The Land of Tara and they who settled it, by Elsdon Best
The Plucked Parakeet of Hataitai. pp. 64
In the days that lie behind, a certain small hamlet of the sons of Ira, situated on the Hataitai peninsula, was surprised by the sudden appearance of a party of raiders of the Rangitane and Ngati-Apa clans of Rangi-tikei, under a chief named Pae-ngahuru. At the very moment that the alarm was given, the chief of the hamlet was about to partake of a meal. The food was just being taken from the steam oven, and was too hot to be eaten hurriedly. Feeling the want of a little light refreshment ere he entered the fray, our worthy chief looked round for some substitute. Seeing some plucked but uncooked parakeets suspended from a food stage hard by, he seized several of them and ate them as he proceeded to meet the enemy. In the light that ensued he succeeded in killing the leader Pae-ngahuru, and when about to despatch him, he cried : - " You cannot prevail against the man of the kakariki hitia (plucked parakeet)."
To commemorate the above incident the hamlet was renamed Kakariki-hutia, or Plucked Parakeet, which name it retained until the descendants of Ira the Heart Eater were driven from the district.
The Hao-Whenua Earthquake. Motu-Kairangi becomes a Peninsula. circa 1460(The Miramar Peninsula formed) pp. 64-66
We have seen that, when Tara and his followers settled in this district, the hills of Miramar formed an island that was named Motu-kairangi by the settlers. When Capt. Cook lay off the Heads, November 2nd, 1773, that island had become a peninsula. At some intervening time the land has been raised, and Te Awa-a-Taia (the Channel of Taia) or Kilbirnie Channel, had given place to an isthmus.
According to the above mentioned tradition the change was wrought by a severe earthquake shock that occurred in the time of Te Ao-haere-tahi, who flourished eighteen generations ago. This would be a severer shock than that at of 1855 which raised land about Wellington several feet. It is possible that the former shock was the cause of the raised sea beaches that are so marked a feature of the present coast line. The native account says that the earthquake of the
fifteenth century was known as Hao-whenua, on account of the alteration it caused in the configuration of the land. One would have thought such a name more applicable to a shock that destroyed or swallowed up a land surface, hence one is inclined to look upon Hao-whenua with the cold eye of suspicion.
Table allowing descent of a Ngati-Ira family from Te Ao-haere-tahi:
We must, however, admit that the land here has been uplifted in recent times, and the writer has noted, in days gone by, what may possibly be accepted as evidence of a sudden uplift of the isthmus. The removal of sand by wind after the destruction of the scrub, etc., exposed a bed of mussel shells occupying apparently their original position. These shells had certainly never been opened by man, and did not represent a midden of neolithic man. They must have been protected by the sand covering for a long time.
Somes Island. Matiu pp. 66-67
This name was formerly spelt as Soames. The remains of two old fortified villages of small extent were visible on the island forty years ago. One was situated on the site of the Immigration Barracks, now (1917) occupied by German prisoners and their guards. No sign of it now remains save a shell midden, overgrown with grass, exposed by a road cutting. The other hamlet was situated on the point at the northern end of the isle, where signs of earthworks are still to be seen, as also a talus midden. This pa was called Te Moana-a-kura, while the upper one was named Hao-whenua. They are said to have been erected by Ngati-Ira, under Te Rongo-tu-mamao and others, but probably Ngai-Tara had stockaded hamlets there before that time. Small cultivations of kumara are said to have been made on the upper part of the island in former times. The supply of fresh water on the island, to judge by present conditions in summer, could scarcely have been satisfactory.
Mr. Drummond tells us that: - The first tuatara brought under public notice in England was found on Somes Island, Wellington Harbour, seventy-five years ago." (See "Auckland Weekly News," August 30th, 1917.) In the seventies the late Mr. A. Hamilton found a live tuatara on the same island, but the writer knows of none having been seen there since. The same scientist found tuatara and moa remains on the Kilbirnie isthmus, or at its western margin.
