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Some Chapters in the Life and Times of Te Rauparaha

Chapter VI

Chapter VI.

It was not until the morning of the fourth day after leaving D'Urville Island that the war party reached the Kaikoura Peninsula, and as they had page 58 arrived before daylight they anchored a short distance from the shore, in order that they might be enabled at dawn to reconnoitre the position of the enemy before landing. It would appear that the Ngaitahus at that time expected a visit from a southern chief of their own tribe, with a considerable following, and that on the morning in question, seeing the canoes of Rauparaha's party at anchor, and not having noticed the direction from which they had come, they mistook them for those of their friends, and large numbers of the people of the pa ran down to the shore, shouting the cry of welcome to the supposed visitors, who, at once seeing the advantage which the mistake would afford them in their intended attack, made for the shore with all possible speed, and having reached it jumped out of the canoes and immediately commenced the attack. The unfortunate people, being quite unarmed, and taken by surprise, endeavoured to escape by retreating towards the pa, which, in the general confusion, was taken without difficulty, some 1,400 of the people, including women and children, being killed or taken prisoners, amongst the latter of whom was the chief Rerewhaka, whose threat Rauparaha was then avenging. After remaining for some time to feast upon the bodies of the slain, and to plunder the pa of its treasures, the victorious Ngatitoa returned with their prisoners to Kapiti, where the greater number of the latter, including Rerewhaka himself, were put to death and eaten, the chief having been sacrificed with great cruelty on account of the threat which had been the prime cause of the attack. In consequence of this circumstance Rauparaha named the battle the “niho manga, or battle of the shark's tooth.” At the time of this event another section of the Ngaitahu tribe occupied an extensive pa called Kaiapoi, about fourteen miles north of Christchurch, with the inhabitants of which Rauparaha made up his mind to pick a quarrel at the first convenient opportunity, but he felt that the force he had under his command at Kaikoura was too small for the purpose of any attack upon it, particularly after the enemy had received notice of the fall of the latter place, and had had time to make preparations for defence. In the following year, before he had had an opportunity of devising any particular scheme for the purpose of bringing about a quarrel between himself and the Kaiapoi people, he was induced again to attack the remnant of the Ngaitahu at Kaikoura, in consequence of an insult put upon Rangihaeata by a Ngatika-hungunu chief named Kekerengu, who, dreading the consequences, had fled across the strait and taken refuge with them. Rauparaha collected a considerable force of Ngatitoa and their allies, under his own leadership, with Te Pehi, Pohaitara, Rangihaeata, and other principal chiefs under him, and started for the Wairau, from whence he made his way along the coast to Kaikoura. On his arrival there he found that the pa had been evacuated on their approach, the inhabitants flying down the Amuri. They were overtaken page 59 by the war party at a pa called Omihi, where they were attacked and routed with great slaughter, numbers of prisoners being also taken. These were left in charge of a detachment, whilst the rest of the force pushed with all speed for Kaiapoi, in order that Rauparaha might put his design against its inhabitants into execution. The pa of that name was situated just within the line of the coast dunes of Pegasus Bay, about a mile to the south of the River Ashley, and was erected upon a promontory about nine or ten acres in extent, which extends into a deep swamp lying between the sand dunes and the bank of the river. This swamp, which is very deep, nearly surrounds the site of the pa, and prevented it from being attacked at any point except in front; and along the line of the front, extending from one branch of the swamp to the other, a distance of about 250 yards, it was defended by a double line of heavy palisading and a deep ditch, with two large outworks, from which a flank fire could be maintained on any party attempting to scale the palisades. I have frequently visited the site of this pa, which still exhibits unmistakeable evidences of the conflict which took place there, including many relies of the special festivities with which the Maoris invariably celebrated their victories. I was informed that after its fall (which will shortly be fully detailed) the principal defenders threw large numbers of their choicest green-stone weapons and ornaments into the deepest part of the swamp, where they still lie, to reward any enterprising person who will drain it for the purpose of recovering them.

