The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)
Chapter 19: SKIRMISHING IN OPOTIKI DISTRICT
Chapter 19: SKIRMISHING IN OPOTIKI DISTRICT
THE PERIOD 1866–68 was a time of intermittent skirmishing and bush-marching for the military forces and the settlers in the Opotiki district, which was particularly exposed to forays from the gorges and ranges of the Urewera borders. The principal trouble-makers were the Ngati-Ira hapu of the Whakatohea Tribe, under Hira te Popo, and the Ngai-Tama and Urewera, led by the savage warrior Tamaikowha, of Waimana. The Waioeka and Otara gorges were the favourite haunts of the inland Opotiki rebels, and Tamaikowha, when not engaged in raiding the Opotiki frontier, was strongly posted in his ancestral fighting-ground, the narrow valley of the Waimana, the principal tributary of the Whakatane River.
In February and March, 1866, Lieut.-Colonel Lyon, who had been left in charge of Opotiki, led expeditions, chiefly Patea and Wanganui Rangers, up to the Waioeka Gorge in search of the Hauhaus. Several of the enemy were killed in the skirmishes which occurred in very difficult and dangerous country for an invading force. The principal success was at Wairakau, a strong position on a cliff above the rapid river. Captain W. Newland was sent under cover of the bush to scale the cliff while a detachment crossed the river-bed in front. The Hauhaus fired heavily on the latter force, but Newland and his active Rangers rushed the pa and cleared the enemy out of it. In the chase which followed four Hauhaus were killed. A large quantity of property looted from the Opotiki settlers was found in the captured pa.
Another expedition was one directed against the settlements in the Otara Gorge, where one or two Whakatohea men were shot and others captured and disarmed.
From a photo at Tauranga, about 1895]
Eru Tamaikowha, Chief of Ngai-Tama
After the fight at Kairakau, on the Waioeka, in March, 1866, Tamaikowha took revenge for the death of some of his kinsmen there by laying an ambuscade at the mouth of the Waiotahe River, between Opotiki and Ohiwa, and killing Wi Popata, a Maori of the Arawa Tribe who was carrying mails for the Government between Opotiki and Tauranga. Captain Newland, who was riding along the beach to Ohiwa and Whakatane about the same time, narrowly escaped the war-party. The heart was cut from the Maori mailman's body and was cooked for a cannibal page 176 war-rite. Tamaikowha ate a portion of it, after offering part in the sacrifice of the whangai-hau, or whangai-atua, to his tribal gods Hukita and Te Rehu-o-Tainui; he professed to be the medium and priest of those pagan deities.
At a later date a European was similarly ambuscaded and killed at Waiotahe. This was Mr. Bennett White, who was shot from ambush at a pohutukawa grove on the right bank of the river, close to the mouth; the present main road to Opotiki traverses the spot. White was riding from Whakatane to Opotiki when he was waylaid. His head was cut off and stuck on a rock alongside the track, and Tamaikowha had portions of the body cooked for a cannibal meal.
In May, 1867, Tamaikowha and about twenty men crossed the range betwen Waimana and the upper end of the Opotiki Valley, and carried out a murderous raid on the farthest-out military settlers near the mouth of the Waioeka Gorge. These four men were Messrs. George T. Wilkinson (surveyor by profession, and afterwards Government Native Agent at Otorohanga, in the King Country), Livingstone, Moore, and Begg. They lived in a whare alongside the Waioeka Redoubt, which was not then garrisoned. Surrounding the house on a very wet day (21st May), Tamaikowha and his band completely surprised the unfortunate settlers, who had rifles but no ammunition. Dashing out of the whare, they ran for the bush, but only two gained it, Wilkinson and Livingstone. The other two men were shot down and tomahawked, and their hearts and livers were cut out by the savages. Wilkinson and Livingstone escaped to Opotiki, after a terrible flight through the bush. The Ngai-Tama burned the house and cooked and ate their trophies of the chase. Tamaikowha offered up a portion of one of the hearts in oblation to the gods of war. The raiders retired across the ranges to Waimana, and heavy floods in the Waioeka and other rivers prevented pursuit by the force sent out from Opotiki.