About the year 1848, four tuatara were caught on Mt. Victoria, and two in the Hutt Valley. In 1864 several were caught at Makara. In 1842 one was found at Evan's Bay.
The Ngati-Awa folk seem to have had a hamlet on Somes Island, and natives were living there as late as 1835. The late Mr. Arthur Drake visited the island about the year 1868, and seeing a musket barrel protruding from the earth, unearthed about a dozen old-fashioned musket barrels, from which all woodwork had decayed. These were probably buried by Ngati-Awa.
Ward Island. Makaro pp. 67-68
This small island has been used as a place of refuge many times by the various tribes that have occupied this district. There are no signs of any earthwork or other defences on it, but its sides are precipitous and could be easily defended in the days when missile weapons were almost unknown in the Land of Tara. This isle, however, was not occupied as a stronghold for defence, so far as we know, but merely as a safe refuge for non-combatants from invaders not provided with canoes. Enemy forces raiding this district were nearly always composed of West Coast tribes, from places north of Pae-kakariki. These folk preferred marching on this district to trusting themselves to the treacherous waters of Raukawa (Cook Straits). Local natives had much less to fear from the clans of Wai-rarapa, for they were more closely related to them.
The most serious drawback to a sojourn on Makaro would be lack of fresh water ; this would have to be procured from the mainland, or from the feeble springs on Matiu. It is probable that these isles were used more as refuges, since Motu-kairangi became a peninsula, then they were prior to that time.
The following notes on the island of Makaro were contributed by my late friend Paul Freyberg, in 1913, when he formed one of the party that planted trees on the isle. The east side of the isle is perhaps seventy feet in height, but the western side is somewhat higher, the surface of the summit shows a loamy soil, and slopes downward from west to east. Two series of old time terracings are seen, similar to those of Tarakena, one at the south end is composed of five small terraces facing about south-east, while the other, of four small terraces, is in the central part of the isle, and faces east. These little terraced formations undoubtedly represent hut sites of former times. Other traces of former occupation seen were oven stones on the summit, and shell refuse at the brow of the bluff. A portion of the blade of a greenstone (nephrite) adze was found at the base of the cliff. A stone adze dug up on the summit is made from a form of slate, the cutting edge is oblique, and the tool has been ground, though marks of chipping are not ground out.
Tapu-te-Ranga. The Islet at Island Bay pp. 68
This little island is also said to have served as a refuge for local natives when raided by enemies. It was probably named after Watchman Isle, Napier inner harbour, which bears the same native name, but the origin of the name is said to date from the time of Tamatea-ariki-nui, the Polynesian voyager, who sailed hither from Eastern Polynesia, and travelled much round these shores some five centuries ago. For some unexplained purpose he is said to have carried about with him, in a calabash, three lizards named Tapu-te-ranga, Pohokura aud Puke-o-kahu. The first named, after which the island was called Tapu-te-ranga, escaped at Ahuriri (Napier). But the name is a very old one in Maori myth, and it is said to have been the name of the site of the famed tapu house Wharekura, which stood at Te Hono-i-wairua in the old homeland of the Maori.
One native authority says that the isle was a tapu place formerly, and that no one could land on it unless such tapu had been lifted. Being one of the Ngati-Awa new-comers, he is not likely to have known much about the place. Some of Ngati-Ira are said to have sought a refuge there from the Amio-whenua raiders from Waikato, and also from the Nga-Puhi raiders, of whom more anon.
White, who seems to have copied Crawford's account of native affairs at Hataitai, without acknowledgment, states that there was a pa named Tapu-te-rangi at the north-west point of the peninsula, (See "Ancient History of the Maori," Vol.3, p. 180.) Crawford gives Tapu-te-rangi as the name of a village on the isthmus. The writer has been unable to gain any information concerning these two places from either Ngati-Awa or the Wai-rarapa natives.
