History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840
Mr. W. H. Skinner describes the above event as follows (the Otaka pa, sometimes called Nga-Motu pa, is mostly built over by the Freezing Works):—
After the capture of Puke-rangiora, described in Chapter XVII., a discussion arose amongst the leaders of the invading taua of Waikato. Tu-korehu (of Ngati-Mania-poto) strongly advocated the following up of their recent advantage, as his revenge had not yet been satisfied. His plan was to push on and capture Otaka, where the head chiefs of Ati-Awa and the remnant of the tribe had sought shelter with Te Whare-pouri and his hapu and the English traders. Others of the Waikato confederation said—Puke-kohatu being the chief spokesman—the utu was sufficient, and that the men whom Tu-korehu was so eager to destroy had befriended him and saved him and his followers from extermination on a previous occasion.1 Tu-korehu was obstinate, and eventually gained his point.
Leaving Puke-rangiora, the invading host came on to the beach at Puke-tapu,2 which was quite deserted. Halting for a while at the mouth of the Wai-whakaiho river, they sent scouts forward to spy out the land. Among other chiefs of note in this taua, not already mentioned, were Porukoru, Rewi Mania-poto,3 Wetini Tai-porutu,4 Te Kanawa, and Kukutai (of the Ngati-Tipa tribe, from the mouth of the Waikato river).
1 At Nga-puke-turua—see Chapter XIV.
3 Rewi died in 1894. He is best known as the defender of Orakau in the Waikato war of 1863-4 against the British troops under General Cameron.
4 Wetini was the leader of the Waikato party at Mahoe-tahi (near Waitara) in November, 1860, in the engagement against the British. He was killed here, and his remains were interred in St. Mary's Churchyard, New Plymouth.
Map No 7
Sketched by W.H. Skinner
Leaving the Wai-whakaiho river, the taua advanced along the seashore until they came to the Hua-toki stream—the present site of the Railway Station, New Plymouth. Here the party divided for a while—part of them continuing by the beach, but the main body turned inland and proceeded by the old native pathway that led up about the present line of Brougham Street and through St. Mary's Churchyard, and on by way of O-tu-maikuku (Hospital Grounds) to Tukapo (Westown), thence crossing the Manga-o-tuku valley and eventually making their appearance on the Maunga-roa hill.5
5 Maunga-roa, the hill just westward of the junction of South and Blagdon roads.
6 The great pas of Puke-ariki (Mount Eliot) and Pu-kaka (Marsland Hill) were deserted at this time, the inmates taking refuge at Otaka.
* This messenger was Kau-parera of Mokau, a man of some rank, related to Ngati-Mania-poto, Ngati-Tama, and Te Ati-Awa; hence was he sent on to give notice of the intended fighting in accordance with Maori custom. Kau-parera had a modern name—Hone Pumipi—by which he was known to Europeans. When he died, his jadeite mere, or club, was broken by his relations and cast into a deep hole in the Mokau river, near the South Head, for it was considered that none were worthy to use the weapon after Pumipi's death. He died in 1897.
The northern tribes having driven the Ati-Awa within the pa a regular siege was commenced. The besieging forces being disposed as follows: Ngati-Mania-poto occupied the ground on the south-west side of the pa, from the lower slopes of Puke-whiro along the Hongi-hongi and thence by that stream to the beach, and advancing by the lower terrace along the coast to within a short distance of the north-west angle of the pa, Waikato took up their position to the eastward, starting from the mouth of the Waitapu, and then curved back, following the course of that stream around the inland side of Otaka. Ngati-Apa-kura (of Kawhia) occupied the ground immediately Inland of the pa, connecting with the wings of Waikato and Ngati-Mania-poto.
7 Two of these guns—Rua-koura and One-poto—are now in the Puke-kura Park, New Plymouth, the breech of the third, Pu-poipoi, was discovered in 1900 whilst excavating the foundations of the Moturoa Freezing Works, and is now to be seen in the Museum at New Plymouth.
