Volume 27 1918 > Volume 27, No. 106 > The Land of Tara and they who settled it. Part III, by Elsdon Best, p 49-71
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- 49
(Continued from page 25, Vol. XXVII.)

NGATI-IRA remained at Nga Whakatatara for some time after the above fight, but made preparations to continue their march to Wai-rarapa, as by collecting provisions for the journey. Their descendants state that the above described defeat of Rangitane, Ngati-Awa, and Ngati-Mahanga was never avenged.

The pa of Nga Whakatatara is known as Otatara locally. But few signs of earthworks are now seen there, except innumerable hut sites on the slopes of the hill. It has been a large settlement and must have been occupied by a very large number of people. The earthwork defences of another old fort still exist, about three quarters of a mile from the bridge below Otatara. When the Rangitane people first arrived in this district, they found the Ngati-Mamoe tribe in occupation of the Karaka-nui pa, or rather a section of that tribe known as Te Koau-pari. This place was situated on a hill westward of the inner harbour (or Port Ahuriri, Te Whanga-nui-a-Orotu, so named after a Mamoe chief). At the time of the arrival of Ngati-Ira at Heretaunga, the Puketapu pa is said to have been occupied by some of the Kahungunu tribe.

Another account of the sojourn of Ngati-Ira at Otatara states that the Puketapu pa had two tihi or hill tops within its defences, and, at that time one of these was occupied by the chief Koura and his followers, the other by Manuruhi and his people. Koura led his followers against Ngati-Ira at Otatara, but this force was defeated, and pursued by Ngati-Ira. The two fought at Marae-kakaho, inland - 50 of Hastings, under Puketapu. Manuruhi, who took no part in the fight, called down from the hill fort:—“Koura E! Unuhia! E kore e taea. He uru ngaherehere.” (O Koura! Withdraw! You cannot prevail. They are are as numerous as trees in a forest). Then Koura replied:—“E ta! Nawai te koura ka kai ki roto ki tapui e kore e taea te whakaunu; ina ia koe e kai kanohi mai.” (O man! After the crayfish has eaten the bait in a lobster pot he cannot withdraw, as you merely look on).

In this remark, Koura, who knew that his time had come, made a pun on his own name (koura—crayfish) prior to lifting the last trail that leads to the spirit world. (Tapui is a term sometimes used to denote a pouraka, or pot trap for taking crayfish. It is a descriptive name for such, not a specific one. It is also employed as a verb). So died Koura of Puketapu.

Te Whakumu, of the children of Ira the Heart Eater, now said, “Our sun has now set; let us be moving.” For he knew that the Heretaunga tribes would combine to expel Ngati-Ira from the district, hence he and his people resolved to march south to Wai-rarapa by way of Wai-marama, on the coast south of Cape Kidnappers, ere they were attacked by superior forces. They choose the coast route because fuller supplies of food could be obtained from the sea than from the forests of the interior.

A party of Kahungunu and Rangitane pursued or followed Ngati-Ira as far as Pourere, but the Sons of Ira had passed on. Then Rangitane sent word forward to their tribesmen living at Wai-rarapa to attack Ngati-Ira. The message was despatched by one Pou-o-rongo, a Rangitane chief.

Rangitane of Wai-rarapa had three fortified positions in the Whareama district, viz.:—Te Upoko-o-Rakai-tauheke, Nga Wahine-potae, and Oruhi, the latter being near the mouth of the river. The Rangitane folk assembled at these forts from Kahu-mingi, Tauweru, Wainui-oru and other places.

Ngati-Ira, on arriving at the Whareama river camped at Waimimiha, and demanded the use of canoes to ferry them across the stream. These were refused by the local people, hence the invaders had resort to a stratagem in order to secure them. They sent a number of their women to the bank of the river, there to perform a haka or posture dance to attract the local folk. It did so, and some of the latter entered canoes and crossed the river to obtain a closer view of a fine performance. The women withdrew somewhat from the bank, but continued their efforts, whereupon those in canoes followed them, leaving their canoes. A party of Ngati-Ira now dashed forward and secured four canoes, the former occupants of which had to swim back to the south side of the river. Ngati-Ira now crossed their whole force to the south side, and they were a numerous people, hence the oft heard expression:—“Tena, tera a Ngati-Ira te haere na i uta - 51 me te mea tera he tere pekehā i te moana.” (Behold, Ngati-Ira are moving about on the land like a flock of pekehā on the Ocean.)

Now the news of the invading party had reached all parts and caused much fear. People living on open lands fled to the forests of the interior, driven by fear. They built or renovated forts to withstand Te Whakumu and his party. One such was the pa of Rakai-tauheke that was situated inland of Whareama to intercept the invaders if they took the inland track to Wai-rarapa, the track passing over the ascent of Ihu-tu. A party of the Rangitane and Whatumamoe clans assembled in that fort to repel the enemy.

One of the forts, Nga Wahine-potae, was on the range east of the Manga-pakia stream, and Te Upoko was at no great distance from it. The Oruhi pa was situated on a small hill at the mouth of the Whare-ama river. Yet another fort, a larger one, was Take-whenua, situated at Tupapaku-rua on the track to Maungarake (near Masterton). Oruhi and Take-whenua were really old fortified positions, so also was Nga Wahine-potae, which belonged to Ngati-Wairehu and Ngati-Takawa. Whata was the chief of these two clans, he after whom Te Kai-hinaki-a-Whata at Te Waipukurau, Heretaunga district, was named. Te Upoko-o-Rakai-tauheke was a newly built fort. Enough; you are now clear in regard to these things.

You have seen that Te Whakumu and his band reached Whareama and that all crossed the river to the south side. Then Oruhi was attacked, and, ere long, the place was taken, at night, and the chiefs, Te Poki, Kaikore, Te Whatu-rakau and Hau-taruke were slain. Many fled to Take-whenua, at Tupapaku-rua, already mentioned by me.

Ngati-Ira remained for some time at Oruhi, collecting food supplies, products of the ocean, as also fern root. Some of the prisoners taken by Ngati-Ira said to their captors:—“Inland of Whareama are two fortified places awaiting you, the fame of your victorious march having reached them, the pa of Rakai-tauheke and Nga Wahine-potae. Another place that lurks for you is Take-whenua, beyond yonder range; at these places the warriors of this coast await you.”

Te Honoiti reported to Te Whakumu:—“We have now a supply of food products prepared; what is our course?”

