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Lore and history of the South Island Maori


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Arowhenua is the principal Maori kainga of South Canterbury and lies between the junction of the Temuka and Opihi Rivers just one mile south of the progressive pakeha town of Temuka which itself in early provincial days bore the name of its Maori suburb. The name Arowhenua would signify "turning up land for cultivation". However the name belonged originally to the distant and almost mythical "Hawaiki", but has been placed with several localities in New Zealand, to the far south by the migrating tribes, but so far as pakehas are concerned in these instances not carried forward to posterity. Arowhenua is the principal pa of the Huirapa hapu of the Ngai Tahu Tribe in Canterbury. The population, however, includes those of the Ngati kahukura, Ngati mahiki, Ngati whae, Ngati raki and Ngati hinekato.

The Maoris of Arowhenua are on the whole a happy family, and this has helped along the progress of the village, which has only been slightly marred by religious differences of recent years. The district has been the possession of the Waitaha and Ngati Mamoe Tribes before the present Ngai Tahu took over. The locality is rich in the natural foods of the Maori particularly the Milford Lagoon, which is the estuary of the Temuka and Opihi Rivers. The combined channel of these rivers as it approaches the sea is called Whanganui. At the Milford Lagoon, at the mouth of the rivers, is the site of an historic pa, on an island known to Europeans as Green-tone Island. The correct name (a double one) of this island was Harakeke tautoru-Paritataha. It was named after a chief and his wife. The portion of the island named after the woman Paritataha was scoured away by floods and now the Lands Department only records the place as Harakeke tautoru.

It is known that scouts of Te Rauparaha's forces after the fall of Kaiapohia and Onawe came down as far as this to investigate the possibility of obtaining possession of both this pa, Wai a te ruati and other Ngai Tahu pas in the vicinity. The scouts found a greenstone mere so placed near Harakeke tautoru that it showed the Ngai Tahu were quite prepared to give the northerners battle. Wai a te ruati was a strong palis-aded pa with natural defences so its chiefs sent a challenge to Te Rauparaha to come and take it. Te Rauparaha declined in these words: "He aha te rawa a Te Kaikoareare raua ko Raki-whakaatia ki au." (What business have Te Kaikoareare and page 164Rakiwhakaatia with me). The Ngai Tahu Tribe despite their losses in North Canterbury were far from being a conquered tribe, and when guns became available to them they were a match for their northern foes as was proved later in the Marlborough fighting.

Wai a te ruati besides being considered the usual type of pa was also a place of mahinga kai. Edward Shortland gave the population of Te Wai a rua ti as 63 males and 65 females. The gates of the old Te Wai a ruati Pa were called Huirapa, Te Huataki and Te Kaue. Mahinga kais were places where the Maoris obtained food which was the natural product of the soil, such as cabbage trees and fern root. The Ti or cabbage tree flourished at Wai a te rua ti. The place was visited by Shortland, Mantell, Bishop Selwyn and other early pakeha sojourners. Old pas near Arowhenua were Upoko pipi, Ohou and Wai te mati, the latter pa situated at the Opihi River in the Waipopo Native Reserve where the road runs north and south. At Ohou on the Opihi, dwelt a Ngati Mamoe Chief, Te Rangitauneke, who was on more than one occasion clubbed and left for dead by his Ngai Tahu foes, but he proved that some men, like cats, can have nine lives. In fact his reappearance on fields of battle caused quite a sensation among the more timid of the Ngai Tahu.

Oteihoka is the name given to an intertribal fight near Tarakeke tautoru pa when the local Maoris were defeated by Maoris from Ohapuku. In a similar fight near the Wai a te ruati pa the chiefs Hapi and Taka ahi were slain.. In the fifties the Maoris had a track from their settlements on Native Reserve 882 to Native Reserve 883. On the north side of the Waipopo Reserve the Maoris had their gardens; at Tipare and at Wai a patuki there were cultivations. At Okatare dwelt the chief Tame Tarawhata known to early European settlers as "Old Tommy", whose gardens were at the south side of Whitireia. The burial-place of the district was in a sandhill near the centre of Native Reserve 881. When the Europeans came, Wai a te ruati was the centre of Maori life, since a nearby pa had long been abandoned. The present kainga of Arowhenua dates from the days of roads. Waiapatuki, Waikoko and Whareki are the subdivisions of the present pa of Arowhenua.

