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Some Chapters in the Life and Times of Te Rauparaha

Chapter VII

Chapter VII.

Rauparaha having thus completed his design of conquering the Middle Island, next turned his attention, at the earnest request of the Ngatiraukawa, to avenging a defeat which the latter had sustained some time previously at the hands of the tribes occupying the line of the Wanganui River. In this defeat only a few of the chiefs had escaped the general slaughter, amongst whom were Te Puke and his younger brother Te Ao, both of whom succeeded in making their way to Kapiti. In consequence of this resolution, a war party numbering nearly a thousand fighting men, under the most distinguished chiefs of the three tribes then united under the general leadership of Rauparaha, was despatched to lay siege to Putikiwaranui, a great pa of the Wanganuis, which was occupied and defended by nearly double the number of the attacking force. The siege lasted upwards of two months, during which many sorties were made, but the besiegers maintained their ground, and ultimately carried the enemy's works by assault, slaughtering an immense number of them. Turoa and Hori Te Anaua (lately known as Hori Kingi) the head chiefs, however, escaped, but the fact that no attempt was even made to avenge this serious disaster, is of itself the strongest evidence of the power of Te Rauparaha and his allies, and of the absurdity of supposing that his occupation of the country he had conquered could for a moment have been disturbed by the remnant of the Ngatiapa, Rangitane, and Muaupoko tribes which had still escaped the general destruction of their people. Soon after the year 1835, the great body of the Ngatiawa, under the chiefs E Puni, Warepouri, Wi Tako, and others, and accompanied by numbers of the Taranaki and Ngatiruanui tribes, came down the coast, many of them settling around and to the southward of Waikanae, whilst others took possession of Port Nicholson and the Hutt country, from which they drove the section of the Ngatikahungunu, which up to this time had occupied those districts. This migration took place after the destruction of the great Ngatiawa pa of Pukerangiora, inland of the Waitara.

It appears that many years before this event the Waikato tribes, under Te Wherowhero and Taiporutu (father of Waharoa and grandfather of William Thompson Tarapipi, so celebrated in connection with our own Waikato wars) had suffered severely at the hands of the Ngatitama under the leadership of Kaeaea, by whom Taiporutu was crucified in the gateway of a pa defended by this ruthless warrior. It was indeed from this circumstance that Waharoa took his name, which signifies the large gateway of a pa. This defeat, as well as that which they had suffered at the hands of Te Rauparaha and his allies, during the migration of the Ngatitoa from Kawhia, naturally rankled in their minds, and in one of the intervals of the wars of Te Waharoa against the Ngatimaru, he and Te Wherowhero concerted a campaign against the Ngatiawa. There is page 69 little doubt, however, that but for the great superiority in the weapons of the Waikato force, they would have thought twice before attacking their old foes, who had always been notorious for their bravery, and who in their frequent migrations had proved themselves more than a match for even the most warlike tribes to which they became opposed. But the possession of a large supply of fire-arms gave to the Waikato chieftains an almost irresistible offensive power, and they did not hesitate, therefore, in attacking the Ngatiawa, even in the midst of their own country and in their principal stronghold. The pa was defended by a large number of warriors, and withstood for many months the most vigorous assaults, only falling at last after the unfortunate inhabitants had suffered much from famine. When taken, hundreds of prisoners fell into the hands of the victors, and it is related of Te Wherowhero that upwards of 250 of them were slain with his own hands, in order that they might be prepared for the ovens. It is said that, as he sat on the ground after the assault, the unfortunate wretches were one by one placed alongside of him, their heads within his reach, and that he despatched them succesively by a single blow on the skull with a celebrated mere pounamu, now in the possession of his son, the present Maori King. After killing this great number he threw the mere down, exclaiming, “I am tired, let the rest live,” and accordingly their lives were spared, but they were kept in slavery until some time after the establishment of the European settlement of New Plymouth.