Te Whakumu remarked to Te Honoiti, and to all Ngati-Ira:—“The mind ponders over the reports of our prisoners, of how people await us in fortified positions to bar our march and to test your courage famed from Heretaunga even unto these parts. Now should we avoid the two forts, then Rangitane and Mamoe will say—‘Why did they avoid us? Lo, we now have them in our power.’ That is what they will say of our action, hence I propose that we divide our force, four hundred to Nga Wahine-potae and four hundred to the - 52 Pa of Rakai-tauheke, let both forces attack. Inasmuch as they will have heard that we have avoided those two places in our march, the people will have scattered, and the attacking force will easily succeed. Let some remain here to protect the women and children while we march to the two forts.”

The two forces divided, one advanced southward of Whareama, the other by way of the north eastern side of Whareama, and, as it drew near to the Pa of Rakai-tauheke, camped to await the arrival of the other party at their objective. When the force marching by Mangapakia (a stream) arrived at Papa-kowhai, below the ascent of Ihupiri it camped to await daylight. At dawn the forts were surrounded and assaulted. Two persons, a man and women, were captured outside, they were Kapukapu and Hine-whiri, of the Pa of Rakai-tauheke.

The prisoners were questioned:—“What are the folk in the fort doing?”

The reply was:—“The people have returned to their homes inland and out in the open country, to their women and children.”

Again were they questioned:—“What about those of Nga Wahine-potae?”

“They have acted in like manner.”

Now Kapukapu and Hine-whiri thought that the attackers were a party of another clan of Rangitane, hence did Kapukapu enquire:—“Has the invading force of Te Whakumu and Ngati-Ira passed by way of Tupapaku-rua?”

An invader replied:—“This is the army of Te Whakumu of which you speak.”

The eyes of the captive glanced wildly, as he thought of escape. Te Hono-iti, reading his design, said:—“Do not run, lest you be slain. Remain quiet that you may retain life.”

As dawn reddened the heavens the Pa of Rakai-tauheke was assaulted, and the chief of that name was slain. It is said that many persons were there slain, the majority being men. The head of Rakai-tauheke was carried away because he was a good looking man; it is said that he was a person of very fine appearance; hence his head was taken to be shown to Ngati-Ira.

As this fort fell, the other, Nga-Wahine-potae, was being destroyed by fire. As in the other case, there were not many people in the latter; most of them were inland, up the Mangapakia valley. A force of Ngati-Ira was lurking there, camped on the bank of the stream, while others attacked the fort.

The different forces returned to the main body at Oruhi, where Te Whakumu remarked:—“Enough! Release the captives taken at Nga-Wahine-potae and the Pa of Rakai-tauheke; let them depart.” Hence all prisoners were released. Te Whakumu said to Kapukapu - 53 and the other captives:—“Go! Tell Rangitane and other clans to keep clear of my path by way of Tupapaku-rua. I am going to Potaka-kura-tawhiti, to Te Wharaunga-o-kena, to my elders Te Whakamana and Te Rerewa. I did not come hither to slay people; persons have been slain by me as I came merely that my road might be cleared for me. I raided inland of Whareama to avert an attack, for it had been said that fear caused my party to avoid Tupapaku-rua, such was the cause of my attack on Nga Wahine-potae and the Pa of Rakai-tauheke. Now go; turn not your eyes behind you, go direct and keep away from my paths.”

So Kapukapu and his companions, men, women and children, in number two hundred and upwards, departed and went their way.

Great was the joy of these captives at having been released to return to their homes. And, as they left, Kapukapu and Te Whao said:—“Farewell! We will go to Take-whenua and there deliver your message. Should it be agreed to, we will return to you. If they do not consent, then we shall return to Puketoi, inland of Whareama, and Mataikona, and Owahanga.” Puketoi is the name of a range.

For two nights the party of Ngati-Ira awaited the arrival of Kapukapu and Te Whao, but they did not return. Then said Te Whakumu to Te Honoiti. “Let us rise and go.” So they started, and, as they came near to Take-whenua, a voice from the fort was heard:—“Aue ki au! E koro ma, e! Te takoto kino mai ra i ro o Whareama, ei!” Such was the greeting of the women of the place, a greeting for the people slain at the forts of Whareama.

Before the marching force emerged from the putaanga (place where a track passes from a forest out into open country) Te Whakumu said:—“Let us advance in file; one hundred men as an advance guard, then a hundred women. When these are well advanced let another hundred men proceed, to be followed at some distance by a hundred women, until all are on the move, the rear guard to be composed of four hundred men.” Such were the instructions of Te Whakumu to Ngati-Ira.

The people within the fort waited to see the rear end of the marching force, but when the shades of evening fell the invaders were still passing. Then the folk of Take-whenua said:—“True indeed is the success of this people whose fame has reached us, inasmuch as in numbers they are like the trees of the forest.” And fear came upon the folk within Take-whenua. No man moved, nought was heard save the voices of women wailing for the dead who had fallen at Oruhi, at the Pa of Rakai-tauheke, at Nga Wahine-potae.

When Ngati-Ira reached Wainui-oru, Kapukapu and Te Whao came to their camp and stated that their errand had been a fruitless one, their people would not abstain from hostilities:—“Men and - 54 women have but one thought, to come forth and attack you, O Ngati-Ira! But, when they saw the marching column streaming past until nightfall, then the warlike desires of the men of Take-whenua were subdued by the never lessening procession. And so that is over, and you may now advance to the vale of Wai-rarapa; there is no obstacle before you. All the people are assembled at Potaka-kura-tawhiti, where the news of your advance caused them to congregate. When you arrive at Maungarake, halt there and despatch a messenger to your elders dwelling within Potaka, that they may know it is you.”

“It is well” said Te Whakumu. “And I think it were well that you two remain with us, and act as messengers for me, to proceed to Potaka.”

This was agreed to, and when the force reached the summit of Maungarake, whence the eye swept Wai-rarapa even from the ocean to the head of the valley, it halted there, and Te Whao and his companion were despatched on their errand.

On their arrival at Potaka-kura-tawhiti, they found there the chiefs Te Whakamana and Te Rerewa, with their people. The first chief addressed the messengers:—“Inu tai?1

Kapukapu replied:—“It is Te Whakumu! The travelling party is that of Te Whakumu.”

Said Te Whakamana:—“E Kapu! Hokia ano.” (O Kapu! Repeat it.)

