The New Zealand Reader
The Flagstaff At Kororareka. — [From the Maori point of view.]
The Flagstaff At Kororareka.
[From the Maori point of view.]
After the first Governor came the second Governor; but the towns and the numerous pakeha traders we expected did not come. We heard of a town having been built at Waitemata, and others further south; but in our part of the country there were no new towns, and the pakeha did not increase in numbers, but, on the contrary, began to go away to the town at Waitemata, to be near their chief, the Governor, who lived there; and many of us had no one left to sell anything to as formerly. Tobacco began to be scarce and dear; the ships began to leave off coming to Tokerau, Hokianga, and Mangonui.
We inquired the reason of this, but the few pakeha traders left amongst us told us different stories. Some said that the reason tobacco was scarce and dear was because the Governor would not let it be brought on shore until he was paid a large price for it, besides what was paid to the people of the ship, who were the rightful owners of it. This at first we did not believe, because you all said you were not page 150slaves, not one of you, but all free men. Others said that the reason ships did not come as frequently as formerly was because the Governor made thorn pay for coming to anchor in the ports. Some said all the evil was by reason of the flagstaff which the Governor had caused to be erected at Maiki, above Kororareka, as a rahui,* and that as long as it remained there things would be no better. Others, again, told us the flagstaff was put there to show the ships the way into the harbour; others that it was put up as a sign that the island had been taken by the Queen of England, and that the nobility and independence of the Maori were no more.
But this one thing at least was true: we had less tobacco and fewer blankets and other European goods than formerly, and we saw that the first Governor had not spoken the truth, for he told us we should have a great deal more. The hearts of the Maori were sad, and our old pakeha friends looked melancholy, because so few ships came to bring them goods to trade with.
At last we began to think the flagstaff must have something to do with it; and so Heke went and cut it down. When the flagstaff was cut down there was a great deal of talk about it, and we expected there would be fighting; but it all ended quietly. The Governor, however, left off taking money from the people, and tobacco became cheap, and ships began to come as before; and all our old pakeha friends were glad, because they had plenty of goods to sell us, and so we all thought Heke was a man of great understanding.
But the Governor put up the flagstaff again, and when Heke heard this he came and cut it down again; so this was twice that he cut it down.
Now, when the Governor heard that Heke had cut down the flagstaff a second time, he became very angry, because he thought he could never get any more money from the people, or the ships; so he sent to England, and to Port Jackson, and everywhere, for soldiers to come to guard the flagstaff, and to fight against Heke.
* [Warning to trespassers.]
There were other soldiers at Kororareka and at other places: I do not know how many, but a great many. This was the first time that Heke began to think of the last words of Hongi Hika, his relative, when he died at Mawhe. Heke began to think much on these words, for Heke was now a chief among the Nga-Puhi, and he thought to stand in the place of Hongi, as, indeed, he had a right to do.
Now, these soldiers had red garments; they did not work, or buy and sell, like the other pakeha people; they practised every day with their weapons; and some of them were constantly watching as if they expected to be attacked every moment. They were a very suspicious people; and they had stiff, hard things round their necks to keep their heads up, lest they should forget and look too much downwards, and not keep their eyes continually rolling about in search of an enemy.
Great, indeed, was the fear of the Maori when they heard of these soldiers; for all the paheha agreed in saying that they would attack any one their chief ordered them to attack, no matter whether there was any just cause or not; that they would fight furiously till the last man was killed, and that nothing could make them run away. Fear came like a cold fog on all the Nga-Puhi, and no chief but Heke had any courage left.
But Heke called together his people, and spoke to them, saying, "I will fight these soldiers; I will cut down the flagstaff; I will fulfil the last words of Hongi Hika. Be not afraid of those soldiers: all men are men. The soldiers are not gods: lead will kill them; and, if we are beaten at last, we shall be beaten by a brave and noble people, and need not be ashamed."
So Heke sent runners to all the divisions of the Nga-Puhi, saying, "Come, stand at my back: the red garment is on the shore. Let us fight for our country. Remember the last words of Hongi Hika—'Kei hea koutou? Kia toa.'"*
* [Where are you? Be brave.]
