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

Chapter V. — Rau-Paraha And Rangi-Hae-Ata. (Nga-Ti-Toa.)

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Chapter V.
Rau-Paraha And Rangi-Hae-Ata. (Nga-Ti-Toa.)

Now comes Kopu, the star that shines at opening day,
Like mine own one come back to me.
I weep to see my flock of tern (my children)
Now left to me; but all must droop and die.
Far in the south stands peak of Tau-piri,
And gently ripples still the tide in Manuka;
But death met him the day he left his home.
Nor had I tied the beauteous ornament Motu-tawa
To his ear. But, father, come, come back to home,
And sleep with all thine own beloved ones now,
While I my palpitating heart will hold,
And weep my loss of long-kept bird,
Whose song woke me from sleep at early dawn.
But now that bird has swooped,
And gone far, far away from me.

Rau-paraha, chief of the Nga-ti-raukawa, was born at Maunga-tautari about 1770. His father, in one of the constant wars which formerly raged, was killed and eaten. Rau-paraha was then a child. His savage conqueror said, if the infant son of his enemy fell into his hands he would make a relish for rau paraha (which is a thick-leaved convolvulus growing on the sand-hills near the sea, and formerly used as food). Rau-paraha, or Convolvulus-leaf, therefore henceforth became his name.

When he grew up to manhood he manifested such a troublesome and restless disposition as to render himself an object of fear and dislike to the surrounding tribes, and even to his own relatives. This feeling was increased by his collecting page 49 around him a band of the most daring characters, whose constant excesses became at last so intolerable that his neighbours gave signs of a determination to forcibly expel him from the district.

The first exploit attributed to Rau-paraha was his cutting off a Nga-puhi chief, Waero, and a hundred and forty of his followers, on Motu-tawa, a small island in Roto-kakahi, in the Roto-rua district. Leaving his friends there, he made his way overland to Taupo and Roto-aira. The people of Motu-a-puhi sought to kill him, but one of the chiefs became his friend, and hid him in a food-store until he could make his escape. He reached Whanga-nui, and thence returned to Kawhia, where he gained the aid of Tu-whare and his tribe, who thenceforth assumed the command until his death, when Rau-paraha succeeded him. They attacked the Tara-naki Natives, and took their stronghold Tapui-nikau. At Ti-hoi they erected a pa, and remained there some time. On reaching Whanga-nui they encamped at the Heads for nearly a month, making moki, or canoes of the raupo-leaf, at Koko-huia. They then quickly crossed the river, and attacked the Natives at Purua. The pa was taken, and about forty men killed.

Tu-whare and his party proceeded along the coast as far as Wai-rarapa, where they killed the chief Rore. In returning, Tu-whare noticed the wreck of a vessel, which made him think that Cook Strait would eventually become a place of great resort for the Europeans. He therefore advised Rau-paraha that they should go back to Kawhia and raise as large a force as possible, and take permanent possession of the Strait. Hitherto they had merely destroyed the pas for the sake of plunder. Rauparaha entered into the views of Tu-whare, and went to Kawhia, and, having raised a large force, again returned. On reaching the Putiki Pa, at Whanga-nui, they were received hospitably by a few women, its only inhabitants, their husbands being absent. Food was cooked for them. Afterwards Rau-paraha and his associates arose and slew their entertainers, and page 50 pursued their journey south. The Natives, hearing of their coming, removed themselves and their property inland. The party took up their abode at O-hau, and there they murdered some of the Horo-whenua Natives. This was the commencement of the war. From his post at Horo-whenua Rau-paraha made repeated raids against Manawa-tu. The Horo-whenua Natives, being ignorant of his former murders, brought presents of food; but he slew the bearers of them. When their tribe, (the Moa-upoko), heard of his treachery they raised a war-party of three hundred men, and surprised Rau-parahia, killing a hundred of his followers, and compelling him to flee to Wai-kanae. The Horo-whenua Natives made common cause with the Nga-ti-apa, who came and fought at Wai-mea, where they slew Huna the chief. Te-pehi and the Nga-ti-toa were beaten there, and they lost a hundred men. The daughter also of Pehi was killed and cooked and taken by the enemy. Her body was carried in a taha (bark basket) to Whanga-nui, and there eaten. Rau-paraha's own gun fell into their hands, being taken by Turanga-pito (Paora).

This success excited the hopes of Rau-paraha's enemies. A force of three thousand men went against him, collected from all the places on the coast. They reached Wai-mea, the scene of their former success. Tu-roa gave a hatchet to Turanga-pito to go and murder Rau-paraha. This great force, however, was conquered by the Nga-ti-toa and Nga-ti-awa. The battle was fought on the Island of Kapiti. Rangi-maire-hau, the chief of Turakina, went to Rangi-hae-ata, being a relative of his by marriage, expecting to be spared; but Rangi-hae-ata cast him on a fire, and roasted him alive.

