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The Story of a Maori Chief

Mokena Kohere Opposes Confiscation

Mokena Kohere Opposes Confiscation

Although Mokena Kohere had unconditionally pardoned the Ngati-Porou rebels the authorities were not satisfied. They demanded that a portion of the Ngati-Porou territory be confiscated and the boundary of the land to be confiscated was actually defined. It commenced at Awatere, near the Reporua settlement, crossed the Waiapu River at the mouth of the Mangaoparo, followed the course of the river, touched the foot of the Raukumara, followed Kokomuka ridge, turned towards the sea, along the Pukeamaru range, down to Iron Head, the southern arm of Hicks Bay, along the coast line, back to Awatere. It can be seen at a glance that much of the best land of the Ngati-Porou Tribe was within the land proposed to be confiscated, and there was land, too, belonging both to the rebels as well as to the loyal natives like Mokena Kohere and his hapu, Ngati-Hokopu. Mokena Kohere and other chiefs were uncompromisingly opposed to any suggestion of confiscation. When Captain Biggs arrived to arrange for the survey of the area he firmly stood his ground and told Captain Biggs to leave the district.

The next move of the Government was to offer Mokena Kohere a large sum of money in recognition of the services of the loyal natives. The chief knew that for him to accept the money would be to consent to the confiscatory measures. He absolutely refused to accept the money, remarking: “Mauria to moni, naku tonu taku riri ehara i a koe i te pakeha” (“Take your money away, the fight was mine, not the pakeha's”).

I once asked the late Bishop Herbert Williams whether he believed the Maori story that a large sum of money was page 60 offered to Mokena Kohere and he refused to accept it. He replied that it was improbable, and yet his own father, in East Coast Historical Records, states that a sum of £12,000 was offered to the Wairoa loyal chiefs and it was accepted. Hence large blocks of the best lands of the Ngati-Kahungunu were confiscated, or bought, according to one version, the greatest sufferers being the loyal chiefs like Pitiera Kopu. It was magnanimous on Pitiera's part to consent to the confiscation of his lands to atone for the sins of his disloyal fellow tribesmen. The fact proves how correct my Maori informants were, although not one European ever mentioned the fact that a large sum of money was offered to Mokena Kohere which the chief declined to accept because he knew very well that, to use Maori phraseology, the money had “teeth”—“he niho to te moni.” If the Wairoa loyal chiefs had been offered a large sum of money by the Government it is only natural to conclude that Mokena Kohere was also. Fortunately for the Ngati-Porou it was not accepted; otherwise they would have lost the best portion of their ancestral lands.