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The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions: Tai-Nui. [Vol. V]

Chapter I

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Chapter I.

Yes, my small canoe, how little do I dread
Thy loss, O Te-rau-o-te-kaha! Thou art here
And mine. I brought thee here to be my own, my guardian help
And god, to beautify the landing-place where I my vessels keep;
That when the voice of man is heard my startled spirit
Leaps, as thou dost, god-like, sit upon the stream—
The stream of Ha-waiki, Raurutanga, and Ao-tea—
As I ascend the peak of Whiti-reia,
The brow o'er which the sun and moon oft pass,
At which oft Tapere-whatu-au, with flashing eye
And outstretched neck, will often glance.
Breathe the sacred song and chant it to the earth,
And in these days raise high aloft the sacred power
Of Tanga-roa (ocean's god) and bring it high on land.
The distant, loud, and far-off voice of Uru and
Ngangana are heard with voice of Whatu in the vale
Where Mangai-nuku, Mangai-rangi, Mangai-papa,
And Mangai-te-tahua are; but, O my small canoe!
I teach each one the words of sacred chant
Of old Takei—the song he chanted o'er himself
As into war he boldly went. I also taught them to
Tu-hikitia, Tu-hapainga, Tu-ka-rere, as I
Repeated these at Marere, and heard them echoed at the landing-place—
The landing, where the great of Rangi are, where flaps
The wings of the great bird of Tane—the bird of plumes;
Add other plumes and bring them near together, ‘tis Rae,
Kurae-maru, Whiwhia, and Rawea—Rawea caught.

The Ancient Canoes, and Tai-Nui.

According to what the ancients have said, the canoe called Mataatua (god-face) landed at Whaka-tane (like a man). In this canoe a stone god was brought, which god was a kumara (sweet potato) god.

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The canoe called Te-Arawa (the shark), which had also a stone god on board, landed at Make-tu (ridge of the nose). This god was also a kumara (sweet potato) god, and is now kept at the island called Mokoia (tattoo him), in the Lake Roto-rua (second lake).

The canoe of Turi (deaf or obstinate) called Ao-tea (fair cloud) landed at Hokianga-o-kupe (the return of Kupe), from which place she sailed, going by the west coast, and landed at Pa-tea (white fort). The karaka (Corynocarpus lœvigata) was brought in this canoe.

Tai-nui (great tide) landed at Hau-raki (dry wind), and the crew paddled from there and entered the Tamaki (start involuntarily), that is in the Whanga-makau (wait for the loved one) River. As they had to wait there for their supreme female head, called Marama (moon), as she and her slave-man had landed at Marama-rua (double moon), and the people in the canoe waited there for her; hence the origin of the name of that creek, Whanga-makau (wait for the loved one), where they waited for that which they loved—for the spouse. Tai-nui was dragged across the portage of O-tahuhu (the ridge pole) into the tide at Manuka (regret) (or Manu-kau—all birds), and out into the great sea, where they, Hotu-nui (great sob) and his companions, paddled along the west coast and landed at Kawhia (embraced).

Hotu-nui is the progenitor of all the Wai-kato (nipping water) tribes and all the other tribes. And they cultivated (set) at Kawhia the kumara which they had brought over in the Tai-nui

There were other canoes named, which canoes came to these Islands and landed in this land.

The traditional account given by the ancients says that the people called Patu-pae-arehe (weapon laid across, and weary, or fairies) came in the canoe Tai-nui; also the rat, with the kumara (sweet potato). And as Tai-nui went by the east coast the crew landed at Tutu-kaka (the kaka birds' perch), and went on shore there to look at the land; Patu-pae-arehe also fled on shore, and took some kumara with him in his hand, which were page 7 concealed from the sight of man by this atua (being); also the rat swam on shore and ate some of the kumara taken on shore by the Patu-pae-arehe, and hence, on account of some of these kumara being eaten by the rat, the following song was composed by a very old man of ancient days when his kumara were eaten by rats. This old man had heard of the kumara of the Patupae-arehe having been eaten by rats, and, as his were eaten by the same kind of animal, hence the origin of his song. This is the song alluded to:—

