Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants
Chapter XXI. Hongi
Chapter XXI. Hongi.
One of the most celebrated of the New Zealand Chiefs, who has lived since we became acquainted with the country, was Hongi, a principal man of the Nga-puhi tribe. Mr. Marsden met with him during his first visit to the Bay of Islands, in 1814; he described him then as a warrior, but of a very mild disposition, and with very little appearance of the savage about him. He was the Chief of seventeen places, but chiefly residing at the Keri Keri. He was of an ingenious turn of mind, extremely anxious to learn European arts, and, at Mr. Marsden's request, made a bust of himself, with a piece of an old iron hoop, his only implement; on this he delineated his own page 310 moko (tattoo), and this was sent to the Church Mission-house (see cut, page 148), where it is still preserved, and is, indeed, a very creditable performance.
On Mr. Marsden's return to New South Wales, Hongi and several other Chiefs accompanied him. He remained in the colony until the end of the year 1815, when he returned home, and became the uniform protector of the Missionaries, frequently throwing himself between them and death. In other respects, he does not appear to have distinguished himself particularly, until 1820, when, with another young Chief named Waikato, a near relative, he accompanied Mr. Kendal to England. Whilst there, he resided several months with his companion at Cambridge, to be near Professor Lee, who then drew up the New Zealand Grammar, which bears his name. The part of the town where he resided has ever since been called New Zealand. Hongi said, “They had come to London to see the King, the multitude of his people, what they were all doing, and the goodness of their land. They wished to remain in England one month, and then return home. They desired to take back with them one hundred men; miners, to search for iron, blacksmiths, carpenters, and Missionaries, to teach them the arts and religion in their own tongue. They were anxious to have twenty British soldiers, and three officers to keep the soldiers in order. They would protect them, and grant them plenty of land.” Such were the words of Hongi and Waikato.
Great interest was excited by this visit of the New Zealand Chiefs, whose finely tattooed faces excited general attention. George the Fourth honored them with an interview; he showed them the armoury of his palace, and presented them with a complete suit of armour, double-barrelled guns, and many other valuable articles. Whilst Waikato coveted everything he saw, Hongi only admired the discipline of the troops, the different weapons of war, the coat of mail which had been given him, and the great elephant.
The bearing and deportment of Hongi was very dignified: when treated as a great man, he assumed the manner of a prince; but when only regarded as an object of curiosity, he page 311 never failed to show his disgust, and even indignation. A striking instance of this occurred at a gentleman's house, where a large party had been invited to meet the Chiefs. Hongi had assumed all the airs of a superior, and had acted the prince, which he well knew how to do, until he observed some ladies evidently tracing the lines upon his tattooed face, whilst a smile played on their own, which he thought implied a feeling of pity towards himself. Immediately he arose in a state of great excitement, threw himself across three chairs, and covering his face with his hands, remained in that position until the company left.*
These Chiefs met with many kind friends, who made them liberal presents of arms and ammunition, as injudiciously as the King, who little thought what miseries, murders, and enormities they were thus giving rise to.
As winter approached, Hongi was seized with an affection of the chest, which reduced him to a very precarious state; a blister was recommended, which for a long time he would not suffer to be applied, but when it was at last, and yielded him speedy relief, he said he would not quit the country until he was supplied with a pot full of that valuable medicine. When they were sufficiently restored to health, the Government granted them a passage to New South Wales.
Hinaki had two brothers, who were likewise killed, one being nearly as noble a looking person as himself; the other a youth of about twenty. Their bodies were eaten, and their heads embalmed as trophies of victory. About one thousand men were slain, and three hundred were cooked and eaten on the battle-field. So complete was the victory, that the place has never since been inhabited. It now belongs to the Bishop's page 313 college, being part of its endowment. Hongi returned to the Bay. Each canoe was filled with captives, and had several heads of their enemies placed at their stems and sterns by way of ornament. Hongi had twenty prisoners on board his canoe, whom he intended to retain as slaves; but his daughter, who had lost her husband in the fight, with dishevelled locks, rushed down to the water's edge, as the canoe touched the shore, and seizing the sword presented to her father by the King's own hand, jumped on board, and smote off sixteen heads of the poor captives, who, without a murmur, placed their necks over the side-board of the canoe.* Twenty more were also killed and eaten; and yet the frantic woman, not thinking that the shade of her husband was sufficiently appeased with this sacrifice, went into the bush with a loaded musket, and there shot herself; the ball, however, only passing through her arm, instead of her head, she was still alive when found, but determined to accompany her husband to the Reinga, she afterwards strangled herself.
