Art. I.—Early Native Records of the Manawatu Block.
[Read before the Manawatu Philosophical Society, 23rd February, 1905.]
The records we have in connection with the Maori occupation and settlement of the place where we now live, and the immediately surrounding country, are exceedingly meagre. The reason is obvious to any person who has had any considerable experience in the ways of the ancient Maori. As we are all aware, the whole of this country, with very limited exceptions, was originally bush-covered, and, if we except one or two tracks, was not crossed by any highway. Moreover, these tracks were by-paths—they did not form a recognised communication between densely populated parts of the country. Land so circumstanced—bush-covered and pathless—has never loomed large in the history of the Maori people. Before the advent of the European the bush-covered lands were only of value to the Maoris, and were only utilised by them, as places of food-supply and game-preserves. And even in this connection the valued area was limited. The native game of the country, especially the wood-pigeon and the kaka, usually restricted themselves to certain more or less well-defined spaces, while berries grow mostly on the outskirts, rarely in the centre, of the forest; so that to the old-time Maori bush country in general formed a possession of little value, except in so far as the streams running through it held eels.
For, as far as the Native Land Court records run, the Natives always proved the title of their tribe to the mana over certain land by matters relating to the feeding of the tribespeople. Eelweirs, places for snaring birds or steeping berries, actual cultivations—these alone were matters of moment to the old Maori.
It is on these that stress is laid in asserting title. To the Native an easy and comfortable supply of food was of the utmost moment, and old-time difficulties in obtaining it moulded deep into his character another trait—jealousy of other tribes, especially in matters pertaining to the occupation of lands. The Maori brooked—so far as he could sustain his possession—no interference with his feeding-places. Defined landmarks were always set, and were considered true boundaries between the lands of adjoining tribes.
Similarly the hapus had their well-marked spheres of influence, and, in the vast majority of cases, special defined areas of the land under the ægis of their particular Native tribe. But both the boundaries and the area had relation to feeding-facilities, and heavy bush country for that reason did not lend itself to marked dispute except incidentally. So it was with the greater extent of the Manawatu Block.
But, passing to a consideration of the large block forming the countryside around, the prospect clears, and we get more definite detail.
Dealing generally with the land between the Rangitikei and the Manawatu Rivers, we find, when history dawns, early in the last century, that the whole of the country was occupied by branches of the Rangitane Tribe, which had fought its way from the East Cape, and by their allied tribes, the Ngatiapa and Muaupoko. As between themselves the Muaupoko held the southern portions, the Ngatiapa the northern, while in the centre were the Rangitane. The main habitations in the Manawatu district were those of this latter tribe along the banks of the Oroua and Manawatu Rivers, where food was plentiful. Here they had populous settlements and large pas. The tribes were numbered in hundreds—in one expedition twelve hundred took part—and they lived then secure and prosperous in the open and fertile country.
The bush and mountain pas came later, and formed, as is usual with Natives, the brand of troublous times. Early in the century, at a date placed variously from 1818 to 1827, the Ngatiapa were first disturbed in their possession by the Ngatitoa war expedition of Rauparaha and Waka Nene, which is so well remembered. This war-party fought its way down the coast, defeating and grievously crushing the Ngatiapa, the Muaupoko, and, in part at least, the Rangitane; for although the Rangitane have in latter days expressed ignorance of the raid except in so far as Rauparaha came into conflict with them at Hotuiti, the contention savours of absurdity. If the Rangitane did firmly hold the land then, the two parties—on the one hand the intruders and on the other the occupants—could not have failed
to come into conflict. However, be that as it may, the northern war-party returned home after dealing some shrewd blows to the Manawatu tribes, and Rauparaha in the following years made preparations for his great heke or exodus from Kawhia to this district, in which he has accompanied by the Raukawa and a section of the Ngatiawa. The history of his return spelt ruin to the Manawatu Natives. Having fought his way south to Kapiti, he established there his headquarters, having at his call the three tribes who composed the migration—viz., the Ngatitoa, the Ngatiraukawa, and a portion of the Ngatiawa. The power of his war-parties, his rifles, his own ability and ruthlessness, and the weakness of the original inhabitants, all tended in one direction— the complete subjugation of the old residents, and the establishing of the new tribes' mana as far north as the Wangaehu River, as far south as Wellington. Moreover, a treacherous murder of Rauparaha's children by the enemy lent the war from his side a ruthlessness exceeding the ordinary tribal conflicts. Slaughtering, harrying, massacring wherever occasion allowed, Rauparaha decimated the district, and drove into hiding the shattered tribes from the Wangaehu to Port Nicholson.
