The time of Maori



So far as we know, the original inhabitants of New Zealand were a dark-skinned race called Maoris, a people lithe and handsome of body, though generally plain of features: open, frank and happy in youth, grave and often melancholy in their older years. They numbered forty thousand in the North Island, where the warmth of the climate suited them, but in the South Island there were only two thousand. They were divided into tribes, who fought fiercely with one another; cooked and ate the bodies of the slain, and carried off the vanquished to be slaves.

They dwelt in houses sometimes neatly built of wooden slabs, more often of upright poles with broad grass leaves woven between them. The roofs were of grass, plaited and thatched. To these abodes the entrances were only some two or three feet high, and after crawling through, the visitor who entered at night would see the master of the house, his wives, his children, his slaves, indeed all his household, to the number of twenty or thirty, lying on mats in rows down either side, with their heads to the walls and their feet to the centre, leaving a path down the middle. In these rooms they slept, with a fire burning all night, till, what with the smoke and the breaths of so many people, the place was stifling. The roofs were only four feet higher than the ground outside, but, then, inside, the earth was hollowed a foot or two to make the floor so that a man could just stand upright.

The Maori chief

The Maori chief

These houses were gathered in little villages, often pleasantly situated beside a stream, or on the sea-shore; but sometimes for defence they were placed on a hill and surrounded by high fences with ditches and earthen walls so as to make a great stronghold of the kind they called a “pah”. The trenches were sometimes twenty or thirty feet deep; but generally the pah was built so that a rapid river or high precipices would defend two or three sides of it, while only the sides not so guarded by nature were secured by ditches and a double row of palisades. Within these enclosures stages were erected behind the palisades so that the fighting men could hurl stones and spears and defy an attacking party.

Maori Customs

Round their villages and pahs they dug up the soil and planted the sweet potato, and the taro, which is the root of a kind of arum lily; they also grew the gourd called calabash, from whose hard rind they made pots and bowls and dishes. When the crops of sweet potato and taro were over they went out into the forest and gathered the roots of certain sorts of ferns, which they dried and kept for their winter food. They netted fish and eels; they caught sharks with hook and line and dried their flesh in the sun. To enjoy these meals in comfort they had a broad verandah round their houses which formed an open and generally pleasant dining-room, where they gathered in family circles bound by much affection for one another.

The Maori canoe

The Maori canoe

The girls especially were sweet and pretty; their mild manners, their soft and musical voices, the long lashes of their drooping eyes, with the gloss of their olive-tinted skins made them perfect types of dusky beauty. Grown a little older they were by no means so attractive, and then when married they deeply scored their faces by the process of tattooing. The men had their faces, hips, and thighs tattooed, that is, all carved in wavy lines which were arranged in intricate patterns. The women tattooed only their lips, chins, and eyelids, but often smeared their faces with red ochre, and soaked their hair with oil. Men and women wore round the waist a kilt of beautifully woven flax, and over the shoulders a mat of the same material.

They were expert sailors, and built themselves large canoes which thirty or forty men would drive forward, keeping time with their paddles. Their large war canoes were sixty and seventy feet long, and would carry 100 men. Thus they were by no means uncivilised, but their condition was in some respects most barbarous. In person they were dirty, and in manners proud and arrogant. They were easily offended, and never forgave what they considered as an injury or insult. This readiness to take offence and to avenge themselves caused the neighbouring tribes to be for ever at war. They fought with great bravery, slaughtered each other fiercely, and ate the bodies. Sometimes they killed their captives or slaves in order to hold a cannibal feast. According to their own traditions they had not been always in these islands. Their ancestors came from afar, and each tribe had its own legendary account. But they all agreed that they came from an island away to the north in the Pacific, which they called Hawaiki, and there is little doubt but that some hundreds of years ago their forefathers must in truth have emigrated from some of the South Sea Islands. Whether they found natives on the islands and killed them all, we cannot now discover.

