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Some Chapters in the Life and Times of Te Rauparaha

Chapter III

Chapter III.

At the time of the birth of Te Rauparaha, and, indeed, for many generations before that event, the Ngatitoa tribe occupied the country lying between Kawhia and Mokau on the western side of the North Island, and extending backward, from the coast line, to the seaward slopes of the beautiful Pirongia mountain, and of the chain of hills to the southward, which bounds the valleys of the Waipa and the Mangarama. This tribe, in fact, claims to have held the country in question ever since its settlement by their ancestor, Hoturoa, a leading chief amongst those who are said to have come from Hawaiki in the “Tainui” canoe. It will be remembered that this canoe was dragged across the portage at Otahuhu after the disputes between Tama Te Kapu and Manaia about the dead whale, its chiefs and their followers settling in and around Kawhia, and their descendants gradually spreading to the eastward as far as Maungatautari. The Maoris, in various parts of the Islands, believe that several of the canoes in which their ancestors came from Hawaiki have been transformed into stone, and a remarkable block of limestone, close to the sea-shore, on the north side of the harbour of Kawhia, is page 26 pointed out as being part of the “Tainui.” This rock, with the land immediately-surrounding it, was formerly under strict tapu, but the sanctity of the place, and of the supposed relic, have succumbed to the march of civilization, and curiosityu-hunters have long since marred the picturesque outline of the stone by breaking off corners. Hoturoa is also said to be the ancestor of the Ngatiraukawa, Ngatikowhata and Ngatimaniapoto tribes, the order of descent in the several cases being much as follows:—From Hoturoa, through Hotuma-tapu and Kouwe, sprang Raka, whose eldest son, Tuihaua, was the ancestor of Toa Rangatira, the actual founder of the Ngatitoa as a separate tribe, and from whom they derive their name. From another son of Raka, named Kakati, through Tawhao and Turonga, sprang Raukawa, from whom the Ngatiraukawa derive their name. From Toa Rangatira, in direct descent, came Kimihia, the mother of Werawera, who married a Ngatiraukawa woman named Parekowhatu. These two were the parents of Te Rauparaha, and of his sister Waitohi, the mother of Rangihaieta, who will be frequently mentioned in the course of this narrative. Besides Te Rangihaieta, Waitohi had other children, of whom a daughter named Topiora is still living at Otaki, and is the mother of Matene Te Whiwhi, for many years past, and still, one of the most influential chiefs of the Ngatitoa and Ngatiraukawa tribes. Topiora's husband was a Ngatiraukawa man, of high rank, named Te Rangi Kapiki, who himself claimed to be closely connected to Ngatitoa, both by ancient descent and through frequent intermarriages between members of the two tribes, Tracing back again, we find Te Urutira and his sister, Hine Kahu-kura, in the third place in the ascending line from Toa Rangatira. From Hine Kahukura sprang Parewahawaha and Parekowhatu, the former of whom married Tihau, by whom she had a son named Whatanui, the father of the great chief of that name, who was at the head of the Ngatiraukawa tribe, during the career of Te Rauparaha. We see, therefore, that the leading chiefs of the Ngatitoa and Ngatiraukawa tribes claim descent from common ancestors, and that frequent intermarriages took place between the members of these tribes, since they branched off from the common stock. The same remarks apply, but in less degree, to the descent of the Ngatimaniapoto and Ngatikowhata, who also claim Hoturoa as their remote ancestor; but it is unnecessary, for the purposes of my story, that I should trace up the history of these tribes, as they do not appear to have taken any prominent part in the events in which the Ngatitoa were engaged after their departure from Kawhia.

As my readers are doubtless aware, Kawhia is the only harbour of any note between the Manukau, which lies about sixty miles to the northward of it, and Wanganui, which lies at some distance within the entrance of Cook Straits; but, like all the other harbours on the West Coast of the North page 27 Island, its entrance is somewhat impeded by sand-banks. The entrance is narrow, but inside the Heads the waters spread out for many miles in length and width, having numerous navigable channels leading to a series of small rivers, which flow into the harbour from the eastward. At full tide, this sheet of water is extremely beautiful, surrounded, as it is, with picturesque scenery, which attains its highest effect at the north-east end, in the neighbourhood of the Awaroa River. Rock masses, assuming the forms of towers and castles, occupy its shores, whilst the gullies and valleys of the streams which fall into it contain tracts of fertile and highly cultivated soil. The character of the landscape continues the same far up the slopes of the surrounding mountains, the name of the “Castle Hills” having been given to them in allusion to the masses of white limestone which emerge, in huge castellated forms, from the forest with which these mountains are generally clothed.

