Topic: Traditional Story: Te Heke o Rangihouhiri
Whakatane was the territory of Ngati Awa, who had a strong pa called Papaka on the hill above the present town. Ngati Rangihouhiri moved up the Whakatane River a little way and chose a place on a ridge above the river to build their pa. Ngati Awa were not too happy about these new settlers either. For a time they left them alone but the situation was uncertain.
Ngati Rangihouhiri decided they had better settle the situation once and for all even if this meant a fight with Ngati Awa. Tamapahore was sent out one night to scout around the great pa of Papaka, to look for any weak points in the defences. He crept quietly around outsides the banks and palisades in the darkness, looking for the best place to attack. Suddenly a woman came out on to the place in the palisades on the bank just above him which was used as a latrine when the pa was closed up at night. The temptation was too much for Tamapahore. He gave her a poke in the backside with his taiaha. She screamed in fright. Tamapahore took off back home as fast as he could.
This was a very foolish thing Tamapahore had done. Not only had he insulted the daughter of the chief of Papaka, but he had also given Ngati Awa more reason to be suspicious. The situation was talked over in the meeting house of Rangihouhiri. After a while, Tamapahore stood up and said, "I have acted foolishly. Now we will all have to move on again. Before we go, let us at least fight Ngati Awa." Many of Ngati Rangihouhiri agreed with this plan. However, Ngati Awa let it be known that if Ngati Rangihouhiri wanted to fight, it would be a fight to the death and Ngati Awa had many fighting men. If Ngati Rangihouhiri went straight away, Ngati Awa would let them go in peace.
And so, discretion being the better part of valour, Ngati Rangihouhiri packed up and moved again. They had got into so much trouble already there were not many places left to go. They travelled along the coast west to Te Awa o te Atua, near Matata. This land was occupied by another section of Ngati Awa and they did not welcome Ngati Rangihouhiri here. They had only just finished fighting for it themselves, and had chased out the previous occupants, Te Tini o Taunu. They were not about to share this land they had fought so hard for with Ngati Rangihouhiri.
Rangihouhiri sent Tamapahore to visit Tatahau, a chief of Tapuika of Te Arawa, who lived at Maketu. Tamapahore and his party were looked after very well by the Arawa people. Tamapahore looked around the area. The land was good and the kumara gardens were flourishing. There were many different sorts of kai moana in the sea and estuary of the Kaituna. There were plenty of eels further upstream too. Indeed it was a rich and pleasant place to stay. Tamapahore and his ope returned to Rangihouhiri and reported on the fine lands of Maketu. And so it was decided that Ngati Rangihouhiri must find a permanent place to settle down. Maketu was land that was certainly worth fighting for.
It was not difficult to find an excuse to attack Maketu as there had been plenty of fights in the past between Te Arawa and people of Mataatua which could be avenged if anyone wanted to pick a fight. What was more difficult was to work out a plan of attack because the Tapuika people of Te Arawa were strong. They also had allies in Waitaha, another section of Te Arawa, whose land lay to the west in Papamoa and Maunganui in Tauranga Moana. And so a plan was worked out. That summer Ngati Rangihouhiri packed up and left Te Awa o te Atua and made a camp at Pukehina. Some of the local Ngati Awa came too to help Ngati Rangihouhiri fight for land to settle in. This was one way of ensuring they did not stay on at Te Awa o te Atua.
A small group of men set out from the camp at Pukehina and walked along the beach to Waihi, disguised as a fishing party. They crossed the estuary and walked over the hills toward Maketu. They found a woman alone in the kumara gardens. This was Punoho, daughter of Tatahau, who was quietly working away collecting caterpillars off her kumara plants. There was no one else around. One by one the men raped her. Punoho screamed in fury. The last man to take her was Werapinaki, who was deformed and crippled. Punoho screamed at him, "Maybe you could be a god at night but in daylight you are a hideous monster." This was too much for Werapinaki, who promptly killed her, and threw the body in a kumara pit.
That night Punoho was missed by the people of Maketu. A search party was sent out but no trace of her could be found. Tatahau suspected that those people of Rangihouhiri might have something to do with it. He had already heard they were camped at Owhara, above the Waihi Estuary. One of the women of Maketu went to the camp to find out. When she reported back, a group of Tapuika men crept quietly into the camp and killed Werapinaki as he lay sleeping.
The rest of the fighting force of Ngati Rangihouhiri moved from Pukehina to attack Maketu. The first big fight was at Pukemaire, Tatahau's great pa. Tatahau and many of his men were killed here. His two sons, Manu and Tiritiri, and the rest of the people of the pa, retreated to Rangiuru. Ngati Rangihouhiri were assisted by Ngati Awa. Tapuika called on their neighbours Waitaha for help. There were more battles. Ngati Maru of Thames Valley came in to help Te Arawa. People from the Urewera and the Opotiki district, including Ngati Pukenga, came in to help Ngati Rangihouhiri. Waitaha called in some of Ngati Ranginui of Tauranga Moana, led by Kinonui.
In one great battle, Tapuika and their allies attacked Herekaki, one of the smaller pa at Maketu which had been taken by Tutengaehe, son of Rangihouhiri. Tutengaehe was killed in this fight. The news was carried back to his father, Rangihouhiri, who was returning from a visit to Whakatane to seek more support from Ngati Awa. Rangihouhiri arrived in time to see Herekaki in flames. He stood there and prophesied, "Haere e tama rā e, ko koe te tai pō, ko au te tai ata. Go my son, you by the evening tide, I shall follow by the morning tide."
The next day saw the final great battle between Ngati Rangihouhiri and their allies and Te Arawa and their allies. The fighting went on all day in the valley above Waihi called Poporohuamea. By nightfall the chief, Rangihouhiri, and many of his men lay dead. Rangihouhiri had been killed by Te Ruinga of Tapuika, and so utu had been claimed for the death of Tatahau. But Ngati Rangihouhiri had not lost Maketu. The Arawa and their allies had enough of fighting. The death of Tatahau had been avenged. The allies went home. Tapuika made peace with Tamapahore and Taapuiti, the son of Tutengaehe. Tamapahore gave his daughter, Parewaiiti, as a wife of the Tapuika chief, Paruhi. Other marriages were made between Tapuika and Ngati Rangihouhiri. It seemed that at last Ngati Rangihouhiri had found themselves a permanent home. After this battle of Poporohuamea, Ngati Rangihouhiri called themselves Ngaiterangi.
Other stories are found off the article - An Introduction to this collection (please click)
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