The Maori people

The Maori people

There are no traces of any earlier people, but the Maoris in their traditions say that people were found on the islands and slain and eaten by the invaders. One tribe declared that long ago in far-off Hawaiki a chief hated another, but was too weak to do him harm. He fitted out a canoe for a long voyage, and suddenly murdered the son of his enemy. He then escaped on board the canoe with his followers and sailed away for ever from his home. This legend declared how after many adventures he at length reached New Zealand. Another legend relates that in Hawaiki the people were fighting, and a tribe being beaten was forced to leave the island. Sorrowfully it embarked in two canoes and sailed away out upon the tossing ocean, till, directed by the voice of their god sounding from the depths below them, they landed on the shores of New Zealand. How many centuries they lived and multiplied there it is impossible to say, as they had no means of writing and recording their history.

Tasman

The earliest we know of them for certain is in the journal of Abel Janszoon Tasman, who writes under the date of 13th December, 1642, that he had that day seen shores never before beheld by white men. He was then holding eastward after his visit to Tasmania, and the shore he saw was the mountainous land in the North Island. He rounded what we now call Cape Farewell, and anchored in a fine bay, whose green and pleasant shores were backed by high snow-capped mountains. Several canoes came off from the beach filled by Maoris, who lay about a stone’s throw distant and sounded their war trumpets. The Dutch replied by a flourish of their horns. For several days the Maoris would come no nearer, but on the sixth they paddled out with seven canoes and surrounded both vessels. Tasman noticed that they were crowding in a somewhat threatening manner round one of his ships, the Heemskirk, and he sent a small boat with seven men to warn the captain to be on his guard. When the Maoris saw these seven men without weapons sailing past their canoes they fell on them, instantly killed three and began to drag away their bodies; no doubt to be eaten.

Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603–1659)

Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603–1659)

The other four Dutchmen, by diving and swimming, escaped and reached the ship half dead with fright. Then with shouts the whole line of Maori canoes advanced to attack the ships; but a broadside startled them. They were stupefied for a moment at the flash and roar of the cannon and the crash of the wood-work of their canoes; then they turned and fled, carrying with them, however, one of the bodies. Tasman sailed down into Cook Strait, which he very naturally took to be a bay, the weather being too thick for him to see the passage to the south-east. He then returned and coasted northwards to the extreme point of New Zealand, which he called Cape Maria Van Diemen, probably after the wife of that Governor of Batavia who had sent out the expedition. Tasman called the lands he had thus discovered “New Zealand,” after that province of Holland which is called Zealand, or the Sea-land. The bay in which he had anchored was called Murderers’ or Massacre Bay.

Captain Cook

For more than a hundred years New Zealand had no white men as visitors. It was in 1769 that Captain James Cook, on his way home from Tahiti, steering to the south-west in the hope of discovering new lands, saw the distant hills of New Zealand. Two days later he landed on the east coast of the North Island, a little north of Hawke Bay. There lay the little ship the Endeavour at anchor, with its bulging sides afloat on a quiet bay, in front a fertile but steeply sloping shore with a pah on the crown of a hill, and a few neat little houses by the side of a rapid stream. In the evening Cook, Banks, and other gentlemen took the pinnace and rowed up the streamlet. They landed, leaving some boys in charge of the boat, and advanced towards a crowd of Maoris, making friendly signs as they approached. The Maoris ran away, but some of them seeing their chance made a dash at the boys in the boat and tried to kill them. The boys pushed off, and dropped down the stream; the Maoris chased them, determined on mischief. Four of them being very murderous, the coxswain fired a musket over their heads. They were startled, but continued to strike at the boys with wooden spears. Seeing the danger the coxswain levelled his musket and shot one of the Maoris dead on the spot. The others fled, and Cook, hearing the report of the gun, hurried back and at once returned to the ship.