When Rauparaha and his people arrived at the pa, they at once opened intercourse with the chiefs, pretending that they had come to seek their friendship, and desired to barter fire-arms and ammunition in exchange for green-stone, in which the people of Kaiapoi, like their kinsfolk at Kaikoura, were extremely rich, but the latter, having been informed by some refugees of the slaughter at Omihi, distrusted the good intentions of their visitors. In order, however, to remove all pretext for hostilities they received them with great appearance of cordiality, and treated the chiefs who visited their houses with ostentatious hospitality. Rauparaha himself, however, could not be induced to enter the pa, the wily chief feeling that he had too surely earned their animosity by the slaughter of their kinsfolk, and, therefore, could not justly place much trust upon their professions of friendship. It appears, according to the Ngatitoa account of the affair, that Te Pehi, who in order to keep up the deception had carried on a trade with some of the people, let the cat out of the bag; for a Ngaitahu chief having expressed great unwillingness to part with a coveted green-stone weapon, was told by Te Pehi, in anger, “Why do you, with the crooked tatoo, resist my wishes; you, whose nose will shortly be cut off with a hatchet.” This confirmation from the lips of one of the chiefs in command of the Ngatitoa of their preconception of page 60 the real designs of Rauparaha's party, determined the people in the pa to strike a blow which would prevent Rauparaha from further prosecuting his design, at least at that time; and, for this purpose, they resolved to kill the chiefs then in the pa, amongst whom, besides Te Pehi, were Pokaitara, Te Aratangata, of Ngatiraukawa, and others of note. Pokaitara had taken to wife from amongst the prisoners at Kaikoura the daughter of Rongatara, one of the Ngaitahu chieftains then in the pa, and having been invited to the house of the latter under pretext of receiving a present of green-stone, proceeded thither without suspicion of foul play. As he stooped to enter the house the old chief, Rongatara, took hold of his mat, saying, “Welcome, welcome, my daughter's lord,” at the same time killing him by a blow on the head with the green-stone club which he expected to have received as a gift. The death of Pokaitara was the signal for a general slaughter of the Ngatitoa chiefs, who were at once despatched, their bodies being destined to the umus of their murderers. The slaughter of his uncle, and of so many of his leading chiefs, was a severe blow to Rauparaha, who, with the rest of his party, at once fell back on Omihi, where he re-united his forces. In part revenge for the murder, he at once slew all the prisoners, and, after devouring their bodies, returned to the Wairau, from whence they crossed over to Kapiti. The Ngaitahu account of the origin of the quarrel is different, and I give it from a petition presented, in 1869, to the House of Representatives, by Patterson, then Maori member for the Southern Maori Electoral District. The petition refers to a letter addressed to Patterson by the runanga, or local council, of the Maoris living near the European village of Kaiapoi, which is situated on the banks of the Waimakariri River, some miles north of the pa above referred to. The following is the text of the letter, which I give nearly entire, as being of much interest in connection with my story:— “To Patterson,— “O friend, salutations to you, and to the Assembly, that is to say, the great chiefs who work for justice and truth.

“O sir, this is the matter which we submit to you, do you publish it to the Assembly, so that the great doctors may examine this disease. The disease is the sale by Ngatitoa of this land.

“After you had left, the runanga gave their attention to the question of the affliction under which they are suffering, and now it is submitted to the great doctor to be prescribed for by him. Had the defeat of the people at this land been equal to that of the people of Rangitikei and Manawatu by Te Rauparaha and Ngatiraukawa, where the people were killed and the land was taken possession of, and has been kept up to this time, them it wwould have been right that we should suffer under this affliction. But, as for the defeat of the natives of Kaiapoi, the Maori runanga consider that it is very clear page 61 that the battles in which the Kaiapoi natives were defeated were not followed up by occupation on the part of the victors. According to our view the killing of the Kaiapoi natives was caused by the Rangitane, who said that Te Rauparaha was to be killed with a stick used for beating fern-root. He then attacked the Rangitane, and defeated them. When Rerewhaka heard that his relatives had been slain, he said that he would rip Te Rauparaha's belly up with the tooth of a barracoota; it was through that that this evil visited this place. Rerewhaka was living amongst the people of Kaiapoi when he said that. Te Rauparaha should have killed that man, for he was the cause of the crime; he spared him, but killed the descendants of Tutea-huka. O friends, the men of Kaiapoi were in deep distress on account of the killing of their relatives at Kaikoura and at Omihi. Now these two pas were destroyed by Te Rauparaha; then Ngatituteahuka and Ngatihikawaikura, the people of Kaiapoi, bewailed their defeat. Te Rauparaha should have borne in mind that the flesh of our relatives was still sticking to his teeth, and he should have gone away and left it to us to seek payment for our dead after him, but he did not, he came to Kaiapoi. When he came the old chiefs of Kaiapoi wished to make peace, and sent Tamaiharanui to Te Rauparaha. Oh their meeting they made peace, and the talk of Tamaiharanui and Te Pehi was good. After Tamaiharanui had started to come back Te Rauparaha went to another pa of ours, called Tuahiwi, and there sought for the grandmother of Tamaiharanui. They dug her body up and ate it, all decomposed as it was. Tamaiharanui was greatly distressed, and threatened to kill the war party of Te Rauparaha. Then his elder relatives, the great chiefs of Kaiapoi, said to him, ‘O son, do not, lest further evil follow in your footsteps.’ He replied, ‘It would not have mattered had I been away when this decomposed body was eaten, but, as it is, it has taken place in my very presence.’ Well, as the chief gave the word, Te Pehi, a great chief of Ngatitoa, and others were killed. Then Te Rauparaha went away.”

