Volume 25 1916 > Volume 25, No. 97 > History of Ngati-Kahu-ngunu. Chapter V., by T. W. Downes, p 1-8
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(Continued from Vol. XXIV., page 129)

EARLY in the 19th Century, probably about the year 1810, the Ngati-Kahu-ngunu in conjunction with Ngati-Apa of Lower Rangi-tikei made an incursion into Whanga-nui territory. The following is an account of what took place:—

A section of Ngati-Apa was badly beaten in a skirmish at the Pohangina River, near the Manawatu Gorge, by the Rangi-Tane tribe, and among the prisoners taken by that tribe was a renowned Ngati-Apa chief named Te Ahuru. (Te Ahuru was afterwards killed at Kapiti when the combined tribes made their unsuccessful attack on Te Rau-paraha in or about 1824. 1) Some of those who escaped from the Rangi-Tane warriors fled back to Rangi-tikei where they spread the news of their defeat, and raised a relief party to try and save their chief. They arrived at Pohangina in the nick of time, for the ovens were already heated, and the prisoners were lined up for their final exit, while the Rangi-Tane people were rejoicing and performing their victorious haka. Taking their late victors unawares, Ngati-Apa had little or no difficulty in turning the tables, and before many minutes were over the ovens were steaming, but they did not contain the prisoners who built them.


Te Ahuru at once sent messengers to Wai-totara and Patea asking the Nga-Rauru to assist him in taking further utu, or payment. I do not know what relationship existed between these tribes and Ngati-Apa at this time, but the Northern Natives immediately responded, and sent two hundred fighting men, besides a number of slaves bearing great quantities of food. When Nga-Rauru came to the Whanga-nui river, Taka-rangi, the great Whanga-nui leader (who was afterwards - 2 killed at Kohuru-po by Ngati-Apa), heard that the Nga-Rauru people were in his territory, and he said: “What are these people doing here? I will not allow them to carry food over me.” He then sent out his men and, after a short skirmish, Nga-Rauru retired to their own district. When Ngati-Apa heard that Taka-rangi had intercepted those who were coming to his assistance, they set out and took a fishing pa on the Kai-toke lake, about two miles from Whanga-nui. The Whanga-nui people not to be outdone, travelled to Rangi-tikei, where they took the pa at Pou-rewa, killed a chief called Te Haha-o-te-rangi, and then retired.

Then said Te Ahuru to his people: “This thing is getting serious, we must have help. I have heard of the bravery of Oraunga of Mua-upoko, possibly he will help us to punish Whanga-nui and Rangi-Tane.” So he went to Wai-were (Waiwiri? at Papaitonga), at Horo-whenua, and laid his views and intentions before Te Oraunga; but that careful chief said, “No, I am afraid I cannot help you, for the taniwha you wish to destroy has two heads—i.e., Whanga-nui and Rangi-Tane. If it had only one I would willingly help. My advice is, go on to Pori-rua; Te Huke-o-tungia is there, and probably he will assist.” So Te Ahuru went on to Pori-rua harbour as directed, but the chief at that place said, “No, I cannot help; but I will visit Nga-kaka-waha-nui of Ngati-Kahu-ngunu with you, and if these chiefs are agreeable to assist you, then I will join with them.”

After hearing all Te Ahuru and his friend had to say, Te Whata-horo and Te Kaka-hou (father of Tu-te-pakihi-rangi) the Ngati-Kahungunu chiefs of Wai-rarapa replied, “Yes, we will help you. Go back to Rangi-tikei as fast as you can, gather food in abundance, and when we think you are ready we will join you.” As soon as Te Ahuru had departed, Whata-horo said to his friend, “Had we not better follow at once, before Whanga-nui hears of our approach, and has time to gather?” So they started off from Wai-rapa with a great army of over three hundred men, gathered from the Rakai-whakairo, the Ngati-Kahukura-a-whitia, the Hamua and the Ngati-Moe sub-tribes, all branches of the great Ngati-Kahu-ngunu.

