Volume 16 1907 > Volume 16, No. 1 > Maori wars, by Lieut.-Col. Gudgeon, p 13-42
THE modern history of the Maori people may be said to have commenced about the year 1840, after the signing of the so-called Treaty of Waitangi, on which solemn occasion certain of the tribes conveyed whatever sovereignty they may have had to Her Majesty the Queen. Previous to that date New Zealand had a record entirely its own, wherein murder, rapine, and sudden death had been the rule for nearly three hundred years. I will therefore attempt to describe the social condition of the country as it was about the year 1837, as a preliminary to this chapter on Maori wars.
The period I have chosen is interesting from the fact that it marked the end of the rule established by the musket and other European weapons that had been introduced by the early traders and whalers. The new order of things had not yet taken effect, though Missionary influence had made itself felt among the Nga-Puhi in the far north, but elsewhere it was an unknown quantity. Even the trading instinct which is so strong among the Maoris, had only been partially roused by the desire to obtain arms and munitions of war. But the instinct was there, and merely required a sense of security to develop, as it did subsequently between the years 1840-1860, during which period the Maori devoted himself to the growing of wheat, the erection of flour mills, and the purchase of schooners to carry his produce to market.- 14
Even in 1837 there were Europeans in New Zealand, but they were for the most part what would now be called “undesirable immigrants.” Whaling stations had been established on the coast in many places, and the men engaged in that pursuit were the pick of the foreign population, brave hardy fellows, whose influence among the Maoris was at that time very great—and whatever may now be said to the contrary—generally used in the right direction. There was, however, another class of foreigner who were to be found only in the Bay of Islands, composed of escaped convicts, deserters from whale-ships, and others of that criminal class, who do so congregate at Alsatia wheresoever that place may be situate. These men were the scum of the earth, and naturally did as much mischief as such men could do; but I question whether their evil example ever appreciably affected the self-respecting Maori, for such men only existed by virtue of the protection afforded to them by the tribal chiefs, who would by no means have permitted undue excesses either on the part of their own followers or of Europeans. The latter were indeed regarded as mean whites, and were treated with but little respect. For these and other reasons I am unable to admit that European influence had in anyway affected the social life of the Maoris up to the year 1837. Whatever mischief had been done by the foreign element was due to the introduction of firearms, and for this the traders resident on the islands cannot justly be blamed. That they did sell many thousands of muskets is quite true, but the mischief had already been done at that time, and by the later sales of arms the traders simply made life possible to the smaller tribes, whom they supplied with arms to use against the Nga-Puhi.
To account for the state of affairs existing in New Zealand in the year 1837, we must realise the fact, that for more than fifty years there had hardly been a moment of peace. Previous to the year 1820, two of the most powerful tribes in the country had been absolutely destroyed. The Ngati-Paoa, who lived on the western shores of the Hauraki Gulf, acting together with the Ngati-Whatua, of Kaipara, had effaced the Nga-Iwi and the Wai-o-Hua, whose numerous pas cover the Auckland peninsula; and if we may judge from the remains of these old forts, the two tribes cannot have had less than ten thousand warriors to man the trenches thereof. About the same period the Nga-Puhi destroyed the Aupouri of the far North, a tribe that at one time had been able to put at least 5000 men into the field.- 15
When Nga-Puhi had succeeded in clearing their northern boundary of all enemies by a process of assimilation or digestion, they turned their attention to their ancient foes the Ngati-Whatua, and met with very rough treatment, for they were frequently defeated. Finally the whole strength of the two parties met at Moremu-nui, and the Nga-Puhi were defeated with such loss that, under the conditions then existing, they did not dare to try conclusion with the valiant foe again; but none the less they did not forget the humiliation they had suffered, and never for one moment did they lose sight of the possibility of obtaining revenge.
From the foregoing pages it will be seen that Nga-Puhi was the disturbing element in the social life of the Maori people, not that they were braver or in any way superior to the other tribes with whom they came in contact, for it may truly be said that they had never quite held their own either with the Ngati-Paoa or Ngati-Whatua in the days of Maori weapons; but they were dangerous for the reason that they were a powerful confederation which had injuries to avenge, and their geographical position enabled them to acquire weapons wherewith to avenge those injuries.
About the year 1818, the leading warrior chief of the Nga-Puhi was one Hongi-Hika, who, associating with the crews of the whale-ships which used the Bay of Islands as a convenient port of call, had every opportunity of observing the effect of firearms, and being, moreover, an exceedingly able man, saw that these European weapons would govern the result of any Maori war of the future. At this period there was little, if any, actual trade between the Maoris and the whale-ships, nor does it seem that the native flax industry had then assumed the importance to which it subsequently attained. My reason for coming to this conclusion is, that had the New Zealand flax been in demand at that period, Hongi would not have found it necessary to go to England to procure the guns and powder which might otherwise have been purchased in his own district. Whatever the reason may have been it is certain that Hongi did visit England, and it would seem for the sole purpose of obtaining warlike stores. As to his methods whereby he succeeded, I am not in a position to offer information; but he was undoubtedly lionised, and received many valuable presents all of which he converted into guns and powder. According to the Nga-Puhi, he was able on his return to arm no less than 70 - 16 men with European weapons, and with these musketeers and the whole fighting strength of Nga-Puhi at his back he commenced operations. He did not, however, attack the Ngati-Whatua at once, though it was for their special benefit he had gone to England. He wished to be quite certain how far the new weapons would aid him. “Let us first try our guns against the Ngati-Paoa,” said he, and so saying led his warriors against the Mokoia and Mau-inaina pas, two forts in the Tamaki district, which belonged to the threatened tribe. It was probably during the summer of 1821 that this raid was made, and as Hongi had anticipated, the Ngati-Paoa were panic-stricken and fell in hundreds under the Nga-Puhi guns. Only one man (Kaea) kept up the ancient reputation of the tribe. Indeed the Nga-Puhi themselves never tire of repeating how this famous warrior, armed only with a carpenters' adze, slew no less than forty of their warriors, and drove the others from his path while he opened a way of escape for his aged father.
From Mokoia the army of Nga-Puhi marched against the Ngati-Maru, of the Thames, and here also they were successful by means of a somewhat treacherous stratagem. They were repulsed at the first attack, and retired as though about to raise the siege, but they returned under cover of night, and finding the Ngati-Maru off their guard, stormed the pa, and either killed or carried off as slaves a thousand men, women, and children. For the time being the Nga-Puhi were satisfied with this success, and returned to their home, but the following year they again took the field and marched against the Waikato confederacy. I have heard that they were incited to take this action by Te Rauparaha, the most wily and treacherous of all Maori chiefs, who had been driven from Kawhia by the Waikato, and Ngati-Maniapoto, only a few years previously, and now used the Nga-Puhi to avenge his injuries. The Waikato and kindred tribes mustered to the number of 4000 in the Matakitaki pa, and there awaited the onset of their foes; but the fame of the Nga-Puhi weapons had already deprived the Waikato of all fighting spirit, and at the sound of the first volley they fled in wild panic. Hundreds of men, women, and children were smothered or trodden to death in the deep ditches surrounding the pa, and many others were pursued and ruthlessly slain.
At the present day it is hardly possible to conceive the abject terror that afflicted every Maori tribe about the date of Mataki-taki. Even the most famous warriors felt that their skill and - 17 courage could avail them nothing against a mere boy armed with a musket, and therefore it was that whole tribes fled to forest swamp and mountain. Mothers of families abandoned their youngest children and left them to perish, and the bravest men surrendered themselves as slaves to the musket-armed Nga-Puhi, no matter how insignificant the war party of their foes may have been.
