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History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840

Ngati-Rahiri go to Kawhia. — 1816-17

Ngati-Rahiri go to Kawhia.

For what follows I am indebted to a MS. written by Te Watene Taunga-tara, of Waitara, which was the outcome of a visit paid him by Mr. W. II. Skinner and myself in 1897, when we persuaded the old man—who was then about eighty or ninety—to write the history of the doings of Ati-Awa in the nineteenth century.

So far as can be made out it was about the year 1816 that Whare-mawhai, a sister of Huri-whenua of Ngati-Rahiri—whose home was, and is still, at Waihi and that neighbourhood, four or five miles north of Waitara—was married to Nohorua, a leading chief of Ngati-Toa, of Kawhia. A great feast was given in consequence of this marriage'—in fact, several, as we shall see—and according to Maori custom a return feast (or kai-whainga) was prepared under the direction of the celebrated Te Rau-paraha, who now first comes into our narrative.* This feast was called "Pou-hangu," according to the page 282Maori custom of giving a name to any noticeable event in their history. It consisted principally of dried fish and other foods, and was brought by Te Rau-paraha himself and a considerable party in canoes from Kawhia. At this time Huri-wheuua was the principal chief of Ngati-Rahiri, and lived in Te Taniwha pa at Turangi, which pa is situated on a bold bluff on the sea-coast four miles north of Waitara, the remains of which are plainly to bo seen at this day, its terraced ramparts showing out well from tho main road a mile or so inland. After a stay of some time, Te Rau-paraha and his party departed for his home at Kawhia, with the understanding that the Ngati-Rahiri would pay a return visit the following year.

After the departure of the visitors the three hapus of Ngati-Rahiri set to work to plant kumaras and taros for the projected visit to Kawhia. This part of the country is celebrated for the excellence of these tubers, about which there is a "saying" already quoted, and which, as the Maoris think, was due to the powers of their particular god Rongo. After the harvest, and the kumaras had been converted into kao by drying, a large party started under Huri-whenua in four large war-canoes named "Te Rongo-o-te-raku," "Te Pae-ki-tawhiti," "Te Paki-o-matiti," and "Nga-titi-o-pango," The party started at early dawn, and with a fair wind, by aid of their triangular sails, which carried them to the north at such a rate that evening found them off Harihari, ten miles south of Kawhia and sixty miles from Te Taniwha, their starting point. Here they landed and made a camp. In the morning Te Rau-paraha and Rau-hihi arrived to see the visitors, coming from their cultivations, which at that time were at or near Taharoa lake, about three miles from Harihari. After the usual amount of talk Te Rau-paraha invited the Ngati-Rahiri to go on round by sea into

Ward, writing about the same time, says—"In person Te Rau-paraha is not conspicuous amongst his country men, his height being rather under the average….. His countenance expresses keenness and vivacity, whilst a receding forehead and deep eyelids, in raising which his eyebrows are elevated into the furrows of his brows, gives a resemblance to the ape in the upper part of the face. He was slow and dignified in his movements, and except for his wandering and watchful looks, perfectly easy in his address."

Dr. Deiffenbach, writing in 1839, also says—"He is between 50 and 60 years of age, with remarkably Jewish features, aquiline nose, and a cunning physiognomy … Individuals arc occasionally met with who have six or more toes or fingers. Rau-paraha is distinguished by this peculiarity." (From Fourteenth Report, Directors N.Z. Company, p. 132.)

A. portrait of Te Rau-paraha and his celebrated nephew Te Rangi-haeata will be found in Dr. Shortland's "Southern Districts of New Zealand." To Rau-paraha died at Otaki, 27th November, 1849, aged about 75,

page 283Kawhia harbour, which was agreed to, whilst Te Rau-paraha started overland to warn the people to prepare for their visitors. In the meantime the sea had got up very much, and in launching the canoes they capsized in the surf and many of the crew wore nearly drowned. Huri-whenua was very much disturbed and angry at the narrow escape they had had, and the loss of the food for the feast—so much so that he adopted a very Maori-like procedure to assuage his angry feelings. He started off immediately with a party, and overtaking Te Rau-paraha and his friend, attacked them, and succeeded in killing Rau-hihi, whilst Te Rau-paraha made his escape.

Ngati-Rahiri at once concluded that prompt measures were necessary if they were to escape the just anger of the Ngati-Toa tribe for killing one of their chiefs. So they put to sea at once and made their way home. On their arrival, knowing that Te Rau-paraha was not the kind of man to pass over an injury, they immediately set to work to strengthen the fortifications of Te Taniwha pa. This place is situated at the mouth of the Waihi stream, which runs along under one side of the pa. In order to strengthen the defences the people set to work and dammed up the stream, so as to make a lake on one side of the pa. At this time there were over three hundred and fifty warriors in the pa, besides women and children, and the principal chiefs were Huri-whenua, his brother Huri-waka, Manu-kino, and Whiro-kino. None of the Maori tribes possessed fire-arms at this period excepting Nga-Puhi.

* Col. Wakefield, writing in. 1839, says—"Te Rau-paraha is at least 60 years old. When a young man he acquired a reputation for strength and courage, founded on his skill in native warfare, which his Wiliness and success in all his undertakings have preserved for him in his old age. la all his negotiations he is considered skilful—he possesses some points of character worthy of a chief among savages. He is full of resource in emergencies, hardy in his enterprises and indefatigable in the execution of them."