When Te Ahuru reached Rangi-tikei, he arranged to have supplies of food ready, and sent forward both men and stores to Whangaehu. No sooner had he mobilised at that place than he saw a great war-party approaching from the south. His people were much afraid at first, but their apprehensions gave place to joy when they found that the taua was led by their Wai-rarapa friends. After the customary feast had been disposed of, a war-dance was executed, during the excitement of which some of the brave fellows advised going on to Whanga-nui that night. Te Ahuru opposed this, for he wished to give the Ngati-Kahu-ngunu men time for a rest. However, Tui, a great tohunga travelling with the Wai-rarapa taua, settled the dispute - 3 by saying, “We will go now, for even at this moment the Whanga-nui people are preparing to resist us, and to-morrow we will meet them and be victorious.”

The prophecy (matakite) by which Tui excited the taua to go on:—

Tera ia te ata taua takiri ana mai,
Kai Tongariro e, ko te tuamaru,
E whakakaka ra i ona rau,
Kia riro mai ko Tu-kapua
Kia riro mai ana ko Huru-tara
Kia whakaturia iho te kohu ka kiki mai
Ka titiro he ure ngorengore no Pakihi
No muri ka whati te piki
No Tura kai te awatea,
Kua moea e au ki te po
E tu ana Kai-wharawhara
Ka nunumi kai Ota-aue
Kia tangi mai te karoro, aue!
Taku kai he piro tangata
E, he wai ka kato te wai o Whanga-nui
Kai u kei uta ka huri Taikoria
Ka huri ki Waiwiri
Hara mai ai ona rau
E rua, ki au kakari ai e
Ruru e, Ruru e, kai taraha e i.
Lo, the morn of wrath is dawning,
At Tongariro the hundred are being
Incited to defeat Tu-kapua 2 and Huru-tara,*
Enveloped by the mist they will assemble
For the fight. They will look on us with disdain,
Unworthy to fight against; but they will be
Defeated at daylight.
At night I dreamt—I beheld
Another victory at Kai-wharawhara, 3
They were also overwhelmed at Ota-aue, 4
Causing the sea-gull to scream, “Aue!” alas!
Oh! my meat is the stench of human corpses,
Held back is the wave of Whanga-nui
Lest it should overflow Taikoria 5
And also flood Wai-wiri 6
The hundred attacked me in vain.
Two to one against me I defeated them
And glorious was my victory.
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So they started off the same night, taking the common road by the sea-beach, and just as day was breaking they ran right into the Whanga-nui taua at Kai-wharawhara (the South Spit, Whanga-nui river). Under the excitement of the recent haka, and encouraged by the prophecy of their tohunga, the invaders made short work of the surprized Whanga-nui people, and before very long Nga-Kaka-waha-nui were counting the spoil. They made a pile of the dead men four high, laying them crossways as children cross and recross their hands in play, and then, as soon as the heap was completed, Te Whata-horo said to Te Ahuru, “Here is your utu. Is it enough?” Then the Ngati-Kahu-ngunu leaders gave the whole heap to Ngati-Apa.

While the feast was going on, Tui, the tohunga, got up and sang another song, in which he described other places that would be taken, and told the names of the chiefs to be killed. So the party, taking his advice, advanced, bent on mischief. They attacked the pa Ota-aue (on the Awa-rua creek, about a mile below Putiki at Whanga-nui), where they captured the inhabitants, and sent them as slaves, under escort, to Rangi-tikei. They also took the Kai-matira pa, now known as Sparrow Cliff, and then travelled on to besiege the strong pa at Pari-kino, named Tuke-a-Maui, which was known to be full of people. It took the war-party several days to effect an entrance, but eventually breeches were made in the palisading by tying flax ropes to the middle of short pieces of wood, throwing them over, and then pulling them down. After this victory the taua retired, carrying with them many slaves, and satisfied that at least one of the taniwha's heads had been considerably damaged. (The old pa, Tuke-a-Maui, stood on the ridge below Kai-tangata, the old name of the pa now called Pari-kino. Pari-kino was a pa on the cliff side of the river, opposite Kai-tangata.)