The next blow delivered by the Nga-Puhi fell upon the Arawa of Rotorua, and for this raid they had their excuse from the Maori point of view. It would seem that when the Totara pa at the Thames was taken, a chief of the Ngati-Raukawa was in that pa and was slain. This man was a distant relation of Te Rauparaha, who prided himself on obtaining revenge for every injury, however remote, and generally succeeded in persuading some vain chief to take up his quarrel, and this was the line he took on this occasion. When Te Rauparaha heard that the Nga-Puhi chief Te Pae-o-te-rangi was about to visit the Arawa tribe he went to his friends at Tauranga and asked them as a personal favour to murder Te Pae and his companions. The Ngai-te-Rangi, who claim the proud tribal aphorism of “Rauru kitahi” (Rauru, the truthful), refused to comply with this request, and he then asked the Ngati-Whakaaue of Rotorua, and they also indignantly refused; but the Tuhourangi section of the Arawa not only promised, but did actually murder the whole party. And hence this vengeful onslaught of the Nga-Puhi, who, however, unfortunately selected as their victims the very men who had refused to assist in the murder of Te Pae. This fact was, however, probably unknown to the Nga-Puhi, who simply regarded the offenders as Arawa, and included the whole tribe in their scheme of vengeance.
The Ngati-Whakaaue mustered on the island of Mokoia, in the Rotorua lake, where they regarded themselves as secure from any attack; but in this matter they committed a fatal mistake, for a Ngai-te-Rangi slave disclosed to the Nga-Puhi the route by which the Arawa took their canoes to the sea. This information enabled the Nga-Puhi to take their canoes up a branch of the Waihi River, and thence over a portage into the Rotoma Lake, from which place there was no great difficulty in reaching Rotorua. The island fort was captured at the first attack, though true to their ancient traditions, the Arawa fought most bravely but as they possessed but one musket they failed to beat back the well-armed tribes of the North.- 18
All of these raids were merely preliminary to the long meditated destruction of Ngati-Whatua, whose time had now come. The date cannot be determined with any great exactness, but it was probably during the summer of 1824 1 that the two parties met and fought at Te Ika-a-ranga-nui. The fight was unequal, inasmuch as Ngati-Whatua had but one gun, which they did not know how to use, against at least 100 in the hands of Nga-Puhi. The result was that the former tribe was defeated with terrible slaughter, the chief Paikea, with some 150 men, women, and children, fled to the Parawhau chief Kukupa for shelter, with the result that he himself was protected even against the great leader, Hongi-Hika; but as a set off to this act of mercy, Kukupa causd the whole of Paikea's people to be slain for food, as they were required. Only twenty of this party were saved, and for the reason that they had taken shelter with Te Taka, another chief of the Parawhau. All of the remaining sections of Ngati-Whatua were pursued by Hongi with relentless ferocity, and practically this tribe had ceased to exist in 1837.
After the death of Hongi the war was carried on by Pomare, Kawiti, and others of the same tribe, but not with the same success, for it had become manifest to the southern tribes that their very existence depended upon the possession of firearms, and then it was that the local traders entered into the fray, exchanging muskets, powder, and bullets for scraped flax as fast as each tribe could procure or prepare that marketable fibre. Tapsall supplied the Ngati-te-Rangi, Arawa, and Ngati-Awa. Armitage traded with the Ngati-Kahungunu, and soon each tribe were—if not as well armed as Nga-Puhi—at least in a position to defend themselves. It was then that the tide of war turned against the Nga-Puhi, and other tribes of the North. Ngati-Maniapoto slew Huipute 2 and his whole following; Ngati-Paoa and Ngati-Tipa utterly destroyed Pomare and his army. Whanganui effaced the great warrior Tuwhare and his hundred men, while Te Haramiti and the Ngati-Kuri died to the last man on the island of Motiti. Many other misfortunes of less note brought home to the Nga-Puhi the stern fact, that their day had passed, and that the tribes of the south and centre were once more asserting their ancient superiority.- 19
The fact that after the year 1830, the Nga-Puhi ceased to disturb the peace of the country, did not improve the general condition of the Maoris, inasmuch as the Waikato confederacy took up the game of war where the Nga-Puhi left off. They had already driven the Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Kauwhata from Maungatautari and Wharepuhunga, and had forced the survivors to migrate to Otaki, whither Te Rauparaha had preceeded them. They then took advantage of the fact that many of the Ngati-Awa had joined Te Rauparaha in his southern raid, and attacked that tribe and its allies the Ngati-Tama, Taranaki, and Ngati-Ruanui. After a long war, in which both parties suffered severely, the last named tribes were forced to leave their ancestral lands and follow Te Rauparaha to Otaki. Matakatea and about 100 men of the Taranaki people, and an equal number of the Nga-Ruahine, under an ancestor of our great enemy Titoko-waru, alone clung tenaciously to their homes and defied the whole strength of Waikato to move them.
While the Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Awa were thus being crowded on to the lands of others, the Ngati-Paoa and Ngati-Maru, who had suffered so severely at the hands of Nga-Puhi, had migrated en masse to Maungakawa, and had there established themselves in defiance of all Waikato. In this position they held their own until the great battle of Taumatawiwi, in 1831, when it was arranged with Te Waharoa that they should return to their own lands, and this arrangement was carried out shortly after to the confusion of the tribes of the Bay of Plenty.
During these operations the Maoris of the East Coast had probably suffered as severely as those further north; but as there was no blood feud between them and the Nga-Puhi or Waikato they had not been driven entirely from their lands. As, however, they were much open to the attacks of other tribes, their safety demanded extra precautions, and to this end the Ngati-Porou mustered in two pas, Whaka-whiti-ra and Rangi-tukia, both on the northern bank of the Waiapu River. It is said that not less than ten thousand people occupied these two strongholds and continued to reside therein up to the year 1840, when the gospel of peace had been preached throughout the land, and men felt themselves to be safe outside the walls of their forts.
The tribes of Hawke's Bay, whom one cannot call a warlike people, had meanwhile suffered more than their share of the misery incidental to savage warfare. During the early years - 20 of the century war had broken out between the two leading sections of the tribe and Ngati-Te-Upokoiri had defeated the Ngati-Kahungunu, but in 1829 the Ngati-Raukawa intervened and defeated the Upokoiri at Otaparoto with great slaughter, and in 1831 the Nga-Puhi of Te Wera, in alliance with the Ngati-Kahungunu, defeated the same tribe at Te Whiti-o-tu, and consequently drove both Upokoiri and Raukawa out of the district to Manawatu, where most of them remained up to the year 1860.