It was at Arowhenua that the Ngai Tahu Tribe were made acquainted with the use of greenstone for tool making. A Ngati Wairangi lady from Westland (Raureka), who had journeyed over Browning's Pass showed some of the Arowhenua natives that greenstone tools were superior in the making of a canoe. Little did the chieftainess from Westland think that the possession of greenstone would lead to fighting in which her people would be decimated.

The several reserves in South Canterbury allotted to the page 165natives of Arowhenua were crown lands granted originally in the names of the following Maoris: Tamati Tarawhata, Wiremu Takitahi, Maiharoa, Pita Korako, Kepa Toeko, Hoani Kahu, Waraki Te Kore, Hemiona Titoki, What uira, Te Ote Kahu. The channel of the Temuka River on its south side by the Arowhenua Reserve still bears the name "Tommys Creek" being so called in remembrance of Tamati Tarawhata who was something of a character.

Tame Tarawhata, when journeying along the beach near Milford, stumbled over a quarter cask. He immediately returned to the pa for the assistance of his fellow Maoris and dug it out. Needless to say a hole was bored in the cask and its contents sampled. Very little remained in the cask by the time the pa was reached. News of the find reached the Provincial Government. The investigation which followed showed that the cask had contained sweetened gin thrown over-board in April 1865, from a schooner evading the Customs Revenue.

Tarawhata and his brother Poua acted as guides to Edward Shortland when at Te Wai a te ruati pa on January 20th, 1844. Shortland speaks well of Tarawhata, and of the kindness he received from Te Rehe, the chief and father.

Even at that early period of European contact the Maoris had been christianized by the Wesleyan missionaries. Shortland records, however, that the chapel was full of fleas. Kairakau a South Canterbury native received £10 as his share of the sale of the Ngati Tahu Block, and handed it over to Tame Tarawhata to purchase a cow for him. Tarawhata duly purchased a cow from a Mr Bruce, but kept it for himself without returning the price to Kairakau. The latter laid a charge with A. Chatham Stroude, the resident magistrate at Dunedin. This was outside his jurisdiction so on July 23rd, 1852, the case was transferred to Captain Simeon, the resident magistrate at Lyttelton. Two ineffectual efforts were made to serve the summons by the police, and eventually the case was tried in an overcrowded Court House at Lyttelton. Tarawhata was ordered to hand over the cow to Kairakau, and a heavy fine was imposed, which was promptly paid by Tarawhata's friends in court.

On March 4th, 1859, Tarawhata requested to be made a native assessor. The application written in Maori is still in existence along with the translation by the translation by the Rev. J. Aldred. Horomona Pohio was another nominee for the office of assessor. His nomination dated January 6th, 1859, was supported by Maiharoa, Kupe, Honi Kahu, Kahuti, Ihaia Te Kihu, Wiremu, Tamati and Reihana. Doctor Rayner of the Flagstaff, Arowhenua, whose advice was often sought by the Canterbury Provincial Government, stated on March 4th, 1859, that "Old Tommy was not truthful".

