Project Canterbury


By James W. Stack

Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin, N.Z.
Melbourne and London: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1909.

Chapter II. Koro as a Heathen and as a Christian

Before proceeding any further with the account of Koro's ministry as a Christian teacher amongst his own people, it may help to a juster estimate of its value if I introduce here the account which he gave me of his own life up to the time of our first meeting. It was as follows:

I am the son of Ihumatanui [broad-pointed nose] by his wife Rawa [wealth].

My father went from Kaiapoi to Kaikoura some time before my birth, and settled there at a place called Omihi, where I spent my boyhood.

When I was about eighteen years of age our "pa" was captured by the famous North Island chief, Rauparaha, who put most of the inhabitants to death. I was spared, and sent with several other young people of both sexes to the stronghold of our captors, on the island of Kapiti. The chief to whom I was assigned afterwards took me to Porirua, on the mainland, where his permanent residence [9/10] was. From there I was frequently sent to Kapiti, Otaki, and other places in the neighbourhood on my master's business. As a reward for my diligent attention to his interests he allowed me to pay a long visit to Te More, a chief who lived on the Whan-ganui river, who claimed relationship with the tribe to which I belonged in the South Island, and who had promised, if I would visit him, to give me a canoe as a token of his recognition of our kinship.

When I had been about two years with my kinsman at Whanganui, my visit was brought to an end by the unexpected arrival, on the river-bank opposite where I was living, of Te Puoho, one of Rauparaha's renowned lieutenants, with a large armed force of Ngati-karewa and Ngatikiriwera. Te More told me to cross over and find out the object of their coming. I did so; but, hearing that Rauparaha himself was camped with the main body of his warriors only a few miles lower down the river, I thought it better to go and report myself to him. On reaching the camp I went straight to his quarters. He recognised me as I approached, and, turning to his nephew, asked where I had come from, as he had not seen me about for a long time. His nephew explained the cause of my absence. When he heard that I had been staying with the Whanganui people, Rauparaha, looking at me, exclaimed, "Eh! eh! eh! What are your acquaintances here doing? Come, tell [10/11] me, how many warriors have they got at the place where you were staying?"

I replied about two hundred.

"How do you know that?" he said.

"I saw them performing a war-dance lately. Three times they stood up to dance, and sang songs of defiance."

"Have you ever seen the place," he asked, "where my friend Te Pehi was attacked and killed?"

"Yes," I replied, "and I can guide you to it."

Having got from me all the information he wanted, he gave me permission to return to my friends at Putikiwharanui.

The ovens were still cooking the evening meal when I re-entered the pa. The people flocked round me to hear the news which I brought from the enemy's camp.

I told them Ngatiawa led the van, Rau-paraha commanded the centre, Ngatitoa brought up the rear, and that their object in coming to Whanganui was to avenge the death of Te Pehi. The tidings I brought roused the indignation of my hearers to the highest pitch of fury, and they gave vent to their anger in loud shouts of defiance. One of their number, Patu-tokotoko, a chief who had never concealed his dislike to me, came forward, brandishing his hatchet as if he meant to kill me, and he would no doubt have done so but for the interposition of More, who said to me, "Ira, eh, rise up and [11/12] go to Waitotara." This was a friendly hint that my life was not safe where I was, and that he wished me to take refuge with his section of the Whanganui tribe. But I preferred to return to my masters, and the next day I went down the river to their camp. On reaching the landing-place I met Rau-paraha, and heard him exclaim as I passed:

"Why, sirs, here is this thing come back again!"

"Yes," replied one of his nephews, who was friendly to me, and willing, at the cost of truth, to save me from a spy's fate. "We knew that he was coming back. We told him to do so."

Arrangements for attacking the Whanganuis were already completed, and Ngatiawa were about to cross the river in force to destroy the pa which I had just left. As they were starting, Bauparaha called out:

"Listen! Spare no one. Avenge my kinsman Te Pehi!"

The departing warriors found no difficulty in carrying out their instructions. The pa, weakened by the flight of one hundred and forty of its defenders, was easily captured, and every one found in it was put to death.

Having run short of provisions, Rauparaha sent a foraging expedition up the river as far as Turoa's cultivations, with orders to procure and bring back a supply of potatoes. Two hundred men embarked in ten canoes, and I was sent with them as guide. Rauparaha [12/13] came to the water's edge as we pushed out into the stream, and called out:

"Beware you are not rash! Do not be rash."

