J. H. H St. John.

Pakeha rambles through Maori lands online

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SOME explanation is due why a description of " Waikato
Forty Years Ago " appears in a book professedly written by
a colonist of only ten years standing. The facts are these :
a valued friend kindly gave me a MSS. containing his early
experiences in New Zealand, with the proviso that, in case
of publication, his name should not appear ; I had to respect
his wishes, and I have consequently assumed a degree of
authorship to which I am not entitled, reserving to myself
the right of confession.

For the more modern portion I am solely responsible.

I have only to add that my " Rambles " were not always
as consecutive as I have described them ; for the sake of con-
venience I have connected together numerous journeys made
at various intervals.

J. H. H. ST. J.

Wellington, 20th August, 1873.


Iii page xvii, Hues 7 arid 20, for " Heke" read " Hika.'
In pages 172, 180, 188, and 19G, head-line, for





MY reminiscences of Waikato date from my arrival on the
10th November 1830. I had been at Sydney for some
time, and made up my mind to try the New Zealand trade ;
so I took my passage on board the brigantine "Sydney
Packet," and found three other passengers, Mr. S. Paul (who
was part owner), and two "Waikato chiefs, Te Karekare, and
To Puia ; these latter had been taken for a trip to Sydney,
but were in reality hostages. The approach to the coast
was predicted, before land was sighted, by a strong-nosed
sailor, who swore he could smell the peculiar fragrance of
the New Zealand soil, &c. Four hours after Jack's assertion,
land was seen, but I never could manage to train my
olfactory nerves to such perfection.

We were not acquainted with the mouth of the Waikato
River, and so we got a boat into a little nook to the
southward of the bar, and brought off Captain Payne, a
resident trader, who gave us the benefit of his experience ;
with his help we got safely over, and anchored opposite
Te Rori a Karihi. On going ashore we, the new arrivals
(nga pakelm hou}^ were introduced to the assembled chiefs,
who also gave a grand reception to our dark skinned fellow
passengers : there was feeding on a large scale ; and, to my



great astonishment, crying to any extent. It is a queer
thing, this lanyi. ^Whether it was a funeral, or a meeting
of friends after an absence, the tears flowed copiously.
Even in these degenerate days, this twenty-feniale-weeping
power has not entirely deserted the race ; but they don't
cry like they used when I first came to New Zealand.

The news of our arrival soon spread inland, and lots more
people came to see the vessel (kaipuke). The electric tele-
graph does beat the Maoris in the diffusion of intelligence,
but I think they need not give in to anything else ; they
lick the semaphores into fits. Given a piece of news, a
young native, and a screwy pony, and it is cpaitc marvellous
to trace how speedily all kaingas around learn what it is all
about. Naturally, the communication being verbal, there
is a good deal of exaggeration ; but still, news do travel fast
in Maoridom. Of course the new comers went in for their
share of tanyi and kai.

Te Karekare was a middle-aged man with a family, and
was about the best disposed New Zealandcr I have ever
come across ; on the passage down I struck up an intimacy
with him, which I am happy to say continued without
a break to the day of his death, which occurred at the
Ihutaroa fight many years afterwards; and on more than
one occasion I received many kindnesses from him. After
having been ashore a short time, we took a trip up the
country to Toroakapakapa, a settlement a considerable
distance Tip the Waipa Pviver, a branch of the Waikato.
On our way up we stopped to breakfast, preparing it on the
ground near the water's edge : our party being large, and
occupying about a dozen canoes, took up some distance
along the bank. Our chief, Piraoa. intending to introduce
his imkelias in a grand and becoming style, had enlisted a
large number of the elite to accompany him ; and the party
of Europeans consisted of Captain Payne, Logan (the man