So far the Ngati-Kahungunu proper had been victorious over the other great section of their tribe, but they had not bettered their position thereby, for their great chiefs, almost without exception, had at one time or another been the captives of Waikato, Raukawa, or Taupo, and the whole tribe had been forced to leave their lands and fly to Nukutaurua, on the Mahia Peninsula, and those who with the true warrior instinct had held on to their lands to the bitter end had either been slain or carried off as slaves from Te Pakake. It was not only the tribes of Hawke's Bay who fled to Nukutaurua, but the people of the intervening district also, and it was here that they were attacked by a strong war party composed of the numerous tribes of Waikato and the central districts of the island. The strength of the pa and the guns of Nga-Puhi were sufficient to keep the invaders out of the stronghold, but the garrison were unable to meet their foes in the open, and were therefore reduced to desperate straits. All of those who were not absoutely necessary for the defence were slain and eaten, probably as a kinaki (flavour) for the blue clay 3 on which they really lived for months. While in this desperate position an attempt to raise the siege was made by that famous chief Te Kani-a-Takirau. His war party was numerous, but he was defeated in a few minutes and lost more than a hundred men. This success so easily obtained amused the victors, who were tired of the long siege, and rendered them amenable to reason, so that those who were well-disposed towards the besieged were able to induce the remainder to march homewards satisfied with the mischief they had done. This was the last occasion on which the people of Hawke's Bay had to fight for their lives, but none the less they did not leave Nukutaurua until the end of 1840.- 21
Such was the condition of New Zealand even as late as 1840, but I have not mentioned the minor fighting, or even the most desperate engagements, unless the result was the destruction of a tribe or the desertion of tribal lands.
Dr Thompson, in his “Story of New Zealand,” records his opinion: “That the Maori is naturally endowed with such caution, that it has made him cowardly and a hater of war,” and we have it from the same authority that it was this excess of caution that rendered it necessary for the Maoris to work themselves into a state of madness by means of the war dance, before rushing on their foes or doing any other act involving personal danger. It would be difficult to find any statement more contrary to the truth than the quotation I have given. Certainly the war in the North of 1845 did not justify the conclusions at which Dr. Thompson has arrived by some mental process known only to himself. Nor do the subsequent wars in which we became involved with the southern tribes demonstrate the truth of his statement. The fact is that the Doctor had very little experience of the Maoris, and still less knowledge of their tribal history, therefore though his book is valuable as a contribution towards the history of New Zealand, he is not entitled to be classed as an authority on Maori characteristics or history.
I must also differ from the late John White, who, it would seem held the opinion that the Maori as a race was not fond of war. How he contrived to form this opinion is a mystery, for Mr. White was an authority on the Maori. The solution may, however, be found in the fact that he was essentially a man of peace, and had but a limited knowledge of the warlike side of the Maori character. From my knowledge of Maori tradition and my own personal experience, I think I am justified in saying that there never lived a people who took more pleasure in the excitement incidental to killing or being killed, or who met death more bravely. It may, however, be admitted that it was their excessive pride that fostered this tendency to fight and kill, and that but for this weakness they might have been a peaceable people. An insulting speech was never allowed to pass with impunity, for blood alone could wash out the affront.
In the mind of the European of modern days, there has always been a certain amount of misconception, as to the capacity of the Maori for war. Many believe that whatever there may have been of warlike instinct in the old heathen, has passed away with their heathenism, and that the semi-civilised Maori has - 22 neither the innate love of war nor the same disregard of death and its terrors as was formerly the case. In support of these views they quote instances in which, after a murder or some other great provocation, two tribes have gone gaily into war, and after seven or eight days of continuous but long range firing, have at most a man or two killed or wounded on either side, and have then ended the farce by making peace with much ceremony and many war dances. I freely admit that this is true; but for all that I hold that the remark concerning the Russian and the Tartar, will, when slightly altered, exactly describe the Maori, viz., scratch the mildest Maori and you will disclose the warrior. Under the circumstances I have mentioned, it will generally be found that the Maori has not been scratched, and that the tribe has merely had a firing fit out of deference to the opinion of other tribes, that is, they sacrificed themselves at the shrine of public opinion, lest it should be said that a member of their tribe had been slain, and none of the offenders sent to keep the dead man company. In such cases nothing can be further from the intention of the tribes than that men should be killed.
I have known some Maori civil wars, in which there was an appalling expenditure of powder and lead, with infinitely small results. So much so that it became an interesting subject for speculation as to where all of the lead went, and why some men were not slain by mere accident. The real explanation of this half-hearted fighting is, that since the establishment of British rule in New Zealand there have been no real tribal quarrels. There have of course been difference of opinion among members of the same tribe, but they being near relatives had no great desire to kill one another. The Maori quite undertands that so far as he is concerned men cannot be replaced, for it is not now as it was in old times when children were numerous, they are now as a rule conspicuous by thir absence.
The death of Wi Repa, which has already been related by Colonel McDonnell, is a good instance of how much a very warlike tribe will suffer rather than engage in tribal warfare, where a father may find himself compelled to fight against his sons. This chief Wi Repa, though quite a young man, was one of the most important chiefs of the Nga-Puhi of Hokianga. As usual there was a woman in the case, who had been betrothed to Wi Repa and was intended in due course to occupy the - 23 honourable position of second wife; she, however, preferred a chief of the Whanau-pane named Turau. This preference was a serious insult to Wi Repa, and he in strict accord with Maori usage in such cases, seized a horse belonging to Turau and thereby wiped out the insult. Here the difficulty should have ended with credit to all parties to the suit; but Turau was not a brave man, and he moreover bitterly hated Wi Repa, he therefore resolved to seek assistance to enable him to kill his enemy, and did actually persuade some thirty men to join him for this purpose. One of these men, an experienced warrior named Kepa, was willing enough to kill Wi Repa, but declined to take him by surprise, and insisted that a message should be sent to warn him of the intended attack. At this period Wi Repa had only his two brothers and a slave living with him, all the other people of the village were away planting. He therefore questioned the messenger as to who the people were who were likely to join the taua, and having ascertained this fact, decided not to send for his people. His brothers thought differently, but he overruled them, and the only precaution he took was to send away his wife and young son that same evening. On the following morning the “taua” appeared with Turau well in rear and as nearly as possible out of danger, and the leader demanded that both horse and woman should be given up to Turau. Wi Repa answered this demand by a volley, which killed the two leading men, and then charged his foes and speared three men. He then fell back on his friends, who had meanwhile reloaded their guns, and some more firing took place. For a while it seemed that the four men were about to win the fight, but one of the brothers, Hone-te-Whare, fell shot through the chest. Wi Repa was much attached to this man, and his fall had the effect of making the elder brother whakamomore, for he knelt beside the body and refused all assistance, and handing his mere to the remaining brother, ordered him to retire to his tribe since he had resolved to die. The behests of the head of a family may not be disregarded under such circumstances. The brother and slave therefore retired, and Wi Repa, after killing another man, was himself slain by a blow from a spade. Turau did not attempt to follow the two men who retired, but hastily collected their killed and wounded, seven and five respectively, and returned to their own homes.
If there ever had been a favourable opportunity for a serious war it had happened in this instance, for the dead men - 24 were of the highest rank and had numerous friends and relatives; but the tribal feeling prevailed. Relatives were unwilling to kill relatives, and the old chiefs found it easy to stop the shooting before more lives were sacrificed. I may, however, say that Kepa's manly warning to Wi Repa made the task much easier than it would have been under other circumstances.
When, however, a Maori really does mean mischief, then his enemy will do well to take all proper precautions, for in such case there will be no wild firing at long range. Of the truth of this statement many instances may be given, all of which have occurred since the year 1860. We need only recall the attack on No. 2 redoubt at Waitara, where some three hundred men of the Waikato and Ngati-Awa tribes attempted to storm that fort, and did not desist until they had lost more than fifty men and were almost surrounded by our supports. Again, the attack on Sentry Hill by Titoko-waru, an almost impregnable position, where Ngati-Ruanui tried to do that which was impossible, and by so doing lost the flower of their tribe. We may also quote the affair at Puke-ta-kauere, where the Grenadier Company of the 40th Regiment was so roughly handled, that for all practical purposes it had ceased to exist on the evening of that fight; and, last but by no means least, the tribal fight of Moutoa, where the tragedy of the Kilkenny cats was so admirably re-enacted. Evidence of this nature might be served out ad nauseum, but it is not necessary since my sole excuse for inflicting the foregoing on my readers, is to show what the Maoris now are, as an introduction to their ancient warlike history.
