He toa, he ariki. Famous, pre-eminent chief of Te Roroa
Taoho was a famous, pre-eminent chief of Te Roroa. He was an ariki being descended from a long line of eldest sons. He was a matakite being able to successfully read and act on omens, whether of war or peace. He was an exceptional miltary strategist and fighter who remained undefeated at war. He was a poet and composer whose works are regarded as irreplacable taonga by his descendants.
Born at Kaihu, he was the eldest child of Te Waiata and his principal wife Kahukore of Ngati Waiora ki Muriwhenua. His teina was Te Whata and his half brothers, by his father’s wife Te Po, were Te Morunga and Wairuaiti. His known wives were Pataea of Ngati Whiu and Ngati Kawa of the Northern Wairoa and Koata of Te Rarawa. Pataea, the daughter of the tohunga Taratu and his wife Ohi was of a priestly family. To that whanau belonged Kikihu the wife of the prophet Penetane Papahuirihia (Te Atua Wera) and their mokopuna Papa Titore. Koata was a direct descendant of Tarutaru of Te Rarawa by his wife Tangitu.
Schooled in military arts by his father and uncles, often at Taputaputea, Maunganui Bluff, Taoho early developed a reputation as a warrior. His limitless courage, his dexterity in handling taiaha and patu, his suppleness of person and quick reactions made him a formidable opponent. His ability to fight was enhanced by a strong physique and a small waist both considered to be desirable attributes in warriors of note. In some waiata he is specifically referred to as small waisted Taoho. At Taputapuatea he also attended whare wananga which were led by his grandfather Tiro and other tribal experts.
Initially named Riwaru, Taoho took the name Taoho following the death of his uncle Te Toko by Ngapuhi at the battle of Pikoi, Taiamai. Taoho was then a teenager or young man living at Kaihu. The name was taken to secure utu for the death of Te Toko who was a leading chief of both Te Roroa and Ngati Pou iwi.
Upon his marriage to Pataea, Taoho had the following children: Tuwhare, Te Taua and Kaiwhatu alias Raumati. The status of Tuwhare though is disputed, some claiming him to be a teina (younger brother) of Taoho. Te Taua was born at her mother’s kainga at Ngarerekura pa, Tikinui, Northern Wairoa and it is possible that other children of Taoho and Pataea also were born there. Upon his marriage to Koata of Wairoa, North Hokianga, Taoho had at least two children Te Rore Taoho and Puhi Hihi Te Rore. He also had a son named Raeroa, immortalised by his father in an oriori, but the mother is unknown.
While living at Kaihu Taoho built the pa named Pokapu which apparently was on Opanaki block. He also lived in Whakatau (Maropiu), Te Kawau (guarded the Kaihu track to Kai Iwi Lakes) and Tirotiro pa, Opanaki while his mahinga were Hikutaia, Pakahikatoa, Te Tinihoi, Taongauapoaka and Pukenei. Additionally, he and his whanau lived at Maunganui Bluff, Waipoua and Waimamaku, Patenga pa, Whangai-a-Ariki being their pa at Maunganui. At Waipoua Taoho’s especial pa were Pahinui and Tirikohu which guarded the approaches to the valley from the river mouth.
At Pokapu pa he received a friendly visit from the Kaikohe chief Pokaia who was invited to join a taua against Te Uri O Hau for an insult given by the latter to Te Roroa. Upon reaching Otamatea Pokaia’s party was attacked by Te Hekeua of Te Uri O Hau and Pokaia’s son Te Tao killed. Although Pokaia impressed upon Taoho the necessity of seeking utu for Te Tao, that did not eventuate.