Again Kapukapu cried:—“It is Te Whakumu. The travelling party of Ira is that of Te Whakumu, offspring of Tu-tapora.”

The younger brothers of Te Whakamana and their sister were despatched to bear food to Te Whakumu; the food carriers numbering fifty twice told. These were the persons sent to Maunga-rake, apart from the carriers whose names do not signify. The food supplies so presented were dried korau and sweet potatoes, piharau (lampreys), dried eels, fish and paua (a shellfish, Haliotis), crayfish, whinau cakes, preserved whitebait and foods preserved in fat. Such were the foods.

After these happenings, Hine-tu-wawe, sister of Te Whakamana, said to Te Whakumu:—“O Son! Let us proceed to the plaza of your elders and young relatives, to set their minds at rest in regard to yourself, you, whose fame has preceded you like a forest fire as you advanced, slaying Rangitane, Ngati-Awa and Ngati-Mahanga. No survivors stood before you as you marched down the coast. But now, cease this man-slaying, or where shall you find a shelter from the winds?”

- 55

Replied Te Whakumu:—“O woman! Your words are true. I now refrain; I did but ward off blows directed at me; Had I not warded off blows aimed at me, then truly I would not have seen you.”

Te Whakumu then agreed that they should proceed to Potaka, adding:—“The tree you see yonder has hitherto been simply a rata tree; let it henceforth be known as the Rata of Te Whakumu.”

The force arrived at Potaka, where Te Whakumu married Hine-ipurangi, one of the principal chieftainesses of Wai-rarapa of those days.

Ngati-Ira then settled at Potaka, near Otaraia, and at Te Kawakawa on the shores of Palliser Bay. They gradually increased in numbers until they became an important tribe, though they do not appear to have extended their settlements far up the Wai-rarapa district, but moved along the coast and occupied the shores of the Great Harbour of Tara (Port Nicholson). This movement seems to have been largely one of peaceful penetration and intermarriage, so that, ere Cook visited these shores, the descendants of Ira had imposed their own tribal name on the mixed population of this district. In the nineteenth century the tribal name extended as far as Pukerua, north of Porirua harbour, beyond which lay the lands of the Muaupoko tribe.

It has been said that one Mahanga-puhua was the leader of one party of Ngati-Ira from the north, but it is hardly probable, for he was a descendant of Tara. His mother, Moe-te-ao, was the eponymic ancestress of the sub-tribe Ngati-Moe of Wai-rarapa, at which place Mahanga-puhua and his twin brother were born. The birth of Mahanga-tikaro was a difficult one, hence the mother was conveyed to the sacred place called the Toko-a-Hine-moko, where a singular rite was performed over her. She was then taken to Te Wao-kai-rangi, where the second child was born, wherefor that place has ever since been known as Nga Mahanga, or ‘The Twins.’

Family Tree. Moe-te-ao Mahanga-puhua, Mahanga-tikaro, Te Haua-o-te-rangi, Te Makatu-o-rangi, Kai-tangata, Kahukura-tane, Tamai-rangi=Whanake, Te Kekerengu, Te Miha-o-te-rangi
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Family Tree. Hui, Heemi, Wehirangi (a child in 1911).

Mahanga-puhua became an important chief of the Great Harbour of Tara and Porirua districts, his măna extending to Otaki. He died at Whetu-matarau, and his remains were laid with those of his forbears in the Wharekohu cave at Kapiti Island, where there is a place named Te Taumata-o-Mahanga-puhua. His brother lived at Wai-rarapa.


About the middle of the eighteenth century a chief of Ngati-Ira, named Kainga-kiore (also known as Kiore) was living in this district. At that time a feud was in progress between Ngati-Ira on the one side, and Mua-upoko and Rangitane on the other. This would be the division of Rangitane living in the Rangi-tikei district. A party of these northern folk under Tamahao attacked Ngati-Ira, and suffered defeat. Tamahao called out to Kiore:—“O Kiore! Let one of our children be spared.”

Family Tree. Tu-kaiora, Te Moana=Rakai-mahiti, Kainga-kiore, Te Whakahe, Taurae, Pito, Mangu, Hiko, Ani Hiko

Kiore replied:— “None shall survive, lest he develop into an ake rau tangi” (a tree of the wood of which weapons were made). The meaning is obvious.

Now the child of Tamahao, Poki, was at home at this time. When he grew up, and had learned the use of arms, Tamahao said to him:—“Ki te pona mai to papa ki a koe, kia mate i a koe.” (By this he meant that, should the young man—in any future fight—have Kiore at his mercy, and should the latter crave mercy, he was to disregard the appeal and slay him. The above curious use of the word pona (a knot) suggests the idea that it is a survival of the practice of transmitting messages by means of knotted cords, which was at one time apparently a Polynesian custom.)

A force of Rangitane and Mua-upoko marched down the coast and attacked and defeated Ngati-Ira at Te Pourewa. These raiders then attacked Paua-tahanui (called Pahautanui by us), where Ngati-Ira and Ngati-Kai-tangata were defeated. Coming on to Papa-kowhai (site of an old time hamlet, on section 103, between the Porirua and Paremata railway stations) they killed more of Ngati-Ira. The survivors fled to the Harbour of Tara, and all Ngati-Ira now retired to Matiu, or Somes Island, an old sanctuary of the local tribes. - 57 Kiore remarked to Te Rangi-aukaha, chief of Ngati-Kaitangata, a local clan:—“I thought that you bore an appropriate name. Not so; it is a name given to no purpose.” The meaning of this remark seems to hinge on the last part of Te Rangi-aukaha's name (kaha=strong), Kiore being disappointed with his prowess in battle.

The answer of Te Rangi-aukaha to this jibe is essentially a Maori one, and a difficult passage to render into English. “Waiho ra kia tauwha te rangi ki tua, koi tatai noa Autahi i te tau, ka ngaro te Huihui o Matariki.” It seems to imply that, under certain circumstances, discretion is the better part of valour.

The enemy force now appeared, advancing, thirty twice told, but the bulk of that force had been left behind in the gully at Te Puarere, where it now lay. Kiore said:—“This is the force of which we have heard; let us go to the mainland, that man may perform his work in daylight.”

Those who had fled hither to the island interposed:—“O Kiore! Let us remain here, that we may have the sea to act as a defensive stockade for us.”

