1855 - Davis, C. O. The Renowned Chief Kawiti and other New Zealand Warriors - CHAPTER I, p 3-6

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  1855 - Davis, C. O. The Renowned Chief Kawiti and other New Zealand Warriors - CHAPTER I, p 3-6
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The celebrated chief Kawiti, and ally of the famous Hone Heke, the leader of the native rebellion in the Northern portion of New Zealand, exchanged worlds in the month of May, 1854. He died at his settlement, Otaikumikumi, with scarcely any attendants beside those of his family circle. This circumstance, however, must not be attributed to any disrespect, but simply to the prevalence of the measles, which malady was the immediate cause of this aged warrior's decease. The custom among the New Zealanders on the occasion of the demise of a distinguished personage, is to assemble in great numbers to bewail the departed after the body is laid out in state; but poor Kawiti was conveyed to the sepulchre of his fathers at Waiomio almost unwept, owing, as we have already intimated, to the general sickness which prevailed among his countrymen.

Kawiti is said to have descended from Kaharau-kotiti, who flourished in the fifth generation, but the particular family from which he sprung is not known. The line of ancestry is traced back as far as Kupe, one of the first Maori navigators, who landed at these Islands in a canoe named "Tamarereti." This event is commemorated in song. We submit the translation:--

I'll sing, I'll sing of Kupu great and brave,
Who launched his bark and crossed the mighty wave;
He--when the world from chaos rose to birth--
Divided into continents the earth;
He formed the valleys, and the mountains too,
And gave the fruitful earth its vernal hue;
Alighting as a bird upon the deep,
He called the islands from their death-like sleep;
Then Kapiti and Mana kissed the wave,
And Aropaoa left its ocean grave
These are the signs which my ancestor wrought,
When Titapua first his vision caught;
And now will I explore each nook and strand,
And take possession of this fertile land.

We are informed by some of the Northern tribes that the numerous family of Mauis' owe their origin to Kupe and Pekenoa. In the mythology and literature of the New Zealanders these Mauis' are very conspicuous. The elements, it is said, obeyed their mandate; they had power also over the heavenly bodies, and many wonderful miracles were performed by them in the presence of their astonished and admiring brethren. Many interesting matters in connection with the early history of those persons might be mentioned but we must content ourselves by merely giving the genealogy as furnished by Kawiti's biographer. It is as follows:--


1. Rahiri.
2. Te Rapoutu.
3. Kaharau.
4. Kaharau-pukupuku.
5. Kaharau-kotiti (ancestor of Kawiti).
6. Puhi-taniwha rau (ancestor of the Ngapuhi).
7. Taura-poho.
8. Mahia.
9. Poro.
10. Ngahue.
11. Wairua.
12. Auha--(A younger branch of this family was represented in the person of Whakaaria, from whom sprung Hone Heke.) The lineal decent is as follows:-- 1. Whakaaria. 2. Waiohua. 3. Pokaia. 4. Hone Heke.
13. Te Hotete
14. Hongi-hika.

The last mentioned person Hongi-hika figures largely in the written annals of New Zealand, and perhaps he was the most blood thirsty savage of his race. Kawiti accompanied this extraordinary man in several of his campaigns after his return from England on a visit to His Majesty George IV. During his absence, one of his relatives was assasinated by the people of Mercury Bay, and the chief, dreading the consequences of a war with the Northern tribes, endeavoured by a variety of means to conciliate his adversaries in order to avert the threatened storm, but Hongi refused to entertain his proposals.

"He had recently left the fair scenes of social elevation and of Christian peace in England,"

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writes one of the early Missionaries, "but the example of civilization, or a simple view of its effects failed to civilize him. All the pride and ferocity of the savage returned as he scoured over his native plains, marshalling his fighting men; and after he collected three thousand of them, he commenced his march from the more northern parts which were then under his protection, and went at once into the shock of battle. The unfortunate adverse chief fell by a shot from Hongi. The victor, half maddened by excitement, cut off the head of his prostrate victim, caught the streaming blood in his hands, and drank it with the utmost eagerness. Hongi and his party slew upwards of a thousand men, and three hundred of these they roasted and ate, before they left the field of battle. The forsaken ovens, or holes dug in the earth and the ghastly remains which were spread over the entire tract of the struggle, after all was quiet, told an eloquent tale as to the terrible orgies which had been celebrated there-- a scene over which the old murderer, Satan, I might gloat, and hardly be able to wish for more."