Pokaia then sent messengers to Ngapuhi at Hokianga, Taiamai, Bay of Islands and Whangaroa to come to successfully fight Taoho. He also sought a karakia to effect that from the tohunga Nukutawhiti of Ngati Waiora. Given the karakia named Takahia-i-te-rangi with instructions to recite it the morning of the battle, Pokaia departed. Taoho, having heard of Pokaia’s mission, then visited Nukutawhiti a whanaunga on his mother’s side. Given the same powerful incantation, Taoho was advised to recite it the evening before battle which would block Pokaia’s recitation.He also was given a magic cord for killing men (possibly another karakia) and in exchange presented Nukutawhiti with his greenstone mere named Tautoro-kiekie.
Pokaia’s taua, said to be one thousand strong( but by Ngapuhi only five hundred strong), departed from Hokianga by foot along the west coast until it reached Maunganui Bluff. Crossing the Bluff, it camped at Te Patapata feeding off the famed mussel rock there. Ngapuhi’s fires were seen by Taoho from his pa at Tokatoka and he immediately recited Takahia-i-te-rangi and sent off messengers to his allies Ngati Whatua, Te Uri O Hau, Te Taou and co. After reciting the Te Roroa ngeri, or war song:
Ko te puru !
Ko te puru!
Kia tutangatanga te riri e !
E kore te riri e tae mai ki Kaipara
Ka puta waitia
Kia toa !
A ! a! a! te riri
T’is the plug !
T’is the plug !
Indeed of Tokatoka.
Be quick to anger
And no war shall Kaipara reach,
But pass away.
Be brave !
A! a! a! tis war !
- he and his taua crossed the river and proceeded along the west coast to Moremunui. There they camped. Taoho’s half brother Morunga and cousin Te Toko-o-te-Rangi then were dispatched to penetrate the Ngapuhi camp and report on the enemy’s intentions. Their report was that Ngapuhi intended to journey to Moremunui the following evening. In support of that intelligence they brought a kete of the enemy’s kumara over which Taoho conducted a ritual designed to ensnare Ngapuhi.
When Ngapuhi arrived at Moremunui , Taoho’s party were hiding in the toetoe bushes at the rear of the gully. Taking off their belts and discarding their weapons, Ngapuhi stopped to prepare breakfast. It was while they were eating that Ngapuhi suddenly were surprised by Taoho’s taua following which great confusion ensued. Eventually Ngapuhi were driven to the open beach where they were attacked in a rush. Taoho typically forced his way through the spears of his party targeting famous Ngapuhi warriors who he killed. He did this three times. Others then followed his example. He then was speared in the mouth, with the spear coming out at the back of his neck and carried to the rear of his ranks where he was attended by his daughter Raumati – but only after he had first killed his attacker. It is not stated whether his daughter Te Taua, who often was called his ears and eyes, was present. Upon Pokaia also being wounded and boasting that notwithstanding he would live, Taoho rose to fight Pokaia killing him with his mere.
Upon the word going forth that Pokaia had fallen, Ngapuhi became panic stricken, fleeing in all directions. Taoho then directed Tieke, an Uri O Hau chief, to mark Ripiro beach with a line over which none of the victors were to chase the vanquished. Had that not been done, the whole of Ngapuhi may well have been slain. As it is, Ngapuhi lost many great chiefs and others such as Hongi Hika and Eru Patuone barely escaped.
Moremunui reinforced Taoho’s reputation as a leading toa of Tai Tokerau. He had taken on the taniwha might of Ngapuhi and that of the musket and had triumphed. He had halted plans of Ngapuhi expansion into Te Roroa territory. Unfortunately, much of his achievement has been reduced by writers such as Percy Smith anxious to highlight a role of the South Kaipara chief Murupaenga in this affair. However, it should be noted that local accounts, upon which this korero is drawn, do not mention participation by Murupaenga. Nevertheless, Moremunui did have a lasting impact on Tai Tokerau tribal demographics – it secured the survival of Te Roroa as a tribal force and gave rise to the origin of the decimated Waima group Te Mahurehure (The Remnants).