The scene of this murder, so fatal to the tribes concerned, was Papaitonga, situated in the beautiful lake where Sir Walter Buller now lives. The place is one of the masterpieces of nature. A small island rises in the lake, bush-clad to the water's edge; the ferns, nikau, kowhai, and other native trees are reflected in the perfect mirror of the lake. Here was the pa of Toheriri, a leader of the Muaupoko, and here Rauparaha was invited to a friendly visit, the bait held out being the promise of some warcanoes. Rauparaha went with his wives, his children, and a handful of followers, and in the darkness the entire party except Rauparaha and a little girl were murdered. The great chief escaped, and swore a signal revenge. He swore to kill Muaupoko and Ngatiapa from early morn till dewy eve; and well he kept his word. He hunted them on land, he hunted them in the mountains, he followed them to their lake fortresses. To take Waiputa, a fortification in the Horo lake, his men swam off; to take the great Papaitonga Pa of Waikiekie they dragged their canoes overland. In each case the same fate befell the defenders. They were cut down to a man, woman, or child, and the lovely little island at Papaitonga still hides legions of dead men's bones. This was the fate of Muaupoko. Nor did Rangitane and Ngatiapa fare much better. Rauparaha harried them with his Ngatitoa, and the war-parties of Ngatiwaewae, Ngatipikiaha, and Ngatimaniapoto—hapus of the Raukawa—spread over their lands from the Oroua to Rangitikei as far north as Kakariki. At Kakariki, Awahuri, Tuwhakahepua, Puketotara—
wherever these people congregated they were attacked, dispersed, and massacred until not one place of any importance was left them as a fortress, and the wretched remnant of these once important tribes was a number of frightened fugitives furtively living so long only as they could escape their foe's notice. So severely were the tribes dealt with that, even counting Ngatiraukawa, a Government censor in 1860 estimated the total Native population of the Manawatu at six hundred persons. The conquered territory was parcelled out. Ngatiawa had the south, Ngatitoa the centre, while the northern portion, including the Rangitikei and Manawatu, was allotted to the Ngatiraukawa. To use the words of an old Native,—
“30th April, 1866.
“To Captain Russell, Native Minister.
“What we have said is true—neither Ngatiawa, Rangitane, nor Muaupoko have anything to do with it[the land]. The truth is, on our arrival they were all killed or beaten by Te Rauparaha. The mana of the land had also departed, and they remained slaves. Again, Te Rauparaha was continually slaying the people who had murdered his children. On account of our long residence at last Rauparaha ceased slaying them, and then they lived. The word of Rauparaha went forth, Let the land remain for Raukaroa as far as Rangitikei, as far as Otaki. By this time we obtained authority over these lands, and by this our with holding the land is just. Again, we have been living on it for many years. We have lived on the land thirty-one years. The fire of Ngatiapa has not been kindled up to the present day. This is why our speech has been put forth—first Governor Grey, second Governor Browne, third Governor Grey again. Our determination to hold fast the land is fixed and will never cease.”
Now, were the Ngatiraukawa justified from a Native point of view in this claim? In order to be in a position to fairly estimate this, certain salient features should be borne in mind, which it seems to me have been lost sight of by most of those who have given the matter impartial consideration. One cardinal factor dominates any theory on the subject—a factor entirely opposed to our common views of title to land. We must eliminate from the discussion all question or idea as to who owned the land. Maoris knew no ownership in land. No individual owned land, no hapu owned land, no tribe owned land. Over certain very limited areas individuals possessed certain usufructuary rights—in certain game-places, cultivations, and eel-weirs families or hapus might have a joint right, excluding to some extent the rest of the tribe—while the aggregate of these rights of enjoy-
ment, backed—and only so long as it was backed—by the mana of the tribe, formed the so-called Native ownership. Ownership it was not. The power to prevent others from exercising rights, and that this power was recognised by those others—this, in a word, constituted the “mana.” The actual exercise of the rights was not necessary. Interference with the rights might occur and not destroy them. So long as the recognised ability to permanently exercise the rights, and the correlative ability to stop others, obtained, so long did the tribe having that ability have the mana. But, co-existing with the mana of one tribe over the whole land within settled tribal boundaries, portions of another tribe might in one way or another have limited rights over certain defined parts. Such rights would be confined to the actual usufruct enjoyed, and would not give mana over the surrounding country. It might be a settled and long-standing concession, strictly limited. This in process of time became practically irrevocable, and one method alone extinguished the limited rights that the exercise of such privileges gave to any nomad or wild tribe upon any specific territory: that method was death. Death alone completely extinguished the rights and left no flaws on the title. This it is that points the grim wit of Mr. T. C. Williams's description of Te Rauparaha as “the ablest conveyancer of the period.” His title-deeds were without flaw And the old Maori urged this on his tribes, “Clear the weeds from my garden.” Unfortunately for them they did not.