The events connected with the storming of the Maketu Pa by Te Waharoa on the 28th of March, 1836, afford instances of heroism which are by no means uncommon in Maori history; indeed the only element wanting on this occasion is the caution which, according to Dr. Thompson, is the conspicuous feature in the Maori character.
After the Arawa chief Haere Huka had murdered Hunga in cold blood in order to draw down the vengeance of Waikato on his own tribe, the latter mustered in great strength at Maketu under the impression that Te Waharoa intended to attack that place; but the latter marched to Tauranga and there manœuvred so skilfully as to induce the belief that Rotorua was the point of attack. Only two great chiefs divined his real intention, namely, Te Haupapa and Te Ngahuru, and they strongly - 25 opposed the desertion of Maketu, but to no purpose, for the tribe refused to listen to their warnings and marched to Rotorua, leaving only some fifty men of the Ngati-Pukenga (an alien tribe) under their chiefs Te Nainai and Te Irohanga in one pa, whie in the other stronghold there remained only a European trader named Tapsall, his native wife, her two brothers, Eru te Paimoe and Kiharoa, and the two chiefs Te Haupapa, Te Ngahuru, their wives and the following men or boys: Te Ahipi, Maukaha, Te Rangihiwawa, and Ngakuku, the latter a very famous toa of the Ngati-Raukawa, who was subsequently slain by Ngati-Awa at the Kuititanga in 1839. Hardly had the main body of the Arawa reached Rotorua when the Ngai-te-Rangi joined Waharoa, and all of them marched on Maketu. Notice of this change of programme was sent by the Rev. Mr. Brown to Te Haupapa, and that chief, quite alive to the peril, consulted Tapsall, and then proposed to the Ngati-Pukenga that they should join forces in the Arawa pa, which was the most defensible of the two. Now Te Nainai and his men had every reason to fear Te Waharoa, for they had while in alliance with the Ngati-Maru, of the Thames, slain the great chief Te Wakaete, grandfather of the late Major Te Wheoro, M.H.R., and had generally made things unpleasant for Te Waharoa. They might therefore expect the very worst from the hands of the army of at least 1200 men which was advancing against them. All of these things were well known to the chiefs of Ngati-Pukenga, but they were found utterly wanting in that quality of caution which is said to be a national characteristic, and not even the fear of death with the gates of eternal night wide open before their eyes, had any weight with these men. They were not of the Arawa family, and therefore they feared the loss of mana (self respect and reputation) which must result, if they deserted their own pa in the presence of an enemy, or fought under the direction of an alien chief. Actuated by these sentiments, Te Nainai replied: “Let each defend his own pa.” Te Ngahuru made no reply, but returned at once to his companions in peril, and all that night the handful of doomed men worked hard repairing the defences of their fort. It was while they were thus engaged that Te Ngahuru was seriously wounded by the awkwardness of his relative Te Rangihiwawa, who was assisting him: his hand was nearly severed at the wrist, and this was not only a misfortune, but an ill omen of the worst type, and would have been a good and sufficient excuse had they sought safety - 26 in flight. That they did not adopt this course was due to a sentimental view of their position, which could hardly have been expected from a people whose leading characteristic was caution. Their view was shortly as follows: That as they had been deserted by the main body of their tribe, it devolved upon them to assert the old-time mana of the Arawa canoe, and incidentally sacrifice their lives in order to prove beyond all question how very wrong those people who had deserted them had been. Such were the motives of the two chiefs, but the brothers of Hine-i-turama had their own sentiment. Tapsall, an old Danish warrior, who had fought against us at Copenhagen, and had subsequently commanded an English privateer against the French, refused to leave his trade goods. His wife refused to leave him, and her brothers concluded that it was their duty to remain and share her fate whatever it might be.
Next morning the Waikato war party were seen advancing to the attack, and then Te Ngahuru called to the Ngati-Raukawa brave—Ngakuku—and requested him to leave, saying that it was not his quarrel, and that he would like him to go to Rotorua and there describe what he had seen. At the same time Te Ngahuru sent away Te Ahipi, Makoha and their children. Ngakuku obeyed and retired to a hill at a short distance from the pa, when he took up the role of spectator, for it must not be forgotten that he was one of the bravest of a brave tribe, and knew no fear. He wished, moreover, to see the end, though neither he nor any other man then present had any manner of doubt as to what that end might be. He was not the only spectator, for the trader Tapsall also watched the proceedings with a critical eye, and each has handed down an account of that which they saw on that fatal morning.
The Waikato, Ngati-Haua and Ngai-te-Rangi, led by their respective chiefs, moved first against the stronghold of Ngati-Pukenga. There the struggle was of short duration, and the assailants were soon to pass over it like a wave, having destroyed every living thing therein, and stamped both houses and palisades flat. They then moved forward towards the Arawa pa, where they were met by Te Ngahuru and Te Haupapa, both of whom had guns. The former, as I have said, was disabled, but he managed to kill his man, while the latter shot two of his enemies, and then the affair of Maketu was over. The two chiefs and their boy followers were dead, but Hine-te-turama was saved by the efforts of her husband and Hori Tupaea, a - 27 great chief of the Ngai-te-Rangi, who fortunately was related to the girl and her mother. It will I think be admitted that this was a fairly typical fight of comparatively modern times, but it cannot be said that much caution was displayed, or that there was any stimulation of courage either by war dances or otherwise; indeed it appears to me that everything was done in a disgustingly cold-blooded and Anglo-Saxon manner.
Sitting in a Maori whare at night surrounded by the old men of the tribe, one may hear very singular tales told of the famous chiefs long since dead. Tales calculated to inspire horror in those who are unfamiliar with the peculiar turn of the Maori mind, their callousness in the presence of the most barbarous cruelty, utter disregard of death, and grim jocularity even in the very presence of the King of Terrors. Chief among all of these old ancestors was one Pakira, whose most notable descendant was the late Major Rapata, M.L.C. Concerning this man, and illustrating his coolness, courage, and epigramatic language, I have heard many anecdotes.
One of these traditional narratives will serve to illustrate the mode of life and character of the Maori people better than any description I could give. A son of the great Hauiti chief, Whakarara, had been slain in battle by the Ngati-Porou, and shortly after that event the father happened to meet his relative Pakira, who belonged to the hostile tribe and had been present at the battle aforesaid. During the conversation, Whakarara asked whether Pakira had not eaten a portion of his son. The reply was a gem of truthfulness, which I give in Maori for the benefit of those who can appreciate its vigour. It was: “Ka peke rawa ko te ate I au” (only his liver). The grim truth of this reply pleased Whakarara who remarked “Nga tama wahine, e aha te hunahuna,” 4 but he nevertheless did not intend to waive his just right to avenge this act of tama wahineism, and to this end he shortly after summoned all of the tribes to a great feast to be held at Anaura. Among others Pakira attended, and fortunately met a female relative, who, regarding him with contemptuous astonishmnt, asked, “Have you come to this feast?” Pakira intimated that he had attended for that purpose. Then said the woman, “I hope you will appreciate it. Whakarara is collecting his friends, and when they arrive, - 28 you and your party will be the kinaki of the feast.” Pakira had not come entirely unprepared, but his party were not strong enough to cope with all of the Ngati-Hauiti, and therefore he was in a position to realise the truth of the aphorism, that under certain circumstances absence of body is preferable to presence of mind. On this principle he acted without delay, and departed in his canoe despite the entreaties of Whakarara, who tried every artifice to detain his guest, and finding that his efforts were useless called to him, “Yet shalt thou not escape me, for thou wast baptised in the water of bitterness.”
