Inter-iwi conflict in Te Wai Pounamu

In document Between people and things: understanding violence and theft in early New Zealand transactions (Page 135-140)

There are many violent sequences within the oral and written recorded histories of iwi now occupying the South Island, where the protagonists could be identified as being related to each other in some degree. An example would be the well-known Kai Huāka feud amongst Ngāi Tahu iwi groups in the early nineteenth century when a number of Europeans were already living here. This feud between Ngai Tahu hapu is supposed to have begun over a matter of a dogskin cloak, the property of the high chief Tamiharanui, being worn in his absence by a person of considerably less mana. The utu was paid by the killing of a relative of hers, and a long series of utu

retaliations followed which traversed the spaces and involved the people of Kaiapoi, Banks Peninsula, and all the South Island East Coast down to Otago. However, Tau & Anderson have pointed out that the iwi now known as Kāi Tahu were never a

permanently united group until around the 1830’s, and many of the troubles amongst them stemmed from raruraru (small quarrels) between extended family groups known as hapū. Many of these hapū also had kinship relationships with iwi like Kāti Māmoe, and Waitaha who had preceded them as tāngata whenua in Te Wai Pounamu and against whom they had fought and eventually intermarried. Furthermore, Ngāi Tahu


groups formerly originated in the North Island where they interacted with other related groups such as Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou, for example, with whom they shared some common ancestry. Like all families, they sometimes quarrelled. It is therefore within this framework of kinship relationships and the accompanying aspects of social life such as impression management and, in the Māori world, mana, tapu, utu and muru, that such quarrels need to be viewed, even when they are between tribes which were all to some extent inter-related. These issues appear to have

determined when, where, and how the transition-points in the transactions and interactions occurred. When Tasman visited the northern part of Te Wai Pounamu in 1642 the iwi occupying the coastal areas of what is now Nelson province were a group of inter-related Taranaki tribes now known collectively as Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri (M. King, 2003: 100). During Cook’s visits (1769, 1771, 1773) to Queen Charlotte Sound, there was clear evidence of inter-iwi troubles over land and resources, with Cook’s crew witnessing the human aftermath of some of them as well as being involved in some troubles of their own. Thus how Māori ‘did’ violence with Europeans needs to be seen in the context of its prelude – how they ‘did’ violence amongst themselves, and between themselves and their relatives.

The Carrington text about Ngāi Tahu migration histories, edited by Tau and Anderson (with commentaries), is informed by Māori oral histories and early texts, some from eyewitnesses of the events described. It documents the major conflicts those groups have been involved in since immediately prior to their initial migrations from the North Island. Mitchell and Mitchell, in Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka (2005) have also documented migration histories, but from the perspective of groups that originated primarily from the West Coast of the North Island and Taranaki. Burns, whose scholarship was also informed by eyewitness accounts, has supplied another relatively recent interpretation regarding the Ngāti Toa alliance (1980).Where Ngāi Tahu and the Ngāti Toa alliance have been in conflict, the two perspectives then provide a useful comparison for interpretation of the same conflict sequences, the personalities involved, the initiating circumstances, the transition points in the

conflicts, and their resolutions. Comparing and contrasting them, and re-evaluating the primary evidence that each has used, has helped me to interpret these issues in terms of the participants, personalities and their actions. I have therefore investigated fourteen Māori-Māori violent conflicts that Ngāi Tahu participated in, in order to


determine the reported initiating circumstances and so on. What has survived in the records, oral histories, waiata (songs) and genealogies should be regarded as

politically positioned, as O’Regan has stated: “… One has to recognise… any history… has been recorded in its particular frame for a particular purpose ”(1992: 24); but multiple stories can be compared as with any other histories, and in some cases can be cross-checked with European accounts. Thus some evaluation of multiple accounts can occur. In order to establish examples of the range of factors that

provoked violence amongst Maori, the following fourteen situations were analysed for their place, iwi/actors, context, motives and agentive actions:

Te Huataki’s Hataitai shipwreck – fear of muru, alliance formation via women Puharakeke battle, Petone – tapu, jealousy, insult, provocation, mana of a cloak Te Whae a Niho battle, Marlborough – utu/utu, trickery, bones to fish-hooks Tawiri-o-te-mako battle, Mahinapua – jealousy/women, pounamu, karakia Waiorua battle campaign, Kapiti – utu/recoup lost land/mana, alliance, omens Kowhitirangi battle campaign, Hokitika – planned conquest/utu, pounamu Niho Manga battle, Kaikoura – insult/utu, land/resources, trickery