Here I sit, and heart of man
Requires to find some powerful charm
To counteract the ill befallen me.
Oh! now confusion's here confounded.
But grow, O tendrils! grow,
And flourish where ye sprout;
The while I climb and sit on hill
In lonely mood outside my home.
O birds! whose voice is hushed
Below me now at Rangi-ahua,
Come, meet again and sing your song.
I sacred am, and feel a dread
Of Rongo-tapu-hirahira (hingahinga)
(The great and sacred kumara).
But Thou, O Tane! promoter,
And he who calls great evil,
And parent of the forest-land,
Art not abashed to stand
In presence of the little mouth (man),
Or see the child of piercing tooth (rat)
Devour and blight my growing crop,
Which in days past sat sheltered
In the prow of Tai-nui,
And passed across the sea
With Hotu-roa in his canoe;
When Hotu brought the kumara,
And blessed the sun-lit world with food.
Ah! why now heed the gods' commands,
Or think their power as aught?
Then cast thou all behind thy back,
And deem their power as ornaments;
While Heaven propitious smiles,
And screens at once from evil's power.
Then cease thy charms to chant
And incantations sing to Hau-turu
And Te-whara. In those though sacred hills

Confusion and mistaken trust are placed.
page 8 Then press towards those hills, and see
If thou canst bite, and make an impress
Of thy teeth in them. But, oh! the kumara
Still grows on cliffs in Hawa-iki,
Where germ, and sprout, and life
Of such were seen the first.
But rats have blighted all now here.

Tai-Nui. (Nga-Ti-Mahuta.)

The first canoes that came from the other side—that is, from Hawa-iki—and came to Ao-tea-roa (long light world), were called Te-arawa (shark), Kura-whau-po (combined red cloud of night), and Mata-atua (face of a god).

Papa says, at the time these canoes paddled (that is, sailed) towards this place Rata was left at Hawa-iki. Rata was a most learned man to make canoes, and Rata with his sub-tribe stayed at Hawa-iki. But the very (true) name of the land from which these canoes came to this land is not known—whether it is Hawa-iki or some other land, or an island or a great land.

Rata thought that they must make a canoe for themselves, and in the morning he went into the forest to find a tree of which to make a canoe; and when he had found one he went back to the settlement and slept. At dawn of day he took his axe and went to cut the tree down. When the tree was felled a bird called a popoko-tea (Orthonyx albicilla) and one called a pihipihi (Xencus longipes—a wren, the smallest New Zealand bird) were seen. The coming of these birds was an ill omen, as Rata had done wrong in the act of cutting the tree down for his canoe. Rata went back to his home and slept. On the following day he went again to work at his canoe, and found the tree standing up as it had grown; so he went back to his home and told the news to his sister.

She asked, “How did you act in cutting your tree down?”

Rata answered, “I went to the tree and cut it down, and cut the top off it; but I had seen two birds, a popoko-tea and a pihipihi, and I came back home and slept.”

The sister said, “You did wrong in going back to make a canoe. page 9 You should first of all have rubbed your axe on me to make it sharp, and when you had left to go and cut your tree down you should have touched your axe against me; then you could have cut your tree down: and when it was felled you should have covered the stump with the panako (a species of fern).” The reason this woman had for mentioning the fern panako was that to use this fern as she stated was a custom followed since the days of ancient times. When it is decided to fell a tree for a canoe, the axe which is to be first used to cut the tree down is touched with fern-root.

Rata now went to cut his tree down, and did as instructed by his sister; and when he had felled it he covered the stump with the fern panako, and he also covered the body of the tree intended for a canoe with the same sort of fern.

On the following day Rata worked at the outside of his canoe; then he worked on the inside—on the hold of the canoe. And when the food was collected for those who worked at the canoe it was not guarded by any one; so a boy called Kowhiti-nui (he who takes many choice bits from a heap) took and ate the choice bits of this food. Against this boy Rata felt a hatred, and when the day came that the canoe should be laid on one side, so that the other side could be completed, Rata called and said to Kowhiti-nui, “Pull the rope, that the canoe may cant on one side.” Now, Kowhiti-nui was a brave little fellow, so he took hold of the rope and pulled. Rata said to him, “Put it round your neck.” Now, Rata had made a slipknot on the end of the rope, and Kowhiti-nui put this over his head, and Rata pulled it tight and killed the boy, and buried him in the chips made in making the canoe.