Captain James Cook meeting with Maori chiefs in New Zealand, 1769

Captain James Cook meeting with Maori chiefs in New Zealand, 1769

Over and over again Cook did everything he could devise to secure the friendship of these people; but they always seemed to have only one desire, and that was to kill and eat the white visitors. One day five canoes came out to chase the Endeavour as she was sailing along the coast. Another time nine canoes densely filled with men sailed after her, paddling with all their might to board the vessel. In these and many other cases cannon had to be fired over their heads to frighten them before they would desist from their attempt to capture the ship. At one bay, the Maoris made friends and went on board the Endeavour to sell provisions, but when all was going forward peaceably they suddenly seized a boy and pulled him into their canoe. They were paddling away with him when some musket shots frightened them, and in the confusion the boy dived and swam back. Cook sailed completely round the North Island, charting the shores with great care, often landing, sometimes finding tribes who made friends, more often finding tribes whose insolence or treachery led to the necessity of firing upon them with small shot.

Hiko, the son of Te Pehi Kupe

Hiko, the son of Te Pehi Kupe

If he had only known the customs of these people he would have understood that to be friendly with one tribe meant that the next tribe would murder and eat them for revenge. He then sailed round the South Island, landing less frequently, however, till at length he took his leave of New Zealand at what he called Cape Farewell, and sailed away to Australia. He had been nearly six months exploring the coasts of these islands, and that in a very small vessel. During this time he had left pigs and goats, fowls and geese to increase in the forests, where they soon multiplied, especially the pigs. Potatoes and turnips were left with many tribes, who quickly learnt how to grow them, so that after ten or twelve years had passed away these vegetables became the chief food of all the Maoris.

French Visitors

Whilst Cook was sailing round the North Island, a French vessel anchored in a bay of that island in search of fresh water. The Ngapuhi tribe received them with pleasure and gave them all the assistance in their power, but some of them stole a boat. The captain, named De Surville, then seized one of the chiefs and put him in irons. The boat not being given up, he burnt a village and sailed to South America, the chief dying on the road. Three years later in 1772 came another Frenchman, Marion du Fresne, with two ships; this time for the express purpose of making discoveries. He sailed up the west coast, rounded the North Cape and anchored in the Bay of Islands. He landed and made friends with the Ngapuhi tribe and took his sick sailors ashore. The Maoris brought him plenty of fish, and Du Fresne made them presents in return. For a month the most pleasant relations continued, the Maoris often sleeping on board and the French officers spending the night in the Maori houses.

Marion du Fesne murder, by artist Charles Meryon

Marion du Fesne murder, by artist Charles Meryon

One day Captain Marion went ashore with sixteen others to enjoy some fishing. At night they did not return. Captain Crozet, who was second in command, thought they had chosen to sleep ashore, but the next day he sent a boat with twelve men to find where they were. These men were scattering carelessly through the woods when suddenly a dense crowd of Maoris, who had concealed themselves, attacked and killed all the Frenchmen but one. He who escaped was hidden behind some bushes, and he saw his comrades brained one after another; then he saw the fierce savages cut their bodies in pieces, and carry them away in baskets to be eaten. When the Maoris were gone he crept along the shore and swam to the ship, which he reached half dead with terror. Crozet landed sixty men, and the natives gathered for a fight; but the Frenchmen merely fired volley after volley into a solid mass of Maori warriors, who, stupefied at the flash and roar, were simply slaughtered as they stood. Crozet burnt both the Maori villages and sailed away. In later times the Maoris explained that the French had desecrated their religious places by taking the carved ornaments out of them for firewood.

Cook’s Later Visits

In his second voyage Cook twice visited New Zealand in 1773 and 1774. He had two vessels, one of them under the command of Captain Tobias Furneaux. While this latter vessel was waiting in Queen Charlotte Sound, a bay opening out of Cook Strait, Captain Furneaux sent a boat with nine men who were to go on shore and gather green stuff for food. A crowd of Maoris surrounded them, and one offered to sell a stone hatchet to a sailor, who took it; but to tease the native, in silly sailor fashion, this sailor would neither give anything for it nor hand it back. The Maori in a rage seized some bread and fish which the sailors were spreading for their lunch. The sailors closed to prevent their touching the victuals; a confused struggle took place, during which the English fired and killed two natives, but before they could load again they were all knocked on the head with the green stone axes of the Maoris.

