If you are anything like me, Maori names can get my head spinning and I lose the direction of the story big time!!! So, hopefully this will help – the key names
Ngai Tahu – South Island tribe
Ngati Toa – North Island tribe
Ngati Mamoe – Pre Ngai Tahu South Island tribe
Tu Rakautohi – Ngai Tahu Chief
Te Rauparaha – Ngati Toa Chief
The Ngai Tahu arrived in Canterbury around the 1670’s from the North Island. They battled and defeated the Ngati Mamoe tribe and became the predominent native group in the region.
In 1700, a great migration of the Ngai Tahu came down from the North Island, under Chief Tu Rakautohi. In celebration, his little brother Moki, built a Pa which Tu Rakautohi named Kaikai-a-waro. We now call this surrounding area Kaiapoi. It was soon regarded as the largest and safest stronghold of the Ngai Tahu in the South Island. The population reached 1000 people at the time history began to be recorded.
Kaikai-a-waro was a place of great resources. There were plenty of bird and fish life to hunt and because of the surrounding wetlands, lagoons and woodlands, it was very well protected. The place thrived for well over a century.
In 1828, Ngati Toa Chief, Te Rauparaha appeared at the Kaitangata Gate of the Pa, claiming to be a Green stone trader. With him were 8 fellow tribesmen of Ngati Toa. Seeing that the Pa’s of Kaikoura and Omihi had just been attacked, those of the Kaiapoi Pa were naturally weary of strangers. After what could have been a few awkward moments, the Ngai Tahu suddenly welcomed the party into the Pa.
I’m sure Te Rauparaha couldn’t believe it when they were attacked and all his 8 companions were killed. He survived and fled, heading back up north very angry. That night, the Ngai Tahu had a party and a cannibal feast of those from Ngati Toa.
Three years passed and with the massacre of the Onawe Peninsula Pa (Akaroa Harbour) fresh in everyone’s mind, seeing Te Rauparaha standing back outside the Kaiapoi Pa was not a great comfort…and he wasn’t alone. Determined to starve the Pa into submission, the Ngati Toa kept the place surrounded. For 3 months, little attacks were attempted but the Ngai Tahu managed to keep the attackers at bay.
The Ngati Toa had been stacking dry wood along one of the sides of the village on several occassions with the plans to set it alight but this plan was foiled each time.
One day though, the Ngai Tahu set the dry wood on fire themselves, hoping the northerly wind would drive the smoke to where some of the attackers lay in wait. Here, the Canterbury weather hand delivered the Kaiapoi Pa over to Te Rauparaha on a silver plate. The wind changed and the village caught fire. As the Ngai Tahu tried to flee, they were massacred. Chiefs were captured and others were taken as prisoners. That night, the Ngati Toa celebrated into the night, enjoying a cannibal feast. As further insult, the Ngati Toa renamed the area Kaiapohia which means ‘the pilings of bodies to eat’.
20 years later, the first Europeans appeared and the remaining Ngai Tahu were living in Tuahiwi Village. Rev. Canon James West Stack stood at the site of the Kaiapoi Pa and saw it was nothing more than an open grave. He cleared the area of bones, giving them a proper burial.
In 1898, Rev. Stack laid the foundation stone which is now the wheku-topped (the wheku fell off during the earthquakes) white column, acting as a memorial to the great Pa that once stood there. Engraved there in both Maori and English are words, not to acknowledge the massacre, but to remember the historic importance of the land there.
The village around the Pa, seemed to be in the shape of a Tohara – a whale. The Mako, Whaki and Kauae (the names of the three food stores) were kept in the jawbone and mouth of this whale. The Pukukura, the belly of the whale was the location of the central meeting house. There were two gates: one for visitors and one for important guests as well as two areas to land your canoe. After 1831, the area became deserted and has remained so.
Eventually Te Rauparaha and the Ngati Toa were driven from the Ngai Tahu tribal boundaries. Te Rauparaha also released all prisoners and peace between the tribes was established.
What is mostly forgotten about Te Rauparaha was that he was the composer of the Haka Ka Mate or the Haka as we know it by these days. He had escaped with his life during the 1820’s by hiding in an underground food storage area of the village the Ngati Toa were attacking.
On climbing out, he came face to face with one of the old Chiefs who spared his life. He broke out in a chant – the Haka – that we celebrate at each of the games of the All Blacks.
*photo taken by Annette Bulovic*