The years following Moremunui brought uncertain times for Taoho as marauding Ngapuhi bands wandered Te Roroa territory . His despondency was remembered in a waiata he composed (now lost) comparing himself to an owl crying in the night in his loneliness following desertion by his allies Ngati Whatua, Te Uri O Hau and company. The same emotions surface in the whakaoriori (lullaby) he composed for his infant son Raeroa in the sanctuary of Taputapuatea, Maunganui Bluff, which raised questions as to the uncertainty of military fame compared to the usefulness of cultivating the soil:
HE WHAKAORIORI NA TAOHO
E Rae tangi kino i roto te wharekino,
Me kohanga taua, e i,
Ki te kohanga Taputapuatea,
Hei pa tu hau, e
Hei whakarongo tai e tangi haere ana
I raro Maunganui e i.
Kia marama te titiro pukohu whenua e, i,
Kia whakarongo ake taua, e,
Nga patu e taka i te nui Ati Puhi
Ka kai putanga taua, e,
Ki te riri.
Kea hea ra, e a Te Huki.
Te tangata i whakamaua ai, e,
I te waikowhai,
Koko atu a Puriri.
Me aha koe, e tama, e i,
He hurihanga waka taua, e i,
Ko Mahuhu ki te wai ?
Pokaia i te tuanui o te whare o Nukutawhiti, e, i
Ka marama te ata.
Kei runga Te Koikoi, i a Rona, e, i,
Kei te marama nui<
Kei te marama hua ki te pae ra.
Ehara ko matua hautere tena
Kei te ra e mau ana , e, i.
ko tou mata tena , ko te mata o Tawhaki
I tuhia ai, rapa ana i te rangi
Tukutuku wai karere, e, i,
Kia whaia atu to reo kirikiri,
Whakarei te whatu, e,
Te tapuae nui teka haruru ki raro ra, na i.
Ko wai rawa he tangata hei noho mo to whenua, e, i ?
Ko Tuturiwhatua, ko Torea,
Ko nga manu matai whanga o te uru, e, i,
Me puhata koe te ngaru moana nui,
E ngunguru mai nei.
Me aha , e tama e, he turanga riri,
He turanga pahekeheke,
Ka pa taua, e, i,
Ko te toa whenua i to matua i a Tuohu.
E kore e taea e taua.
Mahi atu taua ki te tukou no kai, e,
E nohoia maia ana e te muharu,
Mahi atu taua ki te tukou no ongo, e,
E nohoia mai ana e te hotete.
kahore ia nei, e, ko te tohu o te mate.
Whakapiri noa akae taua , e,
Nga rakau tuhaha i a Karawai ra, e,
Hei hunanga atu mo Reremura
Ki reira nei, na i.
E kore koe e ora, e, i,
I nga hau o te tiu e kia nei
Te puputara ki uta, na i.
O Rae’ crying so fretfully within the house
Let us two nestle closer,
As in the haven of Taputapuatea,
A shelter against the wind,
While we listen to the roar of the sea
We might then see clearly the land mist,
As we listen, we two,
To the rattling weapons of the many of Ati Puhi
As chiefs rally their forces
Where is he, Te Huki,
The man who was destined
For the blood-like kowhai waters
As multitudes gather within Puriri.
What to do about you, O son,
In the overturning of war canoes,
Of Mahuhu itself , in the deep waters ?
Hurry, enter the doorway of the house of Nukutawhiti,
In the light of the dawn.
Te Koikoi has now arisen to vie with Rona,
There is light all about,
There is a bright light o’er yonder horizon
That you see is but a lightsome cloud
Fastened there by the sun.
The face is that of Tawhaki
Which shines forth and sets the heavens alight
As the call to war goes forth,
Let your gritty voice be heard and obeyed
In the glorious slaying of men
As your renowned footsteps resound in the north.
What man will survive to live in your land ?
There will be Tuturiwhatu and Torea,
The sentinels birds of the western inlet,
There you may be set adrift on the great ocean wave
That roars close by.
