Ngai Tahit.—Causes that led to their Migration.
About the year 1650 we find the Ngai Tahu located at Hataitai, between what is now called Wellington Harbour and the coast. In this pa dwelt a band of warriors renowned for courage and daring, whose warlike propensities had made them rather obnoxious to their kinsmen and neighbours, the Ngatikahununu. Among this band dwelt an old chief named Kahukura te paku, who was connected with the Ngaitara tribe, then settled at Waimea, in the South Island. His son, Tu maro, was married to Rakai te kura, daughter of Tama ihu poro, the seventh from Tahu, the founder of the tribe. Shortly after his marriage Tu maro was called away for a time from Hataitai; and during his absence his wife, who was pregnant, contracted an improper intimacy with Te ao hikuraki. Tu maro returned just before his wife gave birth to a child, and, being ignorant of her misconduct, proceeded, when the pains of labour began, to repeat the customary charms to aid delivery. Having exhausted his store of charms, and repeated all the genealogies of his ancestors in vain, he
began to suspect that something was wrong, and questioned his wife, who, after a little delay, confessed that one of his relations had been to her. “But who was it?” he demanded. “Te ao hikuraki,” she replied. The moment that name was uttered the child was born. Tu maro, without going near his wife, kept removing her from house to house till her purification and that of the child was accomplished. Then he came to her early one morning and told her to paint herself and the infant with red ochre; to put on her best mats, and to adorn her head with feathers. The woman did as she was bid, wondering all the time what her husband meant to do. When she had finished adorning herself, Tu maro led her into the court-yard of Te ao hikuraki, whom he found sitting under the veranda. “Here,” said he, “is your wife and child!” and then, without another word, he turned away and went back to his own house. He then summoned all his immediate friends and relations, and informed them that it was his intention to leave the place immediately, as he could not live on friendly terms with those who had dishonoured him. His father approved of the proposed step, and acting on his advice their hapu, carrying with them their families and all their moveable goods, crossed the straits and entered Blind Bay, along the coast of which they sailed till they reached the mouth of the Waimea, where they landed and built a pa. Here, for upwards of twenty years, the Ngaitara, Ngatiwhata, and Ngatirua, sub-sections of the Ngai Tahu tribe, separated from their main body at Hataitai, grew into such importance through their alliance with Ngatimamoe, that they came at last to be regarded more in the light of independent tribes than parts of one and the same; and this often complicates the narrative.
But what serves to complicate still further the history of this period was the existence of small settlements in the sounds of natives from the west coast of the North Island including detachments of Rangitane, Ngatihauwa, Ngatihape, Ngai te he iwi, Ngai tawake, Ngati whare puka, and Ngai tu rahui. The Rangitane appear to have been the most important. Te Hau was their chief, and his cultivations at Te Karaka, known as Kapara te hau and O kainga, are still pointed out. Kupe, the great navigator, is said to have poured salt-water upon these cultivations for the purpose of destroying them, and so formed pools which remain to this day(?). These natives never seem to have extended their settlements much beyond the sounds, and little of their history worth recording has been preserved by the remnant of their descendants who escaped destruction at the hands of Te Rauparaha.
Beyond Waimea, the Ngatiwairangi and Ngatikopiha, who in common with Ngatimamoe and Ngai Tahu were descended from Tura, took up their abode and spread from there all down the west coast.