When the canoe was finished and the day came to drag it to the sea, all the tribe collected, and the father of Kowhiti-nui was there; but not any of the people knew that the boy had been killed, and they thought he was absent at some other of page 10 the settlements in the district, and so expressed their thoughts without reserve. It was agreed that so soon as the canoe was afloat on the sea she should be loaded, and twice seventy people go on board of her, with Hotu-roa as the leader, and that the name of the canoe should be Tai-nui.

Now that the canoe was completed Rata stood up and chanted his incantation, to the words of which the canoe Tai-nui should be dragged to the sea. And when the incantation was chanted the canoe had been dragged to the sea. This is the incantation of Rata:—

Sharpen the axe of Hine-tu-a-hoanga;
But it is I, Rata, searching for
The river at Pikopiko-i-whiti.
Death has been at Maunga-roa—
The death of Kowhiti-nui.

Then the people shouted,—

O sin! our day.

Rata answered,—

Killed by Rata of Wahie-roa.

The people shouted,—

O sin! our day.

Rata answered,—

Dash it, the two, and bind them.

The people shouted,—

Dash it, the two, and bind them.

Rata answered,—

Fire, with a screen of air—
Air of the year with a spear on the brow.

And this is also another incantation chanted when Tai-nui was dragged to the sea:—

Drag Tai-nui down to the ocean.
Who shall drag her? Hearken:
'Tis the news of earth—the news of heaven.
Plant, caulk. Welcome, O Tane!
We will swim that you may be admired
By all the crowd of people.
I have come for you to the forest of Tane
page 11 As an embracing husband, a husband of delight,
And a husband to lead; but we are blown on
By the air from Wai-hi. Move, bow of the canoe.
Move by short stages; move; slide, slide.

Then Raka-taua (entangle a war-party) (or Raka-taura-entangle a rope), the father of Kowhiti-nui, knew from the words of the incantation of Rata that his son was dead. Raka-taua was a wizard, and all the tribe were afraid of him; and when he went to search for his son the tribe said, “Let us start on our voyage that we may escape, and leave Raka-taua here.”

And this is the incantation chanted when Tai-nui left to go on her voyage:—

The man on shore uncovers, and waits not for the man of the sea.
The man of the sea uncovers, and waits not for the man of the shore.
Even so the great dowry, the long dowry,
The opened stream, the stream of blood,
By putting the war-troop to sleep,
And Tu and Rongo (gods of war and food),
The sons who own or dam the stream.
Do not hinder or cover the son; let him go out
Of the grief and troubles, where lords appear,
And Rongo (god of food) is counterpart
Of all that man doth need on earth.

Now, Hotu-roa and Tai-ketu (ebbing tide) (or Tai-kehu—red tide), Mama-o-rongo (offerings to the god Rongo), Ao-o-rongo (day of the god Rongo), and Taura-waho (the outer stay for the mast) embarked, and all sat at the stern of the canoe; but in the centre, or where the water is baled out of the canoe, sat Potu-keha (night of the flea awake) (Pou-tu-keka—verily deranged), and in the bow sat the priest, with Rata and his sister Hine.

The food brought in Tai-nui was kumara (sweet potato), hue (gourd), po-hue (convolvulus), and mawhai (Sicyos angulatus), which were for the crew to live on while at sea.

When Raka-taua had got back from searching for his son, Tai-nui had gone a great distance out on the ocean, and he called to those in the canoe and said, “Bring the canoe back for me;” but the canoe was not brought back to him, and he was page 12 angry, and stood up and chanted incantations over the ocean, and the entrance of the harbour was closed up by the power of his incantations. But the priest who was sitting in the bow of the canoe Tai-nui stood up and chanted incantations, and the entrance of the harbour was again opened, and Tai-nui went out to sea and sailed on to this land Ao-tea-roa, and landed at Whanga-paraoa (harbour of the whale). The oysters which were on the rocks held Tai-nui there; but the priest who was sitting in the bow of Tai-nui stood up and chanted incantations, and the canoe was released, and she sailed away swiftly over the sea, and landed on the other side of O-tahuhu (the ridgepole), to the east of the spot called the Apunga-o-tai-nui (the spot where Tai-nui was held); but so soon as the canoe had landed there Raka-taua was seen there also. A sea-monster had brought him over the great sea. There were not any people there, and the other canoes had also landed at other places.