Now for the other taniwha's head. Flushed with their recent conquests, Te Ahuru now decided to give his friends a brush with Rangi-Tane; so he again gathered all his force of Ngati-Apa, and joining with Ngati-Kahu-ngunu they marched, having previously sent out spies, two by two, who were to hunt the district, and let the main body know where the most people had congregated. Soon the scouts returned with their report to Oringi (near Tahora-iti, Hawkes Bay), which the taua had now reached, and informed the leaders that all the people in the district had vacated the small pas and fled to Rai-kapua, a strongly fortified position on the upper Manawa-tu river, in the seventy-mile bush, having a high, inaccessible cliff immediately behind it. So the war-party laid siege to this pa, and carried on their operations with such fury, that in a very short space an entrance was gained, and the slaughter of the defenders commenced. Altogether some two hundred poor wretches were killed, - 5 and nearly half that number taken as slaves; and again the dead were piled up in a whata, or heap, four deep, with the captives on top. Then said Whata-horo to Te Ahuru, “There is your second payment. Divide this pile into two equal parts, and bind the dead on the shoulders of the living.” So he gave half of the captures to the Ngati-Apa party and kept half himself, and then the two tribes separated, each forcing their slaves to carry home their dead comrades, who were no doubt destined to grace the board at the first feast. Thus was the taniwha's second head destroyed.

Tui's matakite at the capture of Rai-kapua:—

Takoto paranga he matuku
Takoto paranga he matuku
Ka whaterotero mai te arero huare ki waho
Hora ana te huruhuru o tona ure
Te hokinga mai o te parekura i te koru ra,
Ahaha he pane whiti, ahaha he pane taonga,
He niho tete mai i runga o te turuturu,
A taina a, he aha ka nene ka tangi koe e.

As far as the writer is aware this was the only occasion that Ngati-Kahu-ngunu fought with the Whanga-nui tribes.


The next leader of note to arise was a man named Nuku-pewapewa, who rose to his position as chief owing to his strength as a warrior and ability as a general.

Family Tree. 22 Tamatea-ariki (Leader of the ‘Takitimu’ migration to New Zealand), Kahu-ngunu-matangi-rau, 20 Kahu-kura-nui, Rakai-hiku-roa, Hine-te-raraku, Rakai-moari, Kahu-kura-mango, Humaria, Tatai-aho, Tu-wai-rau, Rakai-te-kura, Te Wai-pua, 10 Tu-tapora,
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Family Tree. Te Whakumu, Tahi-a-rangi, Motuhia, Te Ahi, 5 Nuku-tamaroro, Nuku-pewapewa

It is said that when Nuku was a little lad he developed an extraordinary gift of mimicry, which led him into many a scrape, for his fellows, especially those of high birth, did not like to be mocked, and so young Nuku very often had to put up with bruised face and tattered limbs; but the result of this jesting was that he quickly learned to protect himself, and developed into a great fighter, so that none of his people could stand against him in single combat. Thus he became the acknowledged leader of his people and captain of the war-parties.

When he had fully reached man's estate his first act was to build a pa strong enough to resist all attacks, and with this in view he chose a point on the Rua-mahanga river, Wairarapa (about two miles from Mr. Morrison's place, and opposite Mr. Wall's station). This naturally strong position, nearly encircled as it is by the river-cliffs, he carefully fenced all round with high protective works, and across the neck of the peninsula he ran two rows of palisading, about half a chain apart, with a deep meat between. But his crowning work was carrying an underground passage from the middle of the pa to the moat, and from thence inland. In this way he could send a messenger unseen from the moat down the cliffs by an aka-tokai vine, which was always kept handy; or, if pressed very hard, he and his company could escape unseen by way of the underground passage, the outlet of which was hidden by earth and vines in a dark bush. This pa was called Nga-mahanga (twins), because of the underground roads, and was large enough to contain some small kumara plantations, as well as all the stores, and a garrison of one hundred men. He kept one hundred picked men in the pa, because he could move quickly with a small company, and he did not need to make so much provision for food. Occasionally he had a few more men, but he endeavoured to keep his strength about one hundred. This pa was never taken.