Kiore replied:—“O! Let the kiore (rat) of Rakai-mahiti go forth and chatter (or quarrel) on land.”

Kiore and the fighting men went over to the mainland, being fifty twice told. When the canoes reached the shore, the raiders appeared to fly, but were merely enticing them toward their main body at Puarere. Katakata and Mohio, two of the raiders, were slain, when the force concealed at Puarere dashed forward and attacked Ngati-Ira, and men were arrayed like unto trees in a forest. Kiore was captured by Poki, and asked:—“Who are you?”

Poki replied:—“It is I, your young relative; Te Poki, son of Tamahao.”

Kiore asked:—“Let me be spared by you.”

But Te Poki said:—“You will not be spared by me; it is a behest from Tamahao (he pona na Tamahao).” (In this usage the word pona evidently implies message or behest.)

Kiore was now slain, he to whom Tamahao had said:—“O son! If you slay one of our children, let the other survive to open the gates of the spirit world for us.”

To which Kiore had replied:—“I will spare no one, lest he develop into a weapon.”

And Tamahao had remarked:—“I thought when I spoke to you that you would have responded, but as you treat my request in that manner, well, let it be so. Let the red plume of your taiaha (a weapon) gleam this day, in the days that lie before its redness shall be deepened.”

And here the Rat of Rakai-mahiti passes out of our story.

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This Tu-te-kawa is said to have been a chief who reached these parts from Turanga (Poverty Bay), at the head of a party proceeding to the South Island to procure greenstone. If, as stated by one authority, he was a contemporary of Rakai-hikuroa, the following incidents must have occurred about the beginning of the sixteenth century, but a more reliable authority states that they took place since Ngati-Ira settled here, in the time of one Tahi-a-rangi, son of Te Wha-kumu, who flourished ten generations ago, say about the middle of the seventeenth century.

In passing through the Wai-rarapa district Tu-te-kawa and his party appear to have run short of food supplies, and to have been by no means particular as to how they replenished them. Thus they slew a hapless family found in a fowler's camp at Te Awatapu in the Whakapuni district, on the track to Te Awa-iti. It was merely a temporary camp, where persons stayed when fowling and obtaining fern-root, which food supplies were taken to their homes and there stored. On this occasion the men folk were away at Te Pounui, at Aorangi, in quest of kakapo birds (Stringops habroptilus), which were found at Puke-whinau.

When Tu-te-kawa and his party reached Tuhi-rangi, he asked Whakaiho, who had come with the party to point out the track:—“Where are the people of this district?” The reply was:—“They are collecting food supplies.”

On reaching Te Whakapuni they saw smoke rising at Te Awatapu. Said Tu:—“Yonder is smoke arising; let us go there.”

On reaching the camp they found there Poike, Marohi, and the children. Whakaiho enquired:—“Where are all the men, O women!”

Poike merely remarked:—“Why do you ask?” For it was not correct to bring visitors to a rude temporary camp, especially when the men folk were absent. She knew that the party wished to be given food.

So food was prepared by the women, and placed before Tu-te-kawa. But Poike said to Whakaiho:—“What foolish act is this of yours, to bring strangers to a bush camp. You should have left them at one of the villages you have passed.” She said in her greeting to Tu-te-kawa:—“Greetings to you all, you who are being led about the forest by Whakaiho.”

The travellers now partook of the food served to them, the eels, dried fish, greens, and a calabash of preserved birds.

The travellers encamped for the night at Te Awatapu, and next morning the women again prepared food for them. Then Tu-te-kawa and his party attacked and slew the helpless women and - 59 children, Poike, Marohi, Te Awhe, Kairangi, Miroi and Paku, a slaying of six. The flesh only of the four adults was taken, but the two children, Miroi and Paku, were carried off bodily.

The travellers now made for the coast, and took the beach track to the Great Harbour of Tara. They saw Te Hau-torino, a Ngati-Ira chief, who was living on Matiu (Somes Island), and asked him for a canoe wherein they might reach the South Island. They were given a canoe named ‘Te Whakarae,’ a vessel having two haumi (the hull consisting of three pieces), a Ngati-Ira war canoe, belonging to Tahi-a-rangi and his brother-in-law Whakaahu, who had married his sister Hine-moana. Tu-te-kawa and his party then left Somes Island and sailed across Raukawa Straits to the South Island.

When the kakapo hunters, Tauwhare and others, returned to their camp, they found there nothing but the heads of the murdered ones. The elder men now collected the heads and carried them to Nga Ipu for burial. Others went to search out the murderers. On reaching Te Karaka, at Pahawa, they were told of a party of travellers from Turanga, under the leadership of Tu-te-kawa, having passed. Also that Te Whakaiho of Te Hika-o-papa-uma, had acted as guide for the party, which consisted of twenty persons. Maybe the Pahawa folk feared that they would be suspected as having committed the murder.

The pursuers passed on as far as Matakitaki, where they met Te Rakau and Kapukapu, of the Ngati-Hika clan, just returned from fishing at sea. Te Rakau addressed them:—“O Sirs! Whither is your party going?”

The pursuers said:—“We came to trace a certain party. Have you not heard of it? it is from the East Coast; Te Whakaiho is the guide?”

Te Rakau explained:—“They slept here and, in the morning, continued their way along the coast. They are going to the other island, to the Wai-pounamu, and the party consists of Tu-te-kawa and companions, while Whakaiho is their guide. When they left they saluted us with the hongi (nose pressing salute), and, as Te Whakaiho saluted me, he whispered, ‘When you see Tauwhare and Hiki-to, tell them that (the death of) Poike and the family lies with Tu-te-kawa.’”

The pursuers were now clear as to a line of action; they returned to Nga-Ipu and raised the clans of Kahukura-nui, Parera and Maahu. The first of these marched to Motu-o-Pakaa and explained the tragedy to the Kahukura-awhitia clan, to which people Miroi belonged, being a daughter of Hine-tukia. She had been a foster child of Tauwhare. The Hine-raumoa, Moe, Hinewaka and Ira clans also joined in the avenging of the murdered ones at Te Awatapu. The warriors - 60 assembled, and sailed for the south in four vessels named ‘Marama-titaha,’ ‘Mahirua,’ ‘Tama-a-rangi,’ and ‘Te Momimomi-a-Hine-raumoa.’