Tai-nui was dragged over the isthmus at O-tahuhu, and sailed away along the west coast from the entrance of the Manuka harbour towards the south. And when she had got opposite to the entrance of the Wai-kato (full tide) harbour, the people in the canoe saw the water flowing outwards to the sea, and the priest who sat in the bow of the canoe said “Wai-kato, wai-kato kau” (“Flood-water, all flood-water”). These words he uttered in jest, as a taunt, and he threwhis paddle on shore, which stuck in the cliff above him. And they paddled on along the west coast, where again this priest said, “Ko te akau kau” (“All sea-coast”). And when they arrived at Kawhia the same priest said, “Kawhia kau” (“All kawhia”), on account of the fish kawhia being so abundant there. And they landed there, and there again they found Raka-taua, who was standing looking at them. These words are not a myth; they are the words of very truth.

And they dragged Tai-nui on shore, and the skids over which they dragged her grew, and to this day they are still growing there.

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Skid Of Tai-Nui (Given By Sir James Hector).

The tree I have to introduce was discovered during my recent visit to the Mo-kau district, under circumstances of some interest beyond the mere botanical importance of a new addition to the flora of the country. It is a very local plant, being confined to about an acre of ground on the spur of the low sandy hills that extend along the coast between the Mo-kau and the Mohaka-tino Rivers.

The peculiar habit of the tree first attracted my attention, having a resemblance to a clump of apple-trees, so that at first glance I thought it to be an old orchard or cultivation. I afterwards was much interested in hearing from the Natives that a peculiar tree was growing on the spot where their ancestors first camped when they abandoned the Tai-nui canoe, in which they came from Hawa-iki, and that this tree had sprung from the rollers or skids and the green boughs that were brought as flooring to the great canoe. On my doubting this, they offered to take me to the place, and if I could not recognise the tree as being found elsewhere in New Zealand they would consider it as proof that the tradition was correct.

To my surprise, they took me to the clump of trees I had previously observed, and, as it is certainly quite distinct from any plant hitherto described for New Zealand, the tradition receives a certain amount of confirmation; and I need hardly point out that, if it were true, and we could hereafter determine the original habitat of this tree, it might give us a clue to the whereabouts of the mythical Hawa-iki, or the place whence the Maoris originally migrated to New Zealand.

The following description of this plant indicates it to be closely allied to Pomaderris apetala (Labill.), which is a native of Australia and Tasmania; but, as it differs in its growth to a much larger size—that species being a mere shrub like the kumara-hou (P. elliptica) of New Zealand, whereas the tree now described grows to a height of 2Oft., with a large stem 5in. page 14 or 6in. in diameter—I have thought it better to distinguish it by a specific name, and have adopted that by which it is known to the Maori.

Pomaderris tainui, n. s.

A small shrubby tree twenty feet high, with numerous irregular branches; smooth brownish-grey bark; young branches and under side of leaves covered with white stellate tomentum; leaves two to three inches long, elliptic-oblong, obtuse at both ends, irregularly crenulate, glabrous and dark-green on upper surface, with distant stellate bases on young leaves, principal veins very prominent, buff-coloured. Flowers small, in open thyrsoid panicles, leafy at the base, buds nearly globular; calyx about 1 1/4 lines long with stellate leaves, the tube being very short; petals, O; anthers tipped by a small gland; styles divided to the middle, with club-shaped, almost capitate, stagmas; capsule not seen.

Habitat: Sea-coast south of Mokau River. In flower 5th December, 1878.

Kawhia: Who Owns the District.(Nga-Ti-Mahuta.)

Kawhia has been held in possession by the descendants of those who landed there in the Tai-nui, and hence that people is called Tai-nui, of whom at this day [1840] Te Kanawa is the supreme chief, and representative of those who landed there in the canoe Tai-nui. All the tribes of Wai-kato are from those same ancestors who came in the Tai-nui; as also are the tribes of Hau-raki (Thames), as the ancestors of the Hau-raki (Thames) tribes migrated there from Kawhia; as also the tribes of Te-rau-paraha are from the same ancestors.

It is said that the caves where the dead have been deposited in the cliffs at Kawhia, were the depositories of the dead belonging to a people who were at Kawhia before the time that Hotu-roa and his associates arrived there in the Tai-nui.

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The Dead In the Caves at Kawhia.