Hongi had no sooner finished one expedition than he prepared for another. He quickly assembled a thousand men, and proceeded with them to Mercury Bay, to make war upon the tribes of that district, ordering another army of two thousand more to be raised, and to follow him. Success again attended his arms, and, flushed with victory, he next attacked Kaipara, where he made a great slaughter. In 1822, he again visited the Thames and the Waikato, and ascended the Waipa, where he took several large pas, thence he nearly penetrated as far as the Wanganui; in this expedition he slew fifteen hundred of his enemies.
* An eye witness related this horrid butchery to me,—Mr. Puckey, of Kaitara, one of our Catechists.
In 1827, he declared war against Tara, and the tribe which massacred the crew of the Boyd, making that an excuse for his ambitious designs. In the beginning of 1827 his men plundered and burned the Wesleyan Missionary Station, which had been commenced at Wangaroa a year or two before; they told the Missionaries, “Your Chiefs have fled; all the people have left the place, and you will be stripped of all your property before noon; therefore, instantly begone!”
It appears, however, as if this was to be the termination of his success. His only redeeming act had been the preservation of those who came to raise his countrymen;—immediately he put forth his hand to injure them, he fell! He killed or dispersed “the man-eating tribes,” as he termed those who cut off the Boyd, although the epithet was, perhaps, far more applicable to himself, for he appears to have surpassed all who had gone before him in the number of victims he and his followers had consumed. Twenty only of these man-eaters escaped;—they glutted themselves with the slain, sparing neither woman, nor even suckling child. The remnant of his enemies fled to Hunahuna, a village near the Maungamuka, where they made a stand. Hongi, who had ensconced himself behind a tree, stepped forward to take aim, when a ball struck him: it broke his collar-bone, passed in an oblique direction through his right breast, and came out a little below his shoulder-blade, close to the spine. This terminated his fearful career; for though he lingered a full year, the wound never healed. When he breathed, the air escaped through the orifice with a hissing sound, which he made a subject of merriment.
He received his wound in January, 1827. On the 6th of March, 1828, the life of this remarkable savage terminated. page 315 In his last hours, so far from attending to the words of the Missionaries, he urged his followers to prosecute the war, and exterminate his enemies. When Patuone visited him, a day or two before his death, and was told he was dying, he said, “No, I am not dying: my heart is quite light. I am not dying.” The next day he fainted, and was supposed to be dead; when he revived, he said, he should die, but not until the morrow. He ordered his powder to be brought to him, and when he saw it, he said to his children, Ka ora koutou,—you will be safe; intimating, the powder would be their protection. He then summoned his sons, and gave the coat of mail he had received from the King of England to one of them, and then divided his battle-axes and fire-arms amongst them, sternly demanding, “Who will dare to attack my followers after I am gone?”
Early next morning, though evidently sinking fast, he continued to rally his friends, and said, “No matter from what quarter your enemies come, let their numbers be ever so great, should they come here hungry for you, kia toa, kia toa, be brave, be brave! Thus will you revenge my death, and thus only do I wish to be revenged.” He continued repeating these words until he expired.
