Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.
Who were “Riki,” “Punga” and “Tapore”?—Runaway Sailor Consigned to the Oven—Bill Ward and His Colonizing Record—“Katete,” a Tapu Victim.
Strangely enough, pride of place for being the first pakehas to live among the East Coast natives requires to be awarded to three who cannot be identified. They were known to the natives as “Riki,” “Punga” and “Tapore.” W. L. Williams (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, 1890, p. 459 et seq.) says that he was informed that they arrived before the days of the flax trade [which commenced in the late 1820's]. They had, he said, come and gone of their own accord. Bishop H. W. Williams told the writer that he had never received any information on the subject from his father. Matenga Waaka, of Muriwai, suggested that they might have been some early whites who spent some time at Whangara.
Even before the days of shore-trading, a few sailors from whalers took up their abode among the natives. With the advent of trading vessels, the runaways became more numerous. A surprisingly large proportion were foreigners, mostly citizens of the United States. Only one pakeha—a sailor named Taylor, who was known to the natives as “Tera,” or “Tiera,”—suffered the horrible fate of being required to form the “tit-bit” at a cannibal feast in this portion of the Dominion. Nothing has been learned as to his antecedents.
In Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century, p. 419, Smith says—apparently on the authority of Major Ropata—that, after the slaying of Ngarara by Hana (a Ngapuhi) on board the New Zealander at Whakatane in retaliation for the attack made on the Hawes on 2 March, 1829, the Ngati-Awa tribe, together with Whakatohea, Whanau-a-Apanui and Whanau-a-Ehutu, launched an attack upon Ngati-Porou, at the end of 1829 or the beginning of 1830, in the belief that the murder had been instigated by some East Coasters who were returning home on the vessel. The invaders are said to have “besieged” Omaru-iti, near Hicks Bay. Taylor was among their victims and his body was “burned.” His pakeha mate “George” escaped by swimming off to a rock, from which he was rescued by a boat from a whaler which happened to arrive in the very nick of time. W. Williams (Christianity Among the New Zealanders) merely states that “on that occasion an Englishman was killed.”page 116
A much fuller version of the episode appears in Story of Te Waharoa. Probably the author (J. A. Wilson) obtained it from his father, who was the first Anglican missionary at Opotiki (28/12/1839). It states that Ngarara was one of the leading chiefs of Whanau-a-Apanui tribe, which became enraged on account of his murder having occurred with the connivance of the captain of a pakeha ship and resolved to obtain utu (satisfaction) by slaying a pakeha.
As the nearest pakehas lived at Hicks Bay, Whanau-a-Apanui went there and attacked a pa.
“One poor fellow,” Wilson says, “was instantly killed, but the natives complained that he was thin and tough and that they could scarcely eat him…. The other European escaped in a marvellous manner. He fled and attempted to climb a tree. The native who pursued him, a Ngaitai man, cut off his fingers with a tomahawk and tumbled him out of the tree. We suppose the Maori preferred to make a live man walk to the kainga to carrying a dead man there; otherwise, another moment would have ended the pakeha's life.
“During the brief interval, our pakeha turned his anxious eyes towards the seas, when lo! an apparition. Was it not mocking him? Or, could it be real? Yes, it was a reality. There, walking the waters like a thing of life, a ship—not a phantom ship—approached, as if sent in his hour of need. She suddenly shot round Wharekahika Point, not more than a mile off, and anchored in the bay. ‘Now,’ said the pakeha, ‘if you spare me, my countrymen on board that ship will give a handsome ransom in guns and ammunition.’
” … As the Maoris wanted guns and ammunition, they took him to the landing-place, a rocky point, to negotiate the business. Presently an armed whaleboat neared the shore (the ship was a whaler) and the pakeha advanced a pace or two beyond the group of Maoris to the edge of the rock. He said to those on the boat: ‘When I jump into the water, fire!’ He plunged and they fired; he was saved and the natives fled, excepting such as may have been compelled to remain on the rock contrary to their feelings and wishes…. The unfortunate pakehas were proteges of Makau, alias Rangimatanuku, a Whakatohea chief, who had fled from Opotiki when Ngati-Maru devastated that place. Makau lost several men in this affair and always considered himself an upholder and martyr in the cause of the pakeha.”
Still another account of the occurrence was given to the writer in 1928 by Potene Tuhiwai, an elderly native of Hicks Bay. He said that he had been told by the elders of his tribe that, when Omaru-iti was attacked, neither Taylor nor his pakeha companion was engaged in the fighting. Taylor had just received for wife one Ripeka Hinewekuweku, and he was slain on what was to have been his wedding night. Taylor, he added, was not only killed in cold blood, but he was baked and eaten. Ripeka had eventually become his (Potene's) mother.
Dr. Wi Repa told the writer that it was common knowledge that Taylor was cooked and eaten by the visiting war party. page 117 He denied, however, that the conflict at Omaru-iti was in the nature of a siege. In strict fact, Omaru-iti was only a village. Taylor lived there and Ripeka was his wife. His slayers belonged to a party of marauders who had come from the Bay of Plenty. Ngati-Porou had not been in any way connected with this act of cannibalism. Ripeka subsequently married the Rev. Raniera Kawhia, and their only child, Erana Tongere, became the grandmother of the brothers Tuporo, of East Coast rugby fame. Finally, Ripeka married Tamati Tuhiwai, father of Wiremu Keiha (a noted Ngati-Porou warrior) and of Potene Tuhiwai.