The avengers sailed down the east coast of the South Island until they found the party of Tu-te-kawa at Okiwi, said to be at or near Bank's Peninsula. They landed at night and attacked at dawn. As the sun rose it shone upon a desolate land, for Tu-te-kawa and his party had traversed the broad way of Tāne that leads to the spirit world.


In the days that lie behind, a certain small hamlet of the sons of Ira, situated on the Hataitai peninsula, was surprised by the sudden appearance of a party of raiders of the Rangitane and Ngati-Apa clans of Rangi-tikei, under a chief named Pae-ngahuru. At the very moment that the alarm was given, the chief of the hamlet was about to partake of a meal. The food was just being taken from the steam oven, and was too hot to be eaten hurriedly. Feeling the want of a little light refreshment ere he entered the fray, our worthy chief looked round for some substitute. Seeing some plucked but uncooked parakeets suspended from a food stage hard by, he seized several of them and ate them as he proceeded to meet the enemy. In the fight that ensued he succeeded in killing the leader Pae-ngahuru, and when about to despatch him, he cried:—“You cannot prevail against the man of the kakariki hutia (plucked parakeet).”

To commemorate the above incident the hamlet was renamed Kakariki-hutia, or Plucked Parakeet, which name it retained until the descendants of Ira the Heart Eater were driven from the district.


The following notes were obtained by the writer from Wai-rarapa natives. No corroborative testimony has been gathered from natives of any other district, hence the story is given for what it may be worth.

We have seen that, when Tara and his followers settled in this district, the hills of Miramar formed an island that was named Motu-kairangi by the settlers. When Capt. Cook lay off the Heads, November 2nd, 1773, that island had become a peninsula. At some intervening time the land has been raised, and Te Awa-a-Taia (the Channel of Taia) or Kilbirnie Channel, had given place to an isthmus.

According to the above mentioned tradition the change was wrought by a severe earthquake shock that occurred in the time of Te Ao-haere-tahi, who flourished eighteen generations ago. This would be a severer shock than that of 1855, which raised land about - 61 Wellington several feet. It is possible that the former shock was the cause of the raised sea beaches that are so marked a feature of the present coast line. The native account says that the earthquake of the fifteenth century was known as Hao-whenua, on account of the alteration it caused in the configuration of the land. One would have thought such a name more applicable to a shock that destroyed or swallowed up a land surface, hence one is inclined to look upon Hao-whenua with the cold eye of suspicion.

Table showing descent of a Ngati-Ira family from Te Ao-haere-tahi:—

Family Tree. Te Ao-haere tahi, Kahukura-mango, Humarie, Tatai-aho, Tu-wairau, Rakai-te-kura, Tumapuhia-rangi, Rongo-maiaia, Hika-mataki, Hine-waka, Te Ariki, Kumu-whero, Nga Rangi-topetopea, Hine-ki-runga, Tamai-rangi=Whanake, Tarewa=Te Kekerengu, Te Miha-o-te-rangi, Ratima, Meiha Keepa, Heemi

We must, however, admit that the land here has been uplifted in recent times, and the writer has noted, in days gone by, what may possibly be accepted as evidence of a sudden uplift of the isthmus. The removal of sand by wind after the destruction of the scrub, etc., exposed a bed of mussel shells occupying apparently their original position. These shells had certainly never been opened by man, and did not represent a midden of neolithic man. They must have been protected by the sand covering for a long time. Recent excavations along Bridge Street exposed ample proof that the hill over - 62 which Tirangi Road passes was in itself at one time an islet. In the lagoon that formerly existed along Bridge Street a marine form of mussel was found living under altered conditions. When the sea extended over the Miramar flat Motu-kairangi consisted of a ridge of horseshoe form.

In his “Notes on Miramar Peninsula,” published in Vol. V. “Transactions of the New Zealand Institute,” the late Mr. J. C. Crawford remarked of the Hataitai isthmus and the central valley of Pārā—“That the whole of this flat was, at a late geological period, covered by the sea, is very evident, probably at a time when the sea stood at about fifteen feet above the present level, as evidenced by water-worn caves, the borings of Pholadoe, etc.” Speaking of the valley, or Miramar flat, as apart from the isthmus, he wrote:—“The appearance of the gravel bars shows that the sea ran in upon a shallow surface, as at Napier, and after filling the interior area, ran out again at low tide, probably leaving the bar dry. …. the stratification of the flat, as far as can be observed, is a basis of gravel, next a stratum of sand and gravel containing marine shells . … on or within this stratum pumice sand is found in considerable quantity, and also remains of the moa. The shells and pumice may be said to lie at the height of five or six feet above high water mark. Above this, over several hundred acres, are considerable accumulations of vegetable remains, consisting of peat several feet in thickness, containing roots, stems, and branches of trees.”

It seems that a considerable area of this flat must at one time have been under forest, and possibly the hills also were wooded, but on the arrival of Europeans only a few small patches of bush remained, and those patches in gullies. The last patch to succumb seems to have been in a gully at the extreme head of the flat.

Native traditions collected do not mention any forest in this vicinity, but mention the lagoon that existed on the flat, which lagoon was called Te Roto-kura (? The Red Lake) in olden days, but Pārā seems to have been the Ngati-Awa name for it in recent times. It was named Burnham Water by Colonel Wakefield; it covered two hundred and thirteen acres, and Para Road marks its eastern edge. It was drained by Mr. Crawford in 1847.


This name was formerly spelt as Soames. The remains of two old fortified villages of small extent were visible on the island forty years ago. One was situated on the site of the Immigration Barracks, now (1917) occupied by German prisoners and their guards. No sign of it now remains save a shell midden, overgrown with grass, exposed by a road cutting. The other hamlet was situated on the point at the northern end of the isle, where signs of earthworks are still to be - 63 seen, as also a talus midden. This pa was called Te Mo-ana-a-kura, while the upper one was named Hao-whenua. They are said to have been erected by Ngati-Ira, under Te Rongo-tu-mamao and others, but probably Ngai-Tara had stockaded hamlets there before that time. Small cultivations of kumara are said to have been made on the upper part of the island in former times. The supply of fresh water on the island, to judge by present conditions in summer, could scarcely have been satisfactory.

Mr. Drummond tells us that:—“The first tuatara brought under public notice in England was found on Somes Island, Wellington Harbour, seventy-five years ago.” (See “Auckland Weekly News,” August 30th, 1917.) In the seventies the late Mr. A. Hamilton found a live tuatara on the same island, but the writer knows of none having been seen there since. The same scientist found tuatara and moa remains on the Kilbirnie isthmus, or at its western margin.