servant), and myself. It being summer time, and the
weather particularly fine, many during the halt were in the
water bathing, whilst breakfast was preparing; and amongst
the bathers was Logan. After he had been in the river a
short time a commotion arose amongst those on shore ; see-
ing several men rush into the water with tomahawks, and
imagining they were about to kill him, he cried out at the
top of his voice " Piraoa, Piraoa, de natif make a bunga
bunga me;" this he kept on repeating, and was nearly
drowned in his fright; it was some time before we could
pacify him by explaining that the native's rush was in
consequence of some dogs on the opposite side of the river
having caught a pig, which was heard squealing most lustily,
and which they were swimming across to secure, without
waiting to unfasten their canoes. We were the first Euro-
peans, barring one, who had been in that part of New
Zealand. I forget the man's name; but he had como
from Kawhia, from a vessel in that port (I heard that
he was her mate), with the intention of proceeding across
the country to the Thames. On his arriving at Te Onematua,
the settlement of the Ngatipou, Te Uira, the elder son of
Taratikitiki, the principal chief of the tribe, hearing of his
intended trip, endeavoured to delay his departure for a few
days, as he purposed going that way himself, in order that
lie might be in company and under protection. The man,
however, persisted in setting out, and Te Uira directed some
slaves to take care of him. They started, and a short time
afterwards returned without the pakeha. According to their
statement, which is very doubtful, a misunderstanding
ai-ose from the pakeha having threatened to strike one of
them ; their report was that when halted to prepai*e food
on the bank of the River Waipa on their way down, and
when he (still maintaining his threatening attitude) stepped
ashore, they had paddled the canoe away, taking his clothing


and food, and leaving him on the bank by himself. He
was subsequently discovered by a pai-ty of another tribe,
naked and dead, buoyed tip by a limb of a tree at the
water's edge : the river having subsided had no doubt left
him in that position a few miles below where he had been
marooned. There were no marks of violence further than
slight abrasions occasioned by the body floating along the
bed of the river when carried down by the current, and it
was supposed that he had been drowned, probably in the
attempt to cross some of the tributary creeks. This having
occurred a short time previously to our arrival, was the
principal topic of conversation, and every endeavour was
made to exculpate the chiefs from any participation in so
unwarrantable an act ; in fact, Te Uira was so much
incensed with the party that, had they not made themselves
scarce, he would in all probability have had them shot. One
only of them again made his appearance, and that not till
after a lapse of time. The natives, generally, were very
indignant at the occurrence, considering that they would
be stigmatized as a body. On the passage up the river wo
had an opportunity of seeing a considerable collection of
natives at the different settlements, our visit being antici-
pated from fore-runners having gone ahead to trumpet our
chief's success in having secured several Atuas (spirits) in the
flesh, some of whom he was about exhibiting for their
wonderment and admiration. At all the settlements we
were received most Courteously and hospitably, though the
younger portions of the community generally hid behind
stumps of trees, in, or behind, houses, or under the garments
of the elder portion, occasionally stealing a peep at " Te

At one settlement, Kopokowhatitiri, where we stopped for
the night, we saw the natives go through a dance; they
mustered nearly a hundred, and stood out in separate files,


the men apart from the women, al)out fifty in each row : the
men, generally speaking, young and robust, the women from
about 15 years to 25, and some of them good looking ; each
party of course dressed entirely in their native habiliments.
The Maoris in former days were much finer men than they
are at present ; they now speak of themselves as having
been a people of large stature, which is borne out by the
discovery of their remains. The day of our arrival at Toroa-
kapakapa, I perceived a great commotion in the village, the
men arming and demanding arms from us, the women rush-
ing about in all directions, and the clatter of tongues
representing a modern " Babel." There was a party of
natives at a short distance on the opposite side of a gully,
and my want of knowledge of the language immediately led
me to the conclusion that these strangers were a hostile
party about to make a raid on the settlement and on our-
selves : consequently I armed myself after the approved
manner of New Zealand, with a well-filled cartridge box
strapped round my waist, and, musket in hand, was preparing
myself for a good shot at the supposed enemy. Selecting
for my mark a fine fellow, who was sitting out in front of
his party unconscious of any intended ill, either for himself
or his people, I was going to let drive when, to my surprise,
I was seized from behind and prevented from firing : by
dint of perseverance on the part of the natives, I was made
to understand that this was a friendly visit of some relatives
who had come to see the pakekas, and that I was aiming at
a friend. From the action I had taken I gained the credit of
being a resolute and determined warrior, which I believe I have
retained ever since ; not that I was at all pugnacious, but I
always bore in mind the adage " That caution is the better
part of valour," and I was very careful not to encounter men
of superior strength to myself in the few wrestles I had for
amusement ; I accepted the challenge only of those whom I