The European goes without authority on to the lands of the Maori, nor does the smallest thing escape his notice. He is most inquisitively annoying on every subject. And why does he enter and pull everything about in the caves of the Maori dead? Why does he not confine his inquisitive acts to the things of every-day life? But, no, he will turn everything upside down. All that is old, decayed, and rotten his hands will handle, as this fact will prove: The Europeans went without authority to Kawhia, and on to the steep cliffs at that place. Having perhaps seen the entrance of a cave far up on the cliff, they climbed up and entered the cave, and there found the bodies of the dead sitting in that cave. These were sitting as though they were alive. The dead were not reclined, but were sitting up, and in a line (or circle) all round the cave. These must be the dead of some other people, as our old men were not aware that this cave was occupied by the dead of our ancestors, nor was the cave used in which to deposit the bones or the dead bodies of our ancient dead; but we heard of these dead bodies from the Europeans who visited this cave. Who can go to this cave, from the dread of ghosts or the dead? Why are these things not left alone, and why do the Europeans handle them?


When the canoe Tai-nui landed at Te-mahia (the sound of a voice or noise) a man of that canoe was left behind, and that man, Raka-taura (entangled by a rope), felt a longing for his companions on board of the Tai-nui, so he dived on the east coast in the sea and came up on the west coast, and swam on shore, and went on to Kawhia. He landed there some time before the Tai-nui arrived there, and he placed the skids for her over which she could be dragged up on shore.


Te-ao-kai (day of food) was the name of the first man whose body was cooked and eaten at Kawhia. He was killed at the page 16 battle called Te-wai-karaka (the water in which the karaka——Corynocarpus lœvigata—steeped), which took place at Kawhia.

Koro Kino.(Te-Aki-Tai.)

The tree which has grown from the sprig which was tied round the waist of Koro-kino (evil fifth day of the moon's age) by his mother at the time of his birth and baptism is the totara tree which was to be seen on Totara-i-ahua (One-tree Hill), between One-hunga (light soil) and Auckland, to the east of the main road between those places, and was seen growing on the pa (fort on the extinct volcano) called by the name of Te-totara-i-ahua. (the totara which was used as an altar).

Koro-kino was a member of the Nga-ti-awa, and was ancestor of Kiwi of the Tai-nui migration, as the Nga-ti-awa people occupied the Tamaki (start involuntarily) district in the ancient days of the past—in the days just before the time of Tapa-ue (trembling tapa). Of the Nga-ti-awa, some were killed and some driven from that district by war-parties who came from the interior of Wai-kato.

The Marae (Courtyard) Of Hine.(Nga-Ti-Mahuta.)

The proverb, “Do not be mistaken in regard to the marae of Hine,” was repeated in respect to the courtyard in the pa of Hine (daughter), the daughter of Mania-poto (short jarring sensation), who had a pa at Moho-ao-nui (blockhead of the great forest), situate far up the Wai-kato River, where she resided with her parents and people.

Hine was the wife of a chief of the Nga-ti-raukawa Tribe, and when a war was waged between her tribe and the Nga-ti-raukawa people the Nga-ti-raukawa were worsted and fled before the Nga-ti-mania-poto, and went towards the home of Hine. When the fleeing people were seen by old Mania-poto, the father of Hine, as they were trying to escape to the pa, followed by the enemy, who were killing them in detail as they fled, Mania-poto called to the pursuing enemy and said, “Who are those who pursue?

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Do not mistake, or intrude on the marae (courtyard) of Hine.” The pursuing enemy heard the words uttered by old Mania-poto, and halted and stood and looked at their loved Mania-poto, then retired and went back to their homes.

The courtyard of Hine was not entered by a war-party, nor was any human being allowed to be killed there. And if any escaped from a pa which was taken by an enemy, and fled to the courtyard of Hine, such were not followed to that marae, and, though such were pursued by the enemy, when the fleeing one and the pursuer got opposite to the courtyard, the pursuer ceased to follow and went back; and this was the custom in all battles fought in Wai-kato. But if the fleeing ones went in another direction than that leading to the Marae-o-hine they were followed and killed; and hence the proverb,

The courtyard of Hine
Will not be trod by
A war-party;

which proverb has been continuously repeated, and that courtyard has been held sacred as a place of refuge, by the tribes of Wai-kato to this day.

