[Image of page 33]
WHEN the celebrated warrior chief Rauparaha found himself master of the northern shores of Cook Straits, with only its waters separating him from the people who were thought to possess fabulous Quantities of the precious greenstone, he began to scheme for their conquest.
The development of his project was hastened by the arrival in his camp of a runaway slave from Kaikoura, who reported to him that the Chief of that place, Rerewaka by name, on hearing an account being given of Te Rauparaha's victorious march from Waikato to Kapiti, had given utterance to the foolish boast "that he would rip his stomach open with a barracouta tooth--niho manga, one of the Maori substitutes for a knife--if he dared to pursue his march any further south, and ventured to invade the Kaikoura country.
Both Rauparaha and his followers were highly exasperated when they heard of this insolent speech, which amounted to a "kanga" or curse, a form of insult which, according to the Maori code of honor, blood alone could atone for. But as Rerewaka was the head of a community numbering three or four thousand
RAUPARAHA'S FLEET APPROACHING KAIAPOI.
Te Rangihaeata a nephew of Te Rauparaha.
In the 1893 edition, this portrait was incorrectly printed as Te Rauparaha.
[Image of page 34]
persons, and residing at a distance of more than a hundred miles from Kapiti, Rauparaha was forced to put a restraint upon his feelings, and to defer for some time the prosecution of his project of revenge. He resolved to wait till he was able to procure from the Sydney trading vessels which frequented the harbour of Port Nicholson a sufficient quantity of firearms and ammunition to equip his whole force; and then with such superior weapons he might attack the southern natives without the slightest risk of defeat, as they could only oppose him with the ancient weapons of the country. When his plans were matured, Rauparaha embarked at Kapiti a picked force of seven hundred men in several war canoes, and sailed for Kaikoura. He timed his movements so as to arrive off the Pah at Omihi, near the Amuri Bluff, about dawn. He anchored just outside the surf, and watched from there the effect of his arrival. He soon saw that he had nothing to fear from the inhabitants of the place, whose conduct as soon as they discerned the presence of the canoes, proved that they were quite in the dark as to the character of the persons who manned them. There was much running to and fro on shore, and apparent consultation, which ended in a general movement towards the beach, which was soon crowded with men, women, and children who raised the cry of welcome "Haeremai!" under the mistaken notion that the new arrivals were the friends whom they
[Image of page 35]
were expecting from Napier. Rauparaha gave orders to lift the anchors and run the canoes ashore; this was immediately done, and part of his force proceeded at once to the Pah, which they no sooner got possession of than a general slaughter of the inhabitants commenced. Totally unprepared without arms of any sort in their hands, the inhabitants of Omihi could offer no resistance to the invaders. The beach was soon strewn with the dying and the dead, and Rerewaka himself was killed before he knew that an enemy was near. Hundreds were killed on the spot, and hundreds more were carried away to be killed at Kapiti, or to be kept as slaves.
After resting ten days, Rauparaha sent back two-thirds of his force to Kapiti in charge of the captives, and with a hundred men he sailed as far south as the mouth of the Waipara river, where he landed and drew his canoes up on the beach out of reach of the tide. He then marched along the coast to Kaiapoi, and pitched his camp a few hundred yards to the south west of the Pah.
Shortly after his arrival, Tamaiharanui, the principal Chief and High Priest of Ngai Tahu, accompanied by a Ngapuhi native named Hakitara, visited Rauparaha for the purpose of ascertaining the object of his coming, and to negotiate terms of peace. During the interview Rauparaha stood up and recited a "tau" or war song. Hakitara, who understood the full
[Image of page 36]
import of it, advised Tamaiharanui to retire at once to his own Pah, as mischief was brewing, proposing that he himself should remain to get more information. This he sought to obtain from the slaves who were likely to prove more communicative than their masters. In the course of conversation with some of them, he learnt that a party of the northern visitors had that very day found a newly-made grave at Tuahiwi (S. Stephen's), which they opened, and from which they removed the body of a woman, which they carried to a stream at Woodend, where they cleaned it, and afterwards cooked and ate it. The body proved to be that of Te Ruaki, an aunt of Tamaiharanui, and its treatment by the northern warriors left no doubt on the minds of the Kaiapoi natives that their own destruction would be attempted whenever a favourable opportunity occurred.