Between Kawhia and the Waipa valley, a little to the northward of the former, is the beautiful Pirongia mountain, “an ancient, dilapidated volcano,” whose many peaks and ravines afford a grand spectacle when bathed in the mellow light of the setting sun; whilst the soil on its slopes, derived from the decomposition of the trachytic rock of which it is composed, is of the most fertile kind. The climate of the whole district is delightful, the orange and the lemon yielding their fruit with a luxuriance unsurpassed even in the delicious valleys of Granada. The seaward aspect of the mountain chain to which I have alluded, as well as the slopes of the Pirongia, are, however, densely wooded, rendering travelling through this country toilsome and difficult. At the time I speak of, the Ngatimaniapoto occupied the country lying along the coast to the northward, whilst the Waikato tribes, of whom Te Wherowhero was the head chief, claimed the principal part of the valley of the Waipa, and of the country extending to the inner shores of the Manukau. To the eastward, beyond the range shutting in the Waipa valley on that side, and stretching from Otawhao to Maungatautari, lay the possessions of Ngati-raukawa proper, comprising some of the most fertile and beautiful country in the North Island. The Ngatituwharetoa, or Taupo tribes, under the leadership of Tukino Te Heuheu, one of the greatest of the old New Zealand chieftains—a man of gigantic stature and commanding presence, and whose deeds still form the theme, of many a wild tale—clustered round the shores of Lake Taupo, and the spurs of Tongariro. As is well known, Te Heuheu met his death by an awful catastrophe in 1846, his village, Te Rapa, having been overwhelmed during the night by a huge land-slip, under which he and his six wives, with upwards of fifty other persons, were buried alive.

I have thought it necessary to mention the tribe of this chief amongst the others above referred to, for although he took a comparatively trifling part in the events in which Te Rauparaha himself was concerned, his friendship and page 28 alliance were of great service to the latter, and permitted a ready means of communication between him and his Ngatiraukawa allies during the prosecution of his designs in the South.

