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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


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In recent years many fanciful legends have been woven about Rewi's famous message from the ramparts at Orakau. The following, which reconciles Pakeha and Maori sources, is the record of the conversation between W. G. Mair, Hauraki Tonganui, and Ahumai Te Paerata.

Early in the afternoon of 2 April 1864, the last day of the siege, General Cameron offered the garrison a chance to surrender. Accordingly, W. G. Mair and Mainwaring showed a flag of truce from the British sap. Immediately the firing ceased and the Maoris crowded to the ramparts. Mair and his companion then emerged from the sap and walked to within a few yards of the Maori defence works.

Mair addressed them: “E hoa ma, whakarongo! Ko te kupu tenei a te Tienara: ka nui tona miharo ki to koutou maia, kati me mutu te riri, puta mai kia matou, kia ara o koutou tinana.” (“Friends listen! This is the word of the General. Great is his admiration of your bravery. Stop! Let the fighting cease; come out to us that your bodies may be saved.”)

Hauraki Tonganui (speaking for himself) said: “E hoa, ka whawhai tonu ahau ki a koe, ake ake! Hoki koutou katoa ki Kihikihi, ka hoki matou ki to matou kainga, me waiho atu Orakau nei.” (“Friend, I shall fight against you for ever, for ever! Let all of you return to Kihikihi, and we will go to our homes and abandon Orakau.”)

In the meantime Mair's message was conveyed by Te Huia Raureti to Rewi, who was sitting with the council of chiefs at the northern end of the pa. After some discussion they decided to refuse Cameron's offer and Rewi said: “Kaore e mau te rongo–ake, ake!” (“Peace shall never be made–never, never!”)

Raureti returned to the parapet where Hauraki Tonganui replied to Mair in Rewi's own words. As these were uttered all the people in the pa shouted: “Kaore e mau te rongo–ake, ake, ake.”

When the final decision was made, Rewi came out from the north-west angle of the pa and stood in the trench a few yards behind Raureti and Hauraki Tonganui.

At that reply Mair said: “E pai ana tena mo koutou tangata, engari kahore e tika kia mate nga wahine me nga tamariki. Tukuna mai era.” (“That is well for you men, but is not right that the women and children should die. Let them come out.”)

Somebody, probably Te Paerata, the old Taupo chief, said: “Na te aha koe e mohio he wahine kei konei?” (“How did you know there were women and children here?”)

Mair answered: “I rongo ahau ki te tangi tupapaku i te po.” (“I heard the lamentations for the dead in the night.”)

While this conversation was going on, Rewi was considering Mair's second proposal. Before he had come to any decision, however, the question was taken out of his hands because Ahumai Te Paerata, daughter of Te Paerata, and one of the few survivors of the siege, stood up on the parapet and replied on their behalf: “Ki te mate nga tane, me mate ano nga wahine me nga tamariki.” (“If the men die, the women and children must die also.”)

Then, realising that there would be no further parley, Mair said: “E pai ana, kua mutu te kupu.” (“It is well; the word is ended.”)

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.