His first experience of actual warfare was at the Maunga-raki pa, on the Wainuioru River, in the Wairarapa district, which place he took, though considered by all to be impregnable. There was no road - 7 down the cliff to the pa. There stood Nuku with his hundred men above, looking down. Ah! but he had to be satisfied with a look, for he could not get down. So thought the people of the pa, and slept with the thought of their usual security. But Nuku considered, and then he acted. He built a huge raupo kite, something in the shape of a bird with great extended wings, and during the darkness of night he fastened one of his men to this manu and floated him over the cliff by means of a long cord into the pa below. The man quietly opened the gates, and when all was ready, at a given signal, Nuku let down his men, four and five together, by means of a tokai vine used as a rope, and before morning the pa was taken. The people of the pa were the Ngati-Hau-moana, the Ngati-Waitaha and the Ngati-Tama-wahine, under the chiefs Toko-te-rangi and Haupapa-o-te-rangi, the latter being captured. When taken, the conqueror spread his mat on the ground and invited Haupapa-o-te-rangi to sit upon it, which he did, thus saving his own life and upwards of four hundred of his people.

His next exploit was at the Oruhi pa (at the mouth of the Whareama River, near Castle Point). Two men of the Hamua (a subtribe of the Ngati-Kahu-ngunu), named Hautuhi and Tohi-te-oru-rangi, were killed, and a great army of two thousand men gathered together to obtain utu.

They reached the Oruhi pa, but as the place was well fortified and protected they camped for several days, unable to effect an entrance. Then a chief named Te Hiha called out that he would challenge the people of the pa to combat; so he selected three hundred of his bravest men, and another chief called Rangi-hui-nuku selected two hundred more, making five hundred in all, and this party separated from the main body and advanced, in the hope that their challenge would be accepted. (Te Hiha, of the Ngati-Ira tribe, was a great warrior who did much fighting at Wairarapa; he was the author of the following saying:—

Ma te huruhuru te manu ha rere,
He ao te rangi ka uhia,
He rango te waka ka mania.
By feathers does the bird fly,
By clouds are the heavens covered,
By skids does the canoe slide along.

The modern meaning of which is, “Money is the sinews of war.”)

A rough idea of Te Hiha's period may be obtained from the following genealogical table:—

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Family Tree. Te Hiha, Te Weranga, Hine-tarewa, Hine-ki-runga-o-te-rangi, Whanake=Tama-i-rangi, Tarewa=Te Kekerengu, Te Miha-o-te-rangi, Ratuna, Meiha Keepa (named after Major Kemp), Te Ruhi=Aporo-te-kumeroa (about 55 years old, 1909)

The two challenging chiefs were not disappointed. Tu-te-whaka-rua-a-nga-rangi, the leading chief in the pa, likewise selected five hundred of his best men, and formed up to meet the invaders. Not only did he meet them, but he beat them, and drove them into the river; indeed, if it had not been for the river they would all have been killed; as it was many saved themselves by swimming across. Both the assaulting chiefs escaped, but Te Hiha was afterwards known as Te Hiha-moumou-tangata (Te Hiha, waster of mankind).

Now, although this portion of the army was badly beaten, there were still the fifteen hundred men under Nuku who were very anxious to strike immediately, and so obtain utu for their late companions. But Nuku said, “No, wait. When night comes lay ambuscades in the flax on both sides of the track, and in the morning you will find utu enough and to spare.” When night fell Nuku sent his companions up the hill, and placed them in various divisions in hiding on both sides of the track leading from the pa to the camp, which was about two miles distant, and when morning broke he sent another three hundred men with the apparent intention of attacking the pa.

Now, when Tu-te-whakarua saw the three hundred approaching, he sent out six hundred of his best men to meet them, and as Nuku's company drew near the pa, the parties met, and a genaral scramble took place. Then Nuku retreated towards his camp, and as though defeated, whilst all the rest of the people in the pa rushed out to join in the pursuit and participate in the victory, for the people of Oruhi were hungry; they had been besieged for several days, and now they thought the opportunity to obtain provisions was before them. But they knew not of Nuku's men in hiding, who waited till the people of the pa were busy pursuing, and then they took them in the rear. Great was the killing. And now the name of Nuku was established, and his name was spoken everywhere.

1   See “History and Traditions of the Taranaki Coast,” p. 396.
2   Tu-kapua and Huru-tara, men of the Wairarapa taua.
3   Kai-wharawhara, South Spit, Whanga-nui, where the battle took place.
4   Ota-aue, on the Awa-rua creek below Putiki. Taken by Te Ahuru.
5   Tai-koria, an old pa at Carnarvon.
6   Wai-wiri, the lake usually known as Papai-tonga.