Te Rauparaha - The Maori Warrior Chief from Kawhia
The Maori leader responsible for the greatest slaughter in the early nineteenth century was undoubtedly Te Rauparaha, a chief of the Ngati Toa tribe of the Kawhia district.
This was a small tribe, closely related to the Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto tribes who surrounded the Kawhia domains of Ngati Toa.
Te Rauparaha was the stormy petrel of the Tainui tribes, constantly quarrelling with his neighbours.
After many years of intertribal fighting, the district north of Kawhia and around Aotea Harbour had become almost depopulated.
This vacuum was an invitation to Ngati Mahanga, a Waikato sub-tribe of Whaingaroa (Raglan), to move southwards. They did so, killing a few scattered members of the Ngati Toa and Ngati Koata tribes in the process.
Te Rauparaha reacted quickly to this invasion and descended upon Whaingaroa with a fleet of war canoes. He attacked Ngati Mahanga and inflicted a decisive defeat upon them. This led to retaliatory attacks by Waikato on Ngati Toa and Ngati Koata.
Gradually Te Rauparaha became embroiled with the whole might of Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto, and for some years war parties moved up and down the Kawhia coast.
At times Te Rauparaha's forces were defeated; at other times he inflicted sharp defeats on his more powerful neighbours. In between, there were periods of uneasy peace. In 1818 a party of Ngati Whatua, under the chiefs Tuwhare and Murupaenga, came to Kawhia, and Te Rauparaha persuaded them to join him on an attack on some of his enemies in Taranaki.
While they were in Taranaki Te Puoho, of the Ngati Tama tribe of the Urenui district, asked for their help in attacking the Taranaki tribe's stronghold of Tataraimaka, situated on the coast about 11 miles south-west of New Plymouth.
Te Rauparaha and his allies, with a few muskets, were able to take the pa with great slaughter. After a successful attack on another Taranaki pa, Mounukahawai, and an unsuccessful assault on the people of the Tapui-nikau pa, the war parties returned to their respective homes.
In the following year a large northern war party of Ngapuhi and Ngati Whatua stayed at Kawhia on an expedition to the south. Their leaders were Tuwhare, Patuone, Nene, Tawhai, and others. Te Rauparaha and his Ngati Toa were prevailed upon to join the northern people and in due course they set out by way of North Taranaki.
The Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga, and Te Atiawa tribes of that district, being related to Ngati Toa, gave a free passage to the expedition.
With somewhat indifferent success they attacked several pas of the Ngati Maru tribe of inland Taranaki and then moved on without incident until they arrived at Wanganui.
Here they were met by the Wanganui people at Purua pa on the eastern bank of the river, a little above the present city. The firearms of the invaders were too much for the local people and the pa was taken.
Moving south the war party attacked a small pa of the Rangitane tribe on Lake Hotuiti in the Manawatu district and slew the chief. After a halt at Otaki they continued to Pukerua Bay, where the Muaupoko fortress, Waimapihi, was captured.
The next engagement was with the Ngati Ira of the Wellington area. The Parangahau pa was taken after a tremendous resistance by Ngati Ira, which even evoked the admiration of their enemies.
From Wellington the northern party crossed the Rimutaka Range and assaulted the Tauhere-nikau pa near Featherston.
The siege was successful and many of the defenders were killed. After pursuing fugitives as far as Porangahau and Cape Palliser, the combined force returned to Wellington and made their way home.
Tuwhare's party of Ngati Whatua left the main body to attack some of the river tribes. Tuwhare himself was killed during this fighting.