Volume 47 1938 > Volume 47, No. 188 > Fragments of Ngapuhi history: Moremu-nui, by Leslie G. Kelly, p 173-181
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OF the many numerous wars in which the Ngapuhi tribe has been involved Moremu-nui is one which has occupied a foremost place in their minds even to the present day. The crushing defeat suffered by them at that time by their Ngatiwhatua enemies so affected them that twenty years were to pass before they undertook to square accounts, which they did successfully at Te Ika-a-ranganui. Stories of the Moremu-nui fight have already appeared in print, the most noteworthy being by Mr. S. Percy Smith in Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, and it is at the risk of some repetition that the present writer has attempted this article. As, however, books dealing with this great battle are now extremely difficult to obtain, it has been thought that a further account containing facts hitherto not mentioned would not be unwelcome. The date of Moremu-nui, 1807, has been quite thoroughly arrived at by Mr. Percy Smith, hence it remains only to review some of the events which led up to the final conflict. As mentioned by the above author wars between Ngapuhi and Ngatiwhatua were quite frequent. One worthy of mention is that in which Ngatiwhatua, assisted by the Waikato chief Tawhia-ki-te-rangi, invaded the southern Ngapuhi country and defeated that tribe at Tawatawhiti. I am indebted to Mr. George Graham for information collected by Mr. John McGregor dealing with the events just prior to Moremu-nui. The account was received from Tiatoa of Kaihu and states that the immediate cause of the trouble was the misconduct of a woman, the wife of a son of the Ngapuhi chief Pokaia, with a man of Ngatiwhatua. The aggrieved husband raised a war-party with the intention of punishing the offenders; but instead, was himself captured and put to death. Ngapuhi, that is, the section closely connected with Pokaia, were - 174 fully aroused at this act, and another war-party, with whom were allied some of the Roroa under their chief Taoho, set out, and at Hukeumu they captured Taukawau, whom they killed in revenge. Following this they returned to Kaihu where they abided for some days until Pokaia decided to return to his home at Hokianga. He had not, however, given up his intention to punish Ngatiwhatua, and said to Taoho, “Oh friend, here let there be broken calabashes for us both” that is, “let there be more enemy heads to be broken” but to this Taoho would not agree, saying that he desired to live in peace. His reply greatly angered Pokaia who returned to Hokianga to attend to his cultivations, and to summon assistance from among his tribesmen. To this Ngapuhi responded 370 strong, and an expedition started out to attack Taoho. They fell, on the pa Taumatini and captured it, but Taoho managed to escape and took up a position in a pa called Te Pohue belonging to Ngatikawa. Ngapuhi meanwhile returned home for reinforcements. At Te Pohue Taoho informed Ngatikawa of the loss of his pa and was advised to proceed to the sea-coast, there to attack his enemies; but to this he would not agree saying, “Do not seek after strife, wait until it comes hither within sight of the waters of the Wairoa, where it will be lost in forgetful-ness.” This philosophy was not heeded by Ngatikawa, who marched to the coast where they met Ngapuhi in battle at Omamari and were heavily defeated. Following on this Ngapuhi sent messengers to the bay of Islands, to Whanga-roa, and other tribal districts, for assistance to again attack Taoho; and large numbers of warriors, including the famous Hongi Hika, then a young man, came to join the war-party. Coming to Patapata the expedition camped for two days and then marched to the pa Te Pohue which they attacked and captured. Once again Taoho escaped and retired to Tokatoka while Pokaia and his party were forced to return home. Pokaia still thought of the death of his son which had not yet been satisfactorily avenged. and again messengers were sent to Te Rarawa, to Te Aupouri, and to the bay of Islands. This time the tribes responded as never before, there being assembled such chiefs as Te Hotete, his two sons Moka and Hongi Hika, and Tareha. Present