Many years after this failure, Whakarara, who had by no means abandoned his desire for vengeance, gave another feast at Taowiwi, having previously organised a strong war party so as to make certain of Pakira. The latter attended with a picked body of warriors, and when the inevitable quarrel took place, defeated Whakarara with great slaughter. As, however, he was anxious that Whakarara should not be slain, he broke through the flying enemy and overtook the chief as he was breathlessly climbing a hill. Pakira patted him gently on the back, saying, “Move quickly, move quickly.” Whakarara turned slightly, and seeing who it was said, “Are past offences to be avenged, O son of Tukakahumai?” Pakira replid. “Fly swiftly, and thus avoid death.” Such were the old Maoris, keenly appreciating a joke, and capable of generous actions, but savages to the core. Great is the power of heredity, for just such a man as Pakira was his great descendant Major Rapata of the Ngati-Porou.
War was probably the only real amusement or excitement in which the Maori of old times could indulge, and it must be admitted that they made it a real business; putting into practice all the theories conceived during times of peace. It is, therefore, no exaggeration when I say that every Maori warrior who lived during the first sixty years of the last century was a past master in the art of fortification, and could have given a good and sufficient reason for everything he did in that line. The aptitude of the Maori for all sorts of warfare has never been denied by those who have served against him; but never has it been made so manifest as by the modifications introduced into their system of fortification, in order to neutralise the crushing effect of our heavy guns. It is not necessary, and would take too long to discuss the changes in question, it will be sufficient to say that in place of useing the massive hardwood posts which - 29 formed the ordinary palisades of Heke's war of 1845, only light tough rods were used in the later wars, each one tied independantly to the supporting beam, so that if cut in two by a shot is should not involve the fall of other parts of the work. These light timbers were specially designed to minimise the chief danger of artillery fire, viz., splinters, the effects of which the Maoris had not failed to notice. This was but one of many innovations introduced by the Maoris in order to meet the improved conditions of modern warfare, and since that period they have as a rule regarded the big guns with more or less contempt, for like all uncivilised and healthy men they are untroubled by nerves, and are prone to disregard the fact that shells make very unpleasant noises. The Maori discovered that the big gun does not kill so many men as it frightens, and for this reason they feared only our rifles.
War was usually waged every summer, immediately after the kumara—or, in later days—the potato crop was gathered, and as this occurred earlier in the north among the Waikato or Nga-Puhi than in the south, it resulted that these northern men had a distinct advantage over their southern neighbours, since they could after securing their own crops raid south and take an unauthorised part in the consumption of their enemies' food while besieging them in their pa.
It may perhaps be assumed that among a warlike and blood-thirsty people like the Maoris a pretext for any war would be considered unnecessary, such, however, was not the case. War was very seldom made without some good and sufficient Maori reason, or without a warning conveyed to the intended victims. A pretext was never difficult to find, the chiefs had only to look back a few years to find that some man had been killed in whom they had some interest, and whose death had not been avenged by reason of the pressure of more important business at the time. Or it might be remembered that some malicious or indiscreet person had publicly used a kanga (insulting expression) reflecting on some chief of the tribe. It might indeed be something less insulting than a kanga, but that would not matter, for no tribe of any social standing could afford to allow an injury or insult to pass unavenged. As for the kanga, it was a very serious thing, and has perhaps done more to reduce the surplus Maori population than either women or land. Some curiosity may be felt as to the nature of a kanga. I will therefore give an instance. Seven generations ago the Ngati-Whare - 30 tribe owned the Waimate plains and lived on terms of friendship with their neighbours, for at that period of Maori history there was so little war that the Ngati-Whare had not thought it necessary to build a pa. The Ngati-Ruanui were their nearest neighbours on the south, and their chief village was Te Rangatapu, near the mouth of the Waingongoro River, where the chieftainess Tamatea-moiri held sway. On a certain day, while this old lady and her assistants were engaged in the daily occupation of pounding fern root, and the men were away fishing, a party of the young men of Ngati-Whare passed by, and one of them jeeringly remarked to the chieftainess, “Pound away at your fern root, it is a wharikiriki for yourself and children.” In other words, a covering for the oven in which they should be cooked. This was a kanga of the worst possible description, and, therefore, the old lady made no reply, but when her sons returned to the village, she related to them the nature of the insult, and demanded immediate action. On this they consulted the war chief Paraha, who called the warriors together, and within one week the Ngati-Whare had ceased to have an independant existance. Their lands were seized by the Ngati-Ruanui, who held them until the pakeha intervened and absorbed the heritage of Ngati-Whare.
It was a kanga used by Rerewaka, a chief of the Ngai-Tahu, that caused Te Rauparaha to attack that tribe. “If,” said Rerewaka, “that man should come hither he shall be ripped up with a shark's tooth.” This boastful speech reached the ears of Te Rauparaha, who on the first convenient opportunity, swept the East Coast of the Middle Island, from Te Wairau to Kaiapohia, and killed perhaps one thousand men, women, and children, in order to avenge the insult.
No longer ago than 1857 two of the tribes of Hawke's Bay fought a battle in which eight men were killed and sixteen wounded, the reason being that one of Te Moananui's followers angry because he had not participated in the money received for land sold to the Government, remarked, “Te Hapuku has sold his forest and must now cook his food with the bones of his ancestors.” This speech was reported to Te Hapuku, who at once seized on the offender's land, and when remonstrated with, replied, “A blow is soon forgotten, but a kanga lives for ever.” Brave words, but none the less he was thoroughly beaten by Renata Kawepo and allies, and would probably have been killed - 31 or captured but for the good offices of the late Sir Donald McLean, who called to his aid a company of the 65th Regiment and persuaded the belligerents to make peace.
When once a war party had started on its destroying career, nothing was sacred to it, no law human or divine restrained those who had joined its ranks, and men, women, and children, were remorselessly slain or, worse still, enslaved; for very properly a Maori regarded slavery as worse than death. Once a slave, always a slave, was their maxim. Nothing could wipe away the stain; the man might escape and return to his tribe, but neither he nor his descendants could ever take their places as of old among the free rangitiras of the tribe. The natural result of this strong feeling was that men were taught to fear captivity rather than death. There were, however, one or two bright spots in the savage nature of the Maori, which are worthy of mention, one of these was the custom of paying peaceful visits of ceremony during the existance of a war. Let us suppose that a numerous war party had invested the fortress of a tribal enemy, and finding it too strong to be taken by assault had sat down with the openly expressed intention of starving the enemy into submission, in order that the fighting men might be massacred. This intention, however, openly expressed, would not prevent the besiegers from paying occasional visits to the besieged, and it is remarkable that such visits were seldom disgraced by treachery. The men of the pa might be starving and bitterly hostile to those who visited them; but, however great their cannibal instincts and desire for revenge, for the time being, all hostile feeling was suppressed.
