Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:
Death of Hongi Hika
Death of Hongi Hika.
It was mentioned a few pages back, that the great Nga-Puhi leader had been wounded in an inter-tribal fight at a place called Hunuhunua, on the banks of the Manga-muka branch of the Hokianga river. This fight occurred between the Ngati-Pou* of Whangaroa (Hongi’s near relatives), aided by the Roroa sub-tribe of Hokianga and Hongi’s partisans. Hongi-Hika drove Ngati-Pou out of Whangaroa, and was pursuing them, when he was wounded near Oporehu. Ngati-Pou finally fled to Waimamaku, near Hokianga Heads. A young man connected with the Taou branch of Ngati-Whatua, named Maratea, but whose father was a Ngati-Pou, had joined the Roroa people, and during the fight managed to shoot Hongi-Hika through the breast. This was in January, 1827. Hongi-Hika was carried back to his home at Whangaroa, where he lingered on till the 6th March, 1828, when he died, and great was the consternation amongst the settlers at the Bay, who had been under the special protection of Hongi-Hika, for fear they should suffer on that account. But beyond alarms nothing came of it.page 399
Not many weeks after, Te Whare-umu, Ngati-Whatua’s enemy, and who first led the attack at Te Ika-a-ranga-nui in February, 1825, was killed at Waima, Hokianga; and this nearly led to an inter-tribal war amongst the Nga-Puhi, but was happily averted by the exertions of the Rev. Henry Williams and some other of the Missionaries, peace being made on the 24th March, 1828.
Thus died Hongi Hika, the great enemy of Ngati-Whatua of Kaipara in particular, and the scourge of many of the Southern tribes, who frequently felt his heavy hand, from 1815 to the time of his death. He was no doubt a great leader in Maori warfare, but treacherous withal. It was greatly due to his early possession of fire-arms that he spread such terror wherever he went; but beyond that we must give him credit for being a great general. His cruelty and treachery were not perhaps more marked than in other leaders of his time. It is said that his blind wife, Turi-ka-tuki, accompanied him in all his wars, and that she was his most trusted adviser. It was widely believed at the Bay of Islands that the death of both Hongi-Hika and Te Whareumu were brought about through witchcraft by Pango (or Nga-iwi), of the Ngati-Whakaue tribe of Rotorua, who was then on a friendly visit to the Bay. He was consequently in danger of his life, but was taken back to his people by Rev. Henry Williams, in April, 1828.page 400
The following is a song composed by Tamarehe, of Ngati-Whatua, on the death of Hongi Hika, in which he expresses his vexation and anger against Hongi-Hika on account of his manslaying proclivities; and failing to obtain revenge against him by force of arms, he relieved his feelings in song:—
Kowai au, E Hongi, e i?
I riro mai a konei, e, i,
Tera Ngati-Whatua, e, i,
Te tangata nana i kai atu,
I Kai-a-te-karoro na, i,
“To upoko ra, te Tupua-i-tawhiti!”
Nana rawa i homai,
Ko te kaha tuarangi,
Hei tua i te motu.
Ki’hinga ki raro ra—e.
By whom, O Hongi, was the deed performed,
That sent me here, an exile?
There in affliction lives Ngati-Whatua—
The people that in former times did eat,
Hou-wawe, and Hou-moka, northern chiefs,
At the bloody field of Kai-a-te-karoro,
“Curses on thy head, thou stranger from afar,”
That brought hither to this land,
The strange and powerful weapons,
That felled the mighty of this land
And laid them low in death.
The writer adds, “This is a curse on the white man, who brought here guns and powder, thus, ‘Curses on thy head, &c.’ The white man is a tupua and the tupua is a ngarara (a lizard), of old; a rock, a taniwha (a monster), dwelling below the earth, even from the first making thereof. None have seen it. Such is the white man, according to the ideas of the Maoris in his ignorance.”page 401
It was at the time of Hongi’s death, and the outcome of the outrageous behaviour of the Whangaroa people, that the Wesleyan Mission at that place was broken up, and the Mission removed to Mangungu on the Hokianga harbour.
The Chevalier Dillon called at the Bay in November, 1827, in the “Research,” after having returned from Vani-koro island, whither he went to look for the missing French navigator, La Pérouse. He had a visit from Hongi-Hika on the 13th, who was suffering from his wound. He told Dillon that he was about to depart immediately for Waikato, to obtain revenge for the death of Pomare in 1826; he never accomplished this object, however.
* It is stated that Ngati-Pou formerly occupied the whole of the country round Waimate and Ohaeawae, the country known as Tai-a-mai. A tribe named Ngati-Miru and another named Te Wahine-iti occupied at the same time as Ngati-Pou, and was driven out or exterminated by Nga-Puhi. It is probable that Ngati-Miru are the descendants of one Miru, who is said to have settled at Whangape, having come to New Zealand in the Kura-haupo canoe.