Rākaipaaka meets Tūtekohe – A Dog of a Dinner

Rakaipaaka and Turumakina

Rākaipaaka and his wife Turu-mākina adorn the pare (doorway) of the meeting house, Tānenui-a-rangi, at Ngā Nūhaka.

Taku kurī e ko Kauere-huanui
The dog called Kauere-huanui
Te kurī a Tūtekohe i kairiri ai Tūranga
The dog of Tūtekohi that brought conflict to Tūranga

RAKAIPAAKA was born about 1600AD and grew up in Waerenga-a-hika, on the outskirts of Tūranga. He married Turu-mākina and together they had 10 children. The name of his pā was Ō-kahu-kura, located on the banks of the Waipaoa river near where the old Waerenga-ahika hotel formerly stood. Also living in the pā was his sister Hinemanuhiri and her family.

Rākaipaaka’s influence covered a large area, extending from his pā to the Te  rai river near Manutūke. Together with his cousins Rākaihikuroa, Kahutāpere and Māhaki, all of whom lived in close proximity and were grandchildren of Kahungunu, it seemed certain that the entrenchment of Kahungunu’s influence throughout the district would only be a matter of time. However, a seemingly innocuous event, all to do with a dog, would change that and lead to Rākaipaaka, his sister and their families and followers being expelled from the district. This would be followed a little later by the expulsion of Rākaihikuroa — by his own cousins — after the murder of Kahutāpere’s twins, Tarakiuta and Tarakitai . . . but that’s another story.

Rākaipaaka had been invited to visit Tū-te-kohe, an important chief who lived at Pū-kāinga-tarakihi pā at the mouth of the Pākarae river, near Whāngārā. The visit proceeded without drama until the visitors were invited to eat with their hosts, where they had to endure the humiliating site of Tū-te-kohe’s pet dog, Kauere-huanui, being fed the best and sweetest pieces of food as well as taking pride of place at the head of the table. Furthermore, the dog was given freedom to roam the table and eat whatever food it desired.

Rākaipaaka and his people exercised due restraint but upon returning to Ō-kahu-kura they immediately set about plans to correct this insult. After dark one of Rākaipaaka’s men, Whakaruru-a-nuku, led a party back to Tū-te-kohe’s pā, captured the dog, killed it and took it back to their pā where they ate it. The following morning, when Tū-te-kohe realised his dog was missing, he immediately suspected Rākaipaaka and his party. He sought revenge and approached Māhaki to help him. Māhaki had good cause to agree to Tū-te-kohe’s request because it was said that his wife was having an affair with Tūpoho, Rākaipaaka’s father-in-law. Tū-te-kohe also sought help from several other people, including mercenaries Wharo and Kaiawhi of Te Māwhai (Tokomaru), Rākaimataura from the Waiapu valley (see Pukemaire and Reporua, September ’07) and twin brothers Rongomai-mihiao and Rongomai- wehea, also of Te Māwhai.

Tū-te-kohe and his recruits joined those of Māhaki at Te Muhunga (Ormond) and lay in wait, while Wharo and his warriors lured Rākaipaaka and his followers out from their pā. Trapped on all sides, few escaped the slaughter. In quick succession the pā of Rākaipaaka and his followers fell easily, firstly Ō-kahu-kura and then Tōanga, where Tūpoho and his daughter Turu-mākina (Rākaipaaka’s wife) were slain.

Rākaipaaka and Hinemanuhiri were spared, probably because of their close relationship to Māhaki, however they were banished from the district. Hinemanuhiri and her sons, Tamate-rangi, Mākoro and Hingaanga, retreated to Te Mania between Frasertown and Tiniroto, while Rākaipaaka found his way to Te Māhia. From here he journeyed inland up the Nūhaka river to make his new home on the mighty eminence of Moumoukai. Despite the upheaval,  Rākaipaaka was able to re-establish himself and his family in Nūhaka and from Moumoukai would assert his influence over the area we now recognise as Ngāti Rākaipaaka. Tū-te-kohe’s dog had its day but Rākaipaaka had many more and lived to a ripe old age.

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