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The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864

An Introduction by Mr James Cowan

An Introduction by Mr James Cowan

When Hori Ngatai, an aged chief of Ngaiterangi, was in Wellington for the last time in 1903, he was induced to tell the story of the Gate Pa fight to a select company of Europeans.

Of all the conflicts between Maori and Pakeha in the war days of the sixties, no engagement surpassed in thrilling interest the battle of Gate Pa, fought at Tauranga on April 29th., 1864.

The heroic stand of Maniapoto, Ngatiraukawa and Urewera Maoris at Orakau, in the Upper Waikato, a few weeks previously, ended in the utter defeat of the valiant Kingites with a loss of more than half their number slain. The hostile attitude of the natives in the Bay of Plenty drew upon them the attention of the Imperial troops, and on the Pukehinahina Isthmus, a short distance from the pretty town of Tauranga, was fought the memorable battle of the Gate Pa, ending in the rout of the British forces, an army of about 1680 men baffled and defeated by a brave little Maori band numbering less than one-tenth of the white General's forces. In the repulse which followed the assault on the hastily built Pa, many men of the land and naval forces fell killed or wounded—the proportion of the officers killed was remarkably heavy. In the little green cemetery in the famous old Pa of Otamataha at Tauranga, overlooking the noble harbour, the gallant Englishmen sleep their last sleep, and there Colonel Booth and his grand old enemy, Rawiri, slumber side by side, true warriors and brave, who fell, each fighting for his nation's honour, deadly foemen, that stirring day of '64, but now united in the rest which reconciles all men.

Hori Ngatai, the narrator of this story of the fight, is a fine type of Maori chief. A tall, soldierly old Rangitira, with a steady, determined eye, which one can well imagine to have flashed defiance at the pakeha hosts. His well cut face is marked with the blue lines of the moko on cheeks and chin, and a short grey beard lends an air of benevolence to the veteran warrior's features. Hori is the principal chief of the Ngaiterangi tribe of Tauranga, and sets his page 22 people a fine example of industry. He is pleased and proud to tell of the plucky stand made by his people at the Gate Pa, a stand distinguished by many a noble act of chivalry on the Maori side.

This is Hori Ngatai's story as told in Wellington, in answer to questions put by Captain Mair, of the Native Department, and translated by him to the shorthand reporter. He spoke very modestly of his own share in the fighting, but his comrades bear witness to his energy and courage.