The first Kaiapoi battle: Transition points

In document Between people and things: understanding violence and theft in early New Zealand transactions (Page 144-150)

As already suggested, an analysis of the progress of the battle has involved identifying the transition points in the course of the action which each time facilitated its processual development towards the next stage of the sequence. It has involved also identification of the key actors, the decisions they made, and what they said or did indicating their possible motives and intentions. The Waitangi Tribunal Report has noted that: “Various accounts suggest

starting dates and a sequence of events, as well as motivations for the various stages of the taua, and Ballara’s conclusion is that it will never be possible to settle the exact timing and sequence” (2007, WAI 785: 48). However, an examination of all the accounts does identify certain key actors and scenarios about which there is no debate. Then the actors’ possible motivations can be suggested from available accounts of their other activities reported from elsewhere, in narratives from both their ‘own’ iwi and those of ‘others’. That is, a forensic examination of their personal proclivities and actions as reported by others and also declared by themselves enables some reflection upon these issues to happen, especially when taken in the context of Māori ontologies. Further, there are specific details in the transaction sequence noted by certain reporters, which seem unlikely to have been fabricated, because there is no apparent advantage to the narrator in providing them, as they do not change any perceptions about the motivations for actions. The best documentation is that provided about themselves by the actors. This may be obtained by observing performative aspects of their actions, by their own declared interpretations of the context, and the actions and the speech of others.

The immediate initiating circumstance was the decision to continue on southwards to Kaiapoi. The trip south from Kaikōura was Te Pēhi’s:

“Now that the people of Kai-koura and O-mihi had been beaten by Rauparaha, Te Pehi persisted in going to Kai-apohia; but Rauparaha said, “Do not go; let us return home. We have conquered this tribe; let us go home.” But Te Pehi… persisted in his plan, and eventually Rau-paraha consented and the war party went by land to Kai-apohia…” (White, 1899: 31)

After the massacres on the Kaikōura coast they had asked the slaves about the

availability of greenstone and were told that there was plenty of it at Kaiapoi (Te Kāhu, 1901: 3). Also, accepting Tāmihana Te Rauparaha’s contention on behalf of Ngāti Toa that their arrival at Kaiapoi was to trade greenstone for guns, then they obviously had greenstone on their minds, but the question is, why? It is known that Te Rauparaha had quite recently warned his warriors to avoid close quarters combat with Ngāi Tahu (and therefore their stone


remembered as the most persistent in trying to obtain pounamu. Yet Tāmihana said they had peaceful intentions.

With the establishment of their encampment and sleeping quarters42 outside the pā the first tipping point involved a decisionby Te Rauparaha, who called Hakitara and

Tamaiharanui out of the to speak with them (in Butler, 1980: 35). They apparently were also encouraged to do so by the elders in the (Ngāi Tahu letter quoted in Travers, 1872: 77). This speaking took the form of Te Rauparaha’s oratory and a chant in which the meaning he intended to convey can only have been interpreted either as a threat or a warning.. Ballara has said that it was not unusual for “messages, warnings and hints to be dropped by compassionate or kin-related enemies… ”(2001: 120). Two versions of this chant exist:

Anga atu au ki te uru, e tuai, e tuai; Anga atu ki te tonga, e tuai, e tuai; E kahua ina te riri, tewhatitawhati, Taku ngakau to riri.

(Stack, 1893: 58) Aka atu au ki te uru, E tu ai, e tu ai.

Aka atu au ki te toka, E tu ai, e tu ai. Ka huaina te riri; Te tawhatiwhati taku kakau ki te riri.

(Te Kāhu to Parata, 1910 : 89)

Apart from the Kāi Tahu dialect used in the second version, the words are practically identical, and the last line ‘taku ngakau (or taku kakau) to riri’ has an indisputable meaning that ‘my heart (or body) is agitated (or angry)’, yet the two translations of this particular line offer two completely different interpretations:

“Look to the clouds in the west, there is nothing but darkness; Look to the clouds in the south, there is nothing but darkness; They have the appearance of combat, the form of death, My body tingles to enter the fray”

(Stack). “I turn me to the west, There stands! there stands!

I turn me to the south, There stands! there stands!

War will be commenced, My weapon will not be fractured in the war

(Te Kāhu trans. Parata)[my emphasis].

These different possible interpretations raise the issue that language is always capable of multiple ‘readings’. Itspolyvocal potentialduring transactions across boundaries – such as in the situation described here – may sometimes mediate the transactions, but it may also cause confusion and dismay, for how can the ‘others’ make sensible decisions whilst being informed by ambiguous counsel about a matter, in this case, of life and death? Te Rauparaha’s piece of


oratory, no matter how different the poetry between the two versions, clearly relates (through metaphor) the prevailing social situation to the prevailing weather conditions on that day. From the point of view of the weather, this particular configuration of clouds and winds is very familiar to Cantabrians who know its palpable manifestation as the fine, warm wind and

