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

Chapter VIII. — Attack On Pa At Kai-Apoi. (Travers.)

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Chapter VIII.
Attack On Pa At Kai-Apoi. (Travers.)

Stretch forth, stretch forth to-day and to-morrow,
Lest evil come. The days of old have come again,
And I by all am evil spoken of.
But, O Nga-rangi! go to the spirit-world,
And hear what ghosts there speak of now.
A stranger is now here and waits within the house,
Yet you shall be as he who stands
In midst of kumara-crop or breeze on ocean-coast,
While laugh of god is shaking him with glee
High up in sky with gentle wafting breeze.

It may seem strange that Rau-paraha did not at once take the bolder and more manly course of attacking the Nga-i-tahu at Kai-apoi in the ordinary way of warfare for the purpose of avenging the murder of Pehi and his brother chiefs; but his son says that the course he adopted was strictly tika (right), or, in other words, in accordance with Maori etiquette in such matters, and any other line of action would not properly have met the exigencies of the case. In about a year after the capture of Tama-i-hara-nui Rau-paraha determined to attack the great pa at Kai-apoi. For this purpose he assembled a large force, comprising Nga-ti-toa, Nga-ti-awa, and Nga-ti-raukawa, part of whom made their way through the Wairau Gorge and the Hanmer Plains to the Wai-para 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 page 86 country now occupied by Messrs. Clifford and Weld and from thence down that coast to the mouth of the Wai-para, where they were joined by the inland party.

After the junction of the two bodies Rau-paraha proceeded at once to Kai-apoi for the purpose of attacking the pa. The Nga-i-tahu were evidently quite unprepared for this fresh invasion, a large number of their warriors being absent at Port Cooper, whither they had accompanied Tai-aroa (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 Kai-apoi. Others of the people were engaged in their cultivations outside 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 Rau-paraha 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 Nga-ti-toa at once sprang to the assault, hoping to carry the defences by a coup de main, 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 Nga-i-tahu 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 page 87 Port Cooper, where they informed their people of the attack upon the pa, arriving there in time to stop Tai-aroa and those who were about to accompany him to Otago (O-takou—red ochre). After collecting reinforcements from the villages on the peninsula, Tai-aroa and his forces made their way along the coast-line as far as the Wai-makariri, availing themselves of the swamps above referred to for the purpose of concealing their march from any detached parties of the Nga-ti-toa. On reaching the Wai-makariri they crossed it on rafts—commonly called mokiki [moki] 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 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 Nga-ti-toa. Knowing, however, that the defenders would also be on the alert, they shouted the name of Tai-aroa 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 Nga-ti-toa, 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 the Nga-i-tahu made frequent sorties against the works of the Nga-ti-toa, these experienced warriors held their position without difficulty, and page 88 repulsed these attacks with loss to the assailants. The Nga-i-tahu, dispirited by their failures, soon abandoned these tactics, and, trusting in the impregnable nature of the pa, confined themselves to purely defensive operations. At the time the siege commenced the pa was well provisioned, besides which 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 the men was the chief cause which led to a plan of attack then adopted. 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 Rau-paraha 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 Rau-paraha having taken precautions to prevent future loss, they allowed the saps to be pushed close up to the outworks. So soon as the besiegers 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 been destroyed the Nga-ti-toa 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 page 89 intercepted by bodies of Nga-ti-toa detached for that purpose. The slaughter was tremendous, whilst numbers of prisoners fell into the hands of the victors. Some conception may be formed of the numbers slain and eaten from the fact 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 Kai-apoi to the north.

Having thus captured the main stronghold of the Nga-i-tahu, Rau-paraha 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.

