Warfare and invasion
A phase of warfare swept through Taranaki in the early 1800s, when northern raiders arrived with muskets. Muskets created their own bitter logic: they were used to capture slaves, who were made to prepare flax, which was then traded for more muskets.
Ngāti Ruanui were invaded in 1816–17 by Ngāpuhi, who penetrated as far south as Waimate pā at the mouth of the Kapuni River. They were followed in 1818 by a war party of Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Whātua and further Ngāpuhi, led by Te Rauparaha, Murupaenga and Tūwhare. Again in 1819, another war party led by the north’s most important leaders, including Patuone, raided deep into Taranaki, where they attacked Ngāti Ruanui at Ōkahutītī pā. Having no defence against the muskets, Ngāti Ruanui were dispersed. Many lost their lives or were taken as slaves.
A bid for peace
In November 1820 Patuone told missionary and magistrate Samuel Marsden that he had made peace with Taranaki and Ngāti Ruanui. Marsden noted that Patuone ‘had left ten of his own men there, who had got married, and had brought a number away with him, some of whom were then present’. 1This would explain why, when slaves from the Hokianga area were liberated in the late 1830s at the request of missionaries, many Ngāti Ruanui did not return south. It is likely that many of them were not slaves, but partners or children of the marriages that Patuone had arranged in an attempt to make peace between the tribes.
However, there would be more fighting before peace came to Ngāti Ruanui.
Te Rauparaha invaded again in 1820, followed by the Āmiowhenua war expedition of 1821–22, led by Āpihai Te Kawau of Ngāti Whātua.
The next major invasion came from Waikato in 1834. Te Wherowhero, Te Waharoa and Te Kanawa led 2,500 men against Te Ruaki pā on the Tangāhoe Stream, apparently in pursuit of Ngāti Ruanui leader Te Rei Hanataua.
About 1829 Kōtiro Hinerangi of Ngāti Ruanui was taken to Ngāpuhi by a raiding party as a slave for Hōne Heke. However, she soon married a Scot, Alexander Grey. Their daughter Te Paea (Mary Sophia Grey) was born about 1832. She later became famous as the main guide to the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Rotomahana before they were lost in the Tarawera eruption of 1886. A few days before the eruption Sophia had seen a phantom canoe on the lake, which she interpreted as a bad omen. After the destruction Sophia moved to Rotorua, where she was a guide at Whakarewarewa until she died in 1911.
The pā fell after a three-month siege. Of the battle, Rev. William Woon later wrote that Te Ruaki ‘was never mentioned but with sorrow, on account of so many of their fathers and friends falling there’. 2The war party moved on, taking Ōhangai pā and then assaulting Waimate-ōrangi-tuapeka pā in the battle known as Ngā Ngutu-maioro. This battle lasted nine fruitless days, during which Te Matakātea (the clear-eyed) killed many invaders with his musket. Finally, Te Wherowhero asked for peace, saying:
Kātahi anō taku rākau ka hoki mai. Ka hoki ake nei au, e kore anō e ara mai te rau o taku patu.
For the first time my weapon has returned unblooded. I am now returning, and will never again raise my weapon in your direction. 3
This was the last invasion of Ngāti Ruanui by other tribes. By then the countryside was devastated and many Taranaki Māori were absent from their lands. Some had been captured as slaves and some were refugees.