The first battle between Ng ā i Tahu and the Ng ā ti Toa alliance c.1828 Contextual background and preludes to the Kaiapoi battle

In document Between people and things: understanding violence and theft in early New Zealand transactions (Page 140-144)

In the mid eighteen hundreds, Kaiapoi in North Canterbury was located close to what is now the north-bound highway, past the modern town of Kaiapoi, on the seaward side of the road between Woodend and Waikuku. It was quite a large pa that was well defended by a swamp on three sides and by extensive palisades, and it was well provisioned. The site with its ditches and banks remains visible, although the swamps have been drained. Ngāi Tahu had been the principal tāngata whenua of the area for some generations prior to the visit from Ngāti Toa, and, being in the South Island and in contact with relatives living at Arahura on the West Coast, and also in Murihiku, they were known as having a good supply of pounamu weapons. They were also known for their skill in using them. At the time of the battle, the highest ranking chief at Kaiapoi was the paramount chief of Ngāi Tahu, Tamaiharanui, whose influence and kinship relationships extended over a very large territory and a number of hapū, down to Otago and Southland, as well as Banks Peninsula. Also at that time, Ngāi Tahu had just begun to recover from an extensive period of inter-necine warfare known as the Kai Huāka (‘Eat-relation’) feud, which had severely decimated their numbers. The period was also one in which New Zealand was beginning to be colonised by European sealers, whalers and flax traders, who also traded in guns.

Ngāti Toa, under their talented war leader Te Rauparaha and his senior and higher ranking relative Te Pēhi Kupe had migrated southwards over a period of years from the Kāwhia area on the North-West coast of the North Island. Like other iwi from that island they had come under population pressure for resources and had gradually fought their way south forming alliances with tribes from the Taranaki and Whanganui areas, and finally settling at Kapiti Island and adjacent areas of the mainland such as Waikanae and Ōtaki. By the mid 1820’s they had ventured south to the northern part of Te Wai Pounamu, attacking some other tribes such as Rangitāne who had preceded them in the southward move from the Wellington area, and were occupying what are now known as the Marlborough Sounds and Blenheim areas. The visit to Kaiapoi in about 1828 of a taua of the Ngāti Toa alliance cannot be seen in isolation from this general, yet very complex southward heke and battle campaign. Therefore the contextual initiating circumstances for the Kaiapoi battle were of very long standing, involved, and intergenerational. This analysis begins with the interaction sequence that immediately preceded it: the battle known as “Niho-manga” that took place between the


invading Ngāti Toa alliance and Ngāi Tahu near Kaikōura on the east coast of the South Island. Both Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Toa sources declare that the two immediate justifications given by Te Rauparaha for the attack were “utu” matters, in the sense of retribution for insults to their mana. The first ‘justification’, has been described by Ngāi Tahu chief Te Kāhu:

“Ko te pūtake i timataria ai ka kino i waekanui o Kāi-Tahu raua ko Kāti-Toa, kai te puremutaka a Kēkerekū i a Topeora, wahine a Te Rakihaeata. Ko Kēkerekū, no Kāti-Kahu-kunu, ekari he pirika ano a ia no Kāi-Tahu.” (Te Kāhu, 1901: 89)

[The cause of the commencement of the troubles between the Ngāi-Tahu and Ngāti-Toa tribes was the debauching of Te Rangi-haeata's wife – Topeora – by Kēkerekū, of the Ngāti-Kahungunu tribe, who was related to Ngāi-Tahu. (trans. Parata, 1901)].

Te Rangihaeata was a close relative of Te Rauparaha, and Kēkerengū’s mother was a very high-ranking Ngāti Ira captive from near modern Wellington, whom Rangihaeata had protected at Ōtaki along with her son. Ngāti Ira and Ngāi Tahu shared a common ancestry. Kēkerengū had grown up and was a handsome youth with fair skin and hair40 whom the locals are likely to have been jealous of, for it is reported by both Burns (1980: 145) and Mitchell & Mitchell (2004: 115) that the accusation that he had seduced Rangihaeata’s wife Topeora was not true. Here is an initiating circumstance for what became a violent sequence and was possibly founded on hearsay. Regardless, Te Rangihaeata’s response may have been an emotional one, though it was also considered, because it could be justified philosophically by the requirement for utu. This need for utu could predictably have dire consequences for the chief and his group if the utu balance was not redressed. Utu was thus a motive for action in the Māori world at that time, and even if he didn’t believe the story hewas compelled to act in order to protect his own mana. For the same reason, Kēkerengū also had to act, so he left for Kaikōura with his mother, and was protected there by the local chief Rerewaka to whom he was related through common ancestry, and who was also of Ngāi Tahu and Rangitāne descent. That this story eventually reached Ngāi Tahu ears shows that it was likely to have been

common knowledge; it had entered the realm of gossip or public discourse at Ōtaki and Kāpiti where Te Rauparaha also lived. Then there are four key actors in this particular sequence: Te Rangihaeata, Te Kēkerengū, Te Rauparaha and Te Rerewaka, connected by kinship and social relations of various kinds, making key decisions and influenced, therefore, by emotions as well as the logic of their own knowledge system. Their resulting actions constituted transitional tipping points in moving the sequence to the next stage, and they are likely, at least in the first instance, to have been based upon hearsay that was untrue. HOW they decided what to do with the hearsay, would have been a function of the cultural schemas within which their lives


operated, but also of their individual personalities. Therefore, I argue, hearsay, personal interpretation of that hearsay, decisions for acting on those interpretations, and personality or identity issues, can all facilitate transitional tipping-point situations where there is a potential for violence.