Also, if the Wai-kato people are not inclined to join in war, they repeat this proverb to indicate the line of action they will take. At the same time the chief of the tribe whose aid is solicited to join in a war will, in giving an answer to the request to join in war, repeat these words, “Come, come to the marae of Hine;” which will be sufficient indication as to how the chief and people of the pa thus asked to join in war will act, and tell distinctly that they will not join in war.

Also, if a member of a tribe has been killed, and it is determined by a council of chiefs that the offending tribe shall be attacked, and if a member of the offending tribe is sent as a messenger to the offended tribe, and if the chief of the offended tribe rise and say, “Come to the marae of Hine, which shall not be trodden by a war-party,” all the people of the chief who speak thus will know that revenge shall not be taken for the death of one of their tribe.

page 18

The spot called “the courtyard of Hine” is a little below Moho-wao-nui (blockhead of the forest), on the bank of the Wai-kato River.

Peha and Peho.(Nga-Ti-Mahuta.)

This man Peha (bark, rind) came from the east to Kawhia, and lived with a woman of Kawhia, and had a child called Manu-tonga-tea (fair bird of the south), but this child was a bastard. This is how they stood related to each other:—

A black and white diagram of the whakapapa from Peha to Manu-tonga-tea.

After this child was born he and his mother lived at a settlement, and when the child had grown and was strong and able to play with other children, he took his whipping-top and played with it in the company of the other children. These, having seen how well he could play with his top, said, “This bastard is able to make his top fly to a great distance;” which the children of the pa repeated at every game they played with him. At last Manu-tonga-tea became grieved at the repetition of the remark, and went to his mother Peho (beg), and said, “O mother! is it true that I am a bastard?” She answered, “Yes; your father came from the east.”

He stayed with his mother till he had become a man, when he thought he would go and see his father, and he said to the tribe of his mother, “Take me to see my father, called Peha, who is the son of Kai-ahi (fire-eater).”

A black and white diagram of the whakapapa from Kai-ahi to Manu-tonga-tea.

All the tribe agreed to his request, and twice seventy of the tribe assembled to take him to see his father. They took him to the settlement of Peha, where the son and his attendants page 19 were not recognised as being related to them, and the people of Kai-ahi, his grandfather, killed them all, but they spared the life of the boy Manu-tonga-tea that day with the intention of killing him next morning. They tied his hands and feet, and that night dragged him out of the house quite naked. He laid there tied all that night, and the cold south wind blew on him, and as he felt chilled he talked to himself in regard to the chill of the wind thus nipping him. These were the words he repeated to himself:—

Oh! the skin of Manu-tonga-tea
Is nipped by the wind.
O great bird of Peha—
Peha of Kai-ahi.

When these words had been heard by one of the people of Kai-ahi, he went to the house where the people were assembled and repeated the words he had heard the boy uttering; and when the man repeated the words, “Bird of Peha of Kai-ahi,” Peha said, “Oh! the boy is my son, who was born at Kawhia;” and in the morning some went and asked the boy Manu-tonga-tea, who said, “I am Manu-tonga-tea. My mother is called Peho, and my father is Peha; his father is called Kai-ahi.”

Peha cried over his child; but how could he make amends for the insult offered to the boy? The boy lived with his father some time, and then returned to the home of his mother. All the time he lived with his father he did not say anything to the people [did not threaten, or remark on the insult offered to him and his attendants], but so soon as he returned to his mother he meditated on the insult offered to him by his father in the murder of the people of his mother.

He was now living at Kawhia. He collected a war-party with whom he would go and kill his father. The troop assembled, and were in number one hundred and eighty twice told. These went towards the south, and occupied the pa of Peha. As Peha had murdered some of the people of Manu-tonga-tea, so he page 20 would murder the people of Peha. Thus they entered the pa, and, though the people there were numerous, the people of Manu-tonga-tea killed the people of Peha, and thus obtained revenge for the murder of the people of Manu-tonga-tea's mother.

Manu-tonga-tea is one ancestor from whom the Wai-kato people take their origin, and from him the chief Kokako came, who had a son called Tama-inu-po, who was also a bastard belonging to Kawhia, whose mother was called Whaea-tapoko, and whose genealogy is thus given:—

A black and white diagram of the whakapapa from Kai-ahi to Tama-inu-po.