The heavy blow thus inflicted upon the tribe, and the fear of complete annihilation, determined those who still remained to join Rauparaha and the Ngatiraukawa, whose forces, thus increased, would be more than a match for any war party which the Waikatos could bring against them, even if the chiefs of the latter tribes felt disposed to carry hostilities into Rauparaha's country. It appears that, shortly after the arrival of the Ngatiawa on the coast, they formed the design of taking possession of a large part of the country occupied by the Ngatiraukawa, and particularly that in the neighbourhood and to the north of Otaki. It would seem, moreover, that there was dissension amongst the Ngatitoas themselves, a portion of them taking part with the Ngatiawa, out of jealousy at some apparent favouritism extended by Rauparaha to the great Ngatiawa chieftains, and more particularly to Whatanui, whose relationship to Rauparaha, together with his high character as a chief and warrior, gave him great influence with the latter. The immediate cause of the fighting to which I am about to refer, however, was a robbery committed by a party of Ngatiruanui, who were caught by the Ngatiraukawa in the very act of plundering their potato pits near Waikawa. A conflict at once took place, in which a leading chief of the Ngatiruanui, named Tawhake, was killed, and this led to hostilities being carried on between the two tribes at various page 70 points on the line of their settlements between Manawatu and Waikanae. This state of affairs continued for a considerable time, the forces engaged on each side being numerous and well armed, the result being that large numbers were killed on both sides. Soon after this civil war had commenced Te Rauparaha, who at once saw the disastrous results which must follow from it, sent messengers to Te Heuheu, urging that chief to bring down a force sufficiently strong to enable him to crush the Ngatiruanui, who were the most turbulent of the insurgents, after which he hoped to be able to bring about a peace between the remainder of the contending parties. He was much grieved, moreover, at the dissension in his own tribe, part of which, as I have before mentioned, had joined the Ngatiawa leaders, and had taken an active part in the numerous engagements which had already occurred. The loss on both sides had been severe, and Rauparaha knew full well that he required the whole strength at his command to maintain his position against the Wanganui and Ngatikahungunu tribes, who would have been but too ready to attack him if they saw any reasonable prospect of success. In this connection, I may observe that at this period the shores of Cook Strait were frequented by numbers of whale and other ships, and the tribes along the coasts found no difficulty in obtaining fire-arms and ammunition, which were the principal articles received in barter for flax, then largely used in Australia for the manufacture of wool-lashing. This facility of obtaining European weapons placed the tribes in question upon a footing of comparative equality in their contests, and Rauparaha could no longer reckon upon a continuance of the advantages which his own earlier possession of them had given him in his wars, and it was, therefore, of the utmost moment to him that nothing should take place which would tend to weaken his influence or his numbers. It was, therefore, with great satisfaction that he received intimation from Te Heuheu of his intention to bring a large force to his aid; and, in effect, within two or three months after the commencement of hostilities, that chief, accompanied by other chiefs of note from Maungatautari and Taupo, amongst whom were Tariki and Taonui, reached Otaki with nearly 800 well-armed fighting men. No sooner had they arrived than they proceeded to attack the Ngatiawa at Horowhenua, a pa close to the Otaki River. But even with this great accession to his forces, the contest raged for several months with varying success, the slaughter in some instances being very great. In one of the battles Papaka, a favourite brother of Te Heuheu, was killed, and in another Te Tipi, a son of Rauparaha.

At length a great battle was fought at Pakakutu, in which the Ngatiruanui were defeated with serious loss, their chief Takerangi being killed and their pa taken. This battle put an end to the war, for soon afterwards the whole of the leading chiefs on both sides met, and upon the page 71 advice and urgent entreaty of Te Heuheu and Whatanui, a peace was made, which was not again broken until the fighting at Kirititonga, which (as will be mentioned in the sequel) took place on the day before the arrival of the “Tory.” Immediately after peace had been solemnly ratified the parties divided, the Ngatiraukawa proceeding to re-occupy their former settlements around Ohau and Horowhenua, and also the district between the Manawatu and Rangitikei Rivers, whilst the Ngatiawa retired below Waikanae, occupying the various points, including Port Nicholson, in which they were ultimately found by the agents of the New Zealand Company. Rauparaha, however, was so much grieved at what had taken place, and more particularly at the defection of that part of his own tribe which had joined the Ngatiawa during the recent struggle, that he determined to accompany Te Heuheu back to Maungatautari, and settle there for the remainder of his days. In pursuance of this resolve, he collected his more immediate followers and proceeded as far as Ohau, where, however, he was overtaken by messengers from Otaki and Kapiti, urging him to abandon his resolution and to remain with his people. In this request they were joined by Te Heuheu, and after much discussion and persuasion he consented to their request, returning to Kapiti, after taking leave of his great ally.