Captain Tobias Furneaux

Captain Tobias Furneaux

An officer sent ashore later on with a strong force found several baskets of human limbs, and in one of them a head which he recognised as that of a sailor belonging to the party. The officer attacked some hundreds of the Maoris as they were seated at their cannibal feast, and drove them away from the half-gnawed bones. Cook again touched at New Zealand in the course of his third voyage, and this time succeeded in maintaining friendly relations with the Maoris during a short visit. But when the story of Cook’s voyage was published in later years the people of Europe conceived a deep horror of these fierce man-eating savages.

The Whalers

For ten or twelve years New Zealand was not visited by white men, but the foundation of a town at Sydney, in 1788, brought ships out much more often into these waters, and before long it was found that the seas round New Zealand were well stocked with whales. Vessels came out to carry on the profitable business of catching them and taking their oil to Europe. For fresh water and for fuel for their stoves they called at the shores of New Zealand, chiefly at Queen Charlotte Sound, at Dusky Bay on the west coast of South Island, but especially at the Bay of Islands near the extreme north of North Island. There they not only got fresh water but bought fish and pork and potatoes from the friendly tribes of natives, paying for them with knives and blankets; and although quarrels sometimes occurred and deaths took place on both sides, the whalers continued more and more to frequent these places.

19th century whalers

19th century whalers

Sometimes the sailors, attracted by the good looks of the Maori girls, took them as wives and lived in New Zealand. These men generally acted as sealers. They caught the seals that abounded on some parts of the coast, and gathered their skins until the ships called back, when the captain would give them tobacco and rum, guns and powder in exchange for their seal-skins. These the sealers generally shared with the Maoris, who therefore began to find out that it was good to have a white man to be dwelling near them: he brought ships to trade, and the ships brought articles that the Maoris began to value.

New Zealand Maori Girls (1898)

New Zealand Maori Girls (1898)

Maoris visit Sydney

In 1793, Governor John Hunter at Sydney directed that the convicts at Norfolk Island should be set to weave the fine flax that grew wild in that island. They tried, but could make no cloth so fine and soft as that made by the Maoris out of very much the same sort of plant. A ship was sent to try and persuade some Maoris to come over and teach the art. The captain of the ship, being lazy or impatient, did not trouble to persuade; he seized two Maoris and carried them off. They were kept for six months at Norfolk Island, but Captain King treated them very well, and sent them back with ten sows, two boars, a supply of maize-seed and other good things to pay them for their time. When King became Governor of New South Wales he sent further presents over to Te Pehi, chief of the tribe to which these young men belonged, and hence Te Pehi longed to see the sender of these things.

John Hunter (1737-1821)

John Hunter (1737-1821)

He and his four sons ventured to go in an English vessel to Sydney, where they were astonished at all they saw. On his return Te Pehi induced a sailor named George Bruce, who had been kind to him when he was sick on board ship, to settle in the tribe; the young Englishman married Te Pehi’s most charming daughter, and was tattooed and became the first of the Pakeha Maoris, or white men who lived in Maori fashion. Pleased by Te Pehi’s account of what he had seen, other Maoris took occasional trips to Sydney, working their passages in whaling ships.

Friendly Relations

Meanwhile English vessels more and more frequently visited New Zealand for pork and flax and kauri pine, or else to catch seals, or merely to take a rest after a long whaling trip. The Bay of Islands became the chief anchorage for that purpose, and thither the Maoris gathered to profit by the trade. Some of the more adventurous, when they found that the English did them no harm, shipped as sailors for a voyage on board the whalers; but though they made good seamen they were sometimes sulky and revengeful, and rarely continued at it more than two or three years. In 1805 a Maori went with an English surgeon all the way to England, and returned with the most astounding tales of London and English wonders.

During the next four or five years several other Maoris went to England, while, on the other hand, a few very respectable white men began to settle down in New Zealand. They were far superior to the rough sailors and liberated convicts of Sydney, who so far had been the most frequent visitors, so that mutual good-will seemed to be established, as the Maoris found that there was much they could gain by the visits of the white men. But all this friendliness was marred by an unfortunate occurrence.

