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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

Nga-ti-toa Invasion of the South Island.—Rauparaha

Nga-ti-toa Invasion of the South Island.—Rauparaha.

Mr. W. T. L. Travers, in his charming but sanguinary narrative of "The Life and Times of Te Rauparaha" (Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. v., p. 19), shows the connection between the bloody raids of that great Ngatitoa chieftain into this Island and the lust for greenstone. Rauparaha had been squeezed out of his own country, Kawhia, and had, in conjunction with his allies Ngatiraukawa, who likewise had wandered from their home in the centre of the Island, occupied as a stronghold the Island of Kapiti, in Cook Strait, and as much as he could hold of the mainland. A chief of Ngaitahu named Rerewhaka imprudently boasted that he would rip open Rauparaha's belly with a shark's tooth. Nominally to avenge this, but really out of lust for conquest, Rauparaha made a series of sanguinary expeditions down the coast of this Island, in the course of which Rerewhaka was killed and many of his people made slaves. The Ngaitahu were known to be rich in greenstone, and, according to Mr. Travers, Rauparaha longed to add the acquisition of such treasures to the gratification which he would derive from wreaking vengeance on the Ngaitahu chieftain for the insult under which he had so long suffered. Ngaitahu of Kaikoura and Amuri had long been in the habit of sending war-parties across the Island for the purpose of killing and plundering the inhabitants of the district in which it was obtained, and at this time a branch of then" tribe held that country as conquerors. There were two routes in this quarter. The expedition sometimes passed through the Tarndale country to the upper Waiauuha, and page 16 thence through Kopiokaitangata, or Cannibal Gorge, at the head of the Maruia River, into the valley of the Grey, whence they ran down the coast to the main settlements from the mouth of that river to Jackson's Bay. At other times they passed from the Conway and other points on the East Coast through Hanmer Plains to the valley of the Ahaura, a tributary of the Grey, and so to the same localities. On the line of the former route Mr. Travers'e shepherds have frequently found stone axes and many other objects. During their journeys to the coast through these rugged scenes the war-parties lived entirely on eels, wekas (Ocydromus australis), and kakapos (Stringops habroptilus), which at that time were numerous in the ranges; whilst on their return, after a successful raid, human flesh was carried by the slaves they had taken, and the latter were not infrequently killed in order to afford a banquet to their captors. During these expeditions large quantities of greenstone, both in rough blocks and in well-fashioned weapons—the art of fashioning these being especially known to the West Coast natives—were often obtained if the approach of the invaders was not discovered in time to permit the inhabitants to conceal themselves and their treasures. And it was the accumulated wealth of many years which Rauparaha expected to acquire in case he should prove victorious in his projected attack upon Rerewhaka and his people. In one of the expeditions the famous Te Pehi was treacherously killed while on a visit to a pa: not, however, before he had secured some fine specimens of South Island art, as his grandson Wi Parata, of Waikanae, formerly a member of Parliament, has now in his possession two beautiful meres of inanga, besides other objects. His friendly visit was to obtain some presents of pounamu, including a mere for himself, though why he should take a hundred men with him on that journey, the place being a hundred miles from Kaikoura, where the main, force remained, is not quite clear. When finally the disaster overtook Ngaitahu at Kaiapoi Pa by which their power was broken it is said that they threw great quantities of greenstone into the deep swamp behind the pa, whence it has never been recovered.