This was the last great struggle in which Rauparaha was engaged, but it seems that during the intervals of rest between his various more important undertakings, he was ever mindful of the treacherous attempt of the Muaupoko to murder him, and of the actual slaughter of his children, and had unceasingly persecuted the remnant of this tribe, until at last they, as well as the Ngatiapa and Rangitane, sought the protection of Te Whatanui. In the words of Te Kepa Rangihiwinui (better known as Major Kemp), son of Tunguru, one of the chiefs of the Muaupoko, who had been concerned in the murder, “Whatanui took them under his protection, and promised that nothing should reach them but the rain from heaven;” meaning that he would stand between them and the long-nursed and ever-burning wrath of Te Rauparaha. The latter unwillingly yielded to the wishes of his great kinsman, and from that time ceased directly to molest these unfortunate people, who were suffered again to occupy part of their original territory in the neighbourhood of Lake Horowhenua; not as a tribe, however, but simply in the character of tributaries, if not actual slaves, to Whatanui. In the words of Matene Te Whiwhi, “Rauparaha was anxious to exterminate Muaupoko, but Whatanui interfered. Some had been taken prisoners, but others were living dispersed in the mountains. When they came to Horowhenua, they came like wild dogs; if they had been seen they would have been caught and killed. There was one there, a woman of rank, whose possessions had covered all Otaki, and who had been a slave of mine. She was the wife of Te Kooku. page 72 They had been taken but not killed.” But it is clear, nevertheless, that although Rauparaha refrained from directly molesting them, he was not unwilling to join in any indirect attempt to exterminate them, for we find that on one occasion Wi Tako, in conjunction with some of the Ngatitoa chiefs, having been instigated by Te Rauparaha to do so, invited the whole Muaupoko people to a great feast to be held at Ohariu—upon some one of the numerous pretexts which the Maoris knew so well how to use for engaging in festivities, it having been arranged beforehand that these guests should all be murdered and eaten. The bait took, notwithstanding the advice of Whatanui, who, distrusting the reasons assigned for the festival, cautioned the Muaupoko not to attend, predicting some disaster to them. Notwithstanding this caution, upwards of 150 attended the festival, all of whom were slaughtered, and their bodies duly consigned to the ovens; but this was the last great act of slaughter of the kind which took place.

Shortly after the close of the civil war to which I have lately alluded, a section of the Ngatiawa tribe, known as the Ngatimutunga, which had taken up their quarters in Port Nicholson, chartered the English brig “Rodney” to carry them down to the Chatham Islands, which had been reported to them by a member of their hapu, who had visited the islands in a whaling ship, as being thickly peopled with an unwarlike and plump-looking race, who would fall an easy prey to such experienced warriors as his own people. This occurred about the year 1836, and within less than two years after the expedition reached the islands the aboriginal inhabitants were reduced from 1,500 to less than 200 people, the greater number having been devoured by their conquerors. In one of the cases in the Wellington Museum may be seen a bone spear, which formerly belonged to Mokungatata, one of the leading chiefs of the Ngatimutunga, who was known to have lived for a considerable time almost exclusively on the flesh of young children, as many as six of them being sometimes cooked in order to feast himself and his friends.