But the chiefs of the Nga-Puhi hapu said amongst themselves, "How long will the fire of the Maori burn before it is extinguished?" So the Nga-Puhi chiefs would not join Heke, for fear of the soldiers; but said, "We will wait till a battle has been fought, and, if he is successful, then we will join him."
Heke, therefore, went with his own family and people, and those of his elder relation, Kawiti, and the Kapotai, and some others, altogether about four hundred men. He went to light with the soldiers at Kororareka, and to cut down his old enemy the flagstaff.
Heke and Kawiti, having arrived at Tokerau, and having fixed upon the day of attack, agreed that Kawiti should attack the town of Kororareka, to draw off the attention of the soldiers who guarded the flagstaff on the hill of Maiki, so that Heke should have an opportunity to cut it down; for Heke had said that he would cut down the flagstaff, and he was resolved to make his words true.
When they had formed this plan, and night was come, the priests of the war party threw darts to divine the event. They threw one for Heke, and one for the soldiers, and one for the flagstaff; and the dart for Heke went straight, and fair, and fortunate, but the dart for the soldiers turned to one side, and fell with the wrong side up; so did that for the flagstaff. "When this was told the people they were very glad, and had no longer any fear.
Then Kawiti, who is himself a tohunga, threw a rakau* for his own path. He threw one for himself and people, and one for the soldiers, and one for the town. The dart for Kawiti went straight and fair, but it turned wrong side up, which is the omen of death; and so also did the dart for the soldiers go fair and straight, but also turned wrong side up. And when Kawiti saw this, he said, "It is good. Here have I two darts ominous of success, and bravery, and death. Our enemy will prove very strong and brave; they will suffer much from us, and so shall we from them. I am not displeased, for this is war and not play."
* [Stick, weapon, tree. In this place a divining-dart.]
Heke lay on the ground with his war party. Close at hand were the sleeping soldiers. Amongst those soldiers there was not one lohunga—not a man at all experienced in omens—or they must have had some warning that great danger and defeat were near; but there they lay sleeping between the open jaws of war, and knew of no danger! This is the only foolishness I see about the pakeha: they are quite ignorant and inexperienced in omens, and, indeed, care nothing at all about them.
In the morning, before it was light, Kawiti and his young men rushed upon Kororareka. Their only thought was who should kill the first man, and elevate his name. But the soldiers met them in the path, and the fight began. Pumuka then gained a name; he killed the first man of the battle, but had not long to rejoice, for he himself fell a mataika* for the pakeha. Then the Maori charged to avenge Pumuka; the soldiers met them; the sailors charged, sword in hand. A keen breeze of war was blowing then on Kororareka! The best men of both sides were in front. The sword met the tomahawk, and many fell; but of all the toa† there, the chief of the sailors was the bravest: no man there could stand up before his sword; and had he not been struck by a shot, the Maori would have been defeated: four men like him would have killed Kawiti and all his war party. This is what I have been told by Kawiti's people who were in the fight. I did not see it myself, but was at every other fight in the war.
* [Mataika, the first enemy killed in a, fight.]
† [Toa, brave.]
During this time the fighting was still going on at Koro-rareka, but at last the Maori drew back, and the pakeha remained in the town. The Maori were not beaten, neither were the soldiers. Pumaka had been killed, and many others of Kawiti's people were killed and wounded; several, also, of the pakeha had been killled; and their great toa, the chief of the sailors, was almost dead. So the words of Kawiti proved true; both he and his enemy had done bravely, and had equal success, and both had suffered much.
In the afternoon the Maori began to perceive that the pakeha were leaving the town, and going on board the ships, so they returned to the town and began to plunder, and the people of the town plundered also. So both parties quietly plundered the town of Kororareka, and did not quarrel with one another.
At last all the town people and soldiers went on board the ships, and then the ship of war fired at the Maori people who were plundering in the town. The noise of the firing of the ship guns was very great, and some of Kawiti's people were near being hit by the lumps of iron. This was not right, for the fight was over, and the people were only quietly plundering the town which had been left for them, and which they had given fair payment for. But I suppose the sailors thought their chief was dying, and fired a waipu* for his sake. So the sailors may have an argument in their favour; but the Maori did not at the time think of this, so in revenge they burnt Kororareka, and there was nothing left but ashes; and this was the beginning of the war.
* [Waipu, the sound of the firing of guns, a volley.]