The first general assault on the position was delivered by the Waikato tribe on the north-east corner of the pa, known as Ukamokomoko. It was one of those early morning surprises so dear to the old time Maori. The karaka trees growing along the edge of the trenches at this point were rapidly felled against the palisading of the pa, thus serving the purpose of scaling ladders, up which the Waikato scrambled, and dropped down on the inner side of the defences within the pa. The alarm was quickly given, and after considerable loss on either side the attacking party was driven out.
The siege was pressed with great vigour, and the pa would have fallen before the overwhelming number of the invaders, had it not been for the heroic stand made by the whalers. Time after time the enemy succeeded in gaining an entrance, but they were in every case driven out with loss.
9 The name of this chief was Tohu-kakahi; he was a younger brother of Te Whare-pouri, and? father of the so-called prophet Te Whiti, This incident occurred about the present site of Barrett Road, and one hundred yards, or there-abouts, inland of the Railway crossing.
* Migrated shortly after to Kapiti, with the Tama-te-uaua heke.
10 Tautara, head chief of the besieged Ati-Awa tribes, was also closely related to those of highest rank of the northern invaders. He was thus able to meet these people on common ground. He tried to induce To Kanawa to withdraw Waikato from before Otaka, but without success. In the final repulse of the enemy, when they were badly beaten and suffering loss, Te Kanawa called out to Tautara to stop the slaughter and spare them, but the old chief replied, "No! it is now too late for that; you should have listened to me earlier. You must now take your well-deserved punishment."—Incident related to the writer by Tai-ariki of Pukerangiora, November 30th, 1899.
In the midst of the fighting the schooner "Currency Lass," of Port Jackson (Sydney), appeared in the roadstead. This vessel had put in to load with flax and oil for Sydney, and to bring to the European collectors fresh supplies of trade and necessaries. The Waikato attempted to capture the schooner, but were prevented by the vigilance of the master. Foiled in this, they determined to cut off all communication between the pa and the ship. But Love, evading their sentinels, swam off to the vessel, reaching his destination in safety in spite of the showers of bullets with which he was saluted. He told the master the state of affairs around Otaka, and advised him to put to sea. Love succeeded in gaming the safety of the pa again uninjured. On the following day another parley was held between Love and the chief of the enemy. Love was told that should they surrender, the lives of the white men would be held sacred; they only would be spared and taken as slaves to Kawhia; but the Englishman remembered that 'the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,' and it is scarcely necessary to say the terms of surrender offered were not entertained.
About this time a small reinforcement of thirty or forty of the Ngati-Tama tribe, under the leadership of the renowned warrior chief Te Kaeaea, or Taringa-kuri (Dogs' ears), came by canoe from Pa-tan-gata, the island pa at the mouth of Tonga-porutu river. With some difficulty they succeeded in entering Otaka, having in the first instance run ashore in the midst of the enemies at the mouth of the Hongihongi stream. It is said by some that this party left again before daylight, by others that Taringa-kuri and the main body remained and assisted in the defence of the position, a few returning to the Tonga-porutu with the canoe.page 476
The Europeans were now perfectly miserable—see Polack's account. Fatigued by continual watching, and fearful of a surprise, they sincerely wished for a pitched battle that their fate might be decided. Their own party of natives gave them no less anxiety than their avowed enemies without the pa; they were continually harassed by their mutual jealousy. No sentinel was kept in the pa; the natives slept as comfortably within the trenches as if they had no enemy to disturb their equanimity. Strange and incredible as it may seem, whilst all this fighting and bloodshed was going on around the pa, within, a brisk trade was carried on between the traders and their friends, on the one part, and the enemy on the other. The northern invaders possessed amongst them from three to four thousand muskets, partly originally purchased by them; others formed the spoils of the Puke-rangiora people. The besieged could scarcely muster one hundred of these weapons, and consequently there was a keen demand for them within the pa. They were soon supplied with as many as they required, and powder also, by their enemies, in exchange for blankets, tobacco, and other articles of trade. On one occasion, whilst a brisk business was being carried on between the opposing parties, a dispute arose respecting a musket and its payment in barter, a quarrel ensued, and three of the Waikato party were killed, the bodies being immediately cut up and roasted.
11 Others have told me that this gun was captured in an assault and dragged down on the beach below. Here it was loaded to the muzzle and pointed at the defences of the pa. By means of a long train of gunpowder the charge was ignited, but with disastrous results to Pu-poipoi, the gun bursting with the over charge.