Now, as we have seen, the northern part of the territorial conquest passed to the Raukawa. Extended as they were far away from the influence of Rauparaha and his ruthless savagery, as time passed along they dealt gently with the broken tribes. “The rain from heaven might fall on these tribes,” to use Whatanui's descriptive phrase, “but no man's hand should be on them.” So it was with the Muaupoko, and so it was with the Rangitane, and the beggarly fragment of Ngatiapa that unobtrusively crept from their bush hiding-places. The Raukawa, magnanimous in their victory, allowed these wretched people a settlement, allowed them to occupy, allowed them to cultivate. But the mana to the Wangaehu was with the conquerors. No tribe would have dared occupy the country hostilely to them. It was under the Raukawa mana that the Ngatiapa and Rangitane rested alive and unharried.
So it was when the Europeans commenced to push their way, and abundant testimony proves it.
But the coming of the white man spelt fresh trouble. Among the older settlers Mr. F. Robinson took up a block of some 20,000 acres near Foxton, Mr. Thomas Cook a similar area in the same district, Mr. Steven Hartley a small piece on the Manawatu
River; Mr. Bull and Mr. Donald Fraser each took a large block in the Rangitikei district; Captain Earl—or, as he is called in the records, “Kerl”—and Mr. Daniels also took up large holdings in the Rangitikei. Each of the northern settlers obtained his holding by the consent of the Raukawa Natives who lived in the immediate vicinity of the land leased. These lands were held on various terms, at various rentals, but it appears that the whole of the rents were paid to, and the leases were made by, a chief of the Raukawa called Nepia Taratoa. And it was only as this old chief felt the touch of Death on his shoulder that he parcelled out portions of the rents to Ngatiapa and a portion to Rangitane. Nepia was the moving and managing spirit in the leasing, as in the consent to the sale of the Rangitikei Block by the Ngatiapa, and the Upper Manawatu or Ahuahirangi Block by Rangitane. The fact that the consent was sought for and given further strengthens the Raukawa claims.
It must not, however, be assumed that the Rangitane in particular were entirely crushed, at any rate until long after 1830. The name of the tribe, perhaps the most warlike of the three, appears in connection with blocks situated far away from the Manawatu district. This was exemplified to me in a some-what startling way at the hearing of the Tipapakuku Block. Mr. Southey Baker was cross-examining one of the claimants as to whether he was one of the Ngatipakapaka. The man questioned, Ihaia te Ngar ra, flew into a violent passion and shouted out, “Yes, I am a Ngatipakapaka, and I will tell you why I am called a Ngatipakapaka. When I was a boy, my father and my uncle and I were hunting a sort of a short-tailed dog, which had been recently introduced, and which we kept as pets. Hoani” [pointing to Hoani Meihana, who sat a little bit away, champing his toothless gums] “and his war-party came across the mountains, and they caught us, and they killed us, and cooked us, and overcooked us, and that is why I am called Ngatipakapaka.” In the case in question Meihana was allowed in as an equal fifth owner in this block, which was situated beyond Dannevirke.