‘nor’west arch’ that will be followed by threatening dark cumulus clouds from the south and west, with the arrival of the cold ‘sou’wester’ wind, southerly front, and rain. From the perspective of Te Rauparaha’s declared interpretation, he is comparing the weather to his analysis of the social situation of the day. Considering this together with what Nihoniho has written of weather signs and omens (1913: 47-9), it is possible to infer here that Te Rauparaha saw this weather event as an omen presaging the future outcome of their interactions with Ngāi Tahu; a threat to both parties, a warning to both parties, or to either party. This may have been a choice of opportunistic performative behaviour on the part of Te Rauparaha, but nevertheless he was predicting war, or considered that the omens were predicting war. If this concept is now combined with the fact that they had arrived with a war party then here is some

convincing circumstantial as well as declared evidence that their intention was not peaceful. On the same occasion as he made this apparent declaration of war, Te Rauparaha also made a declaration of peace, that they had come to trade greenstone for guns:

“ Te Rauparaha said to Tamaiharanui… ‘Let all be peaceful.’ Tamaiharanui agreed” (Tāmihana, in Butler, 1980: 35). Both Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Toa sources agree that they bartered greenstone for guns outside the pa for several days (Wairewa informant, 1900: 2; Te Kāhu, 1910: 6; Tāmihana, in Burns, 1980: 149) but when some Ōmihi survivors arrived, they reported what had happened to them beforehand. It was also common knowledge at the time that trickery and treachery were strategies that Te Rauparaha had used before (ibid: 150) so it is not surprising that Ngāi Tahu became wary. They would definitely have been uncertain.

A key actor in the whole affair, the ‘outsider’ Hakitara, then interpreted the oratory as a warning or threat, and considering also the stories of the slaughter en route at Ōmihi,

Tamaiharanui and Hakitara decided to relay these, to the people in the pa. This was the second tipping point in the course of the transactional sequence that ultimately became violent. The decision to warn their people and protect their pa was reinforced by the fact that both Tamaiharanui and Hakitara had separate personal utu motives for distrusting Ngāti Toa. Tamaiharanui had also heard from a slave that on their way to (or whilst at) Kaiapoi, Ngāti Toa had desecrated the grave of his great-aunt at Tuahiwi, and eaten her. He was therefore extremely emotional about this news and anxious to act immediately but was dissuaded by his


elders ‘O son, do not lest evil follow your footsteps” (Travers, 1872: 77; cf. Carrington, 2008: 176). Te Kāhu says that Hakitara was Ngā Puhi, but S. Percy Smith says that he was Te Rōroa from northern Wairoa and had seen the actions of Te Rauparaha before, when they had killed his relative Te Waero at Motu-tawa, (Roto-Kākahi lake, near Rotorua) in the North Island. Hakitara was a visitor at Kaiapoi, who, according to the Te Ati Awa chief Te Rangi-pito-a, had been ‘on a whaling cruise’ and then made his way to Kaiapoi from Banks Peninsula (in White, 1887: 277). He acted as a go-between or mediator, accompanying Tamaiharanui into the Ngāti Toa camp and then on the third day escorting Ngāti Toa chiefs into the to trade for

greenstone (Te Kāhu, 1901: 9). On the other hand Pāora Taki indicated that Hakitara stayed at night with a woman in the camp of the taua. Tamaiharanui returned to the at night but Hakitara remained in the camp. As a result he overheard some plans that the kaumātua were making: “… discussing ways and means of how people in the could be duped and killed… in the morning a war haka (whatutu ngarahu) was to be performed in the shelter, then later in the marae” (Taki, MS: 3). They planned to assault the by surprise during the course of the guns-for-greenstone transactions the following morning (in Tau & Anderson, 2008: 179). On returning in the morning Hakitara woke those in the warning them: “Kia tupāto! Kia tupāto! He tāware tenei – be careful, this is a trap” (Te Kāhu, 1910: 9). If they weren’t already in a “constant state of heightened alertness…” as described by Head (2006: 94), they must have become so, and would have been watching out for any suggestion of a natural or supernatural kind that some violence was about to ensue. Again, interpretations of what Hakitara conveyed are likely to have been different according to the persons who heard them, and the words would have been moderated in peoples’ minds by theactionsof the visiting chiefs. The locals would have discussed these things and reacted accordingly, some motivated by a range of emotions including fear and resentment, and some more experienced persons perhaps by logic.

The third turning point was constituted by a series of actions of members of the taua – actions that had active force because of the way they were interpreted. Eyewitnesses Taki, and Mahuika & Tainui reported them. They were:

• … the performance of a haka by 20 Ngāti Toa youths after they had already

performed a haka outside the in the early morning. Listeners thought that it sounded incorrect in some aspects (in Tau & Anderson, 2008: 179). Two differing accounts refer to a haka, but both agree that it was to be a diversion43.


• … the aggressive behaviour of chiefs such as Te Pēhi who made insulting remarks

about the tattoo of chief Moimoi (Buick, 1911: 138), when he objected to Te Pēhi taking a greenstone block named Paewhenua without permission (in Tau & Anderson, 2008: 181)

• … the imprecision of the war dance was seen as presaging a bad outcome for Ngāti


Hence the fourth turning point was when Ngāi Tahu interpreted these actions as a threat, and violence erupted, beginning with what appears to have been a contingent decision made by kaumātua Te Whakatuka to fire a blank warning shot that sent the Ngāti Toa youths and their chiefs running off44. Ngāi Tahu attacked them as they left. It appears that after this stage ritual behaviour took over. It does not seem that at this point any individual decisions about hearsay or interpretations of words or actions would have changed the overall outcome of the battle, although some individuals may possibly have been (and probably were) saved.