considered inferior to myself in strength, and declined a
second round after having succeeded in throwing my adver-
sary in the first instance, which I usually did. I only lost
the first throw in one case out of two, which were the sole
occasions of rvn (earnest) I had with the natives. We re-
mained at Toroakapakapa a week, as Captain Payne's object
in going up the river was to purchase flax to freight the
" Sydney Packet " back to Sydney ; I had thus an oppor-
tunity of seeing occasionally a large assemblage, of natives,
but I had daily to go through the same routine, endeavour-
ing to learn Maori by day, and watching the dancing and
games of the natives in the evening. We found a difference
on going back, for the passage which had occupied a week
when ascending the river, took us only two clays on our
return. There was now collected a good amount of flax as
a cargo for the vessel ; but, as still more was required to fill
up and dispatch her, the mate (Tucker) was sent along the
coast to look after some which the natives had cleaned : on
his return with it by sea, the canoe which carried him and
his flax was swamped, and he was drowned. The natives
who accompanied him were saved, but the flax and the canoe
were lost. I believe he had been cautioned not to go to sea
in the canoe.

An incident occurred about this time, showing one way
of seeming a friend. I was carrying three damaged
muskets to send oif to Sydney for repairs, and a chief
named Nini (who from his wild and turbulent spirit was
nicknamed by us " Russian ") requested leave to look at
them : as they were defective, it was desirable that they
should not be seen, so I objected ; he theretipon seized hold
of one of them, and, to retain possession of it, I had to drop
the others, but the natives around did not attempt to toucli
them as they lay on the ground. There was a struggle for
the mastery, and after a time I contrived to manoeuvre him


to the edge of a bank about 8 feet in height, and there I
succeeded in placing my foot on his chest, and wrenching the
piece out of his hands. My friend, of course, went down
the bank, and fell amongst the boulders on the beach ; oil
his recovering himself he jumped up, foaming at the mouth,
and danced about with rage for about twenty minutes,
swearing vengeance on account of his defeat. This was at
least my impression, as at that time I did not know any-
thing of the language j after this explosion he took himself

The next day as I was wandering about the place where I
had had the squabble I happened to look up, and I saw
Nini approaching, accompanied by ten or twelve other
natives. It would never have done for a palwlM to show
the white feather, although I fully expected a combined
attack, so I stood my ground. Nini advanced towards me,
holding out his hand in pcikelm fashion, but this I at first
declined to take, thinking that he might by retaining my
hand, have me at a great disadvantage ; and it was not till
after some time that his companions contrived to make me
understand his intentions were particularly friendly, upon
which I gave him my hand at once, and I am happy to say
I retained his unbroken friendship up to the fight of Te
Ihutaroa, the last intertribal war that took place among the
Maoris in Waikato, when Nini went down with many
others. I received many kindnesses from him, as well as
protection from the importunities of other Maoris, though I
was not supposed to be living under his wing, or that of his
tribe; and I always found him particularly honourable and

In 1831, the brig " Tramnere," Captain Smith, arrived in
Manakau Harbour with Captain Kent, Te Wherowhevo,
and Amohia, Whcrowhcro's daughter. Captain Kent was
the first European who had visited the West Coast of the