The Boyd Massacre

In 1809 a ship named the Boyd sailed from Sydney to go to England round Cape Horn. She had on board seventy white people, including some children of officers at Sydney who were on their way to England to be educated. As she was to call at New Zealand to get some kauri spars, five Maoris went with her, working their passage over. One of these Maoris, named Te Ara, was directed during the voyage to do something which he refused to do. The captain caused him to be twice flogged. When the ship anchored in a bay a little to the north of the Bay of Islands, Te Ara went ashore, and showed to his tribe his back all scarred with the lash. Revenge was agreed on. The captain was enticed ashore with a few men; and they were suddenly attacked and all killed. Then the Maoris quietly got alongside the ship, rushed on board and commenced the work of massacre among men, women and children, who were all unarmed. Some of the children fell and clasped the feet of Te Ara, begging him to save them, but the young savage brained them without mercy. All were slain except a woman and two children who hid themselves during the heat of the massacre, and a boy who was spared because he had been kind to Te Ara. All the bodies were taken ashore and eaten.

 

The Boyd massacre

The Boyd massacre

One of the chiefs while curiously examining a barrel of gunpowder caused it to explode, blowing himself and a dozen others to pieces. Te Pehi, the head chief of the Ngapuhi, was extremely vexed when he heard of this occurrence, and took some trouble to rescue the four survivors, but five whaling vessels gathered for revenge; they landed their crews, who shot thirty Maoris whether belonging to Te Ara’s tribe or not, and in their blind fury burnt Te Pehi’s village, severely wounding the chief himself. This outrage stopped all friendly intercourse for a long time. The whalers shot the Maoris whenever they saw them, about a hundred being killed in the next three years, while the Maoris killed and ate any white people they could catch. Thus in 1816 the Agnes, an American brig, happened to be wrecked on their shores. They killed and ate everybody on board, except one man, who was tattooed and kept for a slave during twelve years.

The Missionaries

In spite of all these atrocities a band of missionaries had the courage to settle in New Zealand and begin the work of civilising these Maori tribes. This enterprise was the work of a notable man named Samuel Marsden, who had in early life been a blacksmith in England, but had devoted himself with rare energy to the laborious task of passing the examinations needed to make him a clergyman. He was sent out to be the chaplain to the convicts at Sydney, and his zeal, his faith in the work he had to do, and his roughly eloquent style, made him successful where more cultured clergymen would have failed. For fourteen years he toiled to reform convicts, soldiers, and officers in Sydney; and when Governor King went home to England in 1807, after his term was expired, Marsden went with him on a visit to his friends. While in London, Marsden brought before the Mission Society the question of doing something to Christianise these fierce but intelligent people, and the society not only agreed, but employed two missionaries named Hall and King to undertake the work. When Marsden, along with these two courageous men, started back to Sydney in the Ann convict ship, in 1809, there was on board, strangely enough, a Maori chief called Ruatara.

Samuel Marsden (1764-1838)

Samuel Marsden (1764-1838)

This young fellow was a nephew of Hongi, the powerful head chief of the Ngapuhi tribe. Four years before, being anxious to see something of the wonders of civilised life, he had shipped as a sailor on board a whaler. He had twice been to Sydney and had voyaged up and down all the Pacific. At length, in 1809, he had gone to London, where he was lost in surprise at all he saw. The climate, however, tried him severely, and he was sick and miserable on the voyage back to Sydney. Marsden was kind to him and gave him a home in his own house. Ruatara had many troubles and dangers to meet, through many months, before he was at last settled among his own people. Meantime, the new Governor of Sydney refused to allow the missionaries to go to New Zealand.