At this period a number of the military settlers formed a small volunteer corps at Opotiki Henry Mair (brother of William and Gilbert Mair) was captain, David White was lieutenant, and J. R. Rushton ensign. The corps was called the Opotiki Volunteer Rangers, and its members were armed with breechloading carbines and revolvers. The Rangers were in the advance in an expedition organized by Lieut.-Colonel St. John to follow the Maori raiding-parties into the Urewera Country. The force marched up the Waiotahe Valley and then crossed over into the gorge of the Waimana River. An attack was made on a village about two miles above the present township of Waimana. The Rangers met with a hot reception from Tamaikowha and about a hundred men of the Urewera and Ngai-Tama, but only one page 177 of them was wounded; as it happened, he was hit by an old chief of the ancient Kareke Tribe, the father of the young woman Maro Taporangi, who afterwards became Captain Rushton's wife. The attackers encountered a heavy fire from a wooded point at a bend in the river half a mile above the settlement. This was at a place where the river had to be crossed by swimming. Tamaikowha was very strongly posted in the position, and it was decided that further advance would be imprudent. The Urewera were in such a naturally strong position for defence that there would have been heavy loss of life had the attack been carried out.
In this affair at Te Pokopoko seven or eight Maoris were killed. The kainga was situated on a flat in the bed of the river-valley. These Ngai-Tama had been concerned in the killing of Moore and Begg at Waioeka. After the skirmish Mair and Rushton attended to an old much-tattooed Urewera man whom Rushton had shot, and gave him a drink of rum; they prevented the Maori contingent from robbing him of his greenstone tiki. This warrior was from Maunga-pohatu.
During 1867 there were numerous Hauhau raids on the outskirts of the settled districts and on the friendly natives in the Whakatane and Ohiwa country. On the 12th September an attempt was made to burn the blockhouse at the Waioeka before it could be finished, but the enemy was driven off after a skirmish. Several expeditions into the haunts of the Hauhaus were undertaken by Lieut.-Colonel St. John in retaliation for their forays, but the natural difficulties of campaigning in such a country, where the mobile Maori had all the advantage, prevented any effective operations against Tamaikowha and his marauding bands.
In January, 1868, a large war-party of Urewera raided Ohiwa and Waiotahe, laid ambuscades on the sea-beach track, and terrorized the friendly natives. Lieut.-Colonel St. John early in February followed these men up into the Waimana: he had a force of ninety men (Opotiki Volunteer Rangers and Militia). In a skirmish high up the Waimana (10th February) the Hauhaus lost three killed and five wounded; St. John's force had two wounded. An attack on a village a little later was without success, as large Hauhau reinforcements arrived, and St. John found it advisable to withdraw.
A body of one hundred Arawa was now raised by Major Mair and the Opotiki forces were strengthened by the arrival of a division (company) of Armed Constabulary under Major Fraser. In March Hauhau raiders attacked the friendly natives of Rakuraku's hapu (the Upoko-rehe) at Ohiwa and killed an old chief on Hokianga Island, in the harbour. A punitive page 178 expedition against the mountain tribes was undertaken; the force consisted of Rangers and Constabulary under St. John and Fraser, and Arawa Maoris (Ngati-Rangitihi) under Major Mair. The column followed the retreating raiders in to Te Ponga, many miles up the Waimana River. The Hauhaus (on the 11th March, 1868) checked the advance at Te Ponga, occupying a steep spur in front, having deserted the Otara pa on the flat. Captain Rushton, describing the operations, said: “We rushed the base of the ridge, the top of which the Hauhaus held. The position was such a difficult one that a council of war was held by the officers or the question of whether to advance or retire. Being the youngest subaltern, my decision was asked first. I voted to retire, for I knew that Tamaikowha was strongly entrenched in a very strong position at Tauwharemanuka, a mile and a half or two miles up the gorge. It would have been a death-trap for us. The officers decided not to continue the advance, and this, I believe, saved the force from destruction. We discovered that the Urewera were entrenched on the spurs all round commanding the gorge, and when we had got into the jaws of the narrows, with rifle-pits on both sides, we would have got it hot.” The force withdrew to Whakatane and Opotiki. One man, a Tauranga volunteer, was mortally wounded in the skirmishing, and one Hauhau was shot.
A later expedition (May, 1868) followed up Tamaikowha and Heteraka te Wakaunua after a raid into the Lower Whakatane Valley on the Ngati-Pukeko, who were friendly to the Government St. John and Fraser followed the enemy through Ruatoki and many miles up the Whakatane Valley, but heavy floods in the rivers compelled them to return without discovering the elusive Hauhaus.