also was Tahere and his wife Waitapu, a full sister to Hongi. Let us here digress to consider the remarks of Noka Hukanui, - 175 of Waikato. He states that while trouble was brewing in the north between Ngapuhi and Ngatiwhatua, Murupaenga, a leading chief of the latter tribe, was absent with some of his warriors in Waikato, where they had been assisting that tribe in one of their wars. It was while away on this expedition that Titahi, a tohunga belonging to the Ngati-whatua, had a dream in which he imagined that a sand-storm was blowing on the sea-coast of Kaipara driving clouds of sand before it from Maunganui. This dream was interpreted as an impending attack by Ngapuhi on Kaipara and that only by the immediate return of Murupaenga might that attack be resisted. This was the proverb of Murupaenga when he heard of the intention of Ngapuhi. “Na wai i ki ka haere mai te riri ki roto te pae o Kaipara?” (Who said that war will enter the confines of Kaipara?) He and his warriors thereupon hastened home to defend their lands. Mr. Percy Smith, in Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, says, “… Te Toko-o-te-rangi (a chief of Kaipara) made a journey to Kaikohe to consult an old priestess who lived there and to obtain from her an atua to help his tribe against Ngapuhi. He received from her a hei or tiki made of raukawa (a species of greenstone) with certain instructions as to its use. It was not long after Te Toko had returned and carried out the instructions of the old tohunga that Ngapuhi assembled under Pokaia, Hongi Hika, and others, for a descent on Kaipara, to the number of 500 warriors. At that time Ngapuhi were just beginning to acquire firearms, and a few, not many, were armed with muskets, while Ngatiwhatua had none (Kiritapu stated to the writer that no guns were used by either side at Moremu-nui). A few of the Hokianga people joined the expedition, but the bulk remained at home to watch the result. The taua came along by way of the west coast, passing through the Roroa territories which extend from near Waimamaku about two miles south of Hokianga, to Kaipara. It is probable that the Roroa people retreated before them to their relatives on the banks of the Wairoa (This is confirmed by Tiatoa whose account embodied herein informs us that Taoho and his tribe had retreated to Tokatoka on the Wairoa). We hear of no incidents of the march until the taua arrived at Waikara, just to the north of Maunganui bluff, where Ngapuhi waited some time living on the cultivations there, - 176 Someone of the taua, probably tired of living on a vegetable diet, suggested, “E, me tiki he kuao hei kinaki mo a tatou riwai” (Fetch a young one as a relish for our potatoes). A small party, acting on this hint, crossed over from Maunganui and killed a man belonging to the Roroa tribe, who was, no doubt, eaten with the riwai. The news of the coming of Ngapuhi had already been announced to the Ngatiwhatua tribe in southern Kaipara by special messengers, and preparations were made to meet the foe before they invaded the Kaipara territories. Murupaenga (just arrived from Waikato) summoned his warriors and departed by canoe for the Wairoa river, accompanied by Ngatiwhatua proper from Otakanini and its neighbourhood, under their chief Te Wana-a-riri. Tiatoa in his account (which is here very similar to Mr. Smith's) says, “Now Taoho dwelt on the citadel of the Tokotoka pa; all his tribe dwelt about the lower lands. In the evening a deep felt affection overcame the old man for his home at Maunganui. Whereupon he observed upon the summit of it a red glare; this he well knew to be a food-cooking fire of the enemy, thereupon he called out to his people, “Oh there is a war-party! Oh there is a war-party!” His people aroused themselves and waited upon their chief to direct them. At day-dawn Taoho came down and directed his people to perform a war dance to incite anger.

Ko te puru 'Tis the plug
Ko te puru 'Tis the plug
Koa a Tokatoka Verily of Tokatoka
Kia ueue Be strenuous and firm
Kia tangatangai te riri e, Let your anger be prompt and swift
E kore te riri e tae mai ki Kaipara War shall not come within Kaipara
Kia puta waitia! It shall be thrust away.
Kia toa! Be brave!
A-a-a te riri! Ah! Here is war at hand!

