Te Rauparaha's Feats
The Maori leader responsible for the greatest slaughter in the early nineteenth century was undoubtedly Te Rauparaha, a chief of the Ngati Toa tribe of the Kawhia district. This was a small tribe, closely related to the Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto tribes who surrounded the Kawhia domains of Ngati Toa. Te Rauparaha was the stormy petrel of the Tainui tribes, constantly quarrelling with his neighbours.
After many years of intertribal fighting, the district north of Kawhia and around Aotea Harbour had become almost depopulated. This vacuum was an invitation to Ngati Mahanga, a Waikato sub-tribe of Whaingaroa (Raglan), to move southwards. They did so, killing a few scattered members of the Ngati Toa and Ngati Koata tribes in the process. Te Rauparaha reacted quickly to this invasion and descended upon Whaingaroa with a fleet of war canoes. He attacked Ngati Mahanga and inflicted a decisive defeat upon them. This led to retaliatory attacks by Waikato on Ngati Toa and Ngati Koata. Gradually Te Rauparaha became embroiled with the whole might of Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto, and for some years war parties moved up and down the Kawhia coast. At times Te Rauparaha's forces were defeated; at other times he inflicted sharp defeats on his more powerful neighbours. In between, there were periods of uneasy peace.
In 1818 a party of Ngati Whatua, under the chiefs Tuwhare and Murupaenga, came to Kawhia, and Te Rauparaha persuaded them to join him on an attack on some of his enemies in Taranaki. While they were in Taranaki Te Puoho, of the Ngati Tama tribe of the Urenui district, asked for their help in attacking the Taranaki tribe's stronghold of Tataraimaka, situated on the coast about 11 miles south-west of New Plymouth. Te Rauparaha and his allies, with a few muskets, were able to take the pa with great slaughter. After a successful attack on another Taranaki pa, Mounukahawai, and an unsuccessful assault on the people of the Tapui-nikau pa, the war parties returned to their respective homes.
In the following year a large northern war party of Ngapuhi and Ngati Whatua stayed at Kawhia on an expedition to the south. Their leaders were Tuwhare, Patuone, Nene, Tawhai, and others. Te Rauparaha and his Ngati Toa were prevailed upon to join the northern people and in due course they set out by way of North Taranaki. The Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga, and Te Atiawa tribes of that district, being related to Ngati Toa, gave a free passage to the expedition. With somewhat indifferent success they attacked several pas of the Ngati Maru tribe of inland Taranaki and then moved on without incident until they arrived at Wanganui. Here they were met by the Wanganui people at Purua pa on the eastern bank of the river, a little above the present city. The firearms of the invaders were too much for the local people and the pa was taken.
Moving south the war party attacked a small pa of the Rangitane tribe on Lake Hotuiti in the Mana-watu district and slew the chief. After a halt at Otaki they continued to Pukerua Bay, where the Muaupoko fortress, Waimapihi, was captured. The next engagement was with the Ngati Ira of the Wellington area. The Parangahau pa was taken after a tremendous resistance by Ngati Ira, which even evoked the admiration of their enemies.
From Wellington the northern party crossed the Rimutaka Range and assaulted the Tauhere-nikau pa near Featherston. The siege was successful and many of the defenders were killed. After pursuing fugitives as far as Porangahau and Cape Palliser, the combined force returned to Wellington and made their way home. Tuwhare's party of Ngati Whatua left the main body to attack some of the river tribes. Tuwhare himself was killed during this fighting.
In 1820 or early 1821 the Waikato tribes decided to rid themselves of their troublesome Ngati Toa neighbours. With their allies, Ngati Maniapoto, the Waikato tribes made a well-planned attack on Kawhia and Taharoa with three forces totalling over 3,000 men, the advance being made simultaneously from the north, the east, and the south. Waikato were led by Te Wherowhero and the Maniapoto by Tukorehu.
As the enemy closed in upon him Te Rauparaha withdrew his men from the strongholds of Te Maika and Te Totara on the south shore of Kawhia Harbour. He concentrated his forces at Te Kawau and Te Roto at the western end of Lake Taharoa. Here Te Rauparaha fell ill and, after handing over the command to his nephew, Te Rangihaeata, he retired to Te Arawi, a pa between Honipaka point and the entrance to Kawhia Harbour. The main battle took place at Te Kakara, between Lake Taharoa and the coast. Te Rauparaha, on the verge of collapse, rejoined his army to exhort them to defend their lands and then went out on the lake in a canoe to watch the fight.