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Te Maiharoa was another chief and character of the Arowhenua of the early days. Te Maiharoa's genealogical tree goes back to Rakai hautu of the Uruao Canoe of the first Waitaha Tribe of about 850A.D. He is stated to have been steeped in Maori lore, but his fame as tohunga and wizard was obtained by knowledge from a North Island tohunga named Piripi who spent a considerable time at Arow-henua during the year 1866. Doctor Raymer kept a close eye on the proceedings, and kept in touch with the Government, and the letters are decidedly interesting. Piripi visited all the tapu places in South Canterbury picking up all manner of trifles from such places. The trifles were duly cooked (something akin to a stew), and such was dispensed to the assembled Maoris. Piripi averred he saw the devils sporting inside Te Maiharoa. However he drove them out. Te Maiharoa kept on the work, and by the seventies such stalwarts of the Christian faith as the Rev. J. W. Stack, admitted that with the exception of a few individuals the Maoris had reverted to tohungaism, Tuahiwi and Rapaki alone of the Canterbury settlements remaining unaffected.

Te Maiharoa it was who led the migration to Omarama, from which they were evicted by armed Europeans in 1879. Looking back over the years, and from an honest view-point, one's sympathy must go to the Maoris, and not to great land owners who acquired the Hakataramea Reserve of the Maoris by accident (or was it so?), in the Upper Waitaki region.

Among the Maori folk as among the pakeha, there from time to time blossoms forth a practical joker. In the early days Arowhenua had such an individual whose name was Korai. For a quarter century he was guilty of hoaxing his fellows, usually by sending his dupes on "wild goose errands". On one occasion he represented himself to the inn-keeper at Ashburton as Horomona Pohio, chief of Waimate, thereby securing free bed and breakfast. Previously he had put South Canterbury on the alert, stating that the North Island Maoris were on the war path to the south. At Tuahiwi he sent Hautai and other natives on useless errands. He failed however to do so with Metehau (George Williams). The Maoris of Tuahiwi got their revenge on Korai. When Korai went to Kaikoura on a visit, a message was sent by the Tuahiwi folk to him that his brother was dying. Korai lost no time in returning, making that long journey to Arowhenua in two days and two nights, only to find the brother hale and hearty fishing at Milford Lagoon on September 17th, 1864.

Hawea and Tahiku are on the south side of the Opihi near the mouth. Tahiku was requested as a native reserve by Tarawhata as an exchange for land taken out of the then existing Arowhenua reserves by roading. Tarawhata pleaded that the spot be obtained for the Maoris from Mr Rhodes.

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On December 20th, 1868, Alexander Mackay, Native Commissioner, visited the Arowhenua Pa, and he records that it possessed 15 dwelling houses and a church. The Ohapi Stream to the north of the settlement was a favourite haunt for the Maoris taking lampreys. Large numbers of moa bones near old Maori ovens were discovered by Mr Wadsworth on April 18th, 1877. The Maoris of Arowhenua of forty years ago were quite as staunch Sabbatarians as that of any Scottish community, as on October 9th, 1901, they convened a meeting at Temuka of Europeans and Maoris to discuss fishing matters. The Maoris considered it inadvisable to allow fishing on Sundays, and the Europeans very reluctantly agreed to desist from whitebaiting on the local streams on Sundays.

On October 21st, 1863, Mr Young of the Arowhenua accommodation house complained to the Canterbury Provincial Government that the Maoris interfered with his ferry punt. The trouble, however, was occasioned by the European patrons trespassing on native land. Indeed Europeans were so great a nuisance to the Maoris about that time that on June 25th, 1862, Mr B.Woollcombe, resident magistrate of Timaru, and Mr Walter Buller, Native Commissioner, requested that squatters and sawyers be evicted from the Arowhenua Reserve. On June 18th, 1862, the Hon. William Fox approved of the Canterbury Government appointing Mr W. H. Revell to the Arowhenua Police Station. During the middle sixties Rupini Kuri was running a private ferry over the Opihi River. On December 13th, 1873, the Maoris of Arowhenua blocked the mail coach when it made a deviation from the bridge over the Opihi, which was native land, and rough and tumble took place between pakeha and Maori.