Taoho announced that he would now obtain revenge from the enemy and sent messengers to the Kaipara heads who thus spoke, “Come hither, oh Ngatiwhatua, here is your enemy the Ngapuhi, who are at Maunganui camping. The sun does not reach the ground” (They were so numerous they shaded the ground from the sun). Two scouts were now

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From Hamiora Maioha of Ngapuhi., Rahiri=Whakaruru, Kaharau=Houtaringa, Taurapoho=Ruakiwhiria, Tuawa, Mahia, Haumakururangi, Maromuka=Riutaia, Ngahue=Tautahi, Te Aukahui=Kaweata, Te Wairua=Waikainga, Te Paraakahuteanui, Mamangi, Tukanikani, Hatupe, Haiti, Tokahaupapa, Te Puta, Te Tahapango, Taingariu, Auwha=Pehirangi, Tuhikura, 1 Te Hotete, Waitohirangi, Hongi Hika,* Waitapu, Kaingaroa, Moka, From Mr. Geo. Graham, from Paora Tuhaere, MS. (Note: This table varies with others concerning order of ancestors. L.G.K.), Maki=Rotu, Ngawhetu=Whatua, Tauhia, Tarahawaiki, Arete Tuha, Paora Tuhaere, Taumutu=Pokopoko, Ruarangi, Tirawaikato=Ripiro, Koiaia=Whaiwhata, 2 Murupaenga, Tauhia, 3 Te Wana-a-riri, Te Wairua=Waikainga, Whakaariki=Te Aniwa, Tautahi II=Te Anuanu, Waiohua, Tupanapana=Te Kona, Pokaia, Kahuwaero, Hone Heke

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sent out. To continue Mr. Percy Smith's account, “… Nga-puhi were in force on the south side of Manganui. One of these men (a Ngatiwhatua scout) penetrated into their camp by night and moving quietly about learned that Ngapuhi intended moving on the next night to Moremu-nui and there camp, as it was the only place where was a sufficiently large opening in the cliffs to admit of so numerous a party camping. While making his way out of the camp the scout secured a basket of kao, or dried kumara, and hastening back through the night brought it to Taoho and the taua of combined Ngatiwhatua, Te Roroa and Te Uri-o-hau, then camped on the coast, as a visible proof of the story he had to tell. Murupaenga now ordered an immediate advance on Moremu-nui and before night the force was in ambush at that place. Moremu-nui is a little stream, which, after passing through the sand-dunes on top of the red clay cliffs, falls into the sea about twelve miles south of Maunganui. The perpendicular cliffs are here about 150 feet high, and below them lies the long, hard, straight stretch of Ripiro beach that extends in one straight line for fifty-two miles from Maunganui to Kaipara heads. The little valley in which the stream runs is clothed in flax and toetoe, which afforded shelter to the Ngatiwhatua host as it awaited the coming of Ngapuhi. Moremu-nui was an ambuscade, not a pitched battle in due form. Before dawn Ngatiwhatua partook of a hasty meal, and not long afterwards, just at the break of day, the Ngapuhi army appeared, and not suspecting the proximity of their opponents, at once took off their belts, laid down their weapons and proceeded to prepare a meal. While eating they were suddenly attacked by Ngatiwhatua, and for a time a scene of great confusion ensued as warriors rushed here and there to secure their weapons. Ngatiwhatua soon drove them to the open beach where an obstinate fight took place lasting for some time, as success first favoured one side then the other. The Ngapuhi guns stood them in good stead, for Ngatiwhatua had none. It is said that one of the latter was pierced by eight bullets before he fell, and even then he eventually recovered. Finally, incited by Murupaenga and Taoho, Ngatiwhatua closed on their enemies with a rush, and during the melee received a death-blow at the hands of Taoho, who killed him with his mere. Ngapuhi were panic-stricken at the death of - 178 their leader and commenced to flee. At this juncture Taoho directed Teke, an Uri-o-hau chief, to get close up to the retreating Ngapuhi, and with his weapon draw a line on the sandy beach beyond which none of the Ngatiwhatua taua were to pass in chase. The blood-relationship of the two opposing parties gave rise to this wish not to finally exterminate the vanquished host. It is said by the victors that had this not been done, the whole of Ngapuhi would have been overtaken and slain. As it was they lost some great chiefs, among whom were Pokaia, the leader and father of Hone Heke (Hamiora Maioha gives the names Hone Heke's parents as Te Kona and Tupanapana) Te Waikeri, Tukarawa, Tohi, Houawe, Ti, Haumoka and others, while the celebrated Hongi Hika only escaped by his fleetness of foot (Included among the chiefs killed were Te Hotete and his son Moka, and Tareha). Ngapuhi