Some years ago a correspondent of the "Evening Post" mentioned Perangoe as a name of the above islet, but this is an error. Apparently this name was taken from a list of coastal place names mentioned in the N.Z. Company's local land purchases, in which occur the names Te Riniarap (Te Rimurapa), Oberangoe, Omeri (Omere), etc., which shows this weird name to be a corrupted form of some Ngati-Awa place name between Sinclair Head and Cape Tarawhiti.
Ngati-Rangi attack Ngati-Ira at Paua-Tahanui. pp. 69
The lands of Ngati-Ira extended as far as Pukerua, north of Porirua, where they had an outlying stockaded village at the summit of the cliff overlooking the beach on the left bank of the Wai-mapihi stream. The Ngati-Toa hamlet of last century seems to have been located on the terrace on the northern side of the stream.
The Ngati-Rangi clan, occupying Pae-kakariki, Parapara-umu and other places, claimed ownership of Pukerua hence they resolved to attack Ngati-Ira at that place. The force assembled at Nga Mahanga, a pa situated at Parapara-umu, where plans were laid for the advance against Pukerua. At this time there happened to be in the village a Rangitane slave named Noho-koko, who, hearing of the proposed foray, resolved to warn Ngati-Ira. Under cover of night he left Nga Mahanga and made his way along the beach to Pukerua, where he warned the people of the coming trouble. He was asked : - " By what route are they coming?" "They will advance by way of the Po-awha Ridge, Horokiri and Paua-tahanui, so as not to be seen, and in order to attack you in the rear."
The Puke-rua folk resolved to abandon their home village, march to Pari-rua, where assistance could be obtained, and waylay the raiders on their march. They lay in ambush beside the track in the lower part of the Horokiri (Horokiwi) valley, not far from Paua-tahanui. When the Ngati-Rangi force, under the chiefs Paetaka and Horoiwi reached this point, it was attacked, defeated and dispersed, whereupon the survivors retreated to their homes with commendable promptness. And Ngati-Ira held the Porirua district until the day on which they saw, afar off on the shining sands of Wainui, the gun fighters from the north marching down the long reach of Te One-ahuahu-a-Manaia to bring to a close the stone age period at the Great Harbour of Tara.
The even tenor of life was occasionally disturbed in the days of the māna maori by minor quarrels and fights between different divisions of a tribe. Thus, as an example - a man named Pakapaka-huakai, of the Kahukura-awhitia clan, became insane, and died at a place since known by his name. One Toko, of the Ngati-Rangi, living at Pa Whakataka, near the junction of the Mangaroa and Heretaunga (Hutt) rivers, was accused of having slain Paka by witchcraft, hence Kahukura attacked Ngati-Rangi at that pa, expelled them, and seized the Pakura-tahi lands as far as Te-Rua-tutu, in order to settle the account.
The days of Ngati-Ira at the Great Harbour of Tara, are now drawing to a close, and their long occupation of the district is about to be concluded by means of what they termed the rakau kino or evil weapon, the musket of the white man.
Captain Cook, who saw some of Ngati-Ira at Queen Charlotte Sound, says little concerning them, but Parkinson remarks: - "We observed a great difference between the inhabitants on the side north of Cook Straits, and those of the south. The former are tall, well limbed, clever fellows, have a deal of tattoo and plenty of good cloaths; but the latter are a set of poor wretches, who, though strong, are stinted in their growth, and seem to want the spirit of sprightliness of the northern Indians. Few of them are tattooed, or have their heads oiled, or tied up ; and their canoes are mean."
Costumes des naturels du Cap Palliser; costumes des naturels de detroit de Cook, lithograph by Louis Sainson, 1833. Alexander Turnbull Librarary Reference number: C-036-026.
Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
The Desolation of Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara. Ngati-Ira attacked by gun fighters. pp. 70-75
During the years 1819-20 a strong force of northern natives of Nga-Puhi, Ngati-Whatua, and Ngati-Toa, under Patuone, Tuwhare, Te Rau-paraha, Te Rangi-haeata, and other chiefs, made a long raid down the west coast as far as Wellington Harbour and Wai-rarapa. This foray occupied about a year, and when the force returned home it was minus hundreds of its members. These invaders carried with them a sufficient number of muskets to terrify and unnerve the hapless natives who were ignorant of firearms, and looked upon them as being something supernatural. The following account of the operations of these raiders in the Wellington district was narrated by one of the party, and preserved by the late Mr John White.
On arriving at the Harbour of Tara the force camped at Pipitea, but soon after many of the young men, finding the discipline enforced by the older warriors irksome, moved to Te Aro, where they established a camp of their own. Some of them went off on a food hunting expedition toward Cape Tarawhiti, but were attacked by Ngati-Ira and lost many men. A force sent from Pipitea to avenge this loss was, says the narrator, slain to a man. Apparently the rakau maori (native weapons) had not lost their effectiveness in forests and rugged country.
While encamped at Pipitea the invaders found the land of Tara by no means prolific in the way of food supplies, rations ran short, hence they were reduced to eating their prisoners, of whom a considerable number had been captured on the journey down the west coast. The narrator remarks that fifteen of his own slaves were so disposed of, each chief contributing one or more as required, until the supply ran short. The narrator proceeds : - "We then marched round the western side of the harbour as far as the mouth of the (Hutt) river, where we made rafts, and fifty of our men crossed over to attack the pa on the eastern side, but they were beaten off and some of them were slain, their bodies being eaten by the people of the fort. One of our chiefs also was here wounded, and soon died. The folk of the pa then deserted the place and retreated to Wairarapa, so we crossed the Wai-o-Rotu (evidently a name for the Hutt river) on rafts, pursued those people for three days, attacked and defeated them, taking many prisoners. We then returned to the place where our chief had been wounded, where we killed our prisoners to provide a funeral feast. We cut off the head of our dead chief and dried it, that we might take it home with us; the body was buried. While we were smoke drying the head, some of our party rashly took some of the thatch of the priest's hut (a tapu place) and used it as bedding, henece we were afflicted by a complaint of which died 200 of our party of 500. We remained some time at this camp, and numbers of our chiefs died here (? ptomaine posoning). We preserved their heads and burned their bodies, lest the bones be obtained by the enemy. Even so we camped on the eastern side of the mouth of the river of the Whanga-nui-a-Tara.
While at this place we were attacked by our enemies, but defeated them and pursued them up the river, which is on the inner side of the islands Matiu and Makaro. We found them in a fortified village up the river, which we attacked and captured, slaying many people, and we remained two weeks at that place to consume the bodies. We then continued our way up the river in search of another pa, which our prisoners told us was the largest in the district. We came to a deserted village, where two hundred of our party remained, while one hundred pressed on up the river. A force from the big pa higher up attacked the advanced party of one hundred, of whom only about ten escaped, the rest were slain. Our main body now advanced; we went up the river in canoes, arriving that night at the big village, which contained many people. Te Rau-paraha advised us not the attack the place, but to pass it, so that the people might pursue us. So we went on up the river in our canoes, and our enemies kept pace with us on the banks, until they came to a muddy branch stream. All this time they were jeering at us, saying that it was an impudent act for so small a party to attempt to defeat a numerous people, and that we would not make one good meal for them. Our leaders told us not to make any response to those jeers. We then landed on the opposite side of the muddy creek to that on which the people of the land were gathered, while our prisoners remained silent in our canoes. Our prisoners cooked a meal for us, and then our priest performed over us, at the brink of the creek, the rites of war, after which we again entered our canoes, which we had found concealed at various part of the rivers course.