About the year 1848, four tuatara were caught on Mt. Victoria, and two in the Hutt Valley. In 1864 several were caught at Makara. In 1842 one was found at Evan's Bay.

The Ngati-Awa folk seem to have had a hamlet on Somes Island, and natives were living there as late as 1835. The late Mr. Arthur Drake visited the island about the year 1868, and seeing a musket barrel protruding from the earth, unearthed about a dozen old-fashioned musket barrels, from which all woodwork had decayed. These were probably buried by Ngati-Awa.


This small island has been used as a place of refuge many times by the various tribes that have occupied this district. There are no signs of any earthwork or other defences on it, but its sides are precipitous and could be easily defended in the days when missile weapons were almost unknown in the Land of Tara. This isle, however, was not occupied as a stronghold for defence, so far as we know, but merely as a safe refuge for non-combatants from invaders not provided with canoes. Enemy forces raiding this district were nearly always composed of West Coast tribes, from places north of Pae-kakariki. These folk preferred marching on this district to trusting themselves to the treacherous waters of Raukawa (Cook Straits). Local natives had much less to fear from the clans of Wai-rarapa, for they were more closely related to them.

The most serious drawback to a sojourn on Makaro would be lack of fresh water; this would have to be procured from the mainland, or from the feeble springs on Matiu. It is probable that these isles were used more as refuges, since Motu-kairangi became a peninsula, then they were prior to that time.

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The following notes on the island of Makaro were contributed by my late friend Paul Freyberg, in 1913, when he formed one of the party that planted trees on the isle. The east side of the isle is perhaps seventy feet in height, but the western side is somewhat higher, the surface of the summit shows a loamy soil, and slopes downward from west to east. Two series of old time terracings are seen, similar to those of Tarakena, one at the south end is composed of five small terraces facing about south-east, while the other, of four small terraces, is in the central part of the isle, and faces east. These little terraced formations undoubtedly represent hut sites of former times. Other traces of former occupation seen were oven stones on the summit, and shell refuse at the brow of the bluff. A portion of the blade of a greenstone (nephrite) adze was found at the base of the cliff. A stone adze dug up on the summit is made from a form of slate, the cutting edge is oblique, and the tool has been ground, though marks of chipping are not ground out.


This little island is also said to have served as a refuge for local natives when raided by enemies. It was probably named after Watchman Isle, Napier inner harbour, which bears the same native name, but the origin of the name is said to date from the time of Tamatea-ariki-nui, the Polynesian voyager, who sailed hither from Eastern Polynesia, and travelled much round these shores some five centuries ago. For some unexplained purpose he is said to have carried about with him, in a calabash, three lizards named Tapu-te-ranga, Pohokura and Puke-o-kahu. The first named, after which the island was called Tapu-te-ranga, escaped at Ahuriri (Napier). But the name is a very old one in Maori myth, and it is said to have been the name of the site of the famed tapu house Wharekura, which stood at Te Hono-i-wairua, in the old homeland of the Maori.

One native authority says that the isle was a tapu place formerly, and that no one could land on it unless such tapu had been lifted. Being one of the Ngati-Awa new-comers, he is not likely to have known much about the place. Some of Ngati-Ira are said to have sought a refuge there from the Amio-whenua raiders from Waikato, and also from the Nga-Puhi raiders, of whom more anon.

White, who seems to have copied Crawford's account of native affairs at Hataitai, without acknowledgment, states that there was a pa named Tapu-te-rangi at the north-west point of the peninsula. (See “Ancient History of the Maori,” Vol. 3, p. 180.) Crawford gives Tapu-te-rangi as the name of a village on the isthmus. The writer has been unable to gain any information concerning these two places from either Ngati-Awa or the Wai-rarapa natives.

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Some years ago a correspondent of the “Evening Post” mentioned Perangoe as a name of the above islet, but this is an error. Apparently this name was taken from a list of coastal place names mentioned in the N. Z. Company's local land purchases, in which occur the names Te Riniarap (Te Rimurapa), Oberangoe, Omeri (Omere), etc., which shows this weird name to be a corrupted form of some Ngati-Awa place name between Sinclair Head and Cape Tarawhiti.


The lands of Ngati-Ira extended as far as Pukerua, north of Porirua, where they had an outlying stockaded village at the summit of the cliff overlooking the beach on the left bank of the Wai-mapihi stream. The Ngati-Toa hamlet of last century seems to have been located on the terrace on the northern side of the stream.

The Ngati-Rangi clan, occupying Pae-kakariki, Parapara-umu, and other places, claimed ownership of Pukerua hence they resolved to attack Ngati-Ira at that place. The force assembled at Nga Mahanga, a pa situated at Parapara-umu, where plans were laid for the advance against Pukerua. At this time there happened to be in the village a Rangitane slave named Noho-koko, who, hearing of the proposed foray, resolved to warn Ngati-Ira. Under cover of night he left Nga Mahanga and made his way along the beach to Pukerua, where he warned the people of the coming trouble. He was asked:—“By what route are they coming?” “They will advance by way of the Po-awha Ridge, Horokiri and Paua-tahanui, so as not to be seen, and in order to attack you in the rear.”

The Puke-rua folk resolved to abandon their home village, march to Pari-rua, where assistance could be obtained, and waylay the raiders on their march. They lay in ambush beside the track in the lower part of the Horokiri (Horokiwi) valley, not far from Paua-tahanui. When the Ngati-Rangi force, under the chiefs Paetaka and Horoiwi reached this point, it was attacked, defeated and dispersed, whereupon the survivors retreated to their homes with commendable promptness. And Ngati-Ira held the Porirua district until the day on which they saw, afar off on the shining sands of Wainui, the gun fighters from the north marching down the long reach of Te One-ahuahu-a-Manaia to bring to a close the stone age period at the Great Harbour of Tara.

The even tenor of life was occasionally disturbed in the days of the măna maori by minor quarrels and fights between different divisions of a tribe. Thus, as an example—a man named Pakapaka-huakai, of the Kahukura-awhitia clan, became insane, and died at a place since known by his name. One Toko, of the Ngati-Rangi, living at Pa Whakataka, near the junction of the Mangaroa and Heretaunga (Hutt) - 66 rivers, was accused of having slain Paka by witchcraft, hence Kahukura attacked Ngati-Rangi at that pa, expelled them, and seized the Pakura-tahi lands as far as Te-Rua-tutu, in order to settle the account.