On the following morning at the earliest dawn the pa was assaulted by the whole force of the enemy. The attack was opened along the western front by Ngati-Mania-poto. Some of the old men of the garrison, who had been left on guard, fell asleep at their post, and the enemy were within the pa before the alarm had been properly given. The report of fire-arms aroused the inmates to a sense of their danger, and after a desperate struggle the attacking party was driven back. In the meantime the Waikato, as pre-arranged, assaulted en masse the Waitapu or eastern line of defence. The besieged, encouraged by their recent success, soon repulsed this attack with the aid of the gun Rua-koura, but not before Pehi-Tu-korehu—himself at the head of the whole strength of Ngati-Apakura—led the final assault along the inland face of the pa. The repulse of the two previous attacks allowed the besieged to concentrate their whole force in meeting this attack, and success added fuel to their valour. The assault was met with a fierceness and vigour that staggered the enemy, who wavered, turned, and fled, dragging their dead chiefs after them.
A panic seems to have taken possession of the invaders after this repulse of Ngati-Apakura. The bodies of those chiefs who fell on this fateful morning were gathered up and placed on the roofs of their temporary huts, fire was applied, and their camp on the instant became a mass of flames. This was done so that the bodies of their slain chiefs should be consumed by fire, and not fall into the hands of the enemy in the pa to be eaten and their bones turned to domestic and other degrading purposes. After the burning of the encampments, the whole force hurriedly retreated, leaving the dead and wounded—excepting the chiefs as stated above—on the field and along the line of retreat. Ati-Awa pursued only for a short distance, as far as Tara-whata, or Moon's reef, on the sea-beach. An incident is related of this retreat about a wounded chief of the invaders called Tamakahu. This man had been shot through the knee, and two of his people had fixed up a rough litter, carrying him for some distance until his weight began to tell. Ati-Awa were pressing close and the bearers told Tamakahu that he was too heavy to carry further; upon this he exclaimed, " No, I am not heavy; I am as light as the whau (New Zealand cork-wood)! Oh, do not leave me!" His entreaties were in vain; his tribesmen fled, leaving him to his fate, which was not long delayed by the avenging Ati-Awa. Another incident of the retreat told by Waikato is that Te Kaka—a celebrated warrior of Mokau Heads—killed, in a hand to hand combat, Tohu-kakahi, a chief of page 478Puke-ariki (Mount Eliot, New Plymouth) and father of Te Whiti of Parihaka.12
Polack says the invaders left behind them about three hundred and fifty dead and wounded, but this is probably an over-estimate. The Waikato account, given by Kau-parera of Mokau, who was present, says four chiefs of rank—Tawiwi, Weta-nui13 (son of Tu-korehu), Te Kaiamo, and Pongo, with sixty of lesser rank.
As usual on such occasions a scene of revolting cruelty and brutal lust followed, which the Europeans were powerless to prevent. Many prisoners but slightly disabled were put to death with dreadful torture, some being dragged and thrown alive on the large fires kindled by their enemies, with every mark of delight and sensuality. "One of the victors made one of the enemy fast to a gun, having captured him while in the act of escaping from the pa after the battle; he unloosened the fastenings and demanding of the hapless being what the enemy intended doing next. He received no answer, as the prisoner knew his doom was fixed. A tomahawk was held forcibly between his teeth and an incision pierced in his throat, from which this vampire slowly drank the blood. His body was then quartered and the heart sent as a present to an elderly chief as a delicious morsel."14 The appearance now presented by the pa was a sickening ordeal for the Englishmen. Human bodies cut in pieces and hanging opposite every house within the pa were disgusting to behold. Dogs feeding on the refuse, together with the sanguinary appearance of these extensive shambles, prevented the traders from pursuing their usual work for some time. The bones of the devoured to within recent years whitened the sand hills to the west of Hongihongi stream.
12 See page 473 for the Ati-Awa version of this man's death.
13 Weta-nui was in the habit of posting himself behind a large rock, which is still to be seen about high-water mark where the Barrett road comes on to the beach. Exposing himself from this secure shelter he was shot, to the great delight of the besieged, to whom his "sniping" ways had been a great source of annoyance.