We now advanced against the people of the land, who kept on shouting and jeering at us, and commenced firing upon them; as each gun was fired, a man fell dead. So amazed were they at the effect of the gun-fire that they stood still and did nothing. Then they began to bawl and wail, and fled to the stream, which they attempted to cross but one of our canoes had gone up that stream, and thus the people were between two fires, and many were slain. They then fled back the way they had come, and we pursued them, slaying and capturing a number of them. On reaching their pa they rushed into it, but we also entered it ere they could prevent us, and then we slew so many of them inside that we wearied of man-killing, and the place was full of dead. We remained three weeks at that place, cutting up and devouring the best of the bodies. As to the others, we cut the flesh from the bones and laid it on stages to dry in the sun; it was then packed in vessels, and the fat of the bodies was melted and poured over it to preserve it. We burned the bones, lest the relatives of the dead should find them and convey them to their tapu burial places.
We collected the heads of the slain chiefs and piled them in a heap, placing the head of the principal chief on the top of the heap. We then took other heads and threw them at the heap, by way of amusement, for this was an old time practise of our fathers. When those heads were battered, we tired of the game, whereupon the young fellows took the heads and burned them, saying that it was fine fun. We broke one end of the leg and arm bones, thrust heated fern stalks into them to extract the marrow, which was good eating.
Our prisoners told us about another village further up the river, which we then went to, it was a large place containing many people. Te Rau-paraha conceived a plan by means of which we slew many of their fighting men. He sent a party to make peace with those folk, and to invite them to a feast. Three hundred and fifty, once told, came to that feast, and Te Rau-paraha arranged that our men should sit among them. Then, when our women placed the food before us, and just as our guests were helping themselves to it, Te Rau-paraha gave the signal, and naught was heard save blows, shouts, wailing, the sound of breaking skulls, the groans of dying men. The sound of a skull being broken is like that of a calabash being crushed. As for the village, the people of that place woke but to die ; we enslaved those that took our fancy and killed the others.
In all acts of treachery and deceit practised during this expedition, Te Rau-paraha was the leader and teacher. During that raid we lost four hundred men, and we destroyed everything that fire could burn.
During our return journey to the north, some of our prisoners escaped, but those we brought home were killed and eaten by the relatives of those of our party who had been slain."
Of the further adventures of these northern ruffians in the Wai-rarapa district we do not propose to speak, enough has been given to show the horrors of savage warfare, horrors to be excelled only by Germans.
As to the villages sacked up the river, it has been said that these were named Te Horopari, Hau-karetu and Pa-whakataka. As the last mentioned stockaded village was situated at the junction of the Mangaroa stream with the Hutt river, it is doubtful if the raiders went so far up the river. A place called Hau-karetu is marked on some maps of the Hutt Yalley.
If the narrator of the above account gave his tale of men a la Maori, then his figures must he doubled, and the force would be one thousand strong, for it was a custom to count men in pairs on such occasions, the tatau topu or binary system of numeration being employed.
In those days, doubtless, canoes could pass some distance up the river, for its channel was then much more confined. The earthquake of 1855 made a considerable difference in the water conditions of the Hutt river, as also in those of smaller streams in their lower parts. The observer of today would scarcely believe that the Waitohi stream at Nga Uranga had its ferryage system in the forties of last century. Colonel Wakefield proceeded a considerable distance by canoe up the Hutt river, until progress was stopped by logs in the channel.
Another native who took part in the above raid on the Harbour of Tara stated that some of Ngati-Ira, at Porirua, were slain in their cultivations, but that no fortified villages were seen there. He also mentions having seen some kotuku (white heron) at Porirua. Another incident mentioned by him was that the raiders saw a European vessel pass through the Straits, and lit signal fires to induce those on board to land, but the ship passed on. It is of interest to note that Bellinghausen, the Russian voyager, who passed through Cook Straits in May or June, 1820, speaks of seeing fires on the hills as his vessel passed along the coast from Cape Tarawhiti to Cape Palliser.