Sir George Grey, accompanied by Mr Cox, visited Arowhenua Pa on February 6th, 1867. The Maoris led by the chief Horomona Pohio extended the welcome, and the Maoris rose to the occasion by paving the roadway as far as Holy Trinity Church with mats. Sir Charles Fergusson, Governor of New Zealand was welcomed at Arowhenua on October 9th, 1926, by R. C. Taipana. The Tuahiwi Football Team played the Arowhenua team on August 22nd, 1929, the later team winning by 25 points to 3. On November 7th, 1929, Arowhenua prepared a banquet for visitors from Ratana. The visitors were delayed, and the children of Arowhenua school had the feast instead; "An ill wind that blows nobody good". However, later the visitors did arrive, and with the goodness of heart that characterises the Maori people, were royally welcomed at the Arowhenua Hall by Messrs H. Tereinga and E. Karekare.

During the depression years the Maoris of Arowhenua were hard pressed, but the relief work done during the years 1931 and 1932 produced results of lasting benefit to the settlement page 168such as new roads, swamp drainage and cultivation, improved surroundings of the hall, and a well 24 feet deep providing clean water for the Arowhenua Native School. Officials of the Health Department on January 11th, 1934, inspected the pa, and were accompanied on their rounds by Messrs P. Paipeta, H. T. Paiki and W. Mihaka. The Arowhenua Maori Women's Institute opened on July 20th, 193?, under the control of the following ladies:—K. Rehu, M. Waaka, P. Paipeta, Manning and M. Paiki has been a useful adjunct in the feminine section of the community.

Prior to 1895, the Maori chidren had no regular school at the pa. The juniors were being taught in a desultory way at an old dwelling house, and the senior children sent to the pakeha school in Temuka where their presence was not always as welcome as it could have been. The Arowhenua Native School was opened on March 1st, 1895, in charge of Mr G.. C.J. Blathwayt, assisted by the Misses R. and H. Blathwayt. From 1898 to 1901, the teachers were Mr and Mrs F. J. Heatley, and from 1902 to 1915, Mr and Mrs W. H. Reeves. From 1915 to 1917, the teachers were Mr and Mrs Whitehead and they were succeeded by the Misses H. and E. Bremner. Miss H. Bremner in 1944 still controls the destiny of the Arowhenua School, and about 50 pupils. The general appearance of the school grounds was enhanced by the children on Arbor Day 1922, in planting out over 70 trees and shrubs. The original Arowhenua Runanga Hall was destroyed by fire in November 1903, and the Maoris applied to the Government for a subsidy towards erecting a new building. On July 13th, 1904, a grant of £200 was forthcoming. The new hall was completed on April 30th, 1905, at a cost of £420. The structure was officially opened by Colonel Pitt, assisted by Doctor Pomare, F. A. Flatman and the Mayor of Timaru. The visitors to the numbers of 500 were welcomed by Taare Parata, m.p. Taare Tikao and Tikau Wera addressed Colonel Pitt on South Island Native grievances, notably the Ngai Tahu Claim. The name of the hall is Hapa O Nuiterinui (Grievance of New Zealand). Electric lighting was switched on at the hall by Mrs Mata Whaora on June 23rd, 1927.

The first Anglican Church (which the present Holy Trinity supersedes) was erected entirely by the Maoris themselves from timber sawn about a hundred yards away, supplemented by that cut at the Geraldine Bush by G. Levens. This church was opened by Canon J. W.Stack on August 26th, 1866. By 1931 the building had long outlived its usefulness. The Ratana body offered strong opposition to the erection of the new building.

The matter was ventilated at a special sitting of the Native Land Court, presided over by Judge Gilfedder. The Court granted permission for an area of 60 x 78 feet of the church reserve being vested in the Anglican Church Property page break
Holy Trinity Church — Arowhenua

Holy Trinity Church — Arowhenua

Ratana Memorial Arch, Arowhenua

Ratana Memorial Arch, Arowhenua

page break
Route to Westland depicted by a Maori in 1865. Traversed by the founder of Taumutu. Illustration by the author.