14 Polack, Vol. II., p. 318.
The bulk of the women and children, with the elders and noncombatants generally, took shelter on the semi-island fort of Mikotahi —an impregnable position in Maori warfare—remaining in safety here until the conclusion of the siege.
(With the exception of extracts quoted from Polack, the information given in the preceding narrative was obtained first hand from Piripi Ngahukn, a member of the Nga-Motu hapu, who was present all through the siege and afterwards assisted in the defence of Mikotahi, which fell to Waikato in 1833; and also from Watene Taungatara, who, escaping from Puke-rangiora, fled through the forest to Kete-marae (not far from Hawera), and with others, returned by the coast and threw in his lot with his relatives, occupying the fortified position on the summit of Paritutu. By the help of Ngahuku the outlines of the defences, the position of the cannon, the ground occupied by the different sections of the invaders, and the general topography within and around Otaka, were fixed as indicated on sketch plan of locality (see Map No. 7).
To Mr. Skinner's description above, I add the following:—Pehi-Tu-korehu, mentioned several times in this narrative, was a leading chief of Ngati-Mania-poto, and was a very great warrior in his time. As this is the last occasion but one on which we shall meet with him, it will be of interest to quote the following from the journal of the Rev. James Hamlin (in Dr. Hocken's library). Mr. Hamlin, then stationed at Manga-pouri, on the Waipa river, says, "21st May, 1836. Heard of old Pehi-korehu's death. He was the head chief of Ngati-Mania-poto. Poor old fellow; he was returning from a feast at Aotea, and in crossing Kawhia Harbour with his friends, his canoe upset a little before it reached the shore and he was drowned, together with his two wives and two slaves. His daughters swam ashore and were saved. But such is the unreasonableness of the natives that they are talking of making war on the friends with whom he had been feasting, on account of his death. (This was the law of muru.) Poor old Pehi page 480had often been spoken to on the subject of religion, and had promised Mr. Brown and myself that if a missionary came to live with him, he would believe. But he has always turned the subject into ridicule."
At Pehi-Tu-korehu's death, his people lamented him in the following waiata-tangi:—
Tahuna mai te ahi ki runga i a Te Poa,
Ko te ahi i tahuna mo Whakaturia,
Ko te peka tena i makere ki raro ki te whenua,
Takiritia ra he kai ma te ope taua,
E 'Rehu! e tangi, ka whiti tou manawa
E kore tou mate e wawe te rautipu,
Me uta ke ake ki nga pu mahara,
E taka mai i tua.
E whakaroaka ana i nga mate tawhito.
Taka huirangi ai te po i Rangi-toto,
Mawai e whakamana i te waka ka tukoki?
Whakahaerea ra, na runga o Taranaki,
Kia whangaia koe te ika i Rangiriri
Hoki mai E Tama! i te ara ra uta,
Ka whara tou kiri i te pārā-tai
Tena nga kauri kei Wai-harakeke
I kitea iho ai, he mango ihu nui
I te one na—i,
Raru nui te iwi—e—i.
Tangi tikapa ana to wahine i to uru,
Tu ake! tirohia te hua i Motu-tawa,
Ka kite Wharo, ka papare i a Ngaehe,
Me aha te huanga ka meha o namata?
Haea mai ra ki te mira tuatini
Kihai i hoatu te hum o Tapeka,
Kia rato ratou, kia kai Puponga.
E Tama! ka hupeke i tou whanaketanga,
Ka tanumi rawa koe ki tua Tongariro,
Kia korero koe i te ngutu o te manu,
Kia hoki ana mai to wairua ki te ao nei—i—i!
Now light the fire above at Te Poa,
Such a one as was lit at the death of Whakaturia, 1
For he was the branch (chief) then laid low.
Prepare the food for the war-party's use.
O 'Rehu!2 Weep, then, thy heart will start,
For thy death will not be speedily avenged.
2 'Rehu, short for Tu-korehu; the brief form of address is always some part of a person's name, not necessarily the first syllable.
With laws handed down from of old;
Kept over in remembrance as of old defeats.3)
Dark clouds as of night over Rangitoto hung.