Thomas Kendall with Hongi Hika

Thomas Kendall with Hongi Hika

The massacre of the sixty-six people of the Boyd had roused a feeling of horror, and it seemed a wicked waste of life to try to live among savages so fierce. The missionaries were therefore employed in Sydney. In 1813 Governor Macquarie directed that every vessel leaving for New Zealand should give bonds to the extent of a thousand pounds to guarantee that the white men should not carry off the natives or interfere with their sacred places. Then the trouble between the two races quieted down a little, and in 1814 the missionaries thought they might at least make further inquiries. A brig called the Active of 100 tons was bought; and on board it went Hall with another missionary called Kendall (grandfather of the poet) who had lately come out. They reached the Bay of Islands, taking with them abundance of presents. They saw Ruatara, and persuaded him with his uncle, Hongi, and other chiefs to go to Sydney in the Active, and there discuss the question of a mission station. They went, and Hongi guaranteed the protection of his tribe, the Ngapuhi, if the missionaries would settle in their territory.

The Mission Station

It was in November, 1814, that the Active sailed with the mission colony, consisting of Kendall, King, and Hall, their wives and five children and a number of mechanics; in all twenty-five Europeans, together with eight Maoris. They took three horses, a bull, two cows, and other live stock, and after a quick passage anchored near the north of the North Island. Marsden was with them as a visitor, to see the place fairly started. He was troubled on landing to find that the Ngapuhi were at war with their near neighbours, the Wangaroans, and he saw that little progress would be made till these tribes were reconciled. Marsden fearlessly entered with only one companion into the heart of the hostile tribe; met Tarra, the instigator of the Boyd massacre, and slept that night in the very midst of the Wangaroans. Wrapt up in his greatcoat, he lay close by Tarra, surrounded by the sleeping forms of men and women who, only a few years before, had gathered to the horrid feast. Surprised at this friendly trust, the Wangaroans were fascinated, and subsequently were led by him like children.

Missionaries as a peacemakers

Missionaries as a peacemakers

They were soon induced to rub noses with the chiefs of Ngapuhi as a sign of reconciliation, and were then all invited on board the Active, where a merry breakfast brought old enemies together in friendly intercourse. The missionaries with twelve axes bought 200 acres of land on the shore of the Bay of Islands. Half an acre was soon enclosed by a fence; a few rough houses were built and a pole set up, upon which floated a white flag with a cross and a dove and the words “Good tidings”; Ruatara made a pulpit out of an old canoe, covered it with cloth, and put seats round it. There, on Christmas Day, 1814, Marsden preached the first sermon in New Zealand to a crowded Maori audience, who understood not one word of what was said, but who, perhaps, were benefited by the general impressiveness of the scene. In the following February, Marsden returned to Sydney, thinking the mission in a fair way of success. But all was not to be so harmonious as he dreamt; the liberated convicts, who formed the bulk of the crews of sealing and whaling vessels, treated the natives with coarseness and arrogance; the Maoris were quick to revenge themselves, and the murders, thefts, and quarrels along all the shore did more harm than the handful of missionaries could do good. Three or four times they wished to leave, and as often did Marsden return and persuade them to stay. Their lives at least were safe; for Hongi, the Ngapuhi chief, found that they were useful in the way of bringing trade about, but he was dissatisfied because they would not allow guns and powder to be sold by the white men to him and his people.

Tribal Wars

Hongi saw that the tribe which possessed most guns was sure to get the upper hand of all the others. He therefore contrived in another way to secure these wonderful weapons. For in 1820 when Kendall went home to England for a trip Hongi went with him, and saw with constant wonder the marvels of the great city. The sight of the fine English regiments, the arsenals, the theatres, the big elephant at Exeter Change Menagerie, all impressed deeply the Maori from New Zealand forests. He stayed for a while at Cambridge, assisting a professor to compile a dictionary of the Maori language, and going to church regularly all the time. Then he had an audience from George IV., who gave him many presents, and among others a complete suit of ancient armour. For a whole season, Hongi was a sort of lion among London society. People crowded to see a chief who had eaten dozens of men, and so many presents were given him that when he came back to Sydney he was a rich man. He sold everything, however, except his suit of armour, and with the money he bought 300 muskets and plenty of powder, which he took with him to New Zealand.

