As has already been inferred in Chapter four, the aforementioned pounamu weapons played a crucial role in the transition points of the battle. They were at the centre of the action in transition point three when Te Pēhi is reported to have tried to run off with several of them.
Like people, they each had mana and a whakapapa of their own. Both alone and in
combination with the people who used them they were perceived by at least some people, as carrying out actions. Such perceptions of the agency of objects are in conformity with the Māori ontological world of the time. It is likely that then, as now, there was a range of beliefs in the ‘powers’ of things from both the human and natural parts of the world. For Māori, both human and non-human things inhabited a holistic world in which they were all connected, and related in different degrees to the gods, which could act through them. It is also likely that chiefs and others used these perceptions to strategic and political advantage in the same way as they could use the concept of utu, by choosing to utilise the necessity for negative utu payment as justification for violent attacks on individuals and tribes for political advantage. Two
examples involving Te Rauparaha illustrate this point:
1. When the slave reported to him that Rerewaka had made the disparaging comment now known as the ‘niho manga’ curse, Te Rauparaha is said not to have acted immediately, but to have postponed his action in order to use it more strategically at a later date.
2. Whilst at Kaikōura, Te Rauparaha is said to have had with him his taiaha (wooden fighting staff), ‘Kimihia’– a weapon of great mana, that was said to turn over of its own accord in response to questions about the likelihood of success in battle, or in reading omens. Such a reputation would enhance the likelihood of success by intimidating the enemy and providing courage for the wielder. When Te Rauparaha walked up the beach on the Kaikōura coast ‘Kimihia’ is said to have killed four people with one blow, and then to have defeated Rerewaka in single combat. In Māori terms, the agency of ‘Kimihia’ was natural, because the gods, which acted through it and through Te Rauparaha who used it, governed the natural world.
Given that Ngāi Tahu of the various hapūoccupied most of the South Island, and were closest to the known pounamu sources, they had a ready supply from which they made a number of prestigious weapons, tools and ornaments. It is therefore important to remember that all pounamu objects known to any New Zealand Māori originated from Te Wai Pounamu (South Island), and hence from the territories of South Island Ngāi Tahu and Kāti Māmoe with whom they had intermarried. They were thus highly prized because of their rarity, and those that were old, and had lengthy whakapapa had generally been associated with many
transactions and actions – as has already been described in Chapter four. These transactions will have ranged from peaceful land transfer, to participation in battles, peacemaking, alliance building, and other ways of displaying mana. In these actions and transactions those pounamu
with the most prestigious associations and therefore the greatest mana would be expected to have the greatest efficacy and therefore would provide a better guarantee of success for any enterprise or activity in which they participated. This would include the possibility of
participation in a mau-ngā-rongo (lasting peace). Because such objects are expected to achieve these goals, in the case of weapons, such as mere, experts at wielding them in combat would be feared, and this is why Te Rauparaha told his men to avoid single combat with Ngāi Tahu. This would be a good reason to persuade them to trade their greenstone weapons for guns especially if the guns were not enabled (Taki, in Tau & Anderson: 179).
Furthermore, the fact that both Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Toa remembered their names even sixty or more years later (and they both remember the same names), is testament to the fact that these pounamu were renowned throughout the land for their beauty and efficacy. They could be expected to enhance the mana of their owners, as display items and as effective weapons, having the ability to embody all the actions and transactions in which they had participated and would participate. Since pounamu comes from the land, and in all instances the pieces embody land transactions or human transactions that represent land, then in
obtaining pounamu, one is obtaining a symbol of land with its associated mana. Mahuika and Tainui spoke in their report to H.K.Taiaroa, about Ngāti Toa’s leading chiefs as ‘nga rangatira whaimana’ which linguistic turn emphasises what being a ‘leading chief’ involves – seeking mana, and in this case, land – so it is no surprise that Te Pēhi was keen on obtaining these renowned pieces, became irritable when their owners did not want to barter them, and ended up insulting Moimoi’s mana to facilitate the enhancement of his own. Three of the greenstone items listed as participant social actors, and which Ngāti Toa were seeking at Kaiapoi were: Kaoreore, Tuhiwai and Paewhenua. All of them still exist, and they all represent land and relationships to land. The kōrero surrounding them has already been discussed in Chapter four, but it is useful to reconsider this issue of greenstone representing land, in this chapter, because it is relevant to Te Pēhi’s desire to “whaimana” through seeking it. Te Pēhi, his relatives Te Rauparaha, Te Rangihaeata, and others in their alliance had been moving southwards for years, acquiring land by raupatu (conquest). Their stated motive for coming to Kaiapoi was to barter for greenstone. Of the three pounamu mentioned above, there is more clarity around the early part of Tuhiwai’s life history, which I discuss again here, as an example in the context of land transfer. Though they were seeking it, Tuhiwai was not acquired during any of Te
Rauparaha’s forays into the South Island but was ultimately presented to him at Te
rongopai (peacemaking). Te Rauparaha gave the canoe ‘ Wai-ka-hua’ in exchange. Tuhiwai began its life, like all pounamu in Southern New Zealand, in this case in Westland, and the first written record of its transaction is when it was presented prior to 1800 by Urihia of Ngāi Tahu to Rakiihia of Kāti Mamoe as utu for Canterbury weka-hunting lands and for “ te taeka o te Hinekaro ki reira” (Metehau MS: 1-2). The transaction contract thus embodied in Tuhiwai, consisted of three parts; the transfer of hunting lands, a woman, and the sealing thereby of an alliance between two iwi, Ngāi Tahu and Kāti Māmoe, who had recently been at war. Through this alliance with Kāti Māmoe, Ngai Tahu acquired the mana whenua (mana of the land). Now kept in the national museum Te Papa Tongarewa, Tuhiwai, as all other named pounamu
continues to embody the relationships between the lands and the people it has been associated with throughout its life trajectory. Since the rongopai (peace) this now includes Ngāti Toa.
Thus, in the Māori ontological world, the orders of worth53 of weapons and other pounamu objects are quite different than they would be in the European world-view. It could also be said that the same applies to people, and that in the Māori world both objects and people are connected to land. Examination of the transition points and social actors in the first Kaiapoi conflict reveals the capture, barter or forming of alliances with prestigious weapons and people. They embody, and are symbolic of land acquisition. These methods of land acquisition through social transactions (including conflict) therefore comprised what Tau and Anderson have described as “the principal dynamic of social action, which was mana” (2008: 30), and the seeking of mana. My contention that the Kaiapoi skirmish of 1828 was an attempt by Ngāti Toa to extend their territorial boundaries through bartering greenstone for muskets, does not negate Angela Ballara’s criticism of Vayda who “saw war was a function of acquiring territory” that “does not give sufficient consideration to political social and religious forces and concepts such as tapu, kinship, descent, reciprocity and utu… ”. Certainly, from the analysis of the transactions and social actors at Kaiapoi, all those issues raised by Ballara are shown to be correct, because they all were visible in every aspect of any transactions. So were other aspects of ‘religion’ such as the belief in the agency of objects, the truth of omens and the revelations of dreams. What neither Ballara nor Vayda have emphasised is the agency of individual human actors in making choices to interpret received information in particular ways, to convey it to others, and to act on hearsay, or not, as the case may be. This particular aspect of warfare (the media representations of their times), and the choice of response by individuals, appears to have been a function of personalities, and the degree to which they were rational, ‘fundamentalist’, strategic or emotional in situations of apparent threat. Neither
do Ballara and Vayda’s accounts elaborate to any degree, the emotional and contingent responses made by individuals and thereby the unintended consequences of their actions (cf. Blok, 2001: 2).