About twenty-five years after the secession of Kahukura te paku and his
followers, communication with Hataitai was reopened under the following circumstances. Tuahuriri, deserted in infancy by Tu maro, had now attained to man's estate, and had settled with his wives on the south-east coast of the North Island. But he could not rest till he had solved a question which had troubled him all his life. Once when a child he had been startled by hearing the mother of one of his playmates, whom he had struck, exclaim, “What a bullying fellow this bastard is.” Running up to his own mother he immediately asked if it was true that he was a bastard. “No,” she said. “Then where,” he asked, “is my father?” “Look where the sun sets, that is where your father dwells.” He kept these words treasured up in his memory, and now, having attained to man's estate, he determined to go in search of his father. Leaving his wives behind him he embarked with seventy men in a war canoe, and crossed the straits to Waimea; arrived there he landed and drew up the canoe in front of the pa. The inhabitants came forth to welcome him in and invited him to occupy the residence of their chief. On entering the house Tuahuriri laid himself down on his back near the door, whilst his companions seated themselves round the sides of the house. As no one in the place recognised any of them, the usual preparations were made for their destruction; as it was always held by Maoris that those who were not known friends must be regarded as enemies, and treated accordingly. Kahukura te paku stationed armed men all round the house, and while he was preparing to attack the new comers, the women and slaves were busy heating the stones and preparing the ovens to cook their bodies in. While these preparations were being made, and everyone was longing for the time when the bodies would be cooked and ready for them to feast upon, the children of the village came flocking round the entrance curious to see the strangers. One more venturesome than the rest climbed up to the window, and communicated to those behind him what he saw; while so occupied Tuahuriri looking up at the roof said “Ah, just like the red battens of my grandfather Kahukura te paku's house which he left over the other side at Kauwhakaarawaru.” The boy on hearing this ran and told the men who were lying in wait. They made him repeat the words several times, and then Kahukura te paku said, “I never left any house or painted battens on the other side, only the boy on whose account we came across. Go, ask him his name.” Then one arose and approached and called out, “Inside there. Eh! Sit up. Tell me who you are!” Then Tuahuriri sat up and said, “I am Te hiku tawatawa o te raki” (the name given to him by his father when he was born). The man went back and told Kahukura te paku, who was overwhelmed with shame when he discovered that he had been craving after the flesh of his own grandson. Approaching the house he told him to come forth, not by the door, but the
window, so that they might take the tapu off the wood and stones which they had got ready to cook him and his friends with, as the intention had defiled them. Having clambered through the window and embraced his grandson, Tuahuriri felt that he was safe; nevertheless he did not forget the indignity to which he had been subjected by his own relations, and he determined to take the first opportunity of punishing them for it. When returning to his own home with Kahukura te paku a few weeks afterwards, the people of Waimea begged Tuahuriri to come back and visit them in the autumn, when food would be plentiful, and they could entertain him more hospitably. But instead of doing so, he waited till he knew that they had planted their fields, and had nothing in their storehouses, then, taking one hundred men in addition to the seventy who went with him before, he re-crossed the straits. When he landed with all his followers the inhabitants of Waimea welcomed him very warmly, but apologised for the smallness of the quantity of food which they set before him, which, they assured him, was owing, not to inhospitality, but to the emptiness of their stores. When every particle of food in the place was consumed Tuahuriri returned home. Shortly after his departure the house he occupied was accidentally burnt down; the site of it was soon covered with a luxuriant crop of wild cabbage, which the people of the pa were driven by hunger to gather and eat, and in consequence of their doing so, they all died. For the greens were tapu, because grown on the site of a house once occupied by Kahukura te paku and his grandson. The colic produced by famished people gorging on greens proved fatal because the pain was attributed to the agency of the offended atuas of their chiefs. This incident throws light upon the frequent occurrence in past years of fatal effects arising from breaches of tapu.
The taking of Te mata ki kai poika is the next event of importance in the history of Ngai Tahu.
Tuahuriri had from some cause incurred the ill-will of a powerful member of his own tribe, the veteran warrior Hika oro roa, who assembled his relations and dependents and led them to the attack of Tuahuriri's pa, situated somewhere on the east coast. They reached the place at dawn of day, and as the leader was preparing to take the foremost place in the assault, a youth named Turuki, eager to distinguish himself, rushed past Hika oro roa, who uttered an exclamation of surprise and indignation, asking, in sneering tones, “Why a nameless warrior should dare to try and snatch the credit of a victory he had done nothing to win?” Turuki, burning with shame at the taunt, rushed back to the rear and addressed himself to Tutekawa, who was the head of his family, and besought him to withdraw his contingent and to attack the pa himself from the other side, and for ever prevent such a reproach from being uttered again. Tutekawa,
who felt the insult as keenly as his young relative, instantly adopted his suggestion; and so rapidly did he effect the movement, that his absence was not discovered before he had successfully assaulted the pa and his name was being shouted forth as the victor. Tuahuriri was surprised asleep in his whare, but succeeded in escaping, leaving his two wives, Hine kai taki and Tuara whati, to their fate. These women were persons of great distinction and were related to all the principal families in that part of the country, and their lives ought to have been quite safe in the hands of their husband's relations. But Tutekawa, who was a man of cruel disposition, finding the husband had escaped, killed both the women. As the war party were re-embarking a few hours after, Tuahuriri came out to the edge of the forest, which reached nearly to the shore, and calling Tutekawa, asked him if he had got his waist-cloth, belt, and weapons; on being answered in the affirmative, he begged that they might be given back to him. Tutekawa then stepped forward and flung them towards him. After picking them up, Tuahuriri threatened his cousin with the vengeance of his atuas for the injury he had done to him, and retiring into the depths of the forest he invoked the help of his familiar spirits, and by their agency raised the furious gale known as Tehau o Rongomai. This tempest dispersed Tutekawa's fleet, and many of his canoes were upset and the crews drowned. He with much difficulty reached the South Island, where to escape the vengeance of Tuahuriri, he decided to remain. He had nothing to fear for the Ngatimamoe, to whom he was related on the mother's side, and he knew that his presence would be still more welcome to them, because he was willing to turn his arms against the remnant of Waitaha who still maintained their independence. We now take leave of Tutekawa for some years, and return to trace the fortunes of the warriors at Hataitai, of whom we have heard nothing since Tu maro's secession.