When the Waikato besieged the remnant of the Taranaki tribe in their pa at Te Namu, and after the loss of many men and much time, found that they could not take that stronghold by storm. A number of the principal chiefs held a meeting, at which it was decided to raise the siege. To this end, and in order that they might retreat with honour, they sent a messenger into the pa to intimate their desire for peace, and also to request permission to enter the pa and hongi (rub noses) with their foes. The Taranaki men knew full well that Waikato would take advantage of their position if opportunity offered, for their great chief Te Kohukohu had just been slain; but strange to say they offered no objection, and invited Waikato to visit them. The visit was made with all possible ceremony, but this is not surprising, for I take it that all men are courteous whose - 32 acquaintances carry tomahawks, and are prepared to use them on the least possible provocation. The meeting passed off quietly, though certain of the young men were with difficulty restrained from summarily despatching those chiefs who had inflicted so much evil upon their tribe, but Te Matakatea kept a strong hand over his young men, and nothing occurred to blacken the characters of the men of Te Namu, who had made about the most brilliant defence recorded in Maori history. Among others who entered the pa were slaves who had been taken from the Taranaki tribe, and they braved the anger of their masters by leaving with the besieged all the ammunition they had been able to steal.
Another curious custom in the direction of mercy was permitted rather than encouraged. In the event of a war party entring an enemy's country and advancing stealthily in the hope of surprising their foes, secrecy would be the one thing essential. Yet if anyone in the party had a relative living among those about to be attacked, he might with propriety warn them. The warning might be given in many ways, by lighting a fire, or by showing himself just as a party of the enemy were about to fall into an ambush. In modern days the usual method was to fire off one's gun—accidentally of course—just at the critical moment. Anything of this nature was at once understood to be the act of a whanaunga (relative), who in this way recognised the ties of blood, but might thereafter kill those whom he had tried to warn, with much credit to himself and tribe. If, however, a chief chose to leave his own war party in order to warn people in whom he was interested he did so at the risk of his life. About the year 1834 the Ngai-te-Upokoiri and Ngati-Raukawa, in the absence of the real owners, took possession of Te Roto-a-Tara and there built a fortress, with the evident intention of holding the country permanently. News of this act of aggression was taken to Te Pareihe, who at once marched with a large party of well armed Nga-Puhi and Kahungunu to attack the intruders. In this party there was a chief of high rank named Pai-rikiriki, who was related to the Ngai-te-Upokoiri, and he deemed it to be his duty to warn that tribe of their danger. To do this he went secretly by night, but his return journey was wanting in the matter of prudence, for he foolishly walked right into his own war party, and as a natural sequence of such indiscretion was there and then slain as a “Maroro kokoti ihu waka.” This proverbial expression - 33 signifies a flying fish crossing the bows of a canoe, but it applies to the first human being that crosses the path of a war party. The Maori law in such cases is that the person must die, or the war party must return. In this instance the maroro died, and the war party were most successful.
I have already mentioned that the Maoris had an intense dread of slavery, and that they held the conviction that the mere fact of a man becoming a captive in war was sufficient to degrade him and his children after him for unknown generations. The result of this conviction was often embarrassing to the Maoris, for it sometimes came to pass that a chief might be nearly related to both of the contending parties, and therefore the disgrace would fall equally on both parties should such a man be captured. To avoid a catastrophe of this nature a custom obtained among them whereby the mana and chieftainship of any man of high rank might be preserved to him even on the very verge of captivity. For instance, should two tribes be engaged in deadly combat, and one of them slowly but surely giving way, a chief among the victors might call upon any of the defeated by name, and if he or they responded at once and joined the victorious party, they would not only be safe but treated as friendly visitors.
In the “Life of Te Waharoa” we are told, that when the Ngati-Maru attacked the Whakatohea at Opotiki, the chief, Takahi, escaped and fled to the forest, but hearing himself called by Te Rohu he returned, and saved both life and chieftainship. Examples of this nature were by no means uncommon. I have heard of a case where a large war party of the Arawa, under a very great chief, met a small party of the Tuhoe on the Kainga-roa Plain. The latter sent out a famous toa in front of the battle of challenge all and sundry to single combat. Three of the Arawa accepted the gauge of battle, and were all slain. Disheartened by this exhibition of mana, the Arawa fled in confusion before the charge of Tuhoe. Then it was that the chief of the latter people called on his famous enemy to come to him. This he did, disengaging himself from his flying clansmen. He seated himself by his new found friend while his men were mercilessly pursued and slaughtered. After a short stay with Tuhoe he was escorted back to his home as an old and valued friend.
In 1864 the two great divisions of Whanganui fought among themselves, and when the Ohotahi pa was taken Pehi Turoa was - 34 virtually a captive in war, but he and his men were allowed to walk to their canoes and escape, notwithstanding that Hone Hipango, a chief of high rank, had been killed during the investment of the pa. The Europeans of that period found it difficult to understand why a lot of rebel Hauhaus should have been allowel to escape scot free, and there was much comment on the unreliability of Maori allies; but they did not understand that Pehi Turoa was a man of such rank that any warrior of Ngati-Hau would have preferred to see him shot rather than a prisoner of war, for the simple reason that the latter fate would have disgraced the whole tribe.
Personal pride and pride of birth are Polynesian characteristics in whatsoever island that people may be found, and the Maori of New Zealand may be said to suffer from a pronounced form of that disease. It is, therefore, an important factor in their social life, and has been the cause of more than half their wars. The Maori character does, however, differ in many important points from that of the parent stock in Polynesia. Both have pride of birth, and both are intensely aristocratic, but in the Pacific islands the chiefs are treated with a slavish deference that is unknown among the New Zealanders. At Hawaii chiefs of the highest rank remain silent in the presence of the king until he gives them permission to speak, by addressing some question to them. Very similar conditions prevailed at Tahiti; but in New Zealand a more healthy system obtains, for here we recognise only the two classes, the gentleman and the slave. The chiefs are merely the elder branch of the same family who, if supported by the elders of the tribe, may exert great influence. The ariki, as the eldest born of the tribe, is sacred, and regarded almost as a god, but otherwise he is not held to be of higher social rank than the free born gentlemen of his tribe. The chiefs were, as I have said, regarded as senior rangatiras, elevated by the voice of the tribe into a position of authority, and if unfit to exercise the authority conferred upon them were liable to be dismissed from the position that had been conferred upon them. The Maori is every inch a man, and acknowledges no higher rank than that of unblemished descent; but in Hawaii four distinct classes were recognised, and in Tahiti three, namely, the Royal family, the rangitiras, and the manahune (common people). In New Zealand the proverb: “Turanga tangata rite”—In Turanga all men are equal—governs to a greater or less degree according to the character - 35 of the tribe; but the “all men” of this proverb must be understood to mean all free-born warriors descended from the common ancestor, and does not include slaves or the descendants of slaves. The fact that the people of Turanga almost worshipped their great chieftainess Hine-matioro does not affect the general application of the proverb. Unfortunately we know but little of the character of that remarkable woman whose memory is almost worshipped by the tribes of the East Coast. Within my experience two men saved themselves from instant death by simply calling on the Ngati-Porou to spare them in her name. Of one thing we may, however, be certain, that it was not alone her rank or illustrious descent that gave her such extraordinary power, not only during her life, but also after her death; there must also have been great force of character and intellectual power.