The days of Ngati-Ira at the Great Harbour of Tara are now drawing to a close, and their long occupation of the district is about to be concluded by means of what they termed the rakau kino or evil weapon, the musket of the white man.

Captain Cook, who saw some of Ngati-Ira at Queen Charlotte Sound, says little concerning them, but Parkinson remarks:—“We observed a great difference between the inhabitants on the side north of Cook Straits, and those of the south. The former are tall, well limbed, clever fellows, have a deal of tattoo and plenty of good cloaths; but the latter are a set of poor wretches, who, though strong, are stinted in their growth, and seem to want the spirit of sprightliness of the northern Indians. Few of them are tattooed, or have their head oiled, or tied up; and their canoes are mean.”


During the years 1819-20 a strong force of northern natives of Nga-Puhi, Ngati-Whatua, and Ngati-Toa, under Patuone, Tuwhare, Te Rau-paraha, Te Rangi-haeata, and other chiefs, made a long raid down the west coast as far as Wellington Harbour and Wai-rarapa. This foray occupied about a year, and when the force returned home it was minus some hundreds of its members. These invaders carried with them a sufficient number of muskets to terrify and unnerve the hapless natives who were ignorant of firearms, and looked upon them as being something supernatural. The following account of the operations of these raiders in the Wellington district was narrated by one of the party, and preserved by the late Mr. John White.

On arriving at the Harbour of Tara the force camped at Pipitea, but soon after many of the young men, finding the discipline enforced by the older warriors irksome, moved to Te Aro, where they established a camp of their own. Some of them went off on a food hunting expedition toward Cape Tarawhiti, but were attacked by Ngati-Ira and lost many men. A force sent from Pipitea to avenge this loss was, says the narrator, slain to a man. Apparently the rakau maori (native weapons) had not lost their effectiveness in forests and rugged country.

While encamped at Pipitea the invaders found the land of Tara by no means prolific in the way of food supplies, rations ran short, hence they were reduced to eating their prisoners, of whom a considerable number had been captured on the journey down the west coast. The - 67 narrator remarks that fifteen of his own slaves were so disposed of, each chief contributing one or more as required, until the supply ran short. The narrator proceeds:—“We then marched round the western side of the harbour as far as the mouth of the (Hutt) river, where we made rafts, and fifty of our men crossed over to attack the pa on the eastern side, but they were beaten off and some of them were slain, their bodies being eaten by the people of the fort. One of our chiefs also was here wounded, and soon died. The folk of the pa then deserted the place and retreated to Wairarapa, so we crossed the Wai-o-Rotu (evidently a name for the Hutt river) on rafts, pursued those people for three days, attacked and defeated them, taking many prisoners. We then returned to the place where our chief had been wounded, where we killed our prisoners to provide a funeral feast. We cut off the head of our dead chief and dried it, that we might take it home with us; the body was buried. While we were smoke drying the head, some of our party rashly took some of the thatch of the priest's hut (a tapu place) and used it as bedding, hence we were afflicted by a complaint of which died 200 of our party of 500. We remained some time at this camp, and numbers of our chiefs died here (? ptomaine poisoning). We preserved their heads and burned their bodies, lest the bones be obtained by the enemy. Even so we camped on the eastern side of the mouth of the river of the Whanga-nui-a-Tara.

While at this place we were attacked by our enemies, but defeated them and pursued them up the river, which is on the inner side of the islands Matiu and Makaro. We found them in a fortified village up the river, which we attacked and captured, slaying many people, and we remained two weeks at that place in order to consume the bodies. We then contined our way up the river in search of another pa, which our prisoners told us was the largest in the district. We came to a deserted village, where two hundred of our party remained, while one hundred pressed on up the river. A force from the big pa higher up attacked the advanced party of one hundred, of whom only about ten escaped, the rest were slain. Our main body now advanced; we went up the river in canoes, arriving that night at the big village, which contained many people. Te Rau-paraha advised us not to attack the place, but to pass it, so that the people might pursue us. So we went on up the river in our canoes, and our enemies kept pace with us on the banks, until they came to a muddy branch stream. All this time they were jeering at us, saying that it was an impudent act for so small a party to attempt to defeat a numerous people, and that we would not make one good meal for them. Our leaders told us not to make any reply to these jeers. We then landed on the opposite side of the muddy creek to that on which the people of the land were gathered, while our prisoners remained silent in our canoes. Our prisoners cooked a meal for us, and then our priest performed over us, at the brink of the creek, the rites of - 68 war, after which we again entered our canoes, which we had found concealed at various parts of the rivers course.

We now advanced against the people of the land, who kept on shouting and jeering at us, and commenced firing upon them; as each gun was fired, a man fell dead. So amazed were they at the effect of gun-fire that they stood still and did nothing. Then they began to bawl and wail, and fled to the stream, which they attempted to cross, but one of our canoes had gone up that stream, and thus the people were between two fires, and many were slain. They then fled back the way they had come, and we pursued them, slaying and capturing a number of them. On reaching their pa they rushed into it, but we also entered it ere they could prevent us, and then we slew so many of them inside that we wearied of man-killing, and the place was full of dead. We remained three weeks at that place, cutting up and devouring the best of the bodies. As to the others, we cut the flesh from the bones and laid it on stages to dry in the sun; it was then packed in vessels, and the fat of the bodies was melted and poured over it to preserve it. We burned the bones, lest the relatives of the dead should find them and convey them to their tapu burial places.

We collected the heads of the slain chiefs and piled them in a heap, placing the head of the principal chief on the top of the heap. We then took other heads and threw them at the heap, by way of amusement, for this was an old time practise of our fathers. When those heads were battered, we tired of the game, whereupon the young fellows took the heads and burned them, saying that it was fine fun. We broke one end of the leg and arm bones, thrust heated fern stalks into them to extract the marrow, which was good eating.

Our prisoners told us about another village further up the river, which we then went to, it was a large place containing many people. Te Rau-paraha conceived a plan by means of which we slew many of their fighting men. He sent a party to make peace with those folk, and to invite them to a feast. Three hundred and fifty, once told, came to that feast, and Te Rau-paraha arranged that our men should sit among them. Then, when our women placed the food before us, and just as our guests were helping themselves to it, Te Rau-paraha gave the signal, and naught was heard save blows, shouts, wailing, the sound of breaking skulls, the groans of dying men. The sound of a skull being broken is like that of a calabash being crushed. As for the village, the people of that place woke but to die; we enslaved those that took our fancy and killed the others.