Such is the Ngaitahu account of the origin of the quarrel, which I am inclined to accept. It will be thought strange that Te Rauparaha did not, without seeking any pretence for the act, attack the pa in force, but to have done so would have been a violation of the Maori etiquette in matters relating to war. He had taken vengeance for the threat of Rerewhaka, and it was for the relatives of the latter to strike the next blow, which it appears they were unwilling to do, dreading the very results which afterwards followed in revenge for the killing of Te Pehi.

Rauparaha brooded much over this murder of his relative, who, having accepted a secondary position in the tribe, no longer excited his jealousy, and had greatly assisted him as a wise counsellor and valiant leader. After full consultation with the other chiefs of the tribe, he resolved that his revenge page 62 should be carried out by an act as treacherous as that by which the death of Te Pehi and his companions had been brought about; and whilst still revolving in his mind the best means of accomplishing this design, an European vessel arrived at Kapiti from Sydney, after having passed through Foveaux Strait and visited the Auckland Islands for the purpose of leaving a party of sealers at the latter place. Amongst the passengers by this vessel was Hehepa Tamaihengia (who lately died at Porirua), a near relative of Rauparaha, who, on reaching Foveaux Strait, had heard of the murder of Te Pehi and his companions from the Maoris there. Hohepa himself at once conceived the project of seizing and killing some of the Ngaitahu chiefs in utu for their death, and entered into arrangements with the master of the vessel to proceed to Akaroa for that purpose. This plan, however, having become known to some European passengers who were about to join a whaling party in Queen Charlotte Sound, they dissuaded the master from carrying it into effect, and the vessel proceeded direct to Kapiti. Hohepa communicated his design to Rauparaha, who determined to follow it out on the first convenient opportunity. Sometime after the departure of this vessel, the English brig “Elizabeth” arrived at Kapiti. This vessel was commanded by a person named Stewart, to whom Rauparaha offered a large cargo of flax if he would carry him and a chosen party of warriors to Akaroa, for the purpose of seizing Tamaiharanui, the principal chief of the Ngaitahu, who had been present at Kaiapoi, at the time of the murder of Te Pehi, and had indeed taken an active part in counselling it.

Stewart assented to the proposal, and conveyed Rauparaha and his warriors to Akaroa, where the European scoundrel, at the instigation of his charterer, opened communication with the unsuspecting Tamaiharanui, and ultimately induced him, with his wife and daughter, by the promise of some guns and powder, to come on board, where he was at once seized by Rauparaha, who, with his men, had up to this time remained concealed in the hold of the vessel. Having bound the captured chief they remained quiet until nightfall, and then, landing in the ship's boats, attacked the Ngaitahu in their village, of whom they killed large numbers. The bodies of the slain were taken on board the vessel, which at once set sail for Kapiti. On the passage up the successful taua feasted on these bodies, using the ship's coppers for cooking them. It may be that when Stewart engaged his vessel for this expedition he was not made aware of the intentions of Te Rauparaha, or did not foresee the results which followed, whilst he was certainly unable to prevent the atrocities which were perpetrated on board of her, but his name will always be infamous for his connection with this atrocious affair. It appears that the unfortunate Tamaiharanui attempted to commit suicide, in consequence of which he was chained in the cabin, but his hands being free, page 63 he managed to strangle his daughter, and to push her body through one of the after ports, in order to save her from the indignities to which she would be subjected by her ruthless captors, but he himself was taken alive to Kapiti, where he was delivered over to the widows of Te Pehi, who subjected him to frightful tortures, until at length he was put out of his misery by a redhot ramrod being passed through his neck.