The Maori has strong aristocratic proclivities wherever it is a question of birth, but they have at the same time a haughty impatience of undue control, which is the best and most refreshing sign of a healthy democracy. That very keen observer, the author of “Old New Zealand,” very early observed this peculiarity among his friends at Hokianga, and has placed on record that his chief, indignant at the supposed ill-manners of his relative “Water melons,” shouted: “Be off with you, the whole of you away!” The order was instantly obeyed by the women, children, and slaves; but, says the author, “I observed that the whole of “you” did not seem to include the stout, able-bodied, tatooed portion of the population, the warriors in fact, many of whom counted themselves as being very much as good as their chief.”
My readers may perhaps wonder how it came to pass that any of the native race survived in 1840 when the first European settlers arrived, and it is a matter for wonderment; but, none the less, I have not exaggerated the social condition of the Maoris at the time of which I write, for the sanguinary customs I have described prevailed generally throughout the two islands. The names of localities are perhaps the best evidence of what that life was. Ask any man learned in the history of the tribal lands and you will find that more than half the names of places record some deed of bloodshed. There is a place on the road between Napier and Taupo called Turanga-kumu. It is on the summit of a very high hill, and I have heard people who knew a little Maori construct a very pretty fable out of their ignorance - 36 and show how aptly the spot was named, since there could be no manner of doubt that it signified that weary travellers tired out by the long climb sat down on the summit to rest. A wise man will not attempt to translate Maori proper names, he will find it much safer to enquire the meaning thereof from some recognised Maori authority. I followed the latter course and found the origin of the name to be as follows:—Many years ago a hostile tribe made an incursion into this district and sent scouts on in front in the fond hope of surprising the owners of the land; but they, equally wary, had been quietly watching the advance of the war party from the summit of the hill, with the result that when the two scouts had reached that point they were pounced upon by the ambush and one of them killed. The body was cut up and all of that portion, from the waist upwards, and the top of the legs downwards, was carried away. The remainder was placed in such a position that it could not fail to be seen by the war party when it had gained the crest of the hill, nor could the latter avoid the conclusion that their foes were laughing at them.
In the good old days the Maoris increased rapidly, and large families were the rule. This fact will probably explain sufficiently why the Maoris were still numerous in 1840, although the previous twenty years had seen not less than 20,000 men, women, and children slain. The Maori is, and always has been, a brave, manly man, having much in his character that compels admiration, if not respect; but as a race they were cruel beyond all belief, so that I dare not write of those things of which I have heard them speak as every day occurrences. Nevertheless, war has not been an unmixed evil to the Maori, for it has enabled him to escape some of the worst evils of the Polynesian character. Infanticide has never disgraced the Maori character, whereas at Tahiti and certain other islands the offence was of such common occurrence that the people had ceased to regard it as a crime. In this respect the Maori may claim a proud pre-eminence over the other members of his race, for his love for his children cannot be doubted, though it may in part be founded on the natural desire to bring up a race of warriors who would strengthen the tribe and obtain revenge for unrequited insults or injuries; such being about the first lesson taught to a Maori child by its fond parents.- 37
It may be fairly claimed that it was their warlike character that made the Maoris an industrious people, a community that believed in the dignity of labour. The construction and maintenance of their pas must alone have occupied half their spare time, and that labour was no degradation is a fact that may be traced in many of their old proverbs, wherein the chief who was famous as a food producer is strangely enough contrasted favourably with a man who was only great as a warrior. Without doubt the shrewd Maori recognised that if their young men and women were to be strong and active they must be well fed, and that there could not be a numerous population without an ever increasing supply of food. The teachings of Malthus found no acceptance among the Maoris; their view of life and its responsibilities was sufficiently stern, but their philosophy taught them no other lesson than to increase and multiply.
Among the many peculiar customs of the Maori, it would be hard to find one more strikingly practical than that known as whakatupu tangata—causing mankind to increase. This was a custom adopted by a tribe whenever it had suffered such losses in war as to compel it to adopt a peaceful programme for many years and live in friendship with its neighbours. In such a case it must be understood that the tribe would not choose peace if they had the power to fight, but for the good and sufficient reason that they could not afford to lose any more warriors. Under such circumstances the tribe would solemnly devote itself to the good work of increasing its strength, and we may imagine that the persons most interested would be warned that they had a solemn duty to perform and that there must be no nonsense. That the unmarried girls would receive timely notice; that the license that usually prevailed in a Maori village would no longer be allowed; but that all would be expected to take part in the preparation for the great vengeance. I have known more than one instance of whakatupu tangata. Of these the most notable was that of the Ngai-Tai people of the Bay of Plenty, who for many generations had suffered from the effects of a boundary dispute with their neighbours the Whanau-a-Apanui. This dispute had resulted in many desperate battles whenever either party had ventured to occupy the debateable land, and had well nigh worn out the Ngai-Tai, who now devoted themselves to increasing the numbers of their small but brave tribe, in the fond hope of being at last in a position to occupy Tunapahore, defy the enemy to move them by force of arms, and by this - 38 method settle finally the question of tribal supremacy so far as that boundary was concerned. The custom is delightfully suggestive and practical and might be followed with advantage by any nation that had suffered great losses in war.
The Maori is nothing if not practical, and never was this quality exhibited in a more startling manner than by a certain chief of exalted rank who flourished about the beginning of the the last century. I do not give his name for the reason that he has several grandchildren living whose feelings might be hurt by my reference to this little bit of ancient history. I say might, because the Maori of modern days has clad himself with a thin veneer of civilisation and is inclined to be ashamed of the acts of his progenitors. He has of late years been known to consort with lawyers, and therefore I have an additional reason for keeping clear of possible actions for slander. But to my tale: This very distinguished chief had taken from a subject tribe a very attractive young woman as his fourth or fifth wife. Her tribe were not exactly slaves, but they hardly dared to call their souls their own, and in point of fact were only permitted to live by reason of the power and protection extended to them by our chief. It was, therefore, a great cause of rejoicing to the clan when the girl was chosen as the wife of the great man, for it meant a quiet life for many years to come. This feeling of elation and security was still further increased when in due time a son was born to the girl, so much so that the mother determined to pay a visit to her daughter and grandchild. History does not relate how she was received, or whether she made herself as obnoxious as the mothers-in-law described by American authors, but history does record that about this period there came a party of men from a distant tribe on a visit to this most potent rangatira, and that they—by way of showing their great respect—made it known that they intended to plant a field of kumara for the special benefit of their host. This was perhaps the greatest compliment that could be paid to a chief, but it was embarassing so far that the service required an appreciative return; that is, that these workmen being engaged in an almost sacred duty, must receive the very best food obtainable. As a mere matter of justice to our chief, we must suppose that no slave was available at the moment, but the honour of a really great chief demanded that there should be some kinaki (relish) served up with the ordinary potato or kumara of Maori domestic life. Fortunately our chief was a man of great decision of - 39 character; the matter was urgent, and if he had any natural feelings he stifled them most successfully and ordered the execution of his mother-in-law, who thus cemented the union of two powerful tribes by becoming the chief entree at the feast. I hope that this tale will be duly appreciated by those authors who have given the subject of mothers-in-law such careful consideration. Our chief may at least claim that he treated his subject in a purely original manner.
Even more dangerous to the old time Maori tribe than the most powerful enemy, was the possibility of a kaikiri (family quarrel) since the unity which was the one thing essential to the existance of a tribe might thereby be destroyed. So long as the tribe could hang together like one man they had but little to fear, for if at any time their affairs should become utterly desperate, there was always that last resource on which to fall back. They could, like the Okauia tribe, devote themselves to death, and then woe to the tribe who had the temerity to attack those who had raised the cry of “tukua kia mate.”