The name of Wai-o-Rotu, applied to the Hutt river in the above narrative, is not otherwise known to us. The late chief Aporo Te Kumeroa, of Wai-rarapa, informed the writer Wellington Harbour was sometimes called Te Whanga-nui-a-Rotu (or Orotu), and Te Wheke-nui-a-Tara in former times.
The effect of firearms on the local natives, at the time of the above raid, was one of awe and terror. They had heard of the muskets of the north, the dread pu, but had imagined, it is said, that they were some form of war-trumpet, such as the pu kaea. After their first experience of these new weapons word went abroad that - ' the new pu carried by the enemy are unlike ours; flame and smoke stream from them, and men perish, stricken from afar off.'
While the savage northerners continued their march to Wai-rarapa, the people of that place and the refugees of Ngati-Ira who had fled thither conferred together, and resolved to send messengers to Whanga-nui in order to induce the clans of that district to attack the raiders as they returned up the coast. Thus Puoho-taua, a Ngati-Ira chief, with six companions, proceeded to that place. The Whanga-nui natives agreed to attack, and two men were despatched to the mouth of the Manawa-tu river, there to await the return of the raiders. As soon as the latter came in sight, the two scouts hurried back to Whanga-nui with the news. It is on record elsewhere, how a part of the raiders' force, under Tuwhare, was lured far up the river, there to lose many of their number.
Evidence given in the case concerning the lands known as Nga Waka a Kupe, at Wai-rarapa, show that early in the nineteenth century, a Nga-Puhi chief named Tu-te-rangi-pokipoki, and thirty of his followers were slain at Tawhanga by Tamahau and his clans. In this affair several of the flintlock muskets of the raiders are said to have been taken by the local natives, one of which guns was named Te Kiri o Te Peehi. This probably occurred during the raid we have described.
In regard to the introduction of firearms into this country, an old native account says that the first firearms obtained by the Maori were four muskets named Te Mura-ahi, Te Huteretere, Pawa-tungia and Tahae-kino. These were acquired by Nga-Puhi, of the Bay of Islands district, from the first European vessel that arrived in those parts, which ship was named Te Ra-puhoro by the Natives, on account of the furling and unfurling of the sails. The account continues - It was after this that the ship of Capt. Cook neached Nga-Puhi, which vessel also reached Uawa (Tolaga Bay). Capt. Cook drank of the waters of a sptring there, at Titirangi, which spring is known as Te Puna a Hine-matioro.
This statement about a ship at the north prior to Cook's first voyage may well be doubted.
As for the first guns obtained by the Ngati-Toa tribe, the remnant of which now lives at Porirua, the names of such muskets are contained in a lament composed by the wife of Te Pukoro. These names are italicised in the song : -
"Aku kamo e wairutu nei
Me aha koa te whenu mahue i au
E koro ma . . e . . i.
Na te hanga nei, na te rakau o tawhiti
I hikitu ki runga
E toko ake ana te pounamu
Te Rau o te huia i te tonga
Au i rere mua ai i Te Reotahi a Te Paraha
Koia tungia ki te ahi a Tu ki a Moturoa
Aue ! Me he ahi au e tahu ana
Me piki rawa au ki runga tihitu
O Taranaki e tu mai ra
Marama au te titiro te ara haerenga o 'Ti-Awa
Ki te kawe atu i a Moturoa i a Paritutu
Pukaka, Te Horo, Rerepuku, Te Aparua
Te Wheo, Te Mura-ahi, Kai-tangata, Reotahi
Nga atua kai tangata o tawhiti
Nau nei, e Te Paraha, i waere te ara
I roto o Puke-rangiora
I ware ai au, takoto noa i te whenua ke
E koro ma ! E kui ma !
E moea mai ra te moenga i raro ra
Waiho kia huri ana e roa te tau
E huri mai ai te mahara i au . . e . . i,
Kei whea ra koutou e ngaro nei
Whakarongo noa e aku taringa
Titiro noa e aku mata
Ka ngaro raia koutou."