Te Rauparaha’s second ‘justification’ for exacting utu from Rerewaka was, in a sense, also initiated by hearsay, which this time can be shown to be accurate. White (1890: 75) describes how. The battle of Wai-o-rua was an attempt by the Kurahaupō alliance (that included Ngāti Ira, Ngāti Kahungunu and Rangitāne) to re-capture Kāpiti and adjacent lands that had been taken from them by Te Rauparaha and his allies. They were defeated and Rauparaha sang a victory waiata of which Te Rerewaka of Kaikōura heard a rendition. As he was related to the Rangitāne contingent of the allies, Rerewaka was sympathetic to their cause and made a statement voicing his resentment of Rauparaha’s victory: “If Rauparaha dares to set foot in this country I will rip his belly open with a niho-manga (shark-tooth knife)”.

This statement reached the ears of Te Rauparaha via an escaped slave, and was interpreted as a curse. So in this second situation, one actor (Rerewaka) made an emotional and probably unwise response to unwelcome news. A slave (a key actor) chose to purvey the news, and this in fact was the first tipping point leading to violence, because on receipt of the news Te Rauparaha showed no immediate response but later chose to regard Rerewaka’s remark as a curse rather than as a simple challenge, or irritated comment, and decided that it was a just cause for a battle campaign to exact negative utu. Again, hearsay about Te

Rauparaha’s plans and the reason for them would, through oratory, have entered the everyday lives of ordinary people as gossip, and become fuel for support of the proposed campaign. It resulted in a war party that Tāmihana Te Rauparaha described as having 300 warriors as well as slaves and caused the immediate death of six hundred warriors and over a thousand women and children on the Kaikōura coast then, and also subsequently to the unsuccessful ‘mission’ of Ngāti Toa’s taua to Kaiapoi .

One further component of the context for the voyage to Te Wai Pounamu, could be attributed to the kinship relationship, ambitions and personality characteristics of Te Pēhi Kupe who had accompanied Te Rauparaha throughout the campaigns of the eight or nine-year period of the North Island heke (migration), and had recently (in the previous year) returned from a two-year visit to England. He had also acquired some firearms at Port Jackson on his way home. Te Pēhi was, in European terms, Te Rauparaha’s uncle, older than him, and from a more senior line. In some earlier campaigns he had foregone this seniority and leadership for


Te Rauparaha’s ability and mana as a military strategist. However on this occasion having recently returned from England and Australia he could have considered himself (and been considered by Te Rauparaha) as now much better educated in the ways of the ‘new’ world. He was then able to convince Te Rauparaha to over-ride any reluctance to proceed south to Kaiapoi after Ngāti Toa’s rout and massacre of the Kaikōura people (White, 1890: 31). The fight had been over the twin issues of utu for the actions of Kēkerengū, and Rerewaka’s ‘niho manga’ comment that they considered as a kanga (curse). In fact Hēnare Mahuika and Īhāia Tainui told H. K. Taiaroa that it was actually Te Pēhi’s war party (rather than Te Rauparaha’s) that was destroyed at Kaiapoi: “Ka horo te taua a Te Pēhi” [“The war party of Te Pehi was annihilated”](1880, in Tau & Anderson, 2008: 181).

As will be shown in the following analysis of the first Kaiapoi battle, it appears that Te Pēhi’s personality, relationships, and mana were crucial in provoking the transitional ‘tipping points’ in the transaction sequence that led to violence, and also in the way that these have been represented in the varying accounts of what transpired. Two of Te Pēhi’s relationships in particular are relevant contextually: Firstly, the kinship relationship between himself and Te Rauparaha, already mentioned, and secondly, the supposed relationship between Te Pēhi and Ngāi Tahu’s paramount chief Tamaiharanui, who are purported to have met each other previously (Buick, 1911: 127). Tāmihana Te Rauparaha says that they met at Port Jackson, that their meeting at Kaiapoi was not therefore their first, and that they were ‘friends’ (in Butler, 1980: 35). Ngāi Tahu records do not mention this41, and there is no clarity at all whether or not their relationship was amicable or that it extended beyond that of normal courtesy. However, there is a suggestion that they had met at Akaroa when Te Pēhi was on his way back from Port Jackson, that Te Tamaiharanui travelled aboard the ship he was on, up the east coast to Te Kāraka (Cape Campbell), but though encouraged to do so, refused to continue on to Kāpiti (Mitchell & Mitchell 2005: 116). Te Pēhi had just bought guns and ammunition in Port Jackson, so if the claim that they met at Akaroa is true, this issue of guns is likely to have been a source of discussion between them. There is also the question of why Tamaiharanui refused to travel on to Kāpiti with him.


In document Between people and things: understanding violence and theft in early New Zealand transactions (Page 140-144)