Though constantly at war with their neighbours or quarrelling amongst themselves, they had succeeded hitherto in maintaining their ground; but certain events occurred after the fall of Te mata ki kai poika and the defeat of Tuahuriri, which ultimately led to their migration to the South Island.
The first was the marriage of Tiotio's two daughters to Te Hautaki, which was brought about in the following manner:—Te Hautaki, who was the chief of a hapu living at Kahu, and allied to Ngatimamoe, was one day driven out to sea from the fishing ground by a gale of wind. Fearing that his canoe would be upset, and being unable to get back to his own place, he tried to reach the opposite shore of the straits, and with much difficulty effected a landing after dusk at Whanga nui a tara, just below the Ngatikuri pa. “We are all dead men,” he said to his crew, “unless we can reach the house of Tiotio unobserved.” Tiotio was the upoko ariki, or
hereditary high priest of the tribe, and probably Hautaki regarded him in the light of a connection, since his son Tuteuretira was married to a Ngatimamoe woman and living amongst that tribe. “Is there any one of you,” he asked, “who can point out this chief's house?” Fortunately one of the crew had been before to Hataitai and was able to act as guide. Having drawn up their canoe, they all marched noiselessly in single file till they reached the remotest of the chief's houses, which were distinguished from others around them by their great height and size. Passing by those of Maru, Manawa, and Rakai tauwheke, they came to that of Tiotio. Entering the house they found his wife seated beside a fire near the door, and the old man himself lying down at the farthest end. Roused by the noise of their footsteps, the old chief stood up and asked who they were, Te Hautaki replied “It is I.” No sooner were they aware who it really was than the old wife set up a cry of welcome, but she was instantly checked by her husband, who dreaded the consequence of rousing the pa, and begged her not to attract attention, as that would endanger the lives of the whole party. He then told her to set food quickly before them, as they could not be killed after having been entertained as guests by the chief tohunga of the tribe. In obedience to his wishes, she placed a poha of preserved koko before them, and when they had finished their meal, she went over with a message from her husband to Rakai tauwheke, who was married to two of their daughters, Tahupare and Rongopare. That chief, in hearing of Te Hautaki's arrival, asked whether he had been allowed to eat in his father-in-law's house; on being answered in the affirmative, “That is enough,” he said, “I will come and see him in the morning.” Before doing so, however, he sent to inform Manawa and Maru and others, and as soon as what had happened became generally known throughout the pa, the warriors assembled round Tiotio's house, and with yells and frantic cries hurled their spears against the roof and sides, and behaved as if they intended to pull the house down. When old Tiotio remonstrated with them, they ceased their violence, and invited Te Hautaki to come out to them, when there was much talking and speech-making of a friendly kind, which finally ended in a proposal that Tiotio's remaining daughters—Rakai te kura and Mahanga tahi—should be given in marriage to Te Hautaki. As all the parties concerned were agreeable to this, the marriage took place without any delay. The Ngai Tahu chiefs asked many questions of their visitor about his house in the other island, and were so favourably impressed with his answers, that many responded to his invitation to accompany him when he returned. The final migration, however, did not take place till some time after Te Hautaki's return.