North Island for trading purposes, having put in to Kawhia,
in 1828, in the brig "Macquarie," for flax, that being the
only article of commerce produced by the natives. In
consequence of Te Wherowhero's visiting Manakau with his
pakehas (paJceJias in those days were no small beer, and as
I have said before were looked upon more in the light of
Celestials, or, as the natives would, term it, Atuaa), Te
Kanac Wetere presented To Whcrowhcro with Awhitu,
a pretty little bay to the south, a little inside of the entrance
to the Manakau Harbour; in return for this Wetere
received the gift of a case of muskets, considerably above
the value of the land : but in those days the chiefs used
to endeavoxir to excel each other in the value and magnifi-
cence of their presents. Awhitu has since been considered
as the property of the Ngatiniahuta (Te Wherowhero's
tribe), and Honana te Maioha received a piece of it aa
compensation for his claim as a Ngatimahuta, on the confisca-
tion of the Waikato lands by the Government. Captain
Kent, Te Wherowhero, his daughter Amohia, and an escort
of natives came over to the Waikato, and proceeded up tho
river. Whilst they were in Manakau I paid a visit to the
'' Tranmere " to see Captain Smith, going in company Avith
some natives by way of Waiukxi. On crossing over to the
portage we fell in with an old woman, left behind by a party
of the Ngatipaou, which had preceded us a couple of days,
and as we could not take her on we also had to leave her,
with the intention of picking her up on our return. In the
absence of a canoe we had to tramp along the margin of the
bays, crossing, when possible, the mud flats to shorten the
distance ; once I ventured too far out, and got so bogged in
the stiff salt water mud, that I had to be pulled out by flax
ropes ; at last, by dint of perseverance, with legs cut and
scratched by tho shells in the mud, exhausted -and fatigued,
we contrived to get abreast of the vessel uud hall her, and to


my great relief made myself heard, and was taken on board.
I way received most kindly, and remained on board three
days to recover myself. After obtaining a few supplies from
Captain Smith, we were taken up to "Waiuku in the ship's
boat, thus probably escaping a second bogging and dragging
out ; and 011 our way we found the old lady where we had left
her, and took her on ; by the time we reached Waiuku it
was evening, and we crossed over the portage to Purapura.
The night promised to be fine, and so we did not trouble
ourselves to erect a shed, but presently the wind shifted and
the rain fell in torrents ; it was now pitch dark, and there
was no alternative but to sit up, grin, and bear it ; the
water was literally running through me. At day light the
natives contrived to make a break-wind, so that we coxild
relieve ourselves of our wet clothing, not that my com-
panions had much to wet : the principal mode they adopted
was to turn, their mats in and out, and out and in, till they
were dry. The old lady we had picked up was taken poses-
sion of by our chief Piraoa, who was with us, as a stray
waif, and was walked off to the settlement. Soon after this
Piraoa's wife was confined, and the old lady was deputed to
attend upon her ; the consequence being that she was tapued
(or rendered sacred), the chieftainess in the straw being a
woman of rank. At the time of the occurrence food was
very scarce; there was only fern root, and of this the best
was selected for the chiefs ; the old woman being a slave
was, during the time of the tapu, precluded from feeding
herself ; but on one occasion no one being there to cook for her
and feed her, she unceremoniously, but unfortunately, appro-
priated some of tin 1 <!iTi'd t'rrn rn.it meant, for tin- c.liieffniuess.

n.ixl mud'' -A lii->.j).rtv meal. Detection followed ; m>t. PVHII ;<

t"nil of trial. \vn,s '/.mr thrOTJffb, :Uid till' |MMir "Id tliniL; \\ ;i>
kllleil. iind sunk in tlif ri vi-'i' duzinfi T!IH. mulit. In f'li*i
" : n >'>m.- 1'I<>.1 \t rliP <>Ti>mid, hut VPI-M. told (>n


enquiry that it was the blood of a dog ; we then missed the
old woman, but were informed that she had been sent up the

One evening the " Sydney Packet," being full, took her
departure for Sydney, and at day-light next morning I
ascended a hill, expecting to find that she had got out of
sight, or was merely a speck in the off ug. To my surprise
I discovered that she was ashore on the north side ; on
going out she had gone too far to the north, had struck, and
was thrown xip where she was then lying. On striking she
had carried away her rudder, become unmanageable, and
been buffetted aboxtt till she reached high water mark,
where the tide left her. Captain Payne and the rest of
us went across to render what assistance we could ; we
lightened the vessel by landing her cargo, stores, and all
rigging not essentially required for the vessel's use, and at
the top of the next spring tide, which occurred in about ten
days, we succeeded in getting her afloat and inside the
harbour again.

At a subsequent period the " Elizabeth and Mary," a
vessel of about 90 tons, the same size as the " Sydney
Packet," got on shore at the same place, but with worse
luck, as she stuck and became a total wreck : no life in
either case was lost or endangered.

