau, purposely made, and situated near the water. In “Captain Cook’s Voyages” will be found a very accurate drawing of one of these old waka-taua, or war-canoes, and beautiful drawings in great detail in Mr. A. Hamilton’s “Maori Art,” published by the Governors of the “New Zealand Institute.”