It is almost impossible to determine the date of the birth of Te Rauparaha, but from the best information I have been able to obtain as to his probable age at the time of the Treaty of Waitangi, I am disposed to fix it at about the year 1770. He was born at Kawhia, where, except during occasional visits to other parts of the Island, and especially to his kindred at Maungatautari, he resided until he obtained the complete leadership of his tribe. He had two brothers and two sisters, all older than himself, but his brothers never assumed positions of importance amongst their people, and neither of them ever exhibited the particular qualities which have made Te Rauparaha so famous in the history of “Old New Zealand.” Te Rauparaha is said to have been a good, pretty, and playful child, possessing, amongst other qualities, that of obedience in a high degree. It is recorded of him, that on one occasion when directed by an old slave of his father's, named Poutini, to fetch water in a calabash, an order which, considering his rank, he would have been quite justified in disregarding, he at once obeyed and fetched it. But, like other youths, he now and then got into scrapes, and, to use the naif language of his son, “he did many good and many foolish actions.” As he advanced in years, his mind developed rapidly, and he soon exhibited an extraordinary degree of wisdom, though his parents scarcely gave him credit for qualities quite apparent to strangers; and, as it seems, were rather inclined to snub him in favour of his elder brothers. But this condition of things did not long continue, and the following incident brought his peculiar talents prominently before his people, and enabled him at once to assume a position of great authority amongst them, leading, ultimately, to the absolute chieftainship of the tribe. It was a custom amongst the Maori chiefs, before the introduction of Christianity, to assign a wife to each of their male children, even before the latter had attained the age of puberty. In the case of Te Rauparaha, a girl named Marore had been given to him as the wife of his boyhood, of whom, as he grew up, he became very fond, and in whose cause he obtained his first experience as a warrior—his “baptism of fire.” It appears that his parents had invited a large number of the tribe to a feast, and when the food—the fish, the eels, and the kumera—had been placed upon the platform, Te Rauparaha saw that the portion allotted to Marore had no relish. This made him very sad, and after some consideration he asked his father's permission to lead a war party into the country of the Waikatos, in order that some people might be killed as a relish for the food apportioned to Marore. In those days his wish was, no doubt, considered strictly reasonable and proper—strictly tika in fact—and his father page 29 at once placed under his leadership a number of young warriors, who were, as we may suppose, perfectly willing to join in such an expedition. During this time, as I have been informed, Te Rauparaha was suffering from some disease, attended with a good deal of physical pain; but notwithstanding this, and against the suggestions of his father to postpone the expedition until his health was better established, he determined to prosecute it, and the war party advanced into the territory of the Waikatos, with whom, at that time, they were in profound peace. In ignorance of their intentions, their advanced parties were permitted to enter a pa of the enemy, who, however, soon discovering their error, flew to arms, and succeeded in driving them out again with some loss. Te Rauparaha, with the remainder of the taua, seeing the rout of his advanced guard, at once took cover, unperceived by the Waikatos; and as the latter, in some disorder, were pushing the pursuit, he and his warriors attacked them in flank and rear, and defeated them with much slaughter, at the same time taking many prisoners, amongst whom was Te Haunga, a principal chief, who, with several others, was afterwards killed and eaten “as a relish” to the food apportioned to Marore. The success attending this expedition, and the skill shown by Te Rauparaha in taking advantage of the disorder of the enemy, at once rendered him famous as a Maori warrior; and from thenceforth he occupied a position of influence, not only with his own immediate tribe, but also with those to which it was allied, whilst his growing talents and power were looked upon with much respect and dread by those who had any reason to fear his prowess or his revenge. The event above referred, to, naturally led to frequent battles with the Waikatos, in which Ngatitoa, under Te Rauparaha, were generally successful, although occasionally defeated with considerable loss.

In the intervals of peace, Te Rauparaha visited his kindred at Maungatautari, then under the general leadership of Hape Te Tuarangi, a distinguished old warrior, who had fought many battles against the Waikato tribes, and particularly one at Kakamutu, on the Waipa, in which the latter were defeated with tremendous slaughter. On the death of Hape, which will be more specially referred to in the sequel, Te Rauparaha married his chief wife, Akau, who became the mother of Tamihana Te Rauparaha, still living at Otaki, from whom I have obtained a large amount of information respecting the career of his celebrated father. Te Rauparaha, also kept up a constant intercourse with his friends at Rotorua, and frequently visited Te Heuheu, who was much impressed with the character of his visitor, and became his fast and valuable ally. Besides this, he made several excursions to the Thames in order to obtain the alliance of Ngatimaru—then a very powerful people, but who were subsequently nearly annihilated by the Ngapuhi from the North, and by Te Waharoa and his Ngaiterangi allies, as mentioned in the last chapter. page 30 From the chiefs of this tribe, Te Rauparaha obtained a musket, with a quantity of ammunition, gifts of very great value at that time, and indicating the estimation in which he was held by his hosts. He also visited Kaipara, where he soon gained the friendship of the Ngatiwhatua, and other tribes in that district, and on his way back went to the Waitemata—he succeeded in forming an alliance with Kiwi and the son of Tihi, chiefs of the great tribes which then occupied that part of the country. I am led to understand that these visits took place between 1810 and 1815, and that Te Rauparaha then entertained the design of forming an extensive alliance against the Waikatos, under Te Wherowhero, with the intention of completely destroying them; but he found it impossible to effect his object, and chiefly for the following reason: After the establishment of the convict settlements in Australia, the South Seas were much frequented by whale ships, and the eastern coast of New Zealand, which then afforded a large supply of these valuable animals, became one of the principal whaling grounds. In the course of their voyages the ships often resorted to the Bay of Islands and the Harbour of Whangaroa for supplies of water and vegetables; and during these visits, the natives first learnt the use and power of the musket. The tribes with whom the chief intercourse took place, were the Ngapuhi, who at once saw the immense power which the possession of such a weapon would confer upon them in their contests with their enemies. Previously to this period, their own country had been constantly devastated by the powerful and warlike tribes of the Thames, and they naturally burned for revenge. Singularly enough, they were much aided in their object by the establishment of the mission stations, formed in the year 1813 under the Rev. Mr. Marsden, who had brought down with him, from Australia, pigs and poultry, and many kinds of vegetables, amongst which, the most valuable were the Indian corn and the potato. The pigs were suffered to run wild, and, having increased very much, were usually caught with dogs when wanted for purposes of trade, the natives themselves rarely using them for food, but they eagerly and successfully cultivated all the species of vegetables which had been introduced. Moreover, during the intercourse which took place between them and the whale ships, many natives visited Port Jackson, where they had further opportunities of learning the destructive power of the European weapons, and the eagerness of the tribes to procure them became so great that twenty hogs, obtained at the expense of enormous labour, and worth to the ships more than as many pounds, were often given in exchange for a musket not worth ten shillings. In effect, the muskets usually sold to these natives were of a very worthless kind, and would not, in a contest with European troops, have been considered particularly dangerous weapons; whilst the natives own want of knowledge of the proper mode of taking care of them, soon led to the greater number of them becoming hopelessly out of page 31 order. But unskilfully as they used the musket, and little as it might have been feared by Europeans, such was the dread of its effects amongst the natives, more especially on the part of the tribes which did not possess them, that the strength of a war party was, at that time, not so much calculated by the number of its members, as by the quantity of fire-locks it could bring into action; and when Paora, a northern chief, invaded the district of Whangaroa in 1819, the terrified people described him as having twelve muskets, whilst the name of Te Korokoro, then a great chief at the Bay of Islands, who was known to possess fifty stand of arms, was heard with terror for upwards of 200 miles beyond his own district.