After a desperate struggle Te Wherowhero's combined forces split the Ngati Toa army in two. One half retreated southwards to the friendly Ngati Tama south of Mokau. The remainder moved back into Te Kawau and Te Roto fortresses. These, with inadequate garrisons, soon fell, and the only Ngati Toa force left intact was a small band with Te Rauparaha at Te Arawi, a pa situated on a headland connected to the shore by a razor-backed ridge. As the pa could not be taken by storm the Waikato army laid siege to it. After the siege had lasted for several weeks the Ngati Maniapoto, under the Chief Te Rangituatea, took their turn in standing guard. While the Waikato men were away seeking food Te Rangituatea held a parley with Te Rauparaha, to whom he was related, and arranged for his escape by canoe, while some of the garrison were permitted to move south overland.
Owing to his illness Te Rauparaha did not go far, but took refuge with some of his relations in a cave at Tirua point, while Te Rangihaeata, Te Pehi Kupe, Tungia, and others moved south to Taranaki with the main body of the tribe.
Eventually Te Rangituatea surreptitiously arranged for Te Rauparaha and his party to escape to Mokau. They were seen by Ngati Maniapoto after they had crossed the river but Te Rauparaha had a large number of fires lit to convey the impression of a large force and they were able to move south again without further molestation, finally joining their tribe, which was living with Ngati Tama.
Some time later (in 1822) Te Rauparaha and his Ngati Toa were living at Okoki pa in the Ngati Mutunga territory in the Urenui district. A Ngati Maniapoto war party under Tukorehu, while on an expedition, were besieged in Pukerangiora pa, on the south bank of the Waitara River, by the tribes of North Taranaki. Te Rauparaha heard that his old enemy, Te Wherowhero, was bringing his Waikato army to relieve Tukorehu. He thereupon laid plans to even up the score with Te Wherowhero. When the Waikato army was approaching Okoki, Te Rauparaha sent out a decoy party to lure Waikato thither. Although Te Wherowhero tried to restrain his men, they pursued the decoy party into a well-laid ambush and the Waikato were soon put to rout. In the pursuit which followed, Te Wherowhero was overtaken by Te Rauparaha and some of his Taranaki allies. One of the latter was about to shoot Te Wherowhero when Te Rauparaha kicked his musket aside and allowed the Waikato chief to engage his attackers in single combat. After he had withstood attack after attack from various Taranaki warriors, Te Wherowhero was saved by his army, which had rallied and returned to look for him.
The Waikato disengaged from Te Rauparaha's combined force and moved off to the relief of Pukerangiora pa. Te Rauparaha in the meantime gathered his tribe together and moved southwards, many of the North Taranaki people going with him.
Early in 1823 the Ngati Toa moved into the Horowhenua district and proceeded to drive the Muaupoko tribe out of their lands. After capturing the pa built on artificial islands in Lake Horowhenua, the invaders proceeded to Paekakariki, where they successfully assaulted another pa occupied by the Muaupoko. This prompted an attack by the mixed Ngati Ira and Ngati Kahungunu people of Wellington and Wairarapa, who drove Te Rauparaha back to Waikanae with considerable loss.
This reverse caused Te Rauparaha to abandon his efforts to occupy the mainland for the moment and to cross over to Kapiti Island. He proposed to make his base there until he could call on the assistance of his Ngati Raukawa relations from Maungatautari. Kapiti was actually captured from the Ngati Apa tribe by Te Rauparaha's uncle, Te Pehi Kupe, while Te Rauparaha made a feint withdrawal to the Manawatu.
After the move by Ngati Toa to Kapiti, Te Rauparaha heard that the Rangitane tribe had erected a large pa at Hotuiti on the north bank of the Manawatu. He and Te Rangihaeata immediately proceeded to Hotuiti with a war party and captured the pa by treachery, killing many of the Rangitane and also three Ngati Apa chiefs from the Rangitikei.
The Ngati Toa withdrew to Waikanae and, while there, they were attacked by Te Hakeke of Ngati Apa with a considerable force from his own tribe and from Rangitane and Muaupoko. Upwards of 60 of the Ngati Toa were killed, including the four daughters of Te Pehi Kupe. When reinforcements of Ngati Toa arrived from Kapiti, the attackers withdrew.
In 1824 the combined tribes of Rangitikei, Manawatu, and Horowhenua, including a large contingent of Rangitane from the South Island, assembled a huge flotilla of war canoes with the intention of overwhelming Ngati Toa on Kapiti Island. Te Rauparaha's warriors heavily defeated them at Waiorua and dealt with them so severely that Kapiti was never again attacked.