There is nought else, O son, in times of war,
It is indeed a slippery trail,
If we two only had the warrior of the land, your uncle Tuohu,
Alas we two are denied his help.
If we were to grow the tukou for food,
The muharu will bide his time,
If we were to grow the tukou for Rongo,
The hotete will bide his time,
There is nought else but omens of death.
Let us in our plight seek refuge
Among the mighty trees with Karawai yonder,
The hiding place of Reremura
When he is thereabouts.
You will not otherwise survive
The swirling winds that blow
The puputara aground upon the shore.
As a matakite, Taoho’s powers were renowned. On one occasion he was fishing with his wife Pataea’s people in the Kaipara harbour when a sign came to him that manuhiri had arrived at her village. Let us return home he said for visitors have arrived at our village.
As a descendant of the great Kawerau chief Maki, Pataea was related to Te Rauparaha of Ngati Toa, another descendant of Maki. Accordingly at one stage a message arrived from Te Rauparaha seeking Taoho’s assistance in war, following which a number of Te Roroa taua went south. Although some of those taua were called Taoho’s taua, it is uncertain whether they actually included Taoho. One account says that Taoho went as far as Tamakimakaurau, but then turned back being concerned for the safety of his people during the taua’s absence. An account by Percy Smith has Taoho in Taranaki “with his brother Tuwhare” but also includes Tiopira Kinaki in the taua when it is clear that Tiopira, if then born, must have been only a baby. Notwithstanding, it is indisputable that the Kaihu place name Maropiu commemorates the large karaka berries Taoho found in Taranaki and brought home.
Irrespective of Taoho’s participation or not, the most famous Te Roroa taua which went south was that of Tuwhare, Taoho’s son, which penetrated to Cook’s Strait about 1819-20. There Te Rurunga ,Tiopira Kinaki’s father was killed and cremated, the enemy not having sufficient mana to remove his head . A composition of different iwi, the taua consisted of Te Roroa under Tuwhare, Ngapuhi under Eru Patuoune and Ngati Toa under Te Rauparaha. Two muskets, obtained from Whangaroa, were used by Te Roroa throughout the campaign, which was said to be the third Te Roroa expedition to the area. The ope made war throughout Taranaki, Whanganui, Wellington and Wairarapa returning home the same route.
The return progress of the taua was checked by tangata whenua at a well manned pa called Kaiwhakauka up the Whanganui river. The pa’s defences being breached by the invaders, hand to hand fighting occurred inside the pa. While Tuwhare was in the pa and coming around the corner of a whare, he encountered Hamarama, a local chief, whom he fired at and wounded in the shoulder. However before Tuwhare could reload, Hamarama struck him a fatal blow which fractured his skull thus causing Tuwhare to disdainfully exclaim: “Mehemea he ringa huruhuru tau, ko tenei he ringaringa mahi kai” (If thine had been the arm of a warrior I should have been killed, but it is the arm of a cultivator).
Tuwhare’s people got him away in canoes mortally wounded to Patea then bearing him on a kauhoa (stretcher) to Ketemarae, near Normanby, where he died. From Ketemarae his body was carried on to Manukorihi, Waitara where he was interred in the ancient urupa named Rohutu. This occurred because of the old relationships between Te Roroa and Te Ati Awa.
Upon learning of Tuwhare’s death, Taoho composed the following tangi for his son:
‘Ra te whetu ka mahuta i te pae,
Mehemea Tawhaki i roto i to riu,
Ohaerenga popoto, e,
Haere i te ata , e, te ata o Tariki.
Ka whiti mai ko te ra, e,
Ka kai ki to kiri.
Utaina atu ra, e,
Ka hemo nga hau o Niwa.
Haere i te ata, e, ko nga karere
A Kama raua ko Okioki.
Uira i te rangi, e,
Ko Te Kurapotae taku arai riri, e,
Ki runga te taumata
I te nohanga runanga, e,
I a Matohi ma nei.