Pehi felt deeply the loss of his child, and determined on taking signal revenge; but to do it effectually it was necessary to have a larger supply of guns and ammunition. Although it was by their guns they had hitherto prevailed — the tribes they fought with not having any—yet even their supply was insufficient. page 51 He therefore resolved to imitate Hungi, and go to England. Shortly after the battle fought on the Island of Kapiti a vessel came to Cook Strait. Pehi (called Pehi-or Tupai-kupe) immediately went on board, and sailed in it.

From this time Rau-paraha and his restless companions were constantly at war. After a series of engagements he entirely destroyed the Moa-upoko Tribe, and took possession of their district. A war-expedition was undertaken against Whanga-nui; but, finding the Natives prepared, they did not attack them, but returned and fought with the Nga-ti-apa at Rangi-tikei. Encouraged by their success, they returned to Whanga-nui, and fought with the Natives, when one of the Nga-ti-raukawa chiefs was killed, which made Rau-paraha very indignant.

The visits of vessels became very frequent, and gave power and importance to Rau-paraha, who managed to monopolize the entire trade with them, and become the sole channel by which others obtained their supplies of European goods. Various tribes sent presents of food to him. Te-heuheu, the great chief of Taupo, collected a large quantity of provisions and brought them to him. Many tribes of their own accord grew food for his use; in return he sent presents of rum, tobacco, powder, and guns to them. He continually increased in influence, and all but Nga-ti-rua-nui and Tara-naki courted his alliance. Still he continued his wars. He sent two expeditions against Whanga-nui, one under Whata-nui, which fought at Rangi-po, and there the tribe Nga-ti-rua-ka fell. Rauparaha next attacked Putiki, and killed many of its inhabitants. To revenge this reverse, Whanga-nui raised a war-party and attacked Paka-kutu. A meteor fell into the pa whilst they were fighting, which was considered such a favourable omen for the besiegers that the defenders were disheartened, and the pa was taken. Rau-paraha was hemmed in on every side, and narrowly escaped being captured.

About this time Pehi (Pehi-or Tupai-Kupe) returned from England with a large collection of guns and ammunition.

page 52

Kekere-ngu, a noble-looking chief, who was celebrated for his very fine moko, had gone to reside at Ara-pawa, where he was murdered by the Nga-i-tahu. Being a great favourite of Rangi-hae-ata (although he had fled on account of his not having conducted himself with propriety towards that chief's wives), Rangi-hae-ata sought satisfaction for his death, and fought with the Nga-i-tahu, and killed many of them.

Pehi went to see Tama-i-hara-nui at the Waha-raupo, where Haki-tara, a Nga-puhi chief, with a number of his tribe, was staying. Haki-tara, remembering the death of Waero at Roto-kakahi, persuaded Tama-i-hara-nui to let him murder Pehi as a payment. Pehi and forty companions, all chiefs, were murdered, although friends of Tama-i-hara-nui, and at the time his guests. Rau-paraha himself had a very narrow escape, and when pursued, finding his canoe was being overtaken, when he had rounded a point he jumped into the sea and dived a considerable distance: coining up beneath a mass of floating sea-weed, he remained a long time with only his mouth above the water, until his baffled pursuers gave up their search. He safely reached Kapiti, with a full determination of taking ample revenge for these treacherous murders, and circumstances too soon gave him the longed-for opportunity.

On the arrival of a vessel called the “Elizabeth,” commanded by a captain named Stewart, who came to trade for flax, Rau-paraha offered to give him a full cargo of flax provided he would convey him, with a hundred of his followers, to Waha-raupo. Influenced by the hope of gain, Stewart lent himself as an instrument to accomplish the will of these savages; they embarked, and he sailed direct to the abode of Tama-i-hara-nui. The captain sent a youth as his interpreter in a boat to invite that chief to come on board and see his cargo. Tama-i-hara-nui asked if they had got any Natives in the ship, and was answered, No; they had come direct from the Bay of Islands. Tama-i-hara-nui remarked a small burr (piri-kahu or piri-whetau) sticking to their garments, and said, “How came page 53 it there, if you have come so far?” At last he was persuaded, and fell into the snare. He went on board, and was taken down into the captain's cabin. The Natives had concealed themselves in the hold. Te-hiko, the son of Pehi, entered the cabin, and stared fixedly at Tama-i-hara-nui for nearly half an hour without saying a word; then, approaching Tama-i-hara-nui, he drew back that chief's upper lip, and said, “Those are the teeth which ate my father.” When the chief found he had been inveigled on board, and had thus fallen into the hands of his deadly enemies, he sent for his wife and daughter that (as he said) he might not go to the Reinga alone. They promptly obeyed, and came on board.

During the night Tama-i-hara-nui strangled his daughter, that she might not be a slave; and Stewart, horrified at this unnatural crime, without perceiving his own greater one, ordered the chief to be tied up and flogged, which act offended even his savage captors, who said Tama-i-hara-nui was still a chief, and not to be treated as a slave.

