Gateway to the Classics: Our Empire Story by H. E. Marshall
Our Empire Story by  H. E. Marshall

The Hau Haus and Te Kooti

Now at last the war seemed ended. Many chiefs yielded, giving up their lands in token of submission. Sir George Grey kept one quarter of them as punishment for rebellion. The rest he returned.

But meanwhile new trouble had arisen. A wicked and wily native priest had begun to preach a new religion to the people. This new religion was called Hau Hau, because this priest told the people, that if they went into battle shouting Hau Hau, the angel Gabriel would protect them, and they would overcome all their enemies. He also said that the religion of the white people was a religion of lies, and that he had been told in a vision that in the year 1864 all the white people would be swept out of New Zealand.

Although few of the great chiefs followed the Hau Haus, many of the common people did. They did many wild and horrible deeds. Now here, now there, fighting broke out, and so although peace was proclaimed, the land was not really at rest.

The Hau Haus were not gallant and generous foes as the Maoris usually were. They were treacherous and cruel, and their own countrymen often waged war against them. They were driven about from place to place. Many were killed, and many were taken prisoner and sent to the Chatham Islands, which the government had begun to use as a sort of prison-house.

Among the friendly Maoris who helped the British was a young chief called Te Kooti. Now suddenly he was accused of being a traitor. He was seized, and without trial of any kind he was shipped off to the Chatham Islands. There was never any good reason for believing Te Kooti to be false. When Sir George Grey seized Te Rauparaha because he thought he was false, what followed proved that he was right. Only evil followed from the seizing of Te Kooti.

Upon the Chatham Islands there were about three hundred Maori prisoners, most of them Hau Haus. For two years they behaved very well, for they had been told that if they were good they would then be set free and allowed to return home. But the two years came to an end, there was no sign of freedom, and they began to grow restless.

They longed to escape, and one day a ship called the Rifleman  came to the islands with a cargo of food. Here they saw their chance. Te Kooti was their leader, and quickly he made his plans. Two boatloads of Maoris rowed out to the ship. They swarmed on deck, and almost before any one knew what was happening, the ship was in their hands. All the guards were gagged and bound, only one man being killed in the struggle.

Then Te Kooti took command. He gathered the crew together and ordered them to steer for New Zealand. If they refused, he threatened to shoot them all.

And so the Rifleman  sailed away, carrying every prisoner and all the guns and ammunition to be found on the islands.

Beside the helmsman stood a Maori armed with gun and sword. Night and day Maori sentries paced the deck. The crew had no choice but to obey their new masters. And so they sailed until they reached Poverty Bay.

Here the Maoris landed, took possession of all the cargo, and told the crew of the Rifleman  that they might now go where they liked, as they had no further use for them.

Soon the news of the escape of the Chatham Island prisoners, and of their landing at Poverty Bay reached Wellington, and a force set out to retake the runaways.

But Te Kooti was a warrior. He had plenty of guns and ammunition, and again and again the British troops fell back before him. From his forest fastnesses Te Kooti flung defiance at the foe. But in the wild hills where he had taken refuge there was little food to be had. Soon the provisions taken from the Rifleman  were all done. Te Kooti and his men were starving.

Then all the savage awoke in them, and they swept like hungry wolves down upon the peaceful settlers of Poverty Bay, and slaughtered them all unresisting in their beds. Men, women, and children, none were spared. With fire and sword they blotted out the settlement, scarce a soul escaping to tell the tale.

A thrill of horror ran through the country when the news was spread. Quickly a force was gathered and sent against the daring chieftain. But he, safe in a fastness perched upon a rock two thousand feet high, with rugged cliffs and wild gorges all around, defied every attempt to take him.

At length, however, with the help of a native chief called Ropata, who had won great renown as a soldier, the pah was one night surrounded.

The besiegers made sure that the next day they would seize their prey. But during the night Te Kooti and his band escaped, sliding down the almost sheer precipice and fleeing to the wilds.

Then in the morning, when it was found that the pah was empty, the chase began and was pitilessly pursued. Many of the Hau Haus were killed, many more were taken prisoner, and they, as soon as they were led before their conquerors, were mercilessly shot, and their bodies thrown over the steep cliffs. Many others died among the lonely mountains, but Te Kooti, wounded, half-starved, weary and desperate, escaped.

With a few faithful followers he wandered for two years a wretched exile. With the price of £5000 upon his head, he was hunted and hounded. Living on fern root, often near death from hunger, he at length gave himself up, was pardoned, and henceforth lived in peace.

All this fighting took place in North Island. In the meantime South Island was at peace, growing daily richer and greater. And in 1871 peace came to North Island too, and since then there have been no more wars.

In 1864 the Parliament had been moved from Auckland to Wellington, Wellington being nearly in the centre of the islands, and so more suitable. In 1868 an Act was passed by which Maori members sat in Parliament as well as white people, and that helped to sweep away many differences. The old days of fighting and misunderstanding are, we hope, gone for ever, and now Maori and Briton live and work side by side. For although of the eighty members of Parliament only four are Maori, every man and woman, over the age of twenty-one, whether Maori or white, has a vote.

In the last thirty-five years many things have happened in New Zealand—things which will be more interesting to you later on. New Zealand has grown and grown, and, in 1907, it was declared no longer a colony but a dominion. Like Canada it is a confederation of self-governing states. It has its own Parliament and Law Courts, yet remains a part of the British Empire.

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