Patuone, as soon as he heard that Hongi was dead, bid his followers sit still, whilst he and a few of his friends went to see the corpse, lest Hongi's people should be alarmed, as they had blockaded all the entrances to the pa. At first he was refused permission to enter, until Hunaroa interfered; he found one of his sons binding him up, his head still reclining on his breast. When the body was fully dressed, and his, head richly ornamented with feathers, all the obsequies due to so great a Chief were performed. His family, fearing an attack, wished to bury him at once, but Patuone said, “Why all this haste? You will be the first to bury your father alive: let him smell before you bury him: what if he does smell?” Yielding to this advice, he laid in state for two more days, which were spent in repeating the pihi, or funeral ode, in cutting themselves, in crying, and firing off guns. In the meantime, Hongi's friends arrived from the Bay of Islands, page 316 who, with the Hokianga natives, formed a large procession, when this savage warrior's remains were carried to the wahi tapu—sacred place, amidst the mingled din of the maemae, or funeral dance, the dismal tangi, or wail for the dead, and peals of musketry, an apt termination for the life of one whose supreme delight was war, and to whose ear the dying groans of his enemies were the sweetest music.*
On another occasion, a boat's crew went up what is called Tareha's River, to cut wood, leaving one man to take care of the boat, and get some food cooked for the party on their return. The man commenced with gathering two baskets full of oysters. He had no sooner done so, than up came Tareha, who in his fierce gruff voice, demanded his business there, at least so the man supposed, being totally ignorant of the language; but knowing what a dreadful cannibal he was, and how completely he was in his power, he told me he trembled in every joint, thinking his last moments had arrived. Tareha repeated his savage growl in a louder tone; the man thinking perhaps that it was the cry of hunger, thrust before him one of the oysters he had just opened. Tareha swallowed it, and gave another growl; the poor fellow hastily opened another, which was immediately swallowed, and succeeded by a growl; and thus he kept opening oysters, which the other as quickly devoured, until the whole stock was almost consumed, when page 318 he was opportunely rejoiced with the sight of his returning comrades. This man, many years afterwards, told me the tale, and said he should never forget his horror at the sight of that huge savage, and the sound of his fearful voice.
In after times, when his cannibal feasts were well nigh terminated, and he himself pretty well advanced in years, a whale was announced as having been thrown up on the coast near his abode; the news reached him on a Saturday evening, and fearful lest the dainty dish should be consumed by others, he gave notice, as the next day was the Sabbath, he should go and guard it himself, that no one should have any of it until the Monday. On the Monday, I had the curiosity to go and see the huge fish. I found Tareha encamped close to it, and a large assembly of natives a little further off, patiently waiting, I suppose, until the lion had taken his share. And although he would not allow others to partake of it during the Sabbath, I found he had devoured an entire fin himself. When I paid him a visit, he was eating potatoes, and squeezing a large lump of blubber over them as a relish, the putrid oil quite tainting the air.*
This Chief died a heathen; but his son Te Akira, who was also of large proportions, was afterwards baptized by the name of “King William.”
* The natives are not so susceptible of smell as we are. In their savage state, putrid substances do not appear to be nauseous to them, but they become so as they are more civilized, and assimilated to us in manners. So also, in their natural state, they have a peculiar odour, which is very perceptible to sensitive nostrils. This appears common to all, however cleanly in their habits. The same has been remarked of the American Indians; and it is singular, that the Christians of the mediæval ages, thought that the Infidels or Saracens had a similar smell, and still more, that they should have pleaded guilty to the charge; and further, that they should have entertained the same idea as the Christians, that it was lost by baptism. The early travellers make frequent mention of Saracens bringing their children to be baptized, for this wholesome purpose. Baptism, however, does not appear so efficacious in New Zealand. Hue, in his travels through China, also alludes to this, and states that the Chinese have naturally a strong smell of musk.
Of all the New Zealand Chiefs, there has not been a more distinguished one than Te Heuheu, the head Chief of Taupo, and the most influential native in the interior of this island. His noble figure (for he stood upwards of six feet high), his broad chest, his good-natured countenance, his white locks, his dignified manner as he sat on a rock in front of his house, like a king on his throne, surrounded by his tribe, and surveying his dependents at their work, to whom he repeatedly issued his commands in a tone which compelled obedience, presented altogether a perfect picture of the savage Chief. His great bravery in war, his eloquence in council, his perfect acquaintance with the mythology of the country, his being a Chief Priest as well, tended to extend his influence amongst the New Zealand tribes, and caused them to view him as a sacred character.