One of these little tribal interludes took place about the year 1839, and though it was not strictly a family quarrel it was a fight among hapus very closely connected. The fight is generally known as “maukaki kareao”—necks caught by supplejacks—and as usual the cause of the quarrel was simple. Tiki, a chief of the Ngati-Ruahoe family had a son born to him, and in accordance with native custom in such cases the ceremony of the Iri-iri, or as some call it, the tohi, was performed eight days after the birth. Now, on all such joyful occasions it was imperative that there should be some sort of feast to satisfy the family sense of honour, and it seems also possible that Tiki may at the time have been short of pigs, but being a man of much force of character, and therefore untroubled by scruples of conscience, he killed a pig which was the property of one, Kai-rangatira, who at that time was absent in the south fighting the battles of his tribe. On his return the injured man waited on Tiki and demanded compensation, but his arguments were altogether wanting in force, for he had very foolishly neglected to take his double-barrelled gun with him. Worse still, he was exceedingly abusive; it therefore came to pass that he not only failed to convince Tiki of the error of his ways, but was shot dead before he could amend his pleadings.
When the tidings of this affair reached the Parawhau, they, together with the Kapotai and Ngati-Maru sections of Nga-Puhi, - 40 took up arms and marched to avenge their murdered relative. En route at Kaikohe, these avengers of blood were met by a very famous prophetess named Turiwera, who warned Te Whareumu—chief of the war party—that he should go no further as he would most certainly be defeated. Te Whareumu was not to be turned from his purpose, for he replied, “Let me see the waters of Hokianga.” When the war party reached the Taheke pa they found that Tiki and his friends had fled to the forest, they being unable to muster in sufficient strength to meet the invaders in battle, the warriors were therefore reduced to expend their rage upon the growing crops and other property of the Ngai-Tupoto. This much they did in the shortest possible time, and up to a certain point behaved with great propriety; but, unfortunately for them, they were not satisfied with the vengeance already taken, and were induced by some evil spirit to march against the Mahurehure tribe, who were related to both parties, but not in any way responsible for the death of Kai-rangatira.
This tribe, known as the Mahurehure, are sometimes spoken of as the “Whanau pukuriri o Te Rape-huamotu,” viz., the fierce descendants of Te Rape-huamotu—a name given in recognition of their fierce and warlike character. These were the people with whom Te Whareumu was about to interfere, against the advice of certain friendly chiefs of Te Wairoa, Pi and Taka-horea, who recognised that the Parawhau had a grievance, and sympathised with them in consequence. These two chiefs urged their friends that the Parawhau should be allowed to destroy a small piece of the Mahurehure crops in order to compensate them for the death of their friend. To this advice the warriors declined to listen, saying, “What have we done to these people that we should hear our children crying to their mothers for food.” Then a chief rose and used this proverb: “Me kai ranei i tou kai e Tikawe, me whakarere noa ake ranei?” 5 This speech touched the pride of every member of the tribe present, for this ancestor Tikawe, though a woman, had been famous as an avenger of all insults and injuries, and for this reason the peacemakers of the tribe could only bring the warriors to consent to the destruction of a very small piece of the growing crop of potatoes, which same was duly marked off for destruction by the taua. The Mahurehure sent notice of their decision - 41 to the war party, and intimated that it would be well for all that they should keep within the boundaries of the land marked off for their operations. This warning had unfortunately but little effect on the visitors who, forthwith, crossed on to the land they had been forbidden to touch and commenced the work of destruction. This was a distinct challenge to fight, and the Mahurehure, nothing loath, sallied out of their pa and exchanged shots with the enemy, who fell back to Otatara, where an errant bullet killed Moehure, wife of Te Whareumu, but also a chieftainess of the Mahurehure. The knowledge that they had slain their own kinswoman exasperated the latter tribe, who charged home and slew Te Whareumu and about thirty men, and forced the survivors to fly in such unseemly haste that their necks were caught in the kareao vines, and hence the Mahurehure call the fight “Mau kaki kareao.”
The Maoris had many well known methods of fighting, and their order of battle was founded on well recognised lines which were the result of experience, but liable to modification in order to suit the ground or other circumstances, and give scope to the strategic genius of the war chief in command. Not even a second class lawyer has a greater love for precedent than the ordinary Maori, but never was there a people less conservative in matters of warfare. They were at all times ready to adopt new systems or modify the old ones.
The old battle formations were known by names that were really proverbial expressions. They were the Kawau-maro, the Toka-tu-moana, the Ruahine, the Manu kawhaki, and the Parera nekeneke. Of these the two former have long since fallen into disuse as too risky to employ against the pakeha, under existing conditions of warfare, but the last two are still admirably adapted to the purpose of fighting Europeans.
The Kawau maro (flight of the shag) was used only on desperate occasions and in tribal fights. For instance, a tribe rendered furious by previous losses or by the fiery eloquence of their chiefs, would solemnly devote themselves to death or victory, and forming themselves into a solid wedge, would hurl themselves on their enemy in such fashion that the defeat of one or other of the parties was inevitable within a few seconds. The benefit of this mode of fighting is obvious, for if the assailants be only possessed of the necessary courage and will charge, reckless of all results, they will not lose the day.- 42
The Toka-tu-moana (rock in the sea). This was a method of stubborn conflict in which the parties met and engaged at short range, coming or not to close quarters, as they thought fit. In this battle order it was designed that every man should take his part, whereas in the Kawau maro the success of the move-mn depended for the most part on the toas at the head of the column. The battle of Taumata-wiwi was a good instance of this form of battle, and I have often heard it said that the tribes of upper Whanganui owed their great success to the fact that they always adopted the Toka-tu-moana as against other tribes.
Of the Ruahine (old woman) I know but little, but have heard that in some respects it resembled the Kawau maro.
The Manu-kawhaki and the Rua-tupuke were those forms of warfare mostly used against the pakeha. In the former case the strategy consisted in this that the Maoris gradually retreat from one chosen position to another, until they had converted the battle into a running fight, during which they took every advantage of the ground and laid ambuscades from which two or three volleys could be fired, followed by a precipitate retreat to another favourable position, before the enemy could recover from the confusion attending unexpected volleys. The Rua-tupuke was conducted in much the same manner as the last, except that when retiring the active warriors would scatter to the left and right, and hiding in the fern and scrub, would appear at one and the same time on the flanks, rear and front of the enemy, to the great confusion and dismay of all but the most experienced warriors.
Many battles when given up as lost have at the last moment been won by the desperate courage of some chief or warrior who, collecting a few of his flying tribesmen, would place them so skilfully as to cause the pursuers to believe they were dealing with reinforcements. It was for this purpose that the great chiefs were placed in the rear of the battle, either to urge on the laggards or rally the tribe when broken, for this last could only be accomplished by a really great chief.
1 There is no doubt that the date was February 1825. The Missionary records are quite clear on this point.—Editor.
2 Should this not rather read, “slew a large party of Nga-Puhi at Orahiri—an incident which is called Huiputea from the circumstances which led to the massacre”? See J.P.S., Vol. XIII, p. 67.—Editor.
3 Blue clay—uku, a diatomaceous earth.—Editor.
4 “The descendant of the woman there need be no concealment.” Pakira was related on his mother's side only to Whakarara, and therefore might, with propriety, eat his relative on that side.
5 Are we to eat your food, oh Tikawe, or throw it away?.