A belligerent expedition, headed by the redoubtable Hongi, devastated this district, and Kawiti, we are informed, was one of his coadjutors. The isolated settlements at the Wade and its neighbourhood could offer little or no resistance --some of the people escaped by flight, but those taken by surprise were surrounded and indiscriminately slaughtered. At that time the powerful tribe of Ngatipaoa occupied two strong fortresses on the banks of the Tamaki river; the names of these pahs were Mokoia and Mauinaina. When the northern shores of the Waitemata had been scoured by this cannibal force, it crossed over to the southern bank, and marching towards the Tamaki, halted in the vicinity of the above named strongholds. Formidable as was the party within these fortifications, and strong as were their intrenchments, one feeling only prevailed, and that was, the hopelessness of their case in attempting to repel such a foe. It was agreed, therefore, that messages of respect, accompanied by costly gifts, should be sent to Hongi. The communications and presents were received with apparent courtesy, and it was hoped a reconciliation would take place; after lingering in the neighbourhood for several days, the pahs were suddenly surprised; and taken by storm. The two pahs, it is said, contained about fifteen hundred persons, many of whom were either captured or slain. A brave chief of the Ngatipaoa named Rangawhenua, did much execution during the contest with a carpenter's adze. It is stated that he killed thirty of the enemy with this singular weapon, and that the much dreaded Hongi himself would have been despatched by him but for the timely aid of one of his followers. The story is very feasible, and runs thus:-- In climbing over a barricade Hongi's foot became entangled with the binders of the fence, and he was unable to extricate himself. While in this perilous position, he was discovered by Rangawhenua, who immediately aimed a blow at his foot with an adze--it did not take effect, however, and Hongi kept his adversary at bay for a short time by firing off his pistols. His situation was now discovered by one of his retinue who fired at Rangawhenua, thereby preventing a second attempt on the part of that brave man. The alarm was given, and a band of warriors flew to his rescue, and by cutting the binders with their hatchets, succeeded in disentangling his foot. This event created a tremendous sensation through out the host, and vengeance was vowed against the man who was so daring as to lift his band against the almost deified Hongi. Accordingly, Te Ihi, a man of high rank, well-known valour, and dexterous in the use of the spear, darted forth in quest of Rangawhenua, whom he was to engage in single combat. After a short search, Rangawhenua was seen fording the river with the adze in his hand, and was forthwith invited to a combat with Te Ihi. He might indeed have readily escaped the deathblow of his enraged pursuer, but the lofty spirit of Rangawhenua scorned the idea of saving his life by flight--he therefore unhesitatingly accepted his adversary's challenge, and returned to the fatal shore be bad just left. Te lhi commenced the fight by attempting to strike Rangawhenua with a tomahawk which was dexterously warded off, and a blow at his opponent was given in return. Several times the deadly weapons of each party met, and fortune seemed to favour the valiant man with the adze, -- so thought the spectators, who gazed in breathless silence; --but Te lhi, despairing of victory by what the New Zealanders consider fair fight, gave Rangawhenua a left handed stroke, and he fell bleeding at his feet.

We refrain from describing the scenes which followed this conflict, suffice it to say, there was wailing for the dead; and singing and dancing in honour of the victory. It may not be out of place to observe here, that the New Zealanders, when chained to their heathen customs, were remarkably fond of dancing, not only in time of war, but in peace.

If one Chieftain visited another for the interchange of kindly sentiment, or to seek counsel and assistance, his train of followers were expected to gratify the people of the settlement by a public exhibition of their dancing qualifications. The evening was generally the favourite time of the day for this sport, and not unfrequently considerable time was spent in this amusement, when

Fresh springing from her aerial couch, the placid orb of night
On Zealand's lofty mountain range, flung back a stream of light.