Maori war dance, Charles Emilius Gold, c. 1855

Maori war dance, Charles Emilius Gold, c. 1855

Having reached his home he informed his tribe of the career of conquest he proposed; with these muskets he was going to destroy every enemy. “There is but one king in England,” he said; “there shall be only one among the Maoris.” He soon had a force of a thousand warriors, whom he embarked on board a fleet of canoes, and took to the southern shores of the Hauraki Gulf, where the Ngatimaru lived, ancient enemies of the Ngapuhi, who, however, felt secure in their numbers and in the strength of their great pah Totara. But Hongi captured the pah, and slew five hundred of the unfortunate inmates. The Ngatimaru tribe then retreated south into the valley of the Waikato River, and summoned their men and all their friends; a total of over three thousand were arrayed on that fatal battle-field. Hongi with his muskets gained a complete victory. He shot the hostile chief with his own gun, and tearing out his eyes, swallowed them on the field of battle. Over a thousand were killed, and Hongi and his men feasted on the spot for some days till three hundred bodies had been eaten. The victors then returned, bearing in their canoes another thousand captives, of whom many were slain and cooked to provide a share of the horrid feast to the women of the tribe. In his bloodthirsty wars Hongi showed great skill and energy. During the two following years he defeated, slaughtered, and ate large numbers of the surrounding tribes, and when a number of these unfortunate people withdrew to a pah of enormous strength, nearly surrounded by a bend of the Waikato River, he dragged his canoes over to that river, ascended it, dashed at the steep cliffs, the ditches and palisades, and once more the muskets won the day. A thousand fell in the fight; then the women and children were slaughtered in heaps. The strong tribe of the Arawa further south had their chief pah on an island in the middle of Lake Rotorua.

 

Pōtatau Te Wherowhero (died June 25, 1860)

Pōtatau Te Wherowhero (died June 25, 1860)

Hongi with great labour carried his canoes over to the lake. The spear-armed Maoris could do nothing in defence while he shot at them from the lake; and when he assaulted the island, though they came down to the water’s edge to repel him, again there was victory for the muskets. Thus did Hongi conquer till the whole North Island owned his ascendancy. But in 1827 his career came to an end, for having quarrelled with his former friends, the tribe of which Tarra was chief, he killed them all but twenty, but in the fight was himself shot through the lungs; for that tribe had now many muskets also, and a ball fired when the massacre was nearly over passed through Hongi’s chest, leaving a hole which, though temporarily healed, caused his death a few months later. Pomaré succeeded him as chief of the Ngapuhi, and made that tribe still the terror of the island. At one pah Pomaré killed 400 men; and he had his own way for a time in all his fights. But the other tribes now began to see that they could not possibly save themselves except by getting muskets also, and as they offered ten times their value for them in pork and flax and other produce, English vessels brought them over in plenty. The remnant of the Waikato tribe having become well armed and well exercised in shooting under Te Wherowhero, they laid an ambush for Pomaré and killed him with almost the whole of the 500 men who were with him. The other tribes joined Te Wherowhero, and in successive battles ruined the Ngapuhi. Te Wherowhero held the leadership for a time, during which he almost exterminated the Taranaki tribe. He was practically lord of all the North Island till he met his match in Rauparaha, the most determined and wily of all the Maori leaders. He was the chief of a tribe living in the south of the North Island, and he gathered a wild fighting band out of the ruined tribes of his own and the surrounding districts.

Maori tattooing, Ta Moko

Maori tattoo, Ta Moko

Many battles were fought between him and Te Wherowhero, in which sometimes as many as a thousand muskets were in use on each side. Rauparaha was at length overcome, and with difficulty escaped across the strait to the South Island, while Te Wherowhero massacred and enslaved all over the North Island, cooking as many as 200 bodies after a single fight. And yet the evil was in a way its own cure, for, through strenuous endeavours, by this time every tribe had a certain proportion of its men well armed with muskets; and thus no single tribe ever afterwards got the same cruel ascendancy that was obtained first by the Ngapuhi and then by the Waikato tribe. But fights and ambushes, slaughters, the eating of prisoners and all the horrid scenes of Maori war went on from week to week all over the North Island.

Sutherland, Alexander and Sutherland, George, History of Australia and New Zealand From 1606 to 1890

 

 

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