The following is the account given to me by Tamihana Te Rauparaha of the mode in which the unfortunate chief was delivered over to his death:— “When the vessel arrived at Kapiti it was proclaimed that Tamaiharanui was on board, and the people were delighted. Ngaitahu had thought there was only the flowing sea (i.e., that there was no one going to attack them), but they were deceived, and Tamaiharanui was taken. There were not many people left in charge of Kapiti when the ship returned; they were at Waikanae and Otaki scraping flax as cargo for the vessel. Te Pehi's widows were at Waitohu, near Otaki, scraping flax. Tamaiharanui was then taken to Otaki in Rauparaha's canoe to be shown to those widows, as it was to be left to them to determine whether he was to be killed or allowed to live. When they arrived at Otaki he asked Rauparaha to spare him, but Rauparaha replied, ‘If the party killed, that is, Te Pehi, belonged to me, I would save you, but as the dead belonged to Ngatitoa I cannot save you.’ He was then taken to Waitohu, to be seen by the widows, and by Tiaia, the chief wife of Pehi, and was then delivered over to them. They hung him on a tree and killed him with great torture, and he died when a red-hot ramrod was put through his neck by Tiaia. Rauparaha did not witness his death.”

It is impossible to conceive that women could descend so low in the scale of humanity as to commit such atrocities without any sentiment of compassion or of remorse, but those who are familiar with the history of the times of which I write, may recall many frightful instances of barbarity of the same kind. Amongst these, one of the most cruel which has come under my notice is the following, related by Mr. Wilson in his “Three chapters in the Life of Te Wakaroa":—"We may here mention a tragedy—all are tragedies in this chapter of horrors. Mr. Knight was accustomed, every morning about sunrise, to attend a school at Ohinemutu Pa, but as there were no scholars on the morning of the 12th May, he went to the place where he was told they would be found. There he perceived a great number of people sitting in two assemblages on the ground—one entirely of men, the other of women and the chief Pango. The former company he joined, and conversed with them, as well as he was able, on the sin of cannibalism, but Korokai and all laughed at the idea of burying their enemies. Their conversation ceased, however, on Knight hearing the word patua (kill) repeated several times; and looking round toward the women, he was horrified to see page 64 the widow of the late chief Haupapa, who had been killed at Maketu, standing naked and armed with a tomahawk, whilst another woman, also nude, and Pango were dragging a woman taken prisoner at Te Tumu, that she might be killed by Mrs. Haupapa, in the open space between the men and the women. Mr. Knight immediately sprang forward, and entreated them not to hurt the woman, but Mrs. Haupapa, paying no attention, raised her hatchet; on this, Knight caught the weapon and pulled it out of her hand, whereupon the other woman angrily wrenched it from his grasp, and would have killed him had not Pango interposed by running at him and giving him a blow and thrust that nearly sent him into the lake. He was, however, about to return when the natives seized him and held him back. Just then, the poor woman slipping out of the garments she was held by, rushed to Knight, and falling down, clasped his knees convulsively, in an agony of terror. Her murderers came, and abusing the pakeha the while for pokanoaing (interfering or meddling), with difficulty dragged her from her hold. The helpless pakeha says, ‘It would have melted the heart of a stone’ to hear her calling each relative by name, beseeching them to save her, for though a Tauranga woman, she was connected with Rotorua, and to see her last despairing, supplicating look, as she was taken a few yards off and killed by that virago Mrs. Haupapa. Now this scene occurred simply because Haupapa's widow longed to assuage the sorrow of her bereaved heart, by despatching, with her own hand, some prisoner of rank as utu for her lord. The tribe respected her desire; they assembled to witness the spectacle, and furnished a victim by handing over a chief's widow to her will.”