To return, however, to the Manawatu-Rangitikei. It is indisputable that by the clemency of their victors portions of the three tribes returned to inhabit without let or hindrance limited areas in the block, and, as the power of the Government gradually strengthened in the years following 1840, the Ngatiapa, and to a certain extent the Rangitane, who had really been living by the sufferance of the Raukawa, commenced to arrogate to themselves the position of owners of the land they were occupying. The Muaupoko claim came later. In all cases where through the clemency of the conqueror the original inhabitants had been allowed even a precarious holding, they, as soon as the reign
of law arose, stretched their claim to that of an undisputed possession of their lands. The three sections of Raukawa which established themselves in the Rangitikei-Manawatu, and Whatanui's branch, which occupied the land about Horowhenua, made a mistake from a territorial point of view when they left the original inhabitants to maintain a precarious existence, for European ideas and European interference pushed the matter eventually to a pitch of injustice. The claims of the subject tribes through the years following gradually strengthened. The fighting with the rebels gave them a further claim. Armed by the Government with rifles, and supplied with ammunition, the Ngatiapa assumed an arrogant attitude, until at last the whole matter came to a head in the year 1863. In the year 1862—not 1865, as Buick, generally so accurate, states—the first Native Land Court Act was passed, and Courts were set up to ascertain and determine the tribal ownership of the lands. As it was pointed out at the time, this Act, despite many flaws and many weaknesses of detail, was a step in the right direction, as it enabled the ownership or crystallized mana of the land to be definitely determined before the memory of the truth had passed away. To the great disgust of the Manawatu Natives, however, the Rangitikei-Manawatu Block, and the Raukawa blocks on the West Coast, were expressly excluded from the operation of the Act, and a feeling of anger and alarm was thus raised in the ever-suspicious minds of the tribes concerned. At the time in question the King movement was very pronounced throughout the whole of the land; and a Commissioner, who made a tour throughout the whole of the land, and in, amongst others, the Manawatu district, reported that at Otaki, at Poroutawhao, and other settlements, including the Rangitane cultivations on the Oroua River, the King party was in a strong majority. Trouble began to brew, the only element wanted being a leader. This leader was soon forthcoming in Ihakara Tukemaru, a Ngatiraukawa chief, who had his residences at Motuiti and Kereru. It was represented to the Raukawa that the reason their land was excluded was because the Ngatiapa Tribe was selling to the Government, and were claiming the whole of the block lying between the Rangitikei River and the Manawatu. The discontent grew apace, and was fostered by Ihakara, so that it finally culminated in preparations for a fight. The Ngatiraukawa, under Ihakara, together with the Rangitane, collected at Tawharitoa, Ihakara's pa, to the number of some four hundred. The Ngatiapa, who were in a large minority, appealed to the Wanganui tribes, who thereupon expressed their intention to support them, and they, too, commenced to construct a fortified pa on the other bank of the Rangitikei River at Owharoa,
close to where Bull's now stands. Here they hoisted the Union Jack and a small red war-flag.
Dr. Fetherston, the then Superintendent of the Wellington Province, received information of the pending fight, and forthwith proceeded with Mr. (now Sir) Walter Buller to the scene of the dispute. According to his own account he found affairs at a pitch of high tension. Just before his arrival the Ngatiraukawa had danced a war-dance, which was tantamount to a declaration of war. He first proceeded to their pa, and had a long interview with the chiefs. He pointed out that the Government would severely suppress any hostilities, and would treat as murder any bloodshed that took place during their fight. He promised to see the Ngatiapa, and suggested that arbitration should be resorted to to determine the ownership of the lands in dispute. To this the Ngatiraukawas declined to accede. “Kahore,” said Ihakara; “the arbitrators must meet in the presence of the three tribes. The tribes will meet with their arms in their hands. Each man will say what he pleases.” They had found that arbitration in the past had not proved a satisfactory method of settling disputes as to the ownership of land, and they firmly declined to have anything to do with any such proceeding, except in the way suggested. Dr. Featherston then suggested as an alternative that the land should go through the Native Land Court, or that a division should be made by a Government valuer of the land; but this course was even less satisfactory as a proposition than the previous one. This is not to be wondered at, masmuch as Dr. Featherston suggested every difficulty that the course would necessarily imply. Matters thus having come to a deadlock, a suggestion was made which I feel sure was the original suggestion that Dr. Featherston had in his mind. I refer to the suggestion that the parties should sell the block to the Government, and that, instead of fighting about the land, they should divide the money in proper proportions. To this the Raukawa declined altogether to consent. Dr. Featherston then, having renterated his warning, went to the opposite camp and interviewed the Ngatiapa. He put forward to them, in a half-hearted way, the first two propositions he had made to the Raukawa, but they firmly declined. When, however, he approached the sale of the land the Ngatiapa consented; and this, I think, confirms the theory which has been held by most people, that the Ngatiapa had no real claim in the land. They sold to make good their title—just as Solomon's spurious mother consented to the child's death. Dr. Featherston, however, pointed out that he would not buy the land from them alone. He did not wish to have any more Waitara Blocks. He was, he said, prepared to purchase their interest in the land.
This they at first declined, and matters looked as unpromising as before. Eventually, however, as the result of considerable exertions, Dr. Featherston arranged with the more active chiefs of both parties that the Government should give them the sum of £25,000, and that the money should be subsequently divided as a tribunal to be appointed should consider fair. The consent of the tribe, which Ihakara pointed out was essential, and the signature of the deed, was left for another time. The three tribes having, however, consented so far, it was felt that hostilities were averted, so by consent all rents were impounded, and Dr. Featherston returned to Wellington.