Though successful in war, he does not appear to have delighted in it so much as his countrymen generally have done. He was never averse to making peace. In 1844, he visited the little settlement of Wanganui with a war party of about two hundred, intending to fight with the Waitotara tribe, and avenge the death of Kotuku-rae-roa, Tauteka, and Te Wakarau, great Taupo Chiefs, who were killed there three years before; but, being reasoned with, and recommended to make page 320 peace, he said, he was known amongst the tribes as a Chief who could make peace as well as make war. He listened to the advice, and returned with his war party without doing any injury, although the town was then in his power, and its inhabitants possessed no means of defence. A complaint was made against one of his men for stealing a poor man's coat. At the very moment this was being made, the thief approached in a canoe, having on the stolen coat. Te Heuheu seeing him, rushed upon him like a tiger, threw him into the water, and held him under with his powerful grasp, until he was nearly drowned, and then pulled the coat off his back and restored it to the owner. He gave another proof of his natural peaceable disposition by erecting a house for a neighbouring Chief, with whom he had long been at variance. This was one of the noblest specimens of native architecture, and when finished he gave it the expressive name of “Te riri ka ware ware,” the burying of anger. This was nearly his last work. He was visited by ministers of various denominations, but though he received all with great respect, he yet refused to give up the faith of his forefathers, and when one exhorted him to be a member of his peculiar Church, he is reported to have said, “When you foreigners tell me of so many different roads, and each affirms his own to be the only true one, how can I decide? First agree amongst yourselves which is the right way, and then I will consider whether I shall take it or not.” He, however, accompanied the writer of this sketch to see the most lovely part of the vale in which he lived, and said, that shall be tapu as a residence for a Missionary, if one should be sent him. The principal residence of this Chief was at Te Rapa, a small valley at the south-west corner of the Taupo Lake. His house was a long building, nearly forty feet in length; it resembled an eight-stalled stable, each compartment being occupied by one of his wives, who were occasionally employed weaving mats, whilst he sat at one end silently regarding their labors.
In May, 1846, a remarkable accident (already alluded to) terminated the life of this Chief, as well as the lives of his wives, and of all his children who were then living with him, page 321 together with nearly sixty of his tribe. An unusually rainy season occasioned a large land slip on the side of the Kakaramea, the mountain at the back of the Rapa, about two miles' distance from his residence. This took place nearly 2000 feet above the level of the lake, at the gorge of a little Alpine valley, through which a considerable stream flowed, which, being thus dammed up, in three days formed a large and deep lake, which burst its barriers, and, with irresistible force, swept rocks, trees, and earth with it into the lake. The little settlement was buried with all its inhabitants, excepting a few solitary individuals, who, aroused from their sleep by the warning roar of the approaching avalanche, fled to the neighbouring hills, and escaped. One of the survivors states, that Te Heuheu arose from his bed, (it was about three in the morning,) and exhorted a Chief who was his guest to flee, but both remained. He said it was a taniwa,* who was angry with him for having omitted his usual offerings. He, therefore, immediately made an offering of food, and commenced a supplicatory prayer to the angry god, and whilst thus engaged was overwhelmed. The once fruitful valley of Te Rapa was buried, in many places more than twenty feet deep; its houses and groves were swept away, and nothing was left to mark that it had once been the abode of man, but a solitary swinging pole, called a morere, which, with a few feet of green sward around it, singularly enough escaped.
Te Heuheu's brother caused the body of the Chief to be exhumed. Nearly one hundred natives were thus employed, but the task would have been hopeless, had not the flood formed a deep channel near his house, under the ruins of which he was found.
* A fish god, supposed to reside in lakes, rivers, and under monntains.
The Chiefs body was kept concealed, according to the custom with great ariki, for about four years; it was then exhumed, and laid in state, dressed in the finest native garments, and placed in a highly-ornamented coffin, which was supported on a pole,* until 1850, when it was privately conveyed to Tongariro, with the intention of being thrown down the crater of that volcano; but the difficulty of the ascent had not been sufficiently considered, and the bearers were contented to leave it on a ledge of rock, which projected from the side of the mountain.
* See Vignette, page 32.