The following day Rau-paraha landed his men, and after a brave resistance the pa was taken and a great number were slaughtered. They returned to the vessel laden with five hundred baskets of human flesh, which the captain professed to believe was only pork. Some say that human flesh was cooked in the ship's coppers. It is not improbable it was so, as the vessel was completely in the hands of the Natives. This, however, was denied. At any rate, the vessel must have been a regular shambles of human flesh, and very offensive from such a quantity being on board, for they were four days in reaching Kapiti. On landing, the chief Tama-i-hara-nui was given up to Te-aia, the widow of Pehi, who took him, with his wife, to her own house, giving up half to their use. They talked like friends to each other, and the widow behaved so kindly to him that a stranger would have taken them for man and wife rather than a doomed captive with his implacable enemy. She used even to clothe him in her finest garments, and deck his head with page 54 choice feathers. This continued for about two weeks, until either she had assembled her friends or thought her victim sufficiently fat for killing. She then suddenly caused him to be seized and bound with his arms stretched to a tree, and whilst in this position she took a spear, a long narrow rod of iron, with which she stabbed him in the jugular artery, and drank his warm blood as it gushed forth, placing her mouth to the orifice. He was afterwards cooked and eaten.

Stewart received twenty-five tons of flax for this infamous service, and might have had more, but he would not stay for it. A captain of some vessel, then also at Kapiti, who is said to have been but little better, sailed before him, and carried the news to Sydney, so that on the arrival of Stewart he was shunned, and styled by all “the captain of the bloody ‘Elizabeth’. He was even taken up and tried: from want of evidence, however, or from some flaw in the indictment, he escaped. But, though human vengeance did not reach him, Divine justice did. Nothing was ever heard of him afterwards. The vessel was supposed to have foundered on her way to Valparaiso, and all on board perished.

Tu-te-hou-nuku, the son of Tama-i-hara-nui, too weak to contend with Rau-paraha alone, went to the great chief of the Nga-i-tahu commonly called Bloody Jack (Tiaki—tai), and solicited his aid to punish the murderers of his parents. That chief thought so good a pretext for war was not to be neglected by one to whose feelings it was so congenial; a large force was therefore speedily raised, and a suitable opportunity soon occurred, when Rau-paraha was busily engaged snaring the putangitangi (paradise ducks) at Ka-pare-te-hau Lake with a party of his tribe, having all their canoes drawn up high on the beach except one. The enemy came upon them so suddenly that it was with the greatest difficulty Rau-paraha and about forty men, women, and children escaped to the canoe and pushed off; all the rest were slain. Being encumbered with so many, the canoe made little way. Rau-paraha therefore page 55 compelled about half the number to jump overboard, and those who refused were thrown into the sea by force. The canoe, thus lightened, made way, and, though hotly pursued, they escaped, and reached Kapiti. But Rau-paraha must have his revenge. He therefore lost no time in raising a force. He visited the Nga-ti-awa and solicited their aid, which was given. They immediately embarked, and sailed for the Karaka, adjoining to which is a bay called O-rau-moa, completely shut in by the promontory Karaka at one extremity, and by another at the other, with lofty cliffs between. Here Tiaki-tai (Bloody Jack), with the Nga-i-tahu, were encamped. A hundred and forty of the Nga-ti-awa let themselves down the cliff, but were all cut off. In the morning Tiaki-tai went on his way, and Rau-paraha did not think proper to follow him: he returned to Cloudy Bay. When Tiaki-tai and his party embarked, the canoe of Tu-te-hou-nuku was capsized, and he was drowned; all the men in it, however, were saved. When Tiaki-tai saw them he was so indignant that they could save themselves and yet suffer their young chief to be drowned that he killed them all.

Pu-oho, chief of Nga-ti-tama and priest to Rau-paraha, conducted a small war-party of forty, and went by the west coast, instead of the Kai-koura, to war with the people living on that side. His road was by Waka-tu (Nelson). He reached a small place, which he took, killing some and putting others to flight. The news of this attack was carried to Tai-aroa (Taiaha-roa), the head chief of the place. He and Tiaki-tai lost no time in going there with a party of about a hundred. Their wish was not to kill Pu-oho, for whom they had a regard, but merely to take him prisoner, and spare his men. Pu-oho and his party slept in two houses, but he himself was outside in the verandah. Tai-aroa told his men to try and take him alive. Pu-oho, however, would not yield, but fought bravely all night with the enemy. At last one of the party got on the house and shot him. Hitherto they had not used their guns, wishing to save them. page 56 When this was done, Tai-aroa pulled off his cap and threw it on the roof of the house to make it tapu, and said, “Let the fight cease, and make peace.” He had the head of Pu-oho cut off as a mokai, a sign of regard, and caused his body to be buried; but when they left, the people of the place, who had fled, returned, and dug it up and ate it.

In the morning Tai-aroa and Tiaki-tai returned, taking Wakapiri, the son of Pu-oho, with them as a slave: Tai-aroa treated him as his son, and afterwards dismissed him with a handsome present of two greenstone mere, and named the boundaries of a piece of land, as an atonement for his father's death. This was the end of the war, and from that period another power began to be felt, which soon made a remarkable change in that part of the country.

A missionary had been located at Kapiti, brought by Rau-paraha's own son, who sent that young chief to preach the Gospel to Tai-aroa, and peace and tranquillity ensued.