During his absence, however, and before the deed was actually signed, steps, and very active steps, were taken to embroil the whole matter again. A cartoon was the most effective weapon used. To quote Ihakara, “The tribe sent a petition to have the land investigated in the Court. The Assembly refused— Kaiongi told me, on account of Buller and Featherston. I replied to Kaiongi's letter, and in return received a caricature representing the three tribes as pigs with Maori heads being led and driven by Featherston and Buller.” The Natives were also informed that Dr. Featherston and Mr. Buller had been instrumental in putting a fence round their lands to fence it off from the benefit of the Native Land Act. The ever-ready suspicions of the Native mind sprang up. Each tribe demurred, and so incensed in particular were the Raukawa that they promptly repudiated the whole deal between them and the Government. The position was, to a certain extent, conduced to by Mr. Mantell, the then Colonial Secretary, who, in addition to flouting the Maoris in every way possible, and discounting the work which had been done, removed and apparently degraded both Mr. Buller, who had been very active in effecting the settlement, and the then Resident Magistrate, Mr. Noake.
Dr. Featherston, however, with characteristic energy, was not be thwarted in his attempt to acquire for the Government such a valuable asset as the Manawatu Block, and he accordingly called together a very large meeting of the Natives, and again addressed them on the subject. The meeting took place at Scott's Ferry, and was very largely attended by the Raukawa Tribe. Dr. Featherston first listened to their grievances. They dwelt bitterly upon their being represented as pigs, also upon the way they considered they had been flouted and betrayed by Dr. Featherston, and still more on the exclusion of their lands from the provisions of the Act. His reply was on the same lines. He pointed out that if they were compared to pigs, he, on his part, and Mr. Buller, might be compared to sheep driven away by the tribes off the land; that the fact that any
one should cartoon him in that character would not affect the attitude he had taken up, even if it should also be pointed out what a bad bargain he had made with the tribes. He replied in detail to the whole of the charges which had been levied against him; and, partly through the influence of Mr. Buller and partly through a promise to allow the Act to operate over the other lands of Raukawa, succeeded in reducing the tribes again to a state of satisfaction, with the ultimate result that the purchase was eventually allowed and ratified by the whole of the tribe with certain exceptions.
I cannot help thinking that here, as so often happens in Native matters, the most active sellers were those with the least personal estate. This was so even with the Raukawa, and the dignified lament of Parakaia te Pouopa breathes the spirit of truth: “Give heed. Thus far have I shown kindness to those tribes who were spared by ourselves from slaughter by Te Rauparaha. Rangitikei, a large block of land, I graciously gave to Ngatiapa; Te Huaturanga, a large block of land, I graciously gave back to Rangitane; and now these tribes together with the Government come openly to take away my piece remaining; outhouses and the cultivations whence my tribe get their living are being taken away.”
But the land was sold, and the Native Land Court set up to deal with the division of the money and the allocation of reserves. The judgment was a lengthy and laboured statement, founded upon the evidence of Ngatiapa alone. Summarised, the result was a judicial apology for and vindication of Ngatiapa and Rangitane, and the diversion to them of a large sum justly due to Raukawa if any one. This judgment was followed by the setting-aside of seventy-five reserves, about 24,000 acres in extent, for non-sellers and in part for sellers.
Such is a short and imperfect sketch of the occupation of the Manawatu Block, and the transfer of that block to the Government; and if we apply to it the principles we have laid down, the injustice of the Manawatu-Rangitikei acquisition stands nakedly before us. The Raukawas were the real owners of the block. Instead of receiving, as they did, £10,000, the whole of the purchase-price should have come to them, leaving to the Ngatiapa and Rangitane the limited rights over strictly defined areas which they had acquired by the clemency of their conquerors. This did not suit the Government. In this case, as with Horowhenua—an even more monstrous injustice—their whole object was to prevent trouble. The turbulent party was the undeserving party, but their insistence won the day. A threat of rifles and the Government of the day descended from their lofty attitude and accepted the Native position, pro-
stituting justice and their own Court to secure a convenient verdict. The blot of Rangitikei-Manawatu will always lie on the record of the Native Land Court, only surpassed by that of the Horowhenua, the judgment in which reads like one of Horace's finest satires. Nor was the Native Land Court consistent; and the deadliest comment on the judgment in the two blocks referred to is furnished by the same Court's judgment in the Manawatu-Kukutauaki cases.