We repaired the damage done to the " Sydney Packet,"
re-loaded her, and dispatched her to Sydney, where she
arrived in safety without any more troubles.

On the departure of the vessel we commenced operations
to secure a cargo for her return, which we calculated would
be in about six weeks, or two months ; but she never made
her appearance, and the " Samuel," a schooner, came in her
place. During the absence of the vessel we had wars and
rumours of wars up the country among the natives. The
lights in AVaikato have been pretty numerous, whether they


arose from the attacks of an invading foe, or from local
squabbles ; and it may not be out of place if I give a short
account of some of them, beginning at the attack by the
Ngapuhis in 1825 or 1826 on Waikato, before the tribes
inhabiting the latter were supplied with fire arms. The
raid was made by Hongi Hika, at the head of 800 men,
after his visit to England, where he had been presented with
a suit of armour and some fire arms by George IV. ; these he
carried with him, and used in the expedition. The Waikatos
at the time of the above raid were in possession of none but
their native arms. Notwithstanding this disadvantage they
made a stand at Matakitaki, where they had built a pa just
at the confluence of the Mangapiko stream with the Waipa
River. Ngapuhi made the attack on the pa early on a
foggy morning. On the report of the fire arms the besieged
were paralysed with astonishment and fear ; they could not
tell whence these extraordinary sounds proceeded, and many
were shot down without a semblance of resistance.

The Waikatos in fortifying their pa had intersected it
with Maioros (or rifle pits), and in the rush they made to
escape hundreds fell, or were driven into these, and trampled
to death or smothered. A great slaughter of the Waikatos
was the consequence, the estimated loss being 2,000 killed
(and eaten), and 2,000 taken away prisoners. Many of the
principal chiefs, both male and female, were killed or taken,
though several contrived to escape from their captors on the
road, and return to their homes. Potatau's chief wife,
and Te Uira's were among the captured who managed to
get away. One of the leading chiefs of the Ngapithi
connived at the escape of a " rangatira" Waikato woman with
her son. She, it seems, had fallen to the lot of a man of
inferior rank, and one of the Ngapuhi happening to pass
by recognised her as a person from whom he had received
hospitality and kindness on a previous visit to Waikato, and


tried to obtain her libei-ty from her present master. Failing
in this, he determined to effect her deliverance by caxitioning
the owner to look well after his prisoners, as probably they
might attempt to escape. He threw him off his guard, and
gained his confidence to such an extent that his offer to
assist in the watch was gladly received and accepted. The
house in which the prisoners were confined was fortunately
at the edge of the high bank of the Waipa River. After
collecting a number of sticks, which had the appearance of
being for firewood, the friendly chief excavated from the
bank into the house, and having made a good passage, he
covered the aperture in the whare with the wood and with
fern. In the middle of the night, when all were supposed to
be asleep, the sticks were moved aside, the woman and child
passed through the aperture, and got to the river unheard ;
this the woman swam with the child on her back, and
eventually both reached her friends in safety. To favour
their escape the kindly native, after their exit by the
passage, replaced the sticks and fern, and made up their
bedding as if they were there asleep. Their lord and
master was sleeping in the house with them, and it Avas not
till after daylight that he discovered the deception that had
been practised on him, to the great amusement of the others.
One of the principal chieftains, Te Rangimoewaka, had
succeeded in escaping from the pa, but becoming exhausted
with fatigue he sat down, telling the party with whom he
was escaping to hasten away and not heed him, as he could
proceed no further. For a time there was some hesitation,
but the yells of the pursuers grew nearer and nearer, and
the instinct of self-pi*eservation carried the day : each gave
him the final salute by applying nose to nose, and hastened
off. Amongst the pursuers was a Ngapuhi chief, who knew
Te Rangimoewaka, and had been on friendly terms with
him. He was the first to come up ; and, seeing his quondam


friend lying exhausted, reminiscences of old times flashed
across him ; he stooped and rubbed noses in token of re-

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Online LibraryJ. H. H St. JohnPakeha rambles through Maori lands → online text (page 1 of 17)