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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

Ngaitahu Conquest of the West Coast

Ngaitahu Conquest of the West Coast.

The West Coast, including the valleys of the Taramakau and Arahura, had for ages been in the possession of Ngatiwairangi, who were its original occupants. According to Mr. Alexander Mackay they sprang from the Ngatihau or Wangsn nui Tribe. Mr. Stack considers that they came from the east coast of the North Island, and were of common descent with the Ngatimamoe and Ngaitahu. They were settled on that coast before Ngaitahu invaded the East Coast, The latter, or a remnant of them, whose chiefs are the Hon. E. K. Taiaroa, M.L.C., and Topi, of Ruapuke, were busy conquering the Ngatimamoe in the northern part of this Island and had got as far as Horowhenua when they first became acquainted with greenstone.

It is said that a woman named Eau Eeka, sometimes called a mad woman, with a small travelling party, found the way up the Hokitika Kiver over Browning's Pass across the mountains theretofore considered impassable, and thence to the East Coast. Arrived at Horowhenua, in the Geraldine district, she saw some men engaged in making a canoe, to whom she remarked how bluQt their tools were. They asked her if she knew any better. She replied by taking a little packet from her bosom from which she unfolded a sharp adze of the kiad of greenstone called inanga. This was the first they had ever seen, and they were so delighted with the discovery that they sent out three Ngaitahu to accompany the visitors to the coast and fetch some. On their return they stated that it was found at Arahura; after which it came into general use for tools and weapons, those of inferior material being, according to Mr. Stack's informants, discarded.

This led in time to a skirmish between Ngaitahu and Nga, tiwairangi, in which blood was shed. Te Eangitainau led aa expedition up the Eakaia and across the ranges to avenge this. Uekanuka, a great chief of the western tribe, was killed, and the expedition returned. A second expedition fared disastrously, being defeated at Mahinapua, A third expedition waa followed by others, which effected the conquest, and, pursuing the fragments of this tribe, continued the war up to recent times—perhaps the first quarter of this century—when Ngatiwairangi were finally destroyed as a tribe in the battle of Paparoa, and their survivors incorporated with Ngaitahu. The branch of the latter tribe which settled there took the page 15 name of Poutini—I suppose, from the mythical name of Ngahue's fish-god or stone.

The Poutini-Ngaitahu had shortly after their first occupation to fight for their conquest, being attacked by Ngatitumata-Kokiri, a tribe dwelling farther north on that coast and about Massacre Bay, with whom they had frequent fights about the right to catch ground-birds in the upper Grey and Buller districts. This tribe, which seems to have had a warlike career, and was ultimately destroyed to the last man in fighting North Island invaders, is supposed to be the same which attacked Tasman's boat in Massacre Bay in 1642.

Mr. Stack puts the visit of Bau Eeka about 1700; but thinks that traffic in greenstone had probably sprung up between Ngatiwairangi and the North Island tribes bordering on Cook Strait long before it became known to Ngaitahu. The existence of such a trame is proved by reference to greenstone implements in North Island traditions of earlier date; but apparently these references are very rare in the earliest traditions.