But the musket was not the only weapon which the natives obtained from the European traders. The bayonet and the tomahawk, the former of which was fixed to a long handle, began to replace in their fights the wooden spear and battle-axe, and naturally added greatly to the offensive power of those who possessed them in any numbers. As fast as the Ngapuhi acquired these arms, they made hostile expeditions against the Ngatimaru, and other tribes occupying the Thames, and the shores of the Tamaki and Waitemata, carrying terror and destruction wherever they went. But in proportion as the whale ships and traders from Sydney extended their intercourse with the natives, the Ngatimaru, the Ngatihaua, and the Arawa, gradually acquired similar weapons, and thus fought on terms of greater equality; and it was also during this period, as mentioned in the last chapter, that Te Waharoa began to mature his designs for the destruction of the first of these tribes. I may here remark, that the trade referred to was almost confined to the Eastern side of the North Island, and that the tribes on the West Coast, at all events below the Manukau, had but little opportunity of obtaining the much coveted weapons. The wars in which Ngatimaru were engaged against Ngapuhi and Ngatihaua, and the want of a sufficient quantity of fire-arms amongst the tribes at Kaipara and Hokianga, coupled with their total absence amongst the other tribes on the West Coast, went far towards preventing Te Rauparaha from carrying out his designs against Waikato, whilst such designs became gradually less feasible, owing to the position of the latter, who, in consequence of the offensive and defensive alliance which they had formed with Te Waharoa, were enabled, without difficulty, to obtain supplies of muskets and ammunition.

When Te Rauparaha found it impossible to carry out his design, he returned to Kawhia, where, by a succession of victories over Waikato, and by the practice of hospitality, he greatly increased his power and influence with his own tribe, whilst he cultivated the friendship (due partly to good feeling, but largely to fear) of the Ngatiawa, who occupied the country to the southward, stretching from Mokau to Taranaki. He is represented page 32 as having been, during this period, “famous in matters relative to warfare, cultivating, generosity, welcoming of strangers and war parties.” He is also said to have been particularly remarkable for the following reason: “If a party of visitors arrived just as the food of his workmen was cooked, and if those workmen were strangers to his treatment of visitors, and gave them their food, he ordered them to take it back, saying that fresh food was to be cooked for the visitors. The workmen would then be ashamed, and Te Rauparaha applauded as a man whose fame had travelled amongst all the tribes. When the workmen were satisfied, Te Rauparaha would cook fresh food for the visitors, who, when they had partaken, would leave. Hence, amongst his tribe a saying is used, ‘Are you Te Rauparaha? When his workmen are satisfied, food will be prepared for visitors.’”