Harking back to the division of Te Rauparaha's forces, just before he left D'Urville Island for the purpose of attacking the Kaikoura Pa, that portion which remained under the leadership of Niho, Takerei, Te Koihua and Te Puoho, proceeded to attack the settlements of the Rangitane and Ngatiapa in Blind and Massacre Bays, which they entirely destroyed. Te Koihua settled near Pakawau, in Massacre Bay, where I frequently saw the old man, prior to his death, which happened but a few years ago. Strange to say, his love for green-stone was so great that even after he and his wife had both reached a very advanced age they travelled down the West Coast in 1858, then a very arduous task, and brought back a large rough slab of that substance, which they proceeded diligently to reduce to the form of a mere. Niho and Takerei, leaving Te Koihua in Massacre Bay at the time of their original incursion, page 73 proceeded down the coast as far as the Hokitika River, killing and taking prisoners nearly all the existing inhabitants. Amongst the prisoners was Tuhuru, who was afterwards ransomed by the Ngaitahu for a celebrated mere called Kai Kanohi, now in the possession of the descendants of Matenga Te Aupori. Niho and Takerei settled at the mouth of the Grey, whilst detached parties occupied various points along the coast, both to the north and south of that river. I do not think it necessary to refer in any detail to the events which took place between the Horowhenua war and the arrival of the “Tory” with Colonel Wakefield in 1839. On the 16th November in that year the ship reached Kapiti, and Colonel Wakefield was informed that a sanguinary battle had just been fought near Waikanae on that morning between large forces of the Ngatiawa on the one side, and of Ngatiraukawa on the other. This fight is commonly known as the kirititonga, and was caused by the renewal, at the funeral obsequies of Rauparaha's sister Waitohi, of the land feuds between the two tribes. The forces engaged were large, and the killed on both sides numbered nearly eighty, whilst considerable numbers were wounded. Rauparaha himself took no part in the battle, reaching the scene of action after the repulse of the Ngatiraukawa, and narrowly escaping death by swimming off to his canoe, his retreat being covered by a vigorous rally on the part of his allies. This was the last contest which occurred between the natives along the coast in question, the arrival of the European settlers having entirely changed the aspect of affairs.

I need not here detail the arrangements made by Colonel Wakefield for the purchase of the country in the neighbourhood of Wellington, and along the coast to the northward, but it is worth while to extract from Mr. E. J. Wakefield's “Adventures in New Zealand” the account he gives of the colonel's first meeting with Rauparaha, of the appearance of the latter, and of the impression which he made upon his European visitors. “We had just made up a boat's crew,” he says, “from the cabin party, to go over and see the field of battle, the surgeons taking their instruments with them, when a message arrived from Rauparaha. He was on Evans Island, the nearest to the ship of the three islets, and expressed a desire to see Colonel Wakefield. We therefore pulled round and went to see him. He had just returned from the scene of bloodshed, whither he asserted that he had gone to restore peace; and seeing the arrival of our ship, which was taken for a man-of-war by many even of the Europeans, he had betaken himself, with all his goods, to the residence of an English whaler, named Thomas Evans, on whom he relied for protection from some imaginary danger. We had heard, while in Cloudy Bay, that Rauparaha had expressed himself in somewhat violent terms towards us for purchasing Port Nicholson without his sanction; and he was described by the whalers as giving way to great alarm when told what the ship was, and as having page 74 inquired anxiously what natives we had on board. As we leaped from our boat he advanced to meet us, and, with looks of evident fear and mistrust, eagerly sought our hands to exchange the missionary greeting. During the whole of the ensuing conversation he seemed uneasy and insecure in his own opinion, and the whalers present described this behaviour as totally at variance with his usual boastfulness and arrogance. He made us a pious speech about the battle, saying that he had had no part in it, and that he was determined to give no encouragement to fighting. He agreed to come on board the next day, and departed to one of the neighbouring islands. He is rather under the average height, and very dignified and stately in his manner, although on this occasion it was much affected by the wandering and watchful glances which he frequently threw around him, as though distrustful of everyone. Although at least sixty years old he might have passed for a much younger man, being hale and stout, and his hair but slightly grizzled. His features are aquiline and striking, but an overhanging upper lip, and a retreating forehead on which his eyebrows wrinkled back when he lifted his deep sunken eyelids and penetrating eyes, produced a fatal effect on the good prestige arising from his first appearance. The great chieftain, the man able to lead others, and habituated to wield authority, was clear at first sight; but the savage ferocity of the tiger, who would not scruple to use any means for the attainment of that power, the destructive ambition of a selfish despot, was plainly discernible on a nearer view. Innumerable accounts have been related to me of Rauparaha's unbounded treachery. No sacrifice of honour or feeling seems to have been too great for him, if conducive to his own aggrandizement or security. He has been known to throw one of his own men overboard in order to lighten his canoe when pursued by the enemy, and he had slaughtered one of his own slaves at the late feast at Mana to appear opulent in the eyes of his assembled guests. This was one of the poor, submissive, hard-working tributaries whom we had seen at the Pelorus. In his intercourse with the white whalers and traders and the shipping in the strait, he had universally distinguished himself by the same qualities. By dint of cringing and fawning upon those who showed power and inclination to resist his constant extortions, and the most determined insolence and bullying towards those whom he knew to be at his mercy, he succeeded in obtaining a large revenue from the white population, whether transient or permanent, which he invariably applied to the extension of his power among the natives. He was always accompanied in these marauding excursions, which he frequently extended over to Cloudy Bay and Queen Charlotte Sound, by Rangihaeata, who had become his inseparable companion since his rise in authority. Their respective stations were pithily described by one of the whalers, who told us that ‘the Robuller’ as he mispronounced his name, page 75 ‘cast the bullets, and the Rangihaeata shot them.’ Rauparaha was the mind, and his mate the body, on these black-mail gathering rounds. They had both acquired a violent taste for grog, and this, with fire-arms and powder, were the principal articles demanded.”