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Previous to the dance some minutes we fie devoted to the toilet, and those who were so rich as to own a calabash of whale oil, plentifully besmeared their bodies with that odoriferous liquid. The hair was worn in a variety of ways, and elaborately decorated with feathers, and persons of distinction were at once recognized by the peculiar style of their head-dress, as well as by the rareness, or costliness of their garments. The words accompanying these "light fantastic" movements were chaunted by one individual, and at certain intervals the whole party broke forth in one wild chorus, resounding through the hills, and making the earth tremble with their tread. The following is a specimen of these chaunts; --

Child of my affections,
Thou comest back dishonoured!
The people here were mirthful,
And thou wert being scattered
By the foe, the while.
Thy army, like the waters of the ocean, shore,
Has ebbed, --but no spring tide
Will give thee back to us!
Women are husbandless and numerous
Too, now ye are gone.
Ah, ye will not be left in widowhood
To mourn; soon shall others claim
You as their lawful prize.

This is a song of another class of dances, for there are great varieties, distinguished by certain appellations, such as Haka, Kotaratara, &c.

Son of the potent! son of the brave!
Mighty in battle on land and the wave.
Great is the soul where true valour reigns,
Noble the blood that swells in your veins;
Crest of the Kawau,yield to your foe,
Chiefs of the warriors!--ye are laid low.

It is indeed an imposing sight when from five to eight hundred tatooed faces are lit up with savage joy in one of these rude dances. They arrange themselves in three or four ranks, and not in a compact body, as in the kanikaniand hari. From the waist upwards the body is bare, the mat being fastened by a belt, frequently made of some fancy material, and ornamented with feathers of the kiwi and kakapo.

The following lament is in commemoration of the overthrow of the two fortresses before mentioned, at Tamaki:--

The worth of some friends are scarce known,
While others attract at first sight;
Like the bird of Tipa on his throne,
Displaying its plumage so bright.
The sun in his gorgeous array
Illumines the surge-beaten strand;
But Hira may ne'er feel its ray,
For the weapon has dropped from his hand.
The waters are motionless now,
And bright is the face of the deep;
But our son is not manning his prow,
Ah! his is a permanent sleep;
Thou, too, O our mother, art gone,
Whose counsels we over revered;
And with thee the valiant and strong,
And proud, have alas! disappeared.
And who will repel the dread foe.
And raise us to honour again?
For nought but the wild winds of woe
Sweep over Hawaiki's vast plain!
Orei with its far western steep,
Is unheeded by those who pass by
While the waters of Tamaki weep, --
They weep till the channel is dry.
No longer the loved ones we see,
Encompassed by damsels about;
No longer we witness their glee,
Death, sudden, has silenced that shout,
The rainbow is arched o'er the sky,
Its colours are bright as of old;
But ye in the earth ever lie, --
The earth that is lonely and cold.
And should ye rise up from the grave,
Ye appear as the lightning's glare;
Or as a dread ghost; --while the brave
Look bewildered, and utter a prayer.
Death did not suffice; --ye must needs
The weapon conceal from our sight,
Which reminds us of former brave deeds
Achieved by our fathers in fight.
Lo! solitude deep reigns around,
While the widow looks on as she weeps;
But no echo is heard from the ground,--
The grave where each warrior sleeps!
They have gone to a far distant land,
Where Maui's great company roams;
But return, --Oh! return to the band.
Ye have left in their desolate homes.

Scarcely any traces of these ruined fortresses now appear, for the indefatigable Anglo-Saxon has completely metamorphosed the face of the country; and the deep intrenchments have given place to the waving corn, or to abundant crops of esculent roots. In this very district, where scarcely any thing was drawn from the soil, except the root of the wild fern, the quantity of potatoes raised during the present season, is estimated at no fewer than five thousand tons. The former inhabitant of these uncultivated wilds, looks on with admiration, and some degree of surprise, while he endeavours to imitate in a mimic form the good example of his civilized and industrious neighbour.

But there are far higher grounds for exultation than these, in reference to the fine district of Tamaki. Here, where no sound was heard but that of the hero of blood, rushing to the slaughter, the ear is now greeted by the music of the village bell reminding the cottager and his household, that the pastor of St. John's is about to take his accustomed place for the purpose of expounding to dying men "The word of life!"

-- Oh, how sublime a theme to be uttered on the very spot where the poor horror stricken cannibal weltered in his gore! No such joyful tidings fell upon Lis ears, but the thrilling news has been reserved for his hopeful posterity, who in the habiliments of civilization, enter the same sacred portal as the favoured sons of Britain. In contemplating the present pleasing aspect of this place, we are forcibly reminded of the words of the prophet, --"Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall

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come up the myrtle tree." For in this, as in other, lands, "the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever."

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