say they lost one hundred and fifty men out of the five hundred that composed the taua. Although the battle took place at Moremu-nui it is generally called Te Kai-a-te-karoro, because the dead were so numerous that they could not be eaten by the victors and were left for the sea-gulls. Another name for it is Te Haenga-o-te-one from the line drawn by Teke to stop the pursuit. The southern Ngatiwhatua leaders in this affair were Murupaenga, Mawete, Whakaoho, Te Wana-a-riri, Te Otene, and Maruahi. The Uri-o-hau leaders were Te Hekeua, Paikea, Puriri, Manukau, Te Toko-o-te-rangi, and Taoho. Kiritapu, my old friend of Ngapuhi, supplies the following information concerning this battle. Among the fallen was Te Hotete and Moka, father and half-brother of Hongi Hika. Hongi himself managed to escape and together with his sister Waitapu and her husband Tahere fled until pursuit was over. Resting on the summit of a high sandhill they looked back and observed their enemies preparing ovens and dragging the bodies of the slain to the fires. All were deeply downcast and grieved for Te Hotete and Moka, whose bodies they had been forced to leave to the mercy of their enemies. Waitapu was particularly distraught and kept looking longingly to where she knew the bodies of her father and brother lay. Finally she turned to Hongi and said, “Haere e hoki hei putanga tangata” (Go back again and produce men). To her husband she said, “Haere ki ta taua tamaiti hei putanga tangata” (Go to our son and produce - 179 more men). Turning, she commenced to walk back to the scene of the battle saying as she did so, “E hoki ana ahau hei whariki mo aku matua” (I am returning as a sleeping mat for my parents) for her father and brother. As Hongi and Tahere watched her walking slowly back a terrible scene was unfolded before their eyes. When Ngatiwhatua observed her they came out to meet her with cries of triumph. Seizing her they tore her clothes from her body and abused the poor girl in terrible fashion. Throwing her on the beach they seized her legs and pulling them apart, hurled sand in derision over her body, after which they dragged her away to the ovens and threw her alive on to the hot stones. What terrible heart-burnings her loved ones must have suffered as they watched, helplessly, from the nearby hilltop! There-upon Hongi swore a terrible vengeance against Ngatiwhatua and even though many years were to pass, he amply avenged his lost relatives at Te Ika-a-ranganui. The defeat at Moremu-nui was never forgotten, and when the opportunity presented itself to visit England Hongi promptly seized it returning with large numbers of muskets. One of these muskets he named Teke-tanumia in order that the horrible fate of his sister Waitapu should be ever present in the minds of his people. In defence of Hongi, for he has often been described as a blood-thirsty savage who fought merely for the love of war, it is well to mention that most of his expeditions were prompted by the desire to avenge the deaths of near relations killed by enemy tribes. His attack on Waikato is stated by Kiritapu to have been undertaken to punish the Tainui tribes for the killing of Te Haranui, a nephew of his. Some years before a Ngati-tahinga chief named Te Ao-o-te-rangi had visited the north where he enquired for the descendants of Reitu, a noted woman of Waikato who had some generations before gone to Ngapuhi and there married Ueoneone. The result of this visit was that Te Ao-o-te-rangi returned bringing with him this young man Te Haranui who, unfortunately for himself, took part at a later date in one of the local wars at Kawhia and was killed at Te Waro, a place on the foreshore. In spite of the fact that Te Haranui had taken part in this war of his own free will, his death was blamed on Waikato, and Hongi determined to punish that tribe for the killing of his relative. A similar reason took Hongi to the Rotorua country, for - 180 these people had, at the instigation of Te Rauparaha, killed another nephew of his in the person of Te Pae-o-te-rangi. He was killed on Motutawa island, in lake Rotokakahi.

Table 3, a whakapapa supplied by Hami Maioha, shows the relationship between Hone Heke and Pokaia. In Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century the statement is made that Pokaia (killed at Moremu-nui) was the father of Hone Heke. As the error has been repeated, the correction is inserted here. Hami Maioha suggests that Percy Smith possibly took the term matua to mean his actual parent, whereas he was an uncle.