Route to Westland depicted by a Maori in 1865. Traversed by the founder of Taumutu. Illustration by the author.

page 169 Trustees. The Rev. G. N. Watson was able to inform the Court that the Anglican Maoris had subscribed £800 towards erection, and of that amount £250 came from the North Island. On June 5th, 1931, it was stated the church would be available to non-Anglican communions. The Holy Trinity Church was built to the same plan and specifications as St. Mark's at Marshland, Christchurch. The church was opened and consecrated by Bishops West-Watson and Bennett, assisted by Rev. Canon Norris and Rev. G. N. Watson. The church interior is embellished with Maori art. The interior measures 47 x 20 feet, the tower 9 feet square and 26 feet high.

The Ratana folk on November 1st, 1934, had plans of a War Memorial Arch prepared. The Arowhenua Runanga rejected the proposal of erection near the Runanga Hall, so the promoters decided to erect a Ratana Memorial Arch on land opposite Holy Trinity Church, which had been given by Mrs Wikitoria Paipeta and Mrs Miria Kemara. The foundation stone was laid on December 13th, 1904, by Mr E. T. Tirikatene, m.p. The completed arch bears Ratana symbols and the names of two Ratana sons, it is built of Oamaru stone and is 15 feet in height. The Native Land Court, under Judge Hervey, during February 1935, investigated the means by which the money had been raised. When the irregularity was righted, Wiremu Te Ratana was allowed to unveil the Ratana Memorial Arch on November 14th, 1935. The passing visitor cannot fail to notice the enhancement of Arowhenua by the fine Anglican Church and Ratana Arch. The so-called model pa however detracts as it is neither one thing or the other.

Arowhenua has had its centenarians. Hoani Kahu passed away at Arowhenua on November 29th, 1887, aged 110 years. Mrs Waaka who died at Arowhenua on March 24th, 1896, had also passed a century of life leaving children, grand children and one great grandchild. Ruataki Maiharoa, who passed away at Waitaki, on July 12th, 1890, was interred at her birthplace Arowhenua, on July 22nd, 1890. She enjoyed the distinction not only of being a centenarian, but also of being one of the earliest Maoris to embrace Christianity.

Doctor Rayner was appointed medical officer for the Maoris in October 1859. A petition requesting such an appointment had been forwarded to the Provincial Government by Horomona Pohio, Te Maiharoa, Tarawhata and fifteen others. Roading at Arowhenua was commenced in 1859. The Waipopo Reserve was partitioned in 1928. The Temuka River is the Umu kaha (whirling current). Ti Muka and Upoko pipi were old time pas on the area now taken up by the Temuka Domain. Kumara plantations were there, and also huge ovens. These latter were no doubt associated with sacred rites over the ti-tree, and similar to the fire-walking ceremonies practised even to-day in Fiji. Though the Maoris have lost the art of fire-page 170walking, the earlier inhabitants who had a large daub of the Melanesian tar-brush knew the secrets.

An intertribal fight took place where the motor camp in the Temuka Domain now stands. As in many other such cases, we know very little of this event. Taumatakahu is the stream bordering the South Canterbury Acclimatisation Grounds at Temuka. Arowhenua has been the centre for many large Maori gatherings, such as the meeting held during March 1875, when the Ngai Tahu Claim was considered. On July 31st, 1938, the Right Hon. Michael J. Savage, Prime Minister, visited Arow-henua, and was presented with a greenstone pen by T. Whitau on behalf of the Maoris who hoped it would be used to sanction settlement of the Ngai Tahu Claim. The illness which culminated in death deprived the great statesman of the privilege.

On December 7th, 1944, the Maoris were given a poor settlement of their grievance. On February 25th, 1941, a party of 25 Arowhenua natives under the guidance of Maitai Tuture Hoani Mamaru and Mrs Raherae Manning caught 2,500 eels at the Wainono Lagoon. The eels were preserved at Arowhenua and placed in containers ready for sending overseas to the Maori soldiers so valiantly fighting for world freedom.