Then addressing me he said:

"Eh! eh! Eh! Turn this way and attend. Take care. Don't be rash."

Needless to say that after such a warning I was most careful; but, in spite of all the precautions taken by the majority of our leaders, the expedition failed owing to the foolhardiness of one of them, who, presuming upon his high rank and close relationship to Rauparaha, pushed upstream in advance of the main body. He met a canoe coming down the river, containing two of the enemy. Instead of concealing his identity till they came alongside, and were in his power, he uttered a war-cry, and went in pursuit of them; but they turned quickly into the bank and escaped before he could reach them. When the rest of our canoes reached the spot, and our leaders became aware of what had happened, they ordered the immediate return of the expedition, fearing lest our retreat might be cut off, now that our presence in the neighbourhood was known to our foes.

On getting back to camp, Rauparaha, who was seated on the river-bank watching our movements, signified his contempt for our failure by turning up the whites of his eyes, putting out his tongue, and making hideous faces. Then in sarcastic tones he ridiculed [13/14] the abortive attempt to carry out his orders, till one of the chiefs, irritated beyond all endurance by his taunts, cried out:

"It was your own doing. It was one of your own family who caused our failure and obliged our return."

"Who was it?" asked Rauparaha.

"Why, Porohaka, of Ngatitoa."

The day after our return from this unsuccessful expedition, I was ordered to go and carry food for one of the hunting-parties who were being sent out to search for fugitive Whanganuis.

In the course of the day, as I was going along a narrow path through the tall fern, carrying a heavy load of dried fish and potatoes, I spied a man running across an old cultivation, with the evident intention of reaching the shelter of the thickly-wooded river-bank. Not being able to free myself from my load in time to intercept him, I called out to my companions: "Here is a man!" The fugitive, hearing my voice, altered his course, and turned aside into a gully, where he hid in the bushes. Several of our party ran towards the spot where he disappeared. Throwing down my load I joined in the pursuit. As we got close to the place of his concealment, the man stood up and came towards us; and, as we crowded round him, an authoritative voice behind us called out:

"Stand clear!"

[15] "What for?" asked one of the bystanders.

The only reply that he got to his question was the report from the musket fired by Te Hiko at our prisoner. We all jumped aside, when Te Hiko fired again; this time the ball went through the man's body and came out at the lower part of his back; he fell forward on his face, and shortly afterwards expired. We left the body lying there, and went towards the wood from which I had first seen him emerge, and which was the very place where the engagement was fought years before in which Te Pehi was killed, the chief whose death my masters were avenging.

I was fortunate enough to find another man who was concealing himself in some thick undergrowth. Not having any sort of weapon with me, I could not kill him, but I managed to hold on to him till one of our party, hearing my calls for assistance, came up and killed him. He was an old man, and proved to be a chief of high rank amongst the Whanganuis.

Towards nightfall we returned to camp, carrying with us the bodies of the two men we had secured. There we learnt that ours was the only party that had caught any one that day, and we had the satisfaction of being complimented upon our success by the great Rauparaha himself, who indulged in a variety of grim jokes while the ovens were being prepared to cook the proceeds of the day's sport.

[16] When the body of the man we first killed was cooked and cut up, Rauparaha deigned to recognise the part I had played in his capture by ordering a joint to be given to me, with a message from himself, that, as I had caught the game, I ought to share in the eating of it.

The madness which drove our heathen people to kill one another on the slightest pretext was increased by the foreign drink brought into the country by the Pakeha whalers who settled amongst them, and horrible things were continually being done, which revolted even the heathens' callous conscience.

I myself witnessed an atrocious act, perpetrated in a house where a number of persons had met to hear from a returned Ngapuhi slave what he was able to tell about the missionaries' teaching.

A relative of my master strolled in, and, in a fit of drunken frolic, deliberately cut the throat of an inoffensive old man who was intently listening to the speaker.

About six years after this happened, Tame Naera arrived from the Bay of Islands, with news of the great change which had taken place in the beliefs and conduct of the northern tribes who had submitted to the teaching of the English missionaries at Paihia. He said that, wherever what the missionaries called the "Good news," was accepted, peace and good-will prevailed. What he said, [16/17] excited in the minds of some of our most intelligent young chiefs a desire for better I things. They placed themselves under Naera's instruction, and begged him to teach them all f that he himself had learnt from the missionaries. I was allowed to join them.