The fifth turning point would surely have been when Takatahara, Tamaiharanui’s uncle, killed Te Pēhi Kupe with a hatchet45 and announced him to be “te ika o te ata” or ‘first fish’ of the battle. It was a defining moment for Ngāti Toa as the emotional and political effects on them in the loss of their most senior chief would have been seriously demoralising and a bad omen to boot. Rokotara, an elderly man, had an utu issue with Pōkaitara because Rokotara’s relative46 had been enslaved by him at Kaikōura, so he killed Pōkaitara with a greenstone weapon and announced that he was ‘te ika o te ahiahi” (fish of the afternoon). Clearly there must also have been anger as well as ritual and utu involved, as both Te Pēhi and Pōkaitara had insulted someone’s mana as well as their person and it was not simply a matter of an utu response. Emotions would also have been motivating factors, as well as logical decisions being made. Led by Tamaiharanui another eight Ngāti Toa chiefs were also killed (Wairewa: ibid.) including Te Aratangata, Te Rauparaha’s young half brother. According to Ngāi Tahu a shot fired at him from Puaniwaniwa’s gun missed and broke his weapon, disabling him. Then others killed him (Taki, in Tau & Anderson, 2008: 180). However comments from Ngāti Toa and Te Arawa have revealed that Te Aratangata had killed a Ngāi Tahu woman with the mere, polluting its tapu and rendering its mana ineffectual. This then provides another reason for his death:

Te Aratangata fled killing as he went the men of Ngai Tahu. A certain woman was slain by him on the pathway as he was running to the gateway or portcullis of the pa. This was a mistaken act of his, for this was the reason that he perished. For then his weapon Nga-aorere was shattered. He had then no weapon whatever as a protection for him. He was pierced by the spears and other various (weapons) of his very


numerous adversaries… he fell and so died. If he had not struck a woman with Nga-aorere, he would have escaped. The Maori does not strike women or persons of low status with greenstone, lest the greenstone shatter, and also that it be without mana” (Graham trans. in Tiniraupeka: 61).

Aratangata and others saw this scenario as an omen presaging his death (Tiniraupeka, 1943: 46-64; Mitchell and Mitchell, 2005: 119). Thus for at least some of the participants in the battle, these matters of tapu, mana, omens and therefore the potential agency of the pounamu objects could also have been regarded by them as creating transition points in the course of the violent sequence – especially since their stated object had been to trade for pounamu. As has already been discussed in Chapter four, objects were regarded by Māori as social actors with the ability to create ongoing effects, including that of initiating events, being actors that influenced or created transition points in sequences that led to violence, and even being responsible, or partly responsible for causing such sequences to cease, as in the case of peace-making for example. It is suggested that when Ropoara Te One stated that the Ngāi Tahu tāonga “Paewhenua” had killed Te Pēhi Kupe and Te Pokaitara, that rather than it being used as a weapon against them, it had actually lured them to their deaths, because they were seeking it, along with a variety of other named weapons, each of them possessing mana and efficacy in war and peace. This view is supported by Te Rangi-pito-a who said, “Ngāti Toa had been induced to enter the by someone holding out a mere of greenstone – hei

whakapataritari, or bait” (in White, 1909: 201). If this interpretation is correct then the ‘bait’ could be also be intended as a threat as much as it was an inducement (R.T.M.Tau,


Finally, there is a sixth turning point, the one at which Te Rauparaha made the decision to withdraw from the battle. He had never entered the proper and is likely to have been influenced in that, by a dream he had before Te Pēhi went in the for the first time. In the dream he saw “ my hand being eaten by the rat Pouhawaiki”. Te Rauparaha interpreted that as a bad omen, and Te Pēhi ignored him (T.Te Rauparaha, in Butler, 1980: 35). According to Te Kāhu, before he was killed Te Pēhi called for reinforcements, and an assault took place from outside the . When it was unsuccessful Ngāti Toa lamented their dead and Travers reports that the outcome was so “devastating to Te Rauparaha” when he had lost a number of his most influential chiefs including several close relatives47 (1872: 75), they returned to the place where they had left the slaves and prisoners near Ōmihi, and killed them all. Te Rauparaha departed, threatening Ngāi Tahu that “they should cherish their children because they would surely die in the future”(ibid.), a curse whose effect did come to pass two years hence at the


second battle of Kaiapoi in 1830. That is another story fully explored by Tau and Anderson, and which can be explained in a similar manner as this violent sequence, in which unbalanced negative utu as Metge has described (2002: 311-338) continues to be played out in the ongoing political aftermath, where battles are not now on the field but in the courtroom of the Waitangi Tribunal.

In document Between people and things: understanding violence and theft in early New Zealand transactions (Page 144-150)