Such is the account given by a writer, by no means favourable to Rauparaha, of the impressions he had formed of the chief upon their first interview, and although in some respects the picture he draws is not a favourable one, we may clearly see that its worst features are owing to the intercourse of Rauparaha with the class of European traders who then frequented the coast. Master as he was of all the treacherous arts practised by the Maori warrior, and ruthlessly as his designs were carried out, and fearful as the results may have been, it must be remembered that he was doing no more than his great countrymen, E Hongi, Waharoa, Te Wherowhero, and other leading chiefs who, during the same period, carried on wars in various parts of the islands. Those who knew Te Wherowhero Potatau will recall the peculiar dignity of his manner, and certainly no one would have supposed that the tall, graceful-looking man in the full dress of an English gentleman, who conversed with quiet ease with those whom he met in the drawing-rooms of Government House, at Auckland, was the same person as the savage who sat naked on the ground at Pukerangiora smashing the skulls of hundreds of defenceless prisoners, until he was almost smothered with blood and brains. Nor can I believe that Rauparaha was ever guilty of the treacherous conduct towards his own people with which he is charged by Mr. Wakefield. Their love and respect for him were very great, and the influence he acquired with such men as Te Heuheu and Whatanui indicates that he possessed the highest qualities as a chief. I had not intended to carry my story beyond the arrival of the “Tory,” but I think it as well to give Rauparaha's own view of the disastrous affair at the Wairau in 1843, and of its results as related to me by his son.