Rau-paraha, having completed his design of conquering the Middle Island, next turned his attention, at the earnest request of Nga-ti-raukawa, to avenging a defeat which the latter had sustained some time previously at the hands of the tribes occupying the line of the Whanga-nui 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 Rau-paraha, was despatched to lay siege to Putiki-whara-nui, a great pa of the Whanga-nui, 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 page 90 ultimately carried the works by assault, slaughtering an immense number of the enemy. Tu-roa and Hori-te-anaua (lately known as Hori Kingi), the head chiefs, however, escaped; but the fact that no attempt was ever made to avenge this serious disaster is of itself the strongest evidence of the power of Rau-paraha 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 Nga-ti-apa, Rangi-tane, and Mua-upoko tribes which had still escaped the general destruction of their people. Soon after the year 1835 the great body of the Nga-ti-awa, under the chiefs Te-puni, Whare-pouri, Wi Tako, and others, and accompanied by numbers of the Tara-naki and Nga-ti-rua-nui tribes, came down the coast, many of them settling around and to the southward of Wai-kanae, whilst others took possession of Port Nicholson and the Hutt country, from which they drove the section of the Nga-ti-kahu-ngunu which up to this time had occupied those districts. This migration took place after the destruction of the great Nga-ti-awa pa of Puke-rangiora, inland of the Wai-tara.

Many years before this event the Waikato tribes, under Te-wherowhero and Tai-porutu (father of Waha-roa and grandfather of William Thompson Tarapipi, so celebrated in connection with our own Waikato wars), had suffered severely at the hands of the Nga-ti-tama, under the leadership of Kaeaea, by whom Tai-porutu was crucified in the gateway of a pa defended by this ruthless warrio. It was from this circumstance that Waha-roa 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 Rau-paraha and his allies during the migration of the Nga-ti-toa from Kawhia, rankled in their minds, and in one of the intervals of the wars of Waha-roa against the Nga-ti-maru, he and Te-wherowhero concerted a campaign against the Nga-ti-awa, to be carried even into the midst of their own country and directed against their principal stronghold. The pa was defended by a large number of warriors, and withstood page 91 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 two hundred and fifty of them were slain with his own hands, in order that they might be prepared for the ovens. 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 he despatched them successively by a single blow on the skull with a celebrated mere pounamu, now in the possession of his son, Matutaera Tawhi-ao. 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 Rau-paraha and the Nga-ti-raukawa, 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 Rau-paraha's country. Shortly after the arrival of the Nga-ti-awa on the coast they formed the design of taking possession of a large part of the country occupied by the Nga-ti-raukawa, and particularly that in the neighbourhood and to the north of O-taki. There was dissension amongst the Nga-ti-toa themselves, a portion of them taking part with the Nga-ti-awa, out of jealousy at some apparent favouritism extended by Rau-paraha to the great Nga-ti-awa chieftains, and more particularly to Whata-nui, whose relationship to Rau-paraha, together with his high character as a chief and warrior, gave him great influence with the latter. The immediate cause of the fight was a robbery committed by a party of Nga-ti-rua-nui, who were caught by the Nga-ti-raukawa in the very act of plundering their potato-pits near Wai-kawa. A conflict at once took place, page 92 in which a leading chief of the Nga-ti-rua-nui, named Tawhaki, was killed; and this led to hostilities being carried on between the two tribes at various points on the line of their settlements between Manawa-tu and Wai-kanae. 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 Rau-paraha, 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 Nga-ti-rua-nui, who were the most turbulent of the insurgents. With great satisfaction 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 Maunga-tautari and Taupo, amongst whom were Ta-riki and Tao-nui, reached O-taki with nearly eight hundred well-armed fighting-men. No sooner had they arrived than they proceeded to attack the Nga-ti-awa at Horo-whenua, a pa close to the O-taki River. But even with this great accession to Rau-paraha's 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 Rau-paraha.

