Story: Musket wars

Page 5. Ngāti Toa and allies

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Napoleon of the south

Ngāti Toa leader Te Rauparaha gained fame during the musket wars. More biographies have been written of Te Rauparaha than of any other New Zealander. He was known as the Napoleon of the south due to his campaigns and his short stature.

Kāwhia battles

Te Rauparaha and his people lived in Kāwhia, on the Waikato coast. The Kāwhia harbour was fertile with many resources, so it was highly desired and the cause of many clashes. After a number of battles Te Rauparaha was defeated at Te Kakara in 1821 and expelled. His safe passage was negotiated and he was able to leave Kāwhia.

Migrations – ngā heke

The first migrations of Ngāti Toa were known as Te Heke Tahutahuahi (the fire-lighting migration). Ngāti Toa went down to Taranaki and cultivated land belonging to Te Āti Awa. In 1822 Ngāti Toa headed south to Kapiti, a journey known as Te Heke Tātaramoa because of the many obstacles (tātaramoa are bramble bushes) they encountered travelling through enemy territory in the company of some Te Āti Awa allies. Te Rauparaha took revenge on Muaūpoko for their attack on Ngāti Toa.

Wellington battles

The Kapiti coast, north of Wellington, was seen as desirable due to European trade opportunities and space. Ngāti Toa chief Te Pēhi Kupe captured Kapiti Island from the Muaūpoko people, and Ngāti Toa moved to the island fortress. A number of battles against the local people culminated in the battle of Waiorua in 1824. A fleet of various tribal groups attacked the island in darkness but were defeated. Later groups from Taranaki and Ngāti Raukawa came and joined Ngāti Toa in Wellington.

South Island battles

Te Rauparaha had a significant trading station on Kapiti Island, and wanted to extend his trading strength by controlling the pounamu (greenstone) in the South Island. Around 1827 he attacked Rangitāne at Wairau, then fought Ngāti Kuia in Pelorus Sound, while his Te Āti Awa allies attacked Queen Charlotte Sound. Following this Ngāi Tahu were attacked and killed at Kaikōura. A war party then went to Kaiapohia , where Te Pēhi Kupe was killed while bartering for pounamu.

In 1830 Ngāti Toa persuaded Captain John Stewart to take them to Akaroa aboard his ship, the brig Elizabeth. Local chief Tama-i-haranui (Te Maiharanui) and his wife and daughter were captured, and he was eventually tortured and killed. In 1831 Ngāti Toa successfully attacked Kaiapoi pā and then Ōnawe pā at Akaroa. Te Rauparaha and his allies were able to conquer much of the South Island. However, much of Ngāi Tahu now had muskets and were much more difficult to fight.

Te Pūoho

The last of the South Island battles between northern and southern iwi took place under Ngāti Tama chief Te Pūoho. He led a war party from Golden Bay in the South Island along the West Coast, and then crossed the Southern Alps, finally reaching Tuturau in Southland in late 1836 or early 1837. On hearing of Te Pūoho’s arrival, experienced Ngāi Tahu war leader Tūhawaiki gathered a war party and attacked the party. They were surprised, and Te Pūoho was killed while the others were taken prisoner.

Chatham Islands battles

In 1835 a group of Ngāti Toa allies, Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama, launched the furthest attack by invading the Chatham Islands. As well as conquering the Moriori, they also ended up warring against each other.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Musket wars - Ngāti Toa and allies', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/musket-wars/page-5 (accessed 19 July 2019)

Story by Basil Keane, published 20 Jun 2012