Topic: Traditional Story: Nga Peke e Maha

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The tribe called Ngati Ha, who drove the ancestors of Ngaiterangi from Tawhitirahi, were later known as Ngati Pukenga. They joined Rangihouhiri in the fight against Tapuika at Poporohuamea but they returned home to Opotiki after this campaign.

Archived version here.

When they heard about the taking of the great pa of Maunganui by Ngaiterangi they came west again, hoping to get a share in the lands of Tauranga Moana. They had some connections with Ngaiterangi now through Tamapahore whose mother was from Ngati Pukenga. They first settled in the Papamoa area alongside Tamapahore's people.
Ngati Pukenga tried to gain the Otumoetai area but were outwitted by the young Ngaiterangi chief Rangihouhiri a Kahukino, a grandson of Tamapahore. A war party had been organised to attack Otumoetai and this Rangihouhiri had attached his own smaller taua to it. When Takau, the Ngati Ranginui chief, saw the warriors approaching his pa at Otumoetai he decided to try some diplomacy. He called out, "Who is your leader?" Before Ngati Pukenga could answer, Rangihouhiri shouted back, "I am." Takau called again, "For what will you guarantee us peace?" Rangihouhiri replied, "For your daughter Hinewa." So Ngaiterangi made peace and Rangihouhiri took his new bride back to Papamoa.
Ngati Pukenga went back to Papamoa too, feeling ashamed at being outwitted like this. They talked about the situation and decided, in spite of the agreement with Takau, they would attack Otumoetai on their own. "Patua i te tangata, patua i te whenua," was the cry. "Let us destroy the people and the land." The Ngati Ranginui people did not expect this attack and the pa was destroyed. Ngati Ranginui retreated inland. Ngati Pukenga went on to attack several other pa before returning to Papamoa.

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Some time after this, Ngati Pukenga built themselves a pa at Oruamatua, on a point at Matapihi facing Rangataua. However, they had soon got offside with their Ngaiterangi relatives again. In exasperation, Ngaiterangi drove them out of Tauranga Moana. The parting words of Ngaiterangi were "Haere, kia waru whakapaparanga ka hoki mai ai ka riri taua. Stay away for the next eight generations and then fight." This was a real insult which meant they were so weak it would take eight generations to get themselves strong enough to withstand Ngaiterangi.
Within three generations Ngati Pukenga were back at Oruamatua. Very soon there was friction again with Ngaiterangi. The last straw for Ngaiterangi was when some Ngati Pukenga picked puha from a piece of ground that was tapu, and cooked and ate it. This behaviour broke a law of tapu and needed to be punished.
Early one morning, the people in Oruamatua looked out over the mudflats of Rangataua. Over near the shoreline of Mangatawa there was a group of women gathering shellfish. Some of the young men of Ngati Pukenga decided to go and investigate at closer range. They climbed down the cliff from the pa and trudged across the mudflats to chat up these women. Too late they discovered that the women were warriors of Ngaiterangi in disguise. They had concealed their patu and mere in their clothes. They pulled out these weapons and attacked the young men of Ngati Pukenga. They were joined by more warriors of Ngaiterangi who had hidden in the wiwi of the swampy shoreline of Te Maunga. Ngati Pukenga turned and ran back toward Oruamatua.
Swiftly all the Ngati Pukenga of Oruamatua took to their canoes and paddled frantically down the harbour towards Maunganui and the open sea. Just off Whareroa they were intercepted by a fleet of Ngaiterangi canoes. They paddled for shore, abandoned their canoes, and started to run overland towards Maketu. Just north of Mangatawa they were overtaken by Ngaiterangi. Some did get away but most were killed.
Among those struck down was the chief of Ngati Pukenga. The Ngaiterangi chief, Rangatawiri taunted him. "What else can you expect? You were told to stay out of the district for eight generations. It serves you right for coming back so soon." The Ngati Pukenga chief, even though he was dying, answered back, "E me aha e au i nga peke e maha. Mehemea i takitahitia. Ko au ko koe kopa ana to tuara i te wahanga i nga kohatu hei tao ia koe. What could I do against such odds? Had it been a fight between you and me only, your back would be bent now carrying the load." In other words, Rangatawiri would end up as a slave, a fate much worse than death on the battlefield.  Ngati Pukenga lived in various places, in Maketu and Rotorua at different times and in the Coromandel Peninsula with Ngati Maru. There are still Ngati Pukenga at Manaia. Much later Ngaiterangi did allow some of Ngati Pukenga back to Tauranga Moana. They were given some land at Waitao, facing Rangataua. This land was called the Ngapeke Block, to remind the people of the dying words of the Ngati Pukenga chief, "nga peke e maha," the "many shoulders" of Ngaiterangi who had attacked them on the mudflats of Rangataua.  

Other stories are found off the article - An Introduction to this collection (please click) 


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Traditional Story: Nga Peke e Maha


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