Kaihuaka feud, Canterbury – takahi mana/utu-utu sequence Kaiapoi first battle – pounamu, trickery, omens, provocation Onawe battle – retribution/utu for death of Te Peehi

Takapuneke raid – utu, trickery, alliance with pakeha

Kaiapoi second battle – utu for Te Pehi, pounamu, tohunga’s karakia Wakapuaka attack, Nelson – insult, utu for alliance with enemy

Tuturau battle campaign – pounamu & women, utu, gain territory & slaves


In these fourteen accounts of inter-iwi conflicts analysed, there were four main factors that appear repeatedly as being implicated in initiating transactional sequences that became violent. These were:

• Personality issues, including jealousy, arrogance, ambition, deception and

betrayal, warning and dissuasion, loyalty, choice and risk-taking.

• Kinship issues, including personal relationships, women, alliance building,

and the role of non-kin or ‘outsiders’.

• Resources, such as land, food, valued objects (tāonga), slaves and women

(which could all be regarded as social actors representing relationships).

• Strategic provocation, such as threats, insults, deliberate mis-interpretation

of events or actions of the ‘other’, and the requirement for utu. During the episodes there were certain transitional ‘tipping points’ when decisions made caused the transactions eventually to become violent. As already mentioned some of these decisions were spontaneous and reactive emotional responses, especially by lower ranking or young people, but others were more measured and rational in accordance with the ontological framework of the Māori world-view, and based upon such things as:

Tōhunga’s or chief’s comments about the social world and interpretations

of natural environmental phenomena such as rainbows, for example being regarded as omens or providing directives for action.

Tōhunga’s karakia and their interpretation.

• Chiefs’ and tōhungas’ dreams and their interpretation as omens. • Responsibility of leaders to uphold and preserve the mana and tapu of

individuals and of the group through seeking utu.

• Hearsay and its interpretation.

In times of stress or anxiety, hearsay frequently assumes the status of truth, depending upon the purveyor and his/her motivations. There can be deliberate changing of the truth by a person choosing to misinterpret or mistakenly

misinterpreting, or by the intention to deceive for personal or community gain; or indeed by ignoring the hearsay and declaring it to be invalid as a cause for action. The matter of hearsay is thus linked to the initiating circumstances mentioned above, and especially to the personality characteristics of persons with the power to action their judgements.


In the succeeding section the case of the first Kaiapoi battle is examined. Tau and Anderson have already laid out various eyewitness accounts in Māori, together with English translations, all of which have been preserved in texts as well as in oral histories. They have left them intact to tell their own story, but have also included their own evaluations and interpretations that are informed by Tau’s ‘insider’ knowledge and experience as a member of Ngāi Tūahuriri, who were the main occupants of Kaiapoi pā at the time of the invasion by Ngāti Toa and their allies. The North Otago Ngāi Tahu chief Te Kāhu (a.k.a Taare Wētere Te Kāhu) has also left a narrative of the warfare between Ngāi Tahu and the Ngāti Toa alliance (1901: 94). Katu Te Rauparaha (a.k.a.Tāmihana), a son of one of the invading chiefs also recorded Ngāti Toa interpretations of the battle. He was present at the battle site as a child of about 5 years, and received the narrative from his father as an adult. However, neither he nor his father were actually present in the during the fighting and

negotiations, and witnessed them from outside. Of course they did participate in some crucial contextual situations leading up to it, in the transition points, and after it. All the eyewitness narratives available were recorded many years after the battle but there is a surprising amount of concurrence in the accounts from both sides, as to who and what the social actors were, and their declared and perceived motivations. A hundred and ninety years or so later it remains possible, therefore, to identify some personality, kinship, resource, strategic provocation and transition point issues involved, and to construct quite a detailed ‘who dunnit’ using all the narratives from both ‘sides’ of the conflict. That is, although a full ‘running-account’ of the fighting (in the manner that we might be able to construct today from current eyewitness accounts), is not

possible, there is sufficient detailed information to analyse the sequence from

beginning to end of this inter-iwi transaction that led to violence. It can be viewed in terms of who/what the actors were, and the transitional turning points (including the role of hearsay), and Māori ontology. It is then possible to use this as a point of comparison with situations where Māori ‘did violence’ with Europeans around the same time period.


The first battle between Ngāi Tahu and the Ngāti Toa alliance c.1828

In document Between people and things: understanding violence and theft in early New Zealand transactions (Page 135-140)