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Home arrow Articles by Topic arrow Heritage arrow A Tapu Isle of Birds - Hauturu And Its Inhabitants
A Tapu Isle of Birds - Hauturu And Its Inhabitants PDF Print
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Articles - Heritage
Written by James Cowan, Railways magazine, NZ ETC   
Wednesday, 11 February 2009

(From a photograph in Auckland, 1886) Paratene te Manu, the ancient warrior of Ngati-Wai.

The Home of Ngati-Wai.

There were more than birds to interest one on Hauturu in those days. There was the Maori life, soon to vanish for ever from this isle of beauty and legend. It was in 1895, and a little Maori hapu, the Ngati-Wai, still lived on the island. My old coastwise-sailor acquaintance, Tenetahi, and his wife, Rahui te Kiri—as good a sailorman as himself—were the principal people of the few families who composed the owning hapu. We visited them in their homes, where the Government custodian now has his house on the flat at the foot of the forested hills. This place was renowned for its sweet potatoes, which grew to perfection in the good warm soil formed by the decomposition of the volcanic rocks. Around the whares were those kumara gardens, the maize and tobacco plots, and the peach trees. The cultivation patches were fenced in with manuka; the pig-proof fences were crossed by rustic stiles.

There, under the peach-trees, I talked with a wonderful ancient relic of the cannibal days, the venerable warrior Paratene te Manu, grim, black-tattooed, spear-scarred. His life-story would have filled a book. His memory went back to the days of Hongi; in his youth he had voyaged in Ngapuhi war-canoes many times along the coast, even as far away as the Mahia Peninsula, shooting and tomahawking and eating “long-pig.” He was a youthful musketeer in Hongi's army that conquered the Tamaki isthmus and all the Hauraki shores in the early Eighteen-twenties. Later he followed Hongi's warrior lieutenant and successor, Te Wera, in many a raid.

The ancient man—he must have been over ninety years of age, he said he was a hundred—was not happy at the prospect of exile from his island home. He had to leave a few months after my visit, for the Government was clearing everything out but the birds—the Ngati-Wai had sold the island to the Crown—but I have always thought it was a pity he could not have been left there to finish his days, among his peaches and his kumara, the tui and the bell-bird.

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