“I will now,” he says, “leave my account of the battles of Te Rauparaha at this end of the island, and speak of the folly of the Europeans and Maoris at Wairau, where Wakefield met his death. The fight, and death of Wakefield and the other European gentlemen in 1843, were caused by the deceit of Captain Piringatapu (anglice Blenkinsopp). He deceived Rauparaha in giving him a big gun for the purchase of Wairau. He wrote some documents in English, which said that he had bought that land. Rauparaha did not know what was in those documents, and signed his name in ignorance. Captain Piringatapu told Rauparaha that when he saw the captain of a man-of-war he was to show him the documents that he might know that they were chiefs. Rauparaha thought that it was all correct. When Rauparaha page 76 returned from Cloudy Bay, near Wairau, he gave the documents to Hawea* to read; when he had read them he told Rauparaha that all his land at Wairau had passed away to Captain Piringatapu, and that he had received a big gun for it. Rauparaha was angry, and tore up the documents and threw them in the fire, also the documents held by the chiefs of Ngatitoa at Kapiti, and Ngatitoa of the other island. When Wakefield arrived, and the settlements of Nelson and Wellington were formed, he (Wakefield) went to Wairau for the purpose of surveying. Rauparaha did not consent as he had not been paid for it, since he had been deceived by Captain Piringatapu. Rauparaha's thought was that the land ought not to be taken by Wakefield, but that they should consider the matter before the land was handed over. Trouble and wrong was caused by the hurried attack of Wakefield and party upon Rauparaha. Rauparaha has told me a good deal about this matter. It was not his desire that the Europeans should be killed; his love to Wakefield and party was great. Rangihaeata, Rauparaha's nephew, was misled by his own foolish thought and want of attention to what Rauparaha had said. When Wakefield and party were dead, Rauparaha rose and said, ‘Hearken Te Rangihaeata, I will now leave you as you have set aside my tikanga, let those of the Europeans that have been killed suffice; let the others live, do not kill them.’ Rangihaeata replied, ‘What about your daughter that has been killed.’ Rauparaha replied, ‘Why should not that daughter die?’ Rauparaha also said, ‘Now I will embrace christianity, and turn to God, who has preserved me from the hands of the Europeans.’ This was the time when he embraced christianity. I was absent when the fight took place at Wairau, having gone to preach to Ngaitahu. I went as far as Rakaia. I was there one year, and was the first person that went there to preach. It was on this account that my father did not go there to fight. When Rangihaeata again occasioned trouble to the Europeans at the Hutt, Rauparaha was sad at the folly of Rangihaeata in withholding the land that had been purchased from him and Te Rangihaeata by the Europeans for £200. Rauparaha endeavoured to persuade Rangihaeata to cease causing trouble about that land, but he would not hearken.

“Rauparaha was afterwards taken prisoner by Governor Grey at Porirua without sufficient pretext. The following is the reason why he was taken :—A letter was written by some one, and to which the name of Te Rauparaha was signed; it was then sent to the chiefs of Patutokotoku at Wanganui. It is said that Mamaku and Rangihaeata wrote the letter and signed the name of Rauparaha to give it force. I was at school at this time with Bishop Selwyn at Auckland, together with my wife Ruth, and did not see the page 77 capture of my father. When I returned and arrived in Wellington, I went on board the ‘Calliope,’ the man-of-war in which my father was a prisoner, to see him. When I saw him we cried together, and when we finished he said to me, ‘Son, go to your tribes and tell them to remain in peace. Do not pay for my arrest with evil, only with that which is good. You must love the Europeans. There was no just cause for my having been arrested by Governor Grey. I have not murdered any Europeans, but I was arrested through the lies of the people. If I had been taken prisoner in battle it would have been well, but I was unjustly taken.’ I returned on shore with Matene and went to Porirua, and there saw Ngatitoa and Rawhiri Puaha. We told them the words of Rauparaha respecting good and our living at peace. We then went on to Otaki and repeated the same words. At this time we (two) caused the town of Hadfield to be built at Otaki. From this time Ngatiraukawa and Ngatitoa commenced to do right. At this time a party of Ngatiraukawa came to Ngatiwakatere at Manawatu—this was the tribe that befriended Rangihaeata;—200 of the tribe came on to Otaki, and when they arrived we assembled. Rangihaeata invited these people that they might know the thoughts of Matene and myself respecting Rauparaha, who was held as a captive on board the vessel. He wished to destroy Wellington and kill the Europeans as a satisfaction. I told them the words of Rauparaha when we (two) went to see them (i.e., the chiefs) and the young men. I told them they must put an end to this foolish desire, and not hearken to the tikanga of Rangihaeata, but that they must live in peace and cease that bad desire. They consented. The Ngatiraukawa consented to build that town, that they might obtain a name. When Rauparaha was liberated in the year 1846, he urged Ngatiraukawa to build a large church in Hadfield Town, at Otaki. Had he not returned, the church would not have been built. He had a great desire to worship the great God. He was continually worshipping until he died at Otaki on the 27th November, 1849.”

Such is the history of the life and times of a very remarkable man, and of habits and customs which have already become so much things of the past that in the course of another generation there will be scarcely an aboriginal native left who will have the slightest knowledge of them. Indeed, the memory of the events I have related is already becoming indistinct, even to those of the principal actors in these events who are still living.

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* Hawea, or Hawes, was a European trader residing at Kapiti at the time of the transaction.