Who shall avenge the canoe upset?
Perchance in the south at Taranaki, 4
There shall thou be fed on the fish of Rangiriri; 5
Thou didst not return, O son! by the inland way,
Hence is thy body with sea-foam covered.
The kauris (chiefs) at Wai-harakekc6
Have witnessed thy might; like long-nosed sharks
They laid on the sands.
But, now, alas! are the people confounded.
In mourning, deeply cut the flesh with the luatui.9
The cloak of Tapoka was not given,
That all might be equally served,
Or that Puponga should consume….
O son! In thy youth thou didst gird thyself!10
But now hast thou disappeared beyond Tongariro,
That thou mayest discourse with bird-like voice,
And thy spirit to this world return.
Te Keha was also a leading chief of Ati-Awa engaged in the defence, and Wai-taha-nui, a prominent chief of Waikato, was killed there. On the Ati-Awa side wore also killed Wereta-nui and Tawhiwhi —both said to have boon shot by Tu-korehu.
3 Someone must suffer for his death by drowning, no matter who.
4 The Taranaki tribes are suggested as such victims to appease the manes of the dead.
5 Rangiriri is the mythological spring from which all fish originate.
6 Refers to some of the troubles between the deceased's tribe and the people of Wai-harakeke—a river south side of Kawhia—see Chapter XIII. There is a group of five kauri trees growing there, the most southerly known; here used emblematically for chiefs.
7 Motu-tawa, the island pa at the mouth of the Mokau river, whore Ngati-Mania-poto—Tu-korehu's tribe—defeated Ati-Awa, sec Chapter XIX.
8 There is a story about Wharo and Ngache, the particulars of which I have forgotten.
9 The inira-tuatini is a saw made of sharks' teeth set in a wooden handle, used to cut up human bodies for the oven, but here used to tear the flesh in mourning.
10 "Gird thyself- i.e., for war. Tu-korehu was a great warrior, as this narrative has already shown.
Paritutu was first fortified on top during these Waikato invasions; it had never been occupied previously. In addition to the water supply mentioned by Mr. Skinner, they had very largo kumetes, or wooded troughs hewn out of logs, in which to catch rain-water from the houses.
A few pages back, Mr. Skinner alludes to the probability of some of the Ngati-Tama tribe being within the beleaguered pa. In 1908 an old man of Ngati-Tama, named Taiata, who was born at Puke-ariki pa, and at the time of the siege of Otaka was about ten years old, told mo that he, with his parents, and all the other people of Puke-ariki fled to Otaka and remained there during the siege. He says that after the retreat of Waikato the Ngati-Tama and some of Ati-Awa of Otaka followed up the retreating taua as far as Mokau, whore they managed to kill a Waikato man, named Whatu-moana, at a place called Te Karangi.
On their return, these Ngati-Tama went into the Taranaki country and settled for a time near Wareatea. Whilst here an Ati-Awa man, named Korau, who was living with Ngati-Tama, was killed by the Nga-Mahanga branch of Taranaki. In revenge for this, Ngati-Tama took a pa named Puke-arenga. The Ngati-Tama were few in number, and not feeling themselves safe in their now home, all migrated to Kapiti not long before the migration known as "Tama-to-uaua" (see Chapter XIX.)
From the same source I learn that both Puke-ariki (Mount Eliot) and Pu-kaka (Marsland Hill) pas were both occupied when Waikato advanced to the attack of Otaka, but were abandoned, and the inhabitants all moved on to Otaka. Ngati-Te-Whiti hapu of Ati-Awa occupied the east end of Puke-ariki in those days, and the principal chiefs of the two pas were Te Whetuki, Te Whatarauhe, Roriki, and Te Teira-Kiaho of Ngati-Tu-pari-kino hapu. At that time (1832) there were large numbers of people living in the pas mentioned, and all the lands extending from St. Mary's Church to the Manga-o-tuku stream, and on the north side of the Huatoki stream, about whore the Kawau pa stood in the early forties was all cultivated in kumara, taro, and small patches of potatoes, for this tuber was not at that time common. When the people moved off to Otaka, this was the final abandonment of these two grand old pas.