In all acts of treachery and deceit practised during this expedition, Te Rau-paraha was the leader and teacher. During that raid we lost four hundred men, and we destroyed everything that fire could burn.

During our return journey to the north, some of our prisoners - 69 escaped, but those we brought home were killed and eaten by the relatives of those of our party who had been slain.”

Of the further adventures of these northern ruffians in the Wairarapa district we do not propose to speak, enough has been given to show the horrors of savage warfare, horrors to be excelled only by Germans.

As to the villages sacked up the river, it has been said that these were named Te Horopari, Hau-karetu and Pa-whakataka. As the last mentioned stockaded village was situated at the junction of the Mangaroa stream with the Hutt river, it is doubtful if the raiders went so far up the river. A place called Hau-karetu is marked on some maps of the Hutt Valley.

If the narrator of the above account gave his tale of men a la Maori, then his figures must be doubled, and the force would be one thousand strong, for it was a custom to count men in pairs on such occasions, the tatau topu or binary system of numeration being employed.

In those days, doubtless, canoes could pass some distance up the river, for its channel was then much more confined. The earthquake of 1855 made a considerable difference in the water conditions of the Hutt river, as also in those of smaller streams in their lower parts. The observer of to-day would scarcely believe that the Waitohi stream at Nga Uranga had its ferryage system in the forties of last century. Colonel Wakefield proceeded a considerable distance by canoe up the Hutt river, until progress was stopped by logs in the channel.

Another native who took part in the above raid on the Harbour of Tara stated that some of Ngati-Ira, at Porirua, were slain in their cultivations, but that no fortified villages were seen there. He also mentions having seen some kotuku (white heron) at Porirua. Another incident mentioned by him was that the raiders saw a European vessel pass through the Straits, and lit signal fires to induce those on board to land, but the ship passed on. It is of interest to note that Belling-hausen, the Russian voyager, who passed through Cook Straits in May or June, 1820, speaks of seeing fires on the hills as his vessel passed along the coast from Cape Tarawhiti to Cape Palliser.

The name of Wai-o-Rotu, applied to the Hutt river in the above narrative, is not otherwise known to us. The late chief Aporo Te Kumeroa, of Wai-rarapa, informed the writer Wellington Harbour was sometimes called Te Whanga-nui-a-Rotu (or Orotu), and Te Wheke-nui-a-Tara in former times.

The effect of firearms on the local natives, at the time of the above raid, was one of awe and terror. They had heard of the muskets of the north, the dread pu, but had imagined, it is said, that they were - 70 some form of war-trumpet, such as the pu kaea. After their first experience of these new weapons word went abroad that—‘the new pu carried by the enemy are unlike ours; flame and smoke stream from them, and men perish, stricken from afar off.’

While the savage northerners continued their march to Wairarapa, the people of that place and the refugees of Ngati-Ira who had fled thither conferred together, and resolved to send messengers to Whanga-nui in order to induce the clans of that district to attack the raiders as they returned up the coast. Thus Puoho-taua, a Ngati-Ira chief, with six companions, proceeded to that place. The Whanga-nui natives agreed to attack, and two men were despatched to the mouth of the Manawa-tu river, there to await the return of the raiders. As soon as the latter came in sight, the two scouts hurried back to Whanga-nui with the news. It is on record, elsewhere, how a part of the raiders' force, under Tuwhare, was lured far up the river, there to lose many of their number.

Evidence given in the case concerning the lands known as Nga Waka a Kupe, at Wai-rarapa, show that early in the nineteenth century, a Nga-Puhi chief named Tu-te-rangi-pokipoki, and thirty of his followers were slain at Tawhanga by Tamahau and his clans. In this affair several of the flintlock muskets of the raiders are said to have been taken by the local natives, one of which guns was named Te Kiri o Te Peehi. This probably occurred during the raid we have described.

In regard to the introduction of firearms into this country, an old native account says that the first firearms obtained by the Maori were four muskets named Te Mura-ahi, Te Huteretere, Pawa-tungia and Tahae-kino. These were acquired by Nga-Puhi, of the Bay of Islands district, from the first European vessel that arrived in those parts, which ship was named Te Ra-puhoro by the Natives, on account of the furling and unfurling of the sails. The account continues—It was after this that the ship of Capt. Cook reached Nga-Puhi, which vessel also reached Uawa (Tologa Bay). Capt. Cook drank of the waters of a spring there, at Titirangi, which spring is known as Te Puna a Hine-matioro.

This statement about a ship at the north prior to Cook's first voyage may well be doubted.

As for the first guns obtained by the Ngati-Toa tribe, the remnant of which now lives at Porirua, the names of such muskets are contained in a lament composed by the wife of Te Pukoro. These names are italicised in the song:—

“Aku kamo e wairutu nei
Me aha koa te whenua mahue i au
E koro ma . . e . . i.
Na tē hanga nei, na te rakau o tawhiti
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I hikitu ki runga
E toko ake ana te pounamu
Te Rau o te huia i te tonga
Au i rere mua ai i Te Reotahi a Te Paraha
Koia tungia ki te ahi a Tu ki a Moturoa
Aue! Me he ahi au e tahu ana
Me piki rawa au ki runga tihitu
O Taranaki e tu mai ra
Marama au te titiro te ara haerenga o ‘Ti-Awa
Ki te kawe atu i a Moturoa, i a Paritutu
Pukaka, Te Horo, Rerepuku, Te Aparua
Te Wheo, Te Mura-ahi, Kai-tangata, Reotahi
Nga atua kai tangata o tawhiti
Nau nei, e Te Paraha, i waere te ara
I roto o Puke-rangiora.
I ware ai au, takoto noa i te whenua ke
E koro ma! E kui ma!
E moea mai ra te moenga i raro ra
Waiho kia huri ana e roa te tau
E huri mai ai te mahara i au . . e . . i,
Kei whea ra koutou e ngaro nei
Whakarongo noa e aku taringa
Titiro noa e aku mata
Ka ngaro raia koutou.”

(To be continued.)

1   A singular ceremonial interrogative, now obsolete. It was put by a person of rank to an approaching messenger, perhaps only when the latter seemed to be the bearer of important news.