Tenei nga patu, e, kei o matua,
Kei a Murupaenga e, hei haere i te waka,
Hei korero tu, e hei whakaaro i te riri.
He atua rere rangi, e,
Ki runga o Taranaki,
Ka rangona te paanga, e
He waka utanga nui na o potiki, na i.
Ka ngaro Taumua, e,
Ka mate kei te tai ki te uru,
Toia taku waka ki uta, e
Ko te rakau na Tu, ko Tangimamao,
He whare riri, e, na o tupuna.
He kauhoa mou, e, ko Papatukiterangi
Ki runga o Hikawera, e,
KIa hurihia koe nga one whakaparapara nei.
Marere te punga o Mairu, e
Te waka o Whakatau, na i.
Ka karanga o hau, ” Ka u au ki uta”, e, i,
Ngaro noa Tuwhare ra i te huinga korero.
Tenei to patu, e, ko Kapuamangu,
Ka taka i te whare to pu tangi ata, e,
Kia mihia atu, hei whakarongo mai, e,
Ma rau o iwi, na, i.
Pinea te kapua, ko Te Rangitaumai,
Pinea ki tawhiti ki runga Maunganui.
E Tohe ! tangi kino, whakarongo mai ra
Te kauhoa taua i te matua ra,
E moe i te hau, na i.
That star that has leaped above the horizon,
Seemingly you have Tawhaki within your breast.
Your short journeys are no more, alas,
Tidings now only of your return and departure,
Depart then in the dawn, the dawn of ‘Tariki.
The sun rose on high,
And it shone upon your skin.
Bear him off now
Whilst the winds of Niwa are at rest
Gone with the dawn are the messengers,
Kama and Okioki.
When lightning flashed in the heavens
‘Twas Te Kurapotae who became my shield in war,
Up there on the highest peak.
In council you oft sat
With Matohi and the others.
Here there are weapons still with your elders,
With Murupaenga, he who will fasten the canoe,
Or, in flowing speech, will deliver plans of war.
Like unto a god heaven sent,
You did make a landing in Taranaki,
The landing did resound afar,
For it was a richly-laden canoe of your children.
Lost now is Taumua, alas,
Passed away on the ocean beaches of the west,
Haul now this my canoe ashore,
To procure the weapon of Tu, Tangimamao,
From the house of war dedicated by your ancestors.
The litter befitting you is Papatukiterangi,
Left up there on Hikawera,
You might then be laid on these blood-soaked sands.
Let go now the anchor of Mairu,
From the canoe of Wakatau, ah me.
Your spirit will exclaim: “Ah, I am about to land !”
Tuwhare, alas, is absent from the assembly.
Behold this is your war-club, Dark-cloud,
Fallen in the house is your dawn resounding gun,
A form of greeting which oft was heard
O’er the widespread land, and oft heard
By the hundreds of mankind, ah me.
Let the clouds that gather be named Te Rangitaumai,
They gather together afar off above Maunganui.
O Tohe ! crying bitterly now listen to me,
You are to be war- litter for your father
Who now sleeps beneath the winds that blow, ah me.
Neither Taoho nor our iwi Te Roroa were present at the great battle of Te Ika-a-Ranganui 1825, though two Te Roroa members who then were residing with Te Uri O Hau were. Although oral tradition is silent as to the reason for the Te Roroa absence, possibilities are an earlier peace making with Ngapuhi at Te Kopuru, or retaliation for the earlier Ngati Whatua tribal confederation desertion of Taoho.
Probably in the period 1835-1840 Taoho died of natural causes at Pokapu amidst widespread lamentations. To his people it was as if Tanemahuta itself had fallen. He initially was interred in the Te Kawau urupa, Kaihu. Later his koiwi were removed to Whangamoa, Waipoua and from there to Pahinui, Waipoua.
Na Gary Hooker