Chapter Twelve — The Story of Kahukura-nui
The Story of Kahukura-nui
Kahukura-nui was the eldest of the three sons of Kahungunu and his fourth wife, Rongomai-wahine. He was born at Nuku-taurua, on the Mahia Peninsula, and was the only one of the children of this famous family to be nursed in the special whare-kohanga, or nursing house. Naturally he ranked highest among the children born to Kahu and Rongomai.
In manhood he married Ruatapu-wahine, the daughter of Ruapani, the paramount chief of the whole of the Turanga-nui (now Poverty Bay) district. The abode of the couple was at Waerenga-a-hika, and here two male children were born to them, namely, Rongomai-tara and Rakai-hikuroa.
Kahukura-nui greatly resembled his peace-loving father in that whatever his capabilities he was by choice no warrior. He evinced no desire for conquests nor thirst for the blood of neighbours. He early adopted the peaceful course by marrying into the powerful tribe of his great neighbour, the famous Ruapani. The story of a Maori leader of the stone age is largely the story of his battles, defeats and victories. Apart from the facts recorded above, thus it is with Kahukura-nui. As with the father so with the son. He fought in only one battle, and it is this story that we now tell.
Kahu the second also inherited his father's admiration for a handsome woman. Kahungunu left his third wife when he heard of the great beauty of the Mahia chieftainess, and the story of what he was prepared to do to secure Rongomai-wahine as his own makes a pretty tale. Is it any wonder then that when Kahukura-nui heard that the husband of a far-away famous and beautiful woman had been killed that he decided to seek the handsome widow as his bride? Tu-pouriao, chief of the people and pa of O-tatara, near Taradale, was killed when he and his men fought against Chief Te Porangahau and his warriors, of the district of the same name. On hearing of the death of page 95Tu-pouriao, Kahukura-nui resolved to make the long journey if haply the beauteous but bereaved widow might consider him as a husband. His journey ended at night, and impatient at delay he lost no time in seeking the presence of the sorrowing Tu Teihonga. She, however, had retired for the night, but this did not dismay our hero. Once more we find an interesting parallel between the conduct of father and son. As the wily Kahungunu had once succeeded in using a rude trick to break the marital relations of the woman of his choice and her husband, so the son found himself equally capable of rudeness. On finding that he could not interview the widow, he stationed himself at the side of the sleeping-house nearest to where he judged her to be lying. Here he made a peculiar noise in a challenging manner. The phrase "Ure whakapa-ko-ko," does not bear translation. The lady, hearing the insolent noise outside, asked, "Kowai tenei e whakapo-ko-ko mai nei?" Kahukura-nui then meekly replied that it was he. On the widow enquiring as to his reason for being there, Kahu replied that he wanted her to be his wife. This entreaty met with a prompt refusal. Tu Teihonga was in the house of mourning, and would remain there until the death of her former husband was avenged. She asked the visitor if he was prepared to seek vengeance on her behalf. What could the gallant suitor do but give his consent? So this strange nocturnal wooing ended with the suitor's promise to lead his own and the men of O-tatara against Te Porangahau. He enquired as to the distinguishing signs of the chief whom he was to kill. The woman replied, "When the taua approaches the pa the murderer will come out clothed in a scarlet cloak of kaka (parrot) feathers and carrying a taiaha-kura at the trail." The latter was a type of thrusting weapon favoured by the ancient Maori warrior, and this particular type was adorned by a small bunch of red feathers. So Kahu went forth to find and slay an enemy and thus win a bride.
His taua was some 250 strong, and in due course he drew near the pa of Te Porangahau, about 30 miles south of Waipukurau. As the raiders came near the watchmen of the pa raised the war-cry. Almost immediately there appeared before the pa a chief of fearless mien, clothed in scarlet and with a taiaha at the trail. He advanced, leading his men to meet the visitors. He met and killed the first man of the attackers. The fight became general and fierce until more of those seeking vengeance were killed and the visitors were forced to fall back to where Kahukura-nui stood. In vain he urged them to renew page 96the attack. At this time he was seen by Te Porangahau, who immediately came towards him, his weapon carried at the trail as usual, ready for the favourite death stroke. Kahu met him with his own taiaha held aloft ready for a downward blow. So it came that Kahu's smashing blow was more than a match for Porangahau's more subtle thrust, and down went the local chief, down to defeat though not to immediate death. It was enough. The people of the pa fled and the stronghold was taken.
The prisoner was taken still alive to the waiting Tu Teihonga. She showed no mercy on her husband's murderer and quickly put him to death. She then put aside her "widow's weeds" and married the victorious Kahu.
At that time Tu Teihonga had a daughter named Tu Rumakina, by her first husband, Tu-pouriao. This daughter became the mother of Tu Rauwha, who was the chief of O-tatara pa when Taraia and his warriors captured it. It was on this relationship that peace was made without a complete massacre after the pa had fallen. Taraia was the grandson of Kahukura-nui, while Tu Rauwha was the grandson of Tu Teihonga. This resulted in Te Rangi-tuehu, the son of Tu Purupuru and nephew of Taraia, marrying Tu Rakura, the daughter of Tu Rauwha Tu Rakura begat Hineiao, who married Te Rangi-taumaha, the son of Taraia.
Kahukura-nui and Tu Teihonga had two children, namely, Hine-manuhiri (female) and Rakaipaaka (male), who were later to have a very important bearing on the settlement of the Wairoa district, and whose descendants became the Ngati Kahungunu proper.
Kahukura-nui later married a third wife, Hine-kumu, and by this union begot Tamanuhiri. Owing to the life he led, peaceful in the main, Kahu's life in his latter years was not involved in any chain of revengeful wars. In this respect there is seen a final parallel with the life of his father, the renowned Kahungunupage break
At this pa, close to the present Springhill Station, Tama-te-rangi was killed by Parua about 250 years ago. It was not a well-fortified place, but was used mainly as a garden. Tama-te-rangi and a few followers were planting crops when he was surprised and killed in the Ma-kakahi creek beyond the figures.