Letter from W. Halse,
to Donald McLean,
dated 23rd. December 1854.
23rd. December 1854.
My dear McLean,
I believe I did not my last letter allude to Ihala's case; and for the reason that I knew it would be reported to you by Henry; hut as there has been a regular siege and fight since, I will now do so; as the more letters you may receive of the subject, the better will be your means of arriving at a correct understanding of it. The origin of all this very sad business, was an adulterous interecourse which had been of some standing, (at least so the woman admits), between Ihaia's wife and a boy named Rimene, (one of Carrington's survey beys, and a pack boy in our last summer excursion to Waimate); and the woman's previous character for infidelity in some measure warranted the suspicion. Some doubts have been raised since, of the lad's guilt, but too late to save him. Ihaia mustered his people, and demanded Rimene's surrender; which was refused by some natives who protected him. Rimene incautiously came forward,
(bold upon it, perhaps), from the friends who were guarding him, and was shot dead. This occurred very recently, though I do not remember the date. A few days afterwards, the deceased's friends fired the eustomary volley over Ihaia's pa, which concluded the affair, as we thought. Not so, however; for the boy was connected with Ngatiruanui, and they did not fail to seize the opportunity, They were soon on their march by the bush road or track, under the leadership of Tamati Oraukawa; and they regularly invaded Ihaia's pa. It seems he had some previous knowledge of suspicion of the part they would play; and was, to the utmost of his means, (which as regards numbers, are greatly against him) prepared for them, They professed to confine their demands to the surrender or capture, alive or dead, of Ihaia, as payment for the murdered man; which betokened no friendly or pacific course on their part, as their proposition was inadmissable. Some natives, not strictly belonging to Ihaia, left the Pa, on the coming of the beseigers. Amongst these were W. Piti, and his brother Sam Puketapu, of Waiwakaiho; and one or two Waikatos, etc., The Ngatiruanuis scarcely expected much fighting, and probably depended upon their numbers; but in this they were mistaken, as Ihaia showed uncommon bravery. The beseigers showed great method in all they
did. They advanced to the wood, with flax shields in one hand, and tomahawks in the other, with which they hacked at the palisades. Tipene was the first victim, I believe. To the demand for Ihaia, Tipene stood up boldly for his relative, and gave the usual Maori answer about his neck. Whereupon he was shot dead. Then there was hard fighting, which resulted in the deaths of eleven natives, 6 of Ihaia's, (in-cluding one woman, who fought in the ranks), and 5 of Tamati's; and from 15 to 20 wounded, most badly, and about equally distributed. The same evening the eleven were heaped in one grave, a strange close to much bitterness. Two of the Southerners, (in addition) have died since, of their wounds. As far as Ihaia, was concerned, he was fairly driven to his pits.The natives had him in their toils. He was surrounded, without hope or chance of escape; but deliverance was at hand, by both sides unexpected, as far as I can learn. A cross firing was suddenly commenced in the rear of the Ngatiruanuis; which caused them to face about, and I believe, retire, for the time, in confusion; when Raniera at the head of one hundred Puketapus, rushed in, and brought Ihaia and his people 40 including women, from the Pa, in safety to Mahoetai; which they have regularly fortified against attack.
Other pas are also being strengthened. This highly chivalrous and daring aid has elicited our warmest admiration. Poo fellows, they had their own troubles and wrongs to redress; yet they could identify their fortunes with the man's, who had so unequivocally turned out to their aid when Katatore had threatened them. It may cost them their lives, and lead to their extermination as a tribe; for the Ngatiranuis are maddened with their defeat and loss, when the game was in their hands. They have sent to Upper Taranaki for auxilaries, and a number are reported this morning, as having arrived at Toarea. It is apprehended that they may join with Katatori, who may fall into any plan for relieving him for his state of seige. Nothing satis-factory can be arrived at, of Wiremu Kingi's intentions. It is openly stated that it was on his invitation the Southerners came; and this likely, as it was a means of ridding him of Ihaia. What I most wish is that the new aspect of affairs may lead to a reconciliation of the resident natives, who would then be powerful enough to drive back these Southern rascals, with great loss. Once or twice they have had an itching for a little fighting on our grounds; and the present would be a good opportunity for indulging them.
Every fresh occurrence amongst the natives, furnishes further argument in favour of Government placing a protecting force on our borders. The natives wish to bring their wounded into town, and return by the coast. But Puketapu will not consent to either. They say return by the road whence you came. But I do not believe they have any intention of returning, as they have sent further support. So it is more than probable that the tribes who have so frequently assembled to support Raniera since the Hua Massacre, will be drawn into the quarrel. It is a point of honour with them; and these Southerners may, some fine day, be fighting their way through our town. The Superintendent has published a caution to Europeans, against proceeding to the place of disturbance, in the Gazette; and has been up to them with Henry, at Huirangi. Mr. Skinner, in the absence of Mr. Turton, has been most unremitting in his endeavours to induce the natives, in the first instance, not to fight; but all without result, as has been proved. Three of Ihaia's natives are in Hospital. Tamati (Ihaia's brother), leg broken with shot; Hori, (who shot