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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Historical Otaki—Early Maori Settlements

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Historical Otaki—Early Maori Settlements.

The first settlements of the Ngatiraukawa tribes in Otaki were situated near the sea beach, and were known as the Rangiuru and Pakakutu pas. These pas were formed about the year 1822. The pas were built at this spot mainly because the Rangiuru stream and the Otaki river were favourite fishing and eeling grounds, and in those days the products of the sea were always of more importance to the Maori than those of the land. In those days there was a beautiful alluvial flat on both sides of the Rangiuru stream, and here the Maoris, by dint of persevering labours, made a very beautiful place.

The great Rangiuru and Pakakutu pas were constructed of trunks of trees, about sixteen feet in height, lashed together about ten feet from the ground, and joined to long cross pieces. The uprights were formed of great trunks of trees, from three to four feet in thickness, and the tops of these carved into the most hideous and grotesque likenesses of men. The heads of these images were as large as their bodies, and their tongues, which were invariably thrust out of their mouths, were as long as their forearms.

This was the home of the Ngatiraukawas during the dark days when the foot of the invader was upon the land, for it was then that Te Rauparaha, the famous Ngatitoa chief, came out of the north and settled down in these parts.

The late Bishop Hadfield arrived in Otaki in the year 1839, and went to live at Rangiuru among the Natives. A house was built for him there, also a school and church.

When I arrived among the Otaki Maoris, in 1845, they were then living at Rangiuru, and their pas were exceedingly beautiful and romantic. The bush which abounded in the vicinity was very beautiful indeed, and almost tropical in luxuriance, and the pas were well kept. The Ngatiraukawas were the best-behaved Natives on the whole coast. Then, too, the Native cemetery was splendidly oared for and preserved. Noble page 2 carved monuments were raised to the dead, and the greatest reverence was attached to the burial places of the great chieftains. Hundreds of Maoris were buried there. How different is the scene now! The strongly fortified pas, the historical cemetery, the tine old plantations have all passed away, and in place there of is nothing but a sandy waste.

When the late Bishop Hadfield arrived among the Maoris a new era dawned for them, and he instructed them in the ways of Christianity, and endeavoured to get them to alter their lives, It was through his efforts that the pas were shifted, in 1846, to Otaki, where the Maoris have lived ever since.

A civil war had broken out at Waikanae, known as Te Knititanga, between the fiery Ngatiawa and Ngatiraukawa people. Before Te Rauparaha was afforded a suitable opportunity of avenging his enemies, the Bishop's influence had so worked among the Maoris that they no longer wished to seek revenge.

On the banks of the Whakarangirangi river, which is a tributary to the Rangiuru stream. Robert Drury and J. Carpenter built a schooner, called the Breezy, of about 15 tons. I well remember when my brother and I, accompanied by all of our men, went from Waikawa to see her being launched. It was an occasion never to be forgotten, for the celebrations were on an extensive scale.

Across the Otaki river, on the southern side, was another strong pa, called Otaki pa. This was one of the main set settlements of the Ngatiraukawa tribe, and was very strongly fortified. I stayed there one night. A little further on, towards Waikanae, was a spot where the memorable fight took place between Te Rauparaha and the Ngatiawa Maoris. About three miles to the north of the Rangiuru pa was the Waitohu pa, another strongly fortified settlement. At this spot revenge was taken for the murder of the great chief Te Pehi. Tamaiharanui, a chief of the Ngatitahu tribe, who was responsible for the murder of Te Pehi, was taken to the Waitohu pa and delivered over to the wives of the murdered Te Pehi. They hung him on a tree, and killed him with great torture. One of Te Pehi's wives put a red-hot ramrod through the neck of the tortured man.

In those days the Maoris lived in the open air, and died there also. All the Maoris were great warriors, and the field of battle was considered the most fitting death-bed for a man, failing which, the more sudden his death the better his people were pleased, or perhaps we should say, the less grieved they were. A lingering death was very grievous to them, as entailing useless pain and suffering. Above all things, death within doors was page 3 avoided, for the departing spirit would thereby have felt insulted. There was nothing "cribbed, cabined, or confined" about the old Maoris.