Although our teacher only possessed a few scraps of printed matter he succeeded in teaching us all to read and write, by tracing letters with a pointed stick upon the ground, or upon a board covered with sand.

But the little we learnt about the Christian faith from our native teacher only made us long to know more about it, and so young Rauparaha and his cousin Te Whiwhi resolved to visit Paihia, and invite one of the English missionaries to come back with them. They succeeded in accomplishing their object, and brought back Mr. Hadfield, who took up his quarters in our pa, and became our devoted teacher. He was surprised to find that so many of us were able to read the gospels which he put into our hands, and we were soon enlisted by him in the work of teaching others to read and write. I was specially employed to impart instruction to my fellow slaves from the South Island.

At first the old chiefs looked coldly upon our work. They feared that it would put a stop to war, and so deprive them of rank and fame as warriors; and Mr. Hadfield met with a good deal of opposition from them, and was sometimes in danger of losing his life.

[18] On one occasion, when he was opposing the policy advocated by some of the leading chiefs who wanted to go to war with a neighbouring tribe, one of their number, a great Tohunga, who was supposed to posses magical powers which rendered him an object of dread to all his fellows, waxed very wroth, and, after working himself up to a terrible pitch of excitement, ended by cursing him and handing him over to the Powers of Darkness.

We dreaded what was about to happen, knowing that in the case of a Maori the curse meant certain death, and we did not know how far our missionary was proof against the malignant power of a curse.

All Mr. Hadfield said was: "I am in the keeping of the true God, who will take up my cause. 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.'"

Just then the evening prayer-bell rang, and we Christians assembled for our usual service. While it was proceeding a strange thing happened. Just as the sun was going down, the chief who cursed Mr. Hadfield died suddenly, the blood spouting from his mouth till he expired. As we came forth at the close of the service the air was full of the cries and wailing of the women mourning for the dead man.

The death of this dreaded sorcerer brought about a revulsion of feeling in favour of the new religion. Mr. HadfLeld's escape from the effects of the curse, and the fate of the [18/19] man who uttered it, were accepted as a proof that the God of the Christians was stronger than the gods of the heathens; and in a short time the majority of Rauparaha's warriors avowed their determination to embrace Christianity, and placed themselves under the missionary's instruction to be prepared for baptism.

When Christianity was finally established in our part of the country, all slaves were set free, and any one who wished to return to his own tribe was allowed to do so. Many of our South Island people were escorted back by the chiefs whom they had served during their captivity.

I remained for some years longer than the rest in the North Island, and continued to help Mr. Hadfield by serving in the capacity of a lay-reader in the village where I lived.

But after the death of my old master, and most of my old friends, I resolved to return to my own tribe, and I came back here about five years ago. On my arrival I was by common consent appointed to the office of lay-reader, and held it till I fell, two years ago, into the sin of which you have been told. Now I am restored to full communion with the Church, I hope to resume under you the work which I have so long neglected, but which God in His mercy has again called me to.

From the time Koro told me the above [19/20] story of his past life till the time of his death, twenty-five years afterwards, he continued to be my steadfast and trusted friend. All through those years, poor as he was, he worked without fee or reward as my zealous and devoted helper in the work of the Christ-church Maori Mission.

In spite of his "bodily presence being weak, and his speech contemptible," he influenced for good every one he was brought into contact with, by his intense earnestness and zeal for righteousness. He was uncompromising in his opposition to everything that he thought dishonouring to his Divine Master, and never hesitated to rebuke "without respect of persons" those who broke His commands.

His ideas and opinions about the behaviour of Christians in their daily life, what they ought and what they ought not to do, were, strange to say, almost identical with those of the old Puritans, though he had never heard of their existence, nor seen any of their writings, and had learnt all he knew about Christian doctrine and practice from a man who had no sympathy with Puritanism.

He shared St. Paul's solicitude for the spiritual welfare of his kinsmen after the flesh, and his "care for the Churches," and was ever watchful and ready to serve his brethren. The careless he admonished, the "lapsed" he sought out and tried to recover, and the sick and needy he ministered to.

[21] It was his practice for years to report to me every Saturday night upon the sayings and doings of the people during the past week, in order that I might, if I thought it desirable, make use of what he told me in my sermons the following day.

The more I knew of my eccentric friend, the more I realised the Divine source of that recreating power which dwells in Christian teaching--the recreating power of Divine grace, which, out of any ordinary sinner, can create a new man.

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