It may, as I have before observed, seem strange that Rauparaha did not at once take the bolder and more manly course of attacking the Ngaitahu at Kaiapoi, in the ordinary way of warfare, for the purpose of avenging the murder of Te Pehi and his brother chiefs, but I am informed by his son that the course he adopted was strictly tika, or, in other words, in accordance with Maori etiquette in such matters, and that, indeed, any other line of action would not properly have met the exigencies of the case. That Rauparaha was not limited to the adoption of what we should consider the treacherous plan of revenge above related is clear from the events which I am about to refer to, for in about a year after the capture of Tamaiharanui our chief determined, in furtherance of his original design, to attack the great pa at Kaiapoi. For this purpose he assembled a large force, comprising Ngatitoa, Ngatiawa, and Ngatiraukawa, part of whom made their. way through the Wairau Gorge and the Hanmer Plains to the Waipara River, which flows into the sea near the north head of Pegasus Bay; whilst he, with the main body of his forces, passed over to the East Coast, through the country now occupied by Messrs. Clifford and Weld, and from thence down that coast to the mouth of the page 65 Waipara, where they were joined by the inland party. The inland line of march runs through some of the most picturesque country in New Zealand, the gorge of the Wairau, especially, being rugged and grand in the extreme. I was the first European who ever passed through this gorge, which I did in 1859 or 1860 for the purpose of determining whether it would afford a practicable line of communication between Nelson and Canterbury, and on that occasion I was accompanied by a Ngatitoa man, who had been one of the inland war party on the occasion above referred to. Singular to state, however, I found, after passing through the gorge, that he had entirely forgotten the line of route between Tarndale and the pass into the Hanmer Plains, and the season was, unfortunately, too far advanced to permit of my attempting to discover it independently. Indeed, my party was snowed up for several days, and as we ran some risk of getting short of food for the return journey, I was reluctantly compelled to give up the design. This was, however, of little importance, as Mr. Weld, now Governor of Western Australia, had, a few days before my passage through the upper part of the gorge, found his way into Tarndale over the mount near the junction of the Wairau and Kopiouenuku Rivers, and had established the connections between that place and the pass known as Jollie's Pass, leading from the Clarence River into the Hanmer Plains. Subsequent explorations of my own resulted in the discovery of the country in the Upper Waiauua and the line of the Cannibal Gorge, and of a shorter and easier pass from Tarndale into the Hanmer Plains, being probably the one used by the native party above referred to.