It appears that in 1817, or about three years before E Hongi left for England, and after the failure of Te Rauparaha's attempt to form an alliance against Waikato, a large war party arrived at Kawhia under the command of Tamati Waka Nene and of his brother Patuone, who invited Rauparaha to join them in a raid upon the southern tribes. Tamati Waka's people had a considerable number of muskets on this occasion, but the expedition had no special object beyond slaughter and slave-making, with the added pleasure of devouring the bodies of the slain. Te Rauparaha joined them with many warriors, and the party travelled along the coast through the territory of the Ngatiawa whose alliance with Ngatitoa, however, saved them from molestation. Hostilities were commenced by an attack upon Ngatiruanui, who were dispersed, after great slaughter. This first success was followed by attacks on all the tribes on the coast until the taua reached Otaki, great numbers of people being killed, and many slaves taken, whilst the remainder were driven into the hills and fastnesses, where many of them perished miserably from exposure and want. At Otaki the invaders rested, Rauparaha visiting Kapiti, which he found in possession of a section of the Ngatiapa tribe, under the chiefs Potau and Kotuku. It would seem that even at this time Te Rauparaha, who was much struck with the appearance of the country, formed the design of taking possession of it, and, with his usual policy, determined, instead of destroying the people he found on the Island, to treat them with kindness, though he and the other leaders compelled them to collect and surrender much greenstone, of which this tribe especially had, during a long intercourse with the Middle Island, and by means of their own conquests of the Ngaitahu, obtained large and valuable quantities. The hostile party then continued their course along the coast, destroying great numbers of people. On their arrival at Wellington, then called Whanganui-a-tara, they found that the inhabitants—a section of the Ngatikahungunu—alarmed at the approach of the ruthless invaders, had fled to the Wairarapa. Thither followed the page 33 taua, and discovered the Ngatikahungunu, in great force, at a pa called Tawhare Nikau. Undaunted, however, by the strength of the fortress, they attacked and carried it with great slaughter. Large numbers of the unfortunate inhabitants escaped to the hills, where they suffered greatly, whilst the invaders, after following the fugitives as far as Kawakawa and Porangahau, killing many, fell back upon Tawhare Nikau, in order to gorge themselves upon the bodies of the slain. The party then returned to Wellington and proceeded to Omere, where they saw an European vessel lying off Raukawa, in Cook Strait. Tamati Waka Nene, immediately on perceiving the ship, shouted out to Te Rauparaha, “Oh, Raha, do you see that people sailing on the sea? They are a very good people, and if you conquer this land and hold intercourse with them you will obtain guns and powder, and become very great.” Te Rauparaha apparently wanted but this extra incentive to induce him to take permanent possession of the country between Wellington and Patea, and at once determined to remove thither with his tribe, as soon as he could make such arrangements as would secure him in the possession of his intended conquest. The taua returned along the coast line as they had first come, killing or making prisoners of such of the inhabitants as they could find as far as Patea. It was during the return of this war party that Rangihaieta took prisoner a woman named Pikinga, the sister of Arapata Hiria, a Ngatiapa chief of high rank, and whom he afterwards made his slave wife, a circumstance much and absurdly insisted upon in favour of the Ngatiapa title during the investigations of the Native Lands Court into the Manawatu case. Laden with spoil, and accompanied by numerous slaves, the successful warriors reached Kawhia, where Tamati Waka Nene and Patuone, with their party, left Te Rauparaha in order to return to their own country at Hokianga.