Aue, aue, kau ana au ki te kapa rangatira ki te tira o te kakahi,
Me mihi me aha tenei au ka whakaaro rangi kau,
E tomina nei te korokoro ko 'Puhi, ko Ngai-Tawake te akinga iho a te niho e-e,
E wawa nei taku mimi he wai tohi mauri no te Koikoi,
Whakataha koe e Moka tukua mai Hare kia kai i tana matua
Kihai aku hoa i hapara ki Moremunui ka kai te wahine
Kia tito mai ai koe e 'pokokohua ki to tumaki angaanga whenua,
Kia tapa mai ai koe ki to ariki ka kai tapairu,
Na o pu ra koe i toa. I-i.
I mawhiti atu Hongi i te umu i te Kai-a-te-karoro,
Tena ra Morunga te tangata i kainga ai te kete paka nui
Oioi o roro ki Ripiro. I-i.
Mei tupu ko te whana e kakawe ngatahi taua i te awatea, he kai tuku rua,
Kaati ra e ka upa hau i a Tautari. I-i.
E tuhera nei te riu o Tareha ko te whakataku o Kaipara, he kai mate ora.
Tere pokai ana nga mohimohi o te Wairoa, te hokowhitu a te Kapotai
Tarure ki te taha ko Turikatuku ko te wahine taki wairua,
I riro hau kore atu aku hoa. I-i.
Alas, alas, I grieve alone for the ranks of leaders, the company of chiefs,
I must greet, but what? Here am I with nought but deep felt thoughts.
Hungers now the throat, 'tis Puhi 4 and Ngai-Tawake 5 the clashing of the teeth.
Scattered will be my urine, a sacred water for Koikoi 6 (to perform his battle rites)
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Stand aside oh Moka 7 and hither release Hare 8
To feast upon his parent.
'Twas not my friends who cut and slashed at Moremunui 9 (who) ate the woman 10
That lies you might tell oh boiled head to your high chief,
A recitation for you to make to your chieftain,
Eaten was the high-born girl. 11
'Twas your guns that made you brave.
Hongi 12 leaped from the oven at Te Kai-a-te-karoro 13
That was Morunga 14 the man who ate the large basket of cooked food.
Shaken were your brains at Ripiro. 15
According to the beginning it was the determined united charge in the morning,
A food twice given.
Enough of that, I am satisfied by Tautari 16
Open is the belly of Tareha 17, 'tis the threat of Kaipara,
A life and death food.
Moving swiftly are the mohimohi fish of the Wairoa 18
The war party of the Kapotai 19
Languishing listlessly to the side is Turikatuku 20
The spirit challenging woman.
Gone, without fame, are my friends.

The above song was actually composed after the battle of Te Ika-a-ranganui and has been included because of the numerous references contained therein to Moremu-nui.

1   Killed at Moremunui.
2   Murupaenga, leader of Ngatiwhatua at Moremunui.
3   Te Wana-a-riri, a southern Ngatiwhatua leader.
4   Puhi, short for Ngapuhi.
5   Ngai-Tawake, principal sub-tribe of Ngapuhi.
6   Koikoi, a noted tohunga and warrior of Ngapuhi.
7   Moka, elder half-brother of Hongi who fell at Moremunui.
8   Hare, short for Hare Hongi, son of Hongi Hika and who was killed at Te Ika-a-ranganui.
9   Moremunui, great battle in which Ngapuhi were defeated by Ngatiwhatua.
10   References to the eating of Waitapu at Moremunui.
11   References to the eating of Waitapu at Moremunui.
12   Hongi, noted Ngapuhi leader.
13   Te Kai-a-te-karoro, another name for Moremunui.
14   Morunga, a man's name.
15   Ripiro, beach on west coast where Moremunui was fought.
16   Tautari, a Ngapuhi chief.
17   Tareha, also known as Kaiteke, a Ngapuhi chief.
18   Wairoa, the Northern Wairoa river.
19   Kapotai, a sub-tribe of Ngapuhi (from Waikare district).
20  Turikatuku, blind wife of Hongi Hika and mother of Hare Hongi.