The Siege of Maunga-a-kāhia


The most easterly point of Nukutaurua, Māhia peninsula, looking back from the south.

Rangaranga te muri whakarua, tūtū te moana
When the gentle breezes blow and the sea is calm
Ka tū ngā taratara o Tāmure
The spikes of the snapper will surely appear

KAHUNGUNU and Rongomaiwahine had five children, sons Kahukuranui, Tamatea-kota and Mahaki-nui, and daughters Rongomaipāpā and Tauhei-kurī. The marriages of these children connected the family to most, if not all, of the principal families of the Tūranga district and also forged strong alliances with neighbouring iwi. Such was the case with their daughter, Tauhei-kurī, who during the siege on Maunga-a-kāhia (about 1600AD), was offered as a wife to the leader of the attacking force, as a means of bringing the conflict to an end.

The attacking force was led by Tūtāmure of Whakatōhea of Ōpōtiki. Remember him, the son of Haumanga and Hāruatai and nephew of Kahungunu, who had asked for him be named in remembrance of the incident when he was spiked in the arm by a snapper thrown at him by Whāene? Tūtāmure was assisted by his half brother Tamatai- pūnoa. Remember him also, the son born of the affair between Haumanga and the captive slave Ahukawa?

Tūtāmure, however, was on a mission to revenge the death of his sister, Tāneroa, at the hands of her husband’s (Tamanoti) people in Tūranga. Tāneroa had complained of Tamanoti’s laziness in cultivating or hunting for food, resigning herself much of the time to a bland diet of fern root. Tamanoti responded by abandoning his wife but, wherever he went, she followed. At Takarāroa, at Tamanoti’s request, Tāneroa was slain by Toko-o-te-rangi and Tamanoti himself continued on to Māhia. When Tūtāmure learnt of his sister’s death, he organised a revenge party and attacked Tītīrangi, Popoia and then Takarāroa. The survivors from Takarāroa fled to Maunga-a-kāhia, closely pursued by Tūtāmure, who attacked the pā. By this time Tamanoti’s whereabouts was unknown.

The siege of Maunga-a-kāhia could have gone on indefinitely, except that the wily but now elderly Kahungunu erred on the side of caution by calling a truce with the attackers, with the intent of offering his daughter, Tauheikurī, to the leader of the attacking party. From the palisades of his pā, Kahungunu called out to the leader of the  attacking party to identify himself. The reply was instant, Rangaranga te muri whakarua, tūtū te moana, ka tū ngā  taratara o Tāmure. Kahungunu recognised that it was his nephew and when he revealed his own identity,  Tūtāmure at once ordered the hostilities to stop.

Kahungunu emerged from his fortress and, with his daughter Tauheikurī by his side, descended to the waiting Tūtāmure and his warriors. After exchanging appropriate greetings, Kahungunu offered Tauheikurī to Tūtāmure and also a stone patu (club) named Titingāpua, to seal the peace. The gifts were duly accepted by Tūtāmure, however, he wasn’t blind in noticing the obvious attraction Tauhei-kurī had for his younger and more handsome brother, Tamataipūnoa. Tūtāmure took leave to the water’s edge and, looking into a pool of water, affirmed what he suspected. What kind of life would the young Tauheikurī have with an old and ugly man like himself? Tūtāmure didn’t waste time in instructing his half brother, Tamatai-pūnoa, to marry Tauheikurī but on one condition — that they never return to or live in Ōpōtiki.

Thus Tauheikuri and Tamataipunoa married and settled at Maunga-a-kāhia, where they had two sons, Tāwhiwhi, the eldest, and Māhaki. The sons would eventually settle in Tūranga where in time Māhaki would emerge as one of the most prominent leaders in the district and, through his progeny, establish the tribe Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki. The pool where Tūtāmure looked at his reflection, Te Wai Whakaata a Tūtāmure, lies amongst the rocky shoals on the beach below Maungakāhia and can still be seen to this day — if you know where to look, of course.


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