After the junction of the two bodies Rauparaha proceeded at once to Kaiapoi for the purpose of attacking the pa. The Ngaitahu were evidently quite unprepared for this fresh invasion, a large number of their warriors being absent at Port Cooper, whither they had accompanied Taiaroa (father of the present member of the House of Representatives of that name), who was then the leading chief of that portion of their tribe which occupied the country in the neighbourhood of the present site of Dunedin, and who was returning home after a visit to his kinsfolk at Kaiapoi. Others of the people were engaged in their cultivations outside of the pa, which was, in fact, only occupied by a small number of able-bodied warriors and a few of the older men, and some women and children. So carefully had Rauparaha concealed the approach of his war party that the first intimation which the inhabitants of the pa received of it was the sound of the firing as his force attacked the people in the cultivations, and the cries of the dying and wounded; and they had barely time to close the gates of the outworks and to man the line of defences before a number of the enemy appeared in front of it. The Ngatitoa at once sprung to the assault, hoping to carry the defences by a coup de main, page 66 but were repulsed with some slaughter; and after renewing the attempt and finding them too strong to be thus overcome, they determined to commence a regular siege. For that purpose they intrenched themselves on the ground in front of the pa, at the same time occupying some sand-hills which commanded it on the eastern side, but from which it is separated by a branch of the great swamp before referred to. In the meantime, some of the Ngaitahu who had escaped from the first attack, favoured in so doing by their intimate knowledge of the line of swamps which occupies the intervals between the sand-dunes and the sea coast as far as Banks Peninsula, managed to reach Port Cooper, where they informed their people of the attack upon the pa, arriving there in time to stop Taiaroa and those who were about to accompany him to Otago. After collecting reinforcements from the villages on the peninsula, Taiaroa and his forces made their way along the coast line as far as the Waimakariri, availing themselves of the swamps above referred to, for the purpose of concealing their march from any detached parties of the Ngatitoa. On reaching the Waimakariri they crossed it on rafts (commonly called mokihi by the natives) made of dried stalks of the Phormium tenax, and concealed themselves until dark. Finding the hostile forces encamped along the front of the pa, and warned by their watch-fires that they were on the alert, they determined to ford the swamp at a narrow point on its western side, and to enter it through an outwork erected there, that being the only point along the line of the swamp which was at all weak. Using the utmost caution in their approach to this point they succeeded in reaching it without having attracted the notice of the besiegers, and at once plunged into the swamp, trusting to be able to struggle through it and to enter the pa without being attacked by the Ngatitoa. Knowing, however, that the defenders would also be on the alert, they shouted the name of Taiaroa as they plunged into the water, in the hope that their friends would recognise their voices and take the necessary steps to admit them; but the latter, believing it to be a ruse of the Ngatitoa, opened fire upon them, which was kept up vigorously for some time. The error having at last been discovered, and little damage having fortunately been done, the main body of the warriors were admitted into the pa, to the great joy of the handful of people by whom, up to that time, the defence had been maintained. The siege operations were, however, in but a slight degree affected by this accession of strength to the besieged, for although they made frequent sorties against the works of the Ngatitoa these experienced warriors held them without difficulty, and repulsed them all with loss to the assailants. The Ngaitahu, dispirited by their failures, soon abandoned these tactics, and, trusting in the impregnable nature of the pa, confined themselves to purely defensive operations. I ought to mention that at the time the siege commenced the pa was well provisioned, besides which page 67 the lagoon yielded large supplies of eels, so that the defenders ran little risk of being obliged to surrender on account of famine, whilst the besiegers, on the other hand, were compelled to depend on foraging parties for supplies, and frequently ran short of provisions. Indeed, the difficulty of feeding his men was the chief cause which led to the adoption of a plan of attack which, so far as I am aware, was then adopted for the first time in Maori warfare. A council of war having been held, it was determined to sap up to the two outworks, and as soon as the head of the sap had been carried up to them, to pile up in front of them immense quantities of dried brushwood, which were to be set on fire when the wind blew in the direction of the pa, and to rush it so soon as the palisading had been burned down. This plan was carried out, and the two lines of sap exist to this day, and are as well carried out as if done by the most experienced European engineers. At first Rauparaha suffered considerable loss, for the enemy, foreseeing that the pa must be taken if this plan of operation was successfully carried out, made the most strenuous efforts to prevent it, but having been defeated in every encounter, and Rauparaha having taken precautions to prevent future loss, they allowed the saps to be pushed close up to the outworks. So soon as the besiegers, however, had piled the brushwood in position it was fired by the people of the pa, the wind at the time blowing from the north-west; but a sudden change occurring, both the outworks, as well as the general line of defences, were soon enveloped in a mass of flame and smoke, from which the defenders were compelled to retreat. When the palisading had thus been destroyed, the Ngatitoa rushed through the burning ruins, and a general massacre ensued. Many endeavoured to escape by swimming across the lagoon, and some few succeeded in doing so, whilst others were interrupted by bodies of Ngatitoa detached for that purpose. The slaughter was tremendous, whilst numbers of prisoners also fell into the hands of the victors. Some conception may be formed of the numbers slain and eaten, when I mention that some time after the settlement of Canterbury the Rev. Mr. Raven, Incumbent of Woodend near the site of the pa in question, collected many cartloads of their bones, and buried them in a mound on the side of the main road from the present town of Kaiapoi to the north. Ghastly relics of these feasts still strew the same ground, from which I myself have gathered many.

Having thus captured the main stronghold of the Ngaitahu, Rauparaha sent detached parties of his warriors to scour the plains as far south as the Rakaia, as well as to ravage the villages on the peninsula, by whom hundreds of the unfortunate people were slaughtered; after which he made his way back to the shores of Cook Strait, and from thence to Kapiti, laden with spoil, and accompanied by large numbers of captives, some of whom were kept in slavery, whilst others were used in the ordinary manner in the festivities by which his triumph was celebrated.

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