As I have before mentioned, Te Rauparaha had, during the progress of this raid upon the South, conceived the idea of leaving the ancient possessions of his tribe at Kawhia for the purpose of settling at Kapiti and upon the country on the main land in its vicinity; and accordingly, after the period of festivity and rest usually indulged in by a returned taua, he began to take the necessary steps, not only to induce his own people to accept his resolution, but to enlist the sympathies and assistance of his relatives at Maungatautari and elsewhere. During a visit which he paid for this purpose to the Ngatiraukawa, he found their great chief Hape Tuarangi in a dying state, and the circumstances which then occurred contributed greatly to the ultimate success of his designs. It appears that, notwithstanding the respect in which the offspring of the Maori aristocracy are usually held by their own people, and the influence they generally exercise in matters affecting the tribe, it is not unusual for the natural ariki of a tribe, or chief of a hapu, to be, in some page 34 respects, supplanted by an inferior chief, unless the hereditary power of the former happens to be accompanied by intellect and bravery; and such an occurrence took place in regard to the natural hereditary ariki of the Ngatiraukawa at the death of Hape. Te Rauparaha himself, though by virtue of common descent, and by marriage ties, entitled to be treated as a chief of Ngatiraukawa, was not considered to be of high rank, on the grounds that, in the first place, he was the offspring of a junior branch of the ariki family of Tainui; and, in the next place, that the influence primarily due to his birth had been weakened by the intermarriage of his progenitors with minor chiefs and with women of other tribes. But when Hape, on his death bed, the whole tribe being assembled, asked “if his successor could tread in his steps and lead his people on to victory, and so keep up the honour of his tribe,” not one of his sons, to whom, in succession, the question was put, gave any reply. After a long period of silence, Te Rauparaha, who was amongst the minor chiefs and people, sitting at a distance from the dying man and from the chiefs of high rank by whom he was surrounded, got up and said, “I am able to tread in your steps, and even do that which you could not do.” Hape soon after expired, and as Te Rauparaha had been the only speaker in answer to his question, the whole tribe acknowledged him as their leader, a position which he occupied to his dying day. But even in this position his authority was limited, for though in his powers of mind, and as a leader of a war party, he was admittedly unsurpassed, either by Te Waharoa or by the great Ngapuhi chief, E Hongi, and therefore fully entitled to occupy a commanding position in the tribe, the mana which he acquired on the occasion in question extended only to the exercise of a species of protecting power and counsel whenever these were required, whilst the general direction of the affairs of the tribe still remained vested in their own hereditary chiefs. The influence he had obtained, however, materially aided him in ultimately inducing a large number of the tribe to join him in the conquest and settlement of the territory of the Ngatiapa, Rangitane, and Muaupoko, as will be shown in the sequel. It may seem strange that a people occupying the fertile slopes of the Maungatautari and the beautiful tract of country stretching along the Waikato to Rangiaowhia and Otawhao, could have been induced to abandon such a country in order to join in the conquest and settlement of a distant, and not more fertile, territory; but it must be remembered that, at the time in question, the whole Maori people were engrossed by one absorbing desire—that of acquiring fire-arms—and the inland position of the Ngatiraukawa, and their known wealth in much that the natives then considered valuable, invited attack, whilst the former circumstance prevented them acquiring to any extent the much coveted European weapons. It is true, that through their relatives at Rotorua they succeeded, from time to time, in obtaining some page 35 muskets and ammunition, but the quantity was not sufficiently large to afford them the means of successfully resisting the probable attacks of the tribes nearer the coast, whose opportunities of trade with the whale ships enabled them to acquire an abundant supply of both, as well as of tomahawks and other iron weapons of the most deadly character. Te Rauparaha, no doubt, represented to them the probability of obtaining similar supplies from ships frequenting the shores of Cook Strait, whilst the severe blow inflicted on the tribes occupying the territory in question, by the war party under Tamati Waka Nene, Patuone, and himself, afforded a prospect of easy victory. It was not, however, until after he and his people had reached Taranaki, in the course of their migration, that he succeeded in inducing Watanui, one of the principal chiefs of the Ngatiraukawa, to concur in his project, under circumstances which will be related hereafter. In the meantime, he and his own tribe made up their minds to leave, and finally departed from Kawhia in 1819 or 1820; but I reserve, for the next chapter, the account of this highly interesting event, and of those which took place during their subsequent journey southward.