The arrival of fugitives from Omihi, who horrified them with the details of the slaughter of its inhabitants, increased their suspicions of foul play. But Rauparaha kept assuring them that he was actuated by the most friendly feelings towards them; and to inspire them with confidence in his assurances, he, with reckless imprudence, allowed his nearest relatives and most distinguished Chiefs to enter the fortress whenever they chose to do so, where they carried on a brisk trade in greenstone, for which they gave firearms and ammunition in exchange. Hoping to disengage Hakitara
[Image of page 37]
from the Ngai Tahu, and to attach him to himself, Rauparaha presented him with one of the best-looking of his female captives, Te Aka by name. Shortly afterwards it happened that a council of war was held just outside the hut occupied by Hakitara, who overheard Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata saying to each other, "Soon we shall have our Pah." Suddenly a voice exclaimed, "Beware of the Nga Puhi man." "Oh he is fast asleep," was the reply. The chiefs then proceeded with their deliberations, and having decided what to do, they separated. Just before dawn Hakitara put on a dog-skin mat which he found lying near him, and went out, and succeeded in passing through the camp without being challenged. As soon as he got clear of the sentries, he ran with all speed to the Pah, and on reaching the gate he called to the keeper to open it and let him him in. He was recognised, and at once admitted. Turning to the person in charge of the guard, he directed him to summon all the chiefs without delay to meet him in the adjoining house, as he had a most important communication to make to them. A hurried meeting followed, at which he disclosed the treacherous intentions of the northern visitors. It was unanimously decided to break the truce concluded with them the day before, and to be the first to strike a blow. The most celebrated of Rauparaha's friends were already within the Pah driving bargains,
[Image of page 38]
and it was thought not at all improbable that the great Chief himself might be induced to enter.
A crowd of men, women, and children were sitting in the "Marae" or open space opposite the Hiaka-rere gate when Te Pehi, Rauparaha's favourite friend and most powerful ally, and a renowned warrior, a man of such enterprise that he had braved the perils of a voyage to England in search of firearms, came forth from Koroua's house dragging by a rope a block of greenstone called Kaoreore, intending to take it out by the gate to his camp. But as he passed the group of on-lookers who were watching his movements, one of them named Moi Moi stood up and called out in a loud voice, "Leave my greenstone! Leave my greenstone!"
Te Pehi, who was now within four or five paces of the gate, turned and faced the speaker, and in the most contemptuous terms derided him for daring to question the actions of one so much his superior "Badly tatooed; badly tatooed, he cried, "what use would your ugly 1 head be to me if I were to carry it with me to Kapiti, it would be worth nothing towards the purchase of a musket." "But here is a man," turning towards Te Panihi who stood near him with a well tatooed face; his head would be worth having; but you with a valueless head, how dare you call in question the doings of Pehi-tu-a-te-rangi!" While this altercation was proceeding, Rongotara, a Kaiapoi Chief
[Image of page 39]
noticed that Pokaitara, a famous northern warrior was standing outside the gate, evidently seeking admission. He knew that his own brother, who was taken prisoner at Omihi, had been allotted to this particular Chief. Approaching close to the gate Rongotara invited him to come in, saying, "Welcome, my younger brother's Lord!" and begged Te Hapa the gate-keeper to admit him. "Open the gate for my brother Lord," he said, and as he did so Pokaitara stooped to enter, but no sooner was his head and neck past the portal than Rongotara who was carrying a miti or stone club on his shoulder brought it down with all his force on the bent neck of the northern Chief, and with one blow crushed in the base of his skull and killed him. Te Pehi, seeing what had happened, left the greenstone and sprang towards the south-western angle of the wall, and tried to scramble over the fence. Several shots were fired at him without effect; and he would probably have succeeded in making good his escape, but for Tangatahara, a man of great bodily strength, and a courageous warrior who grappled with him and succeeded in dispatching him with a hatchet. The report of firearms alarmed the rest of the northern Chiefs who were at the other end of the Pah, and who at once rushed towards the walls, hoping to scale them and escape to their camp. Te Aratangata, who had gone to the extreme end of the Pah to try and secure the Pounamu, called Teruahiki-
[Image of page 40]
hiki, ran towards the gate Huirapa. He was a very tall and powerfully-built man, and brave as a lion. He was attacked by fully twenty persons armed with a variety of weapons; but with nothing but his greenstone mere Te Kaoreore, he defended himself with such success, that he was not only able to keep them at bay for some minutes, but to lessen materially the distance between himself and the gate through which he hoped to force his way. Te Pa's shot was the first wound he received, but it did not touch a vital part; then three spears were plunged into his body, still he continued to run forward, the spears trailing along the ground; a shot then struck his mere and broke it, leaving only the stump in his hand. He was now practically defenceless, and his movements were hampered by the spears firmly fixed in the fleshy parts of his body. Emboldened by his helpless condition, his assailants closed upon him, and one named Te Koreke sprang upon his back and threw him forward on his face, when Tuwhakarawa struck him several blows on the head and neck with a tomahawk, and killed him outright. Te Kohi was despatched by Manahi Iri with a hatchet, and the rest were either shot or tomahawked. In all eight northern Chiefs were killed, namely:-- Te Pehi, Te Pokaitara, Te Rangikatuta, Te Ruatahi, Te Hua Piko Te Aratangata, Te Kohi, and Te Kohua. They were all tried friends and companions in arms
[Image of page 41]
of Te Rauparaha, who had accompanied him in all his wars, and contributed largely by their courage and ability to his past victorious career. The destruction of so many of his friends was a terrible blow to him. Rauparaha never imagined that the Kaiapoi people would dare to take the initiative, and provoke his vengeance by killing his friends and relations, and the unexpected turn of events took him completely by surprise. Only one course remained open to him, and that was to retreat with all possible speed. He accordingly broke up his camp and marched off to the mouth of the Waipara river near Double Corner, where he had left his canoes, and from there he sailed the next day for Kapiti.