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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Maori History of the West Coast

Maori History of the West Coast.

The records I have in connection with the Maori occupation and settlement of the place where we now live, and the immediate surrounding country, are exceedingly meagre. The reason is obvious to any person who has had any considerable experience in the ways of the ancient Maori. As we are all aware, the whole of this country, with very limited exceptions, was originally bush-covered, and if we except one or two tracks, was not crossed by any highway. Moreover, these tracks were by paths; they did not form a recognised communication between populated parts of the country. Land so circumstanced—bush-covered and pathless—has never loomed large in the history of the Maori people. Before the advent of the Europeans, the bush-covered lands were only of value to the Maoris, and were only utilised by them, as places of food supply, and game preserves, and even in this connection the valued area was limited. The native game of the country, especially the wood-pigeon and the kaka, usually restricted themselves to certain more or less well-defined spaces, while berries grew mostly on the outskirts, rarely in the centre of the forest, so that to the old-time Maori bush country in general formed a possession of little value, except in as much as that the streams running through it held eels.

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As far as the Native Land Court records run, the Natives always proved the title of their tribe to the mana over certain land by matters relating to the feeding of the tribe's people. Their places for snaring birds or steeping berries, and actual cultivation, these alone were matters of moment to the old Maori. It is on these that stress is laid in asserting title to the Natives. An easy and comfortable supply of food was of the utmost moment, and old-time difficulties in obtaining it moulded deep into his character another trait—that of jealousy of other tribes, especially in matters pertaining to the occupation of lands. The Maori brooked, so far as he could sustain his possession, no interference with his feeding-places. Defined landmarks were always set, and were considered true boundaries between the lands of adjoining tribes.

Similarly the hapus had their well-marked spheres of influence, and, in the vast majority of cases, specially defined areas of the land under the oegis of their particular tribe, but both the boundaries and the area for that reason did not lend themselves to marked dispute, except incidentally. So it was with the greater extent of the Manawatu block. But, passing to a consideration of the large block forming the countryside around, the prospect clears, and we get more definite detail. Dealing generally with the land between the Rangitikei and the Manawatu rivers, we find, when history dawned early in the last century, that the whole of the country was occupied by branches of the Rangitane tribe, which had fought its way from the East Cape, and by their allied tribes, the Ngatiapa and Muau- poko. As between themselves, the Muaupoko held the southern portions, the Ngatiapa the northern, while in the centre were the Rangitane. The main habitations in the Manawatu district were those of this latter tribe along the banks of the Oroua and Manawatu rivers, where food was plentiful. Here they had populous settlements and large pahs. The tribes were numbered in thousands. In one expedition twelve hundred took part, and they I lived then secure and prosperous in the open and fertile country. The bush and mountain pahs came later, and formed, as is usual with the Natives, the cause of troublous times. Early in the century, at a date placed variously from 1818 to 1827, the Ngatiapa were first disturbed in their possession by the Ngatitoa war expedition of Te Rauparaha and Waka Hene, which is so well remembered. This war party fought its way down the coast, defeating and grievously crushing the Ngatiapa, the Muaupoko, and, in part at least, the Rangitane, for although the Rangitane have in later days expressed ignorance of the raid, except in so far as Te Rauparaha came into conflict with them at Hotuiti, the contention savours of absurdity. If the Rangitane did firmly hold the land, then the two parties—on the one hand the intruders, and on the other hand two occupants page 20 —could not have failed to come into conflict. However, be that as it may, the northern war party returned home after dealing some shrewd blows to the Manawatu tribes, and Te Rauparaha in the following year made preparations for his great heke, or exodus from Kawhia to this district, in which he was accompanied by the Raukawa and a section of the Ngatiawa. The history of his return spelt ruin to the Manawatu Natives. Having fought his way south to Kapiti, he established there his headquarters, having at his call the three tribes who composed the migration, viz., the Ngatitoa, the Ngatiraukawa, and a portion of the Ngatiawa. The power of his war parties, his rifles, his own ability and ruthlessness, and the meekness of the original inhabitants, all tended in one direction—the complete subjugation of the old residents, and the establishing of the new tribes mana (authority) as far north as the Wangaehu river, and as far south as Wellington. Moreover, a treacherous murder of Te Rauparaha 's children by the enemy lent the war from his side a ruthlessness exceeding the ordinary tribal conflicts, slaughtering, harrying, and massacring wherever occasion allowed. Te Rauparaha decimated the district, and drove into hiding the shattered tribes from the Wangaehu to Port Nicholson.

The scene of this murder, so fatal to the tribes concerned, was at Papaitonga, where Dr. Duller was living, situated on the beautiful lake of the same name. This place is one of the masterpieces of nature. A small island rises in the lake, bush clad to the water's edge. The ferns, nikau, kowhai, and other native trees, are reflected in the perfect mirror of the lake. Here was the pah of Toheriri, a leader of the Muaupoko, and here Te Rauparaha was invited to a friend visit, the bait held out being the promise of some war canoes. Te Rauparaha went with his wives, his children, and a handful of followers, and in the darkness the entire party except Te Rauparaha and a little girl were murdered. The great chief escaped, and swore a signal revenge. He swore to kill the Muaupoko and Ngatiapa from early morn till dewy eve, and well he kept his word. He hunted them on land, he hunted them in the mountains, he followed them to their lake fortresses, to Lake Waiputa, a fortification in the Horowhenua lake. His men swam off to take the great Papaitonga pah of Waikiekie. They dragged their canoes overland. In each case the same rate befel the defenders. They were cut down to a man, woman, or child, and the lovely little island of Papaitonga still hides legions of dead men's bones. This was the fate of the Muaupoko; nor did the Rangitane and Ngatiapa fare much better. He (Te Rauparaha) harried them with his Ngatitoa allies and the war parties of Ngatimaemae, Ngatipikiaha and Ngatimaniapoto. Hapus of the Raukawa spread over the land from the Oroua to the Rangitikei as far north as Kakariki. Awahuri, Turuhakahepua, and Puketotara. Wherever these pso- page 21 ple congregated they were attacked, dispersed, and massacred, until not one place of any importance was left them as a fortress, and the wretched remnant of fugitives furtively living so long only as they could escape their foes' notice. So severely were the tribes dealt with that, even counting Ngatiraukawas, a Government census in 1860 estimated the total Native population of the Manawatu at six hundred persons. The conquered territory was parcelled out, the Ngatiraukawa had the south, the Ngatitoa the centre, while the northern portion, including the Rangitikei and Manawatu, was allowed to the Ngatiraukawa.