At length a great battle was fought at Paka-kutu, in which the Nga-ti-rua-nui were defeated with serious loss, their chief Taka-rangi 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 advice and urgent entreaty of Te-heuheu and Whata-nui a peace was made, which was not again broken until the fighting at Kiri-ti-tonga, which took place on the day before the arrival of the “Tory.” Immediately after peace had been solemnly ratified the parties divided, the Nga-ti-raukawa proceeding to reoccupy their page 93 former settlements around O-hau and Horo-whenua, and also the district between the Manawa-tu and Rangi-tikei Rivers, whilst the Nga-ti-awa retired below Wai-kanae, occupying the various points, including Port Nicholson, in which they were ultimately found by the agents of the New Zealand Company. Rau-paraha, 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 Nga-ti-awa during the recent struggle, that he determined to accompany Te-heuheu back to Maunga-tautari, and settle there for the remainder of his days. In pursuance of this resolve he collected his more immediate followers and proceded as far as O-hau, where, however, he was overtaken by messengers from O-taki 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.

During the intervals of rest between his various more important undertakings, Rau-paraha was ever mindful of the treacherous attempt of the Mua-upoko 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 Nga-ti-apa and Rangi-tane, sought the protection of Te-whata-nui. In the words of Te Kepa Rangi-hiwi-nui (better known as Major Kemp), son of Tanguru, one of the chiefs of the Mua-upoko who had been concerned in the murder, “Whata-nui 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 everburning wrath of Rau-paraha. 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 Horo-whenua not as a tribe, however, but simply in the character of tributaries, if not actual slaves, page 94 to Whata-nui. In the words of Matene te Whiwhi, “Rau-paraha was anxious to exterminate Mua-upoko, but Whata-nui interfered. Some had been taken prisoners, but others were living dispersed in the mountains. When they came to Horo-whenua 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 O-taki, and who had been a slave of mine. She was the wife of Te-kuku. They had been taken, but not killed.” But it is clear, nevertheless, that, although Rau-paraha 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 Nga-ti-toa chiefs, having been instigated by Rau-paraha to do so, invited the whole Mua-upoko people to a great feast to be held at O-hariu— 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 Whata-nui, who, distrusting the reasons assigned for the festival, cautioned the Mua-upoko not to attend, predicting some disaster to them. Notwithstanding this caution, upwards of a hundred and fifty 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 a section of the Nga-ti-awa Tribe, known as the Nga-ti-mutunga, which had taken up their quarters in Port Nicholson, chartered [another account says “made the captain, through fear of the Maoris seizing the vessel, take them with all their war-weapons in”] the English brig “Rodney” to the Chatham Islands, which had been reported to them by a member of their hapu (family tribe), who had visited the islands in a whaling-ship, as being thickly peopled with an unwarlike and plump-looking race, who would fall an page 95 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 fifteen hundred to less than two hundred people, the greater number having been devoured by their conquerors. In one of the cases of the Wellington Museum may be seen a bone spear, which formerly belonged to Moku-ngatata, one of the leading chiefs of the Nga-ti-mutunga, 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 Rau-paraha's forces just before he left D'Urville Island for the purpose of attacking the Kai-koura Pa, that portion which remained, under the leadership of Niho, Takerei, Koihua, and Pu-oho, proceeded to attack the settlements of the Rangi-tane and Nga-ti-apa in Blind and Massacre Bays, which they entirely destroyed. Koihua settled near Pa-kawau, in Massacre Bay. Strange to say, his love for greenstone was so great that, even after he and his wife had 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 Koihua in Massacre Bay at the time of their original incursion, proceeded down the coast as far as the Hoki-tika River, killing and taking prisoners nearly all the existing inhabitants. Amongst the prisoners was Tu-huru, who was afterwards ransomed by the Nga-i-tahu for a celebrated mere called Kai-kanohi, now in the possession of the descendants of Matenga Te-au-pouri. 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.

In November in 1839 a battle was fought near Wai-kanae between large forces of the Nga-ti-awa on the one side, and of Nga-ti-rau-kawa on the other. This fight is commonly known page 96 as the Kiri-ti-tonga (restrained feelings burst forth), and was caused by the renewal, at the funeral obsequies of Rau-paraha's sister Wai-tohi, 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. Rau-paraha himself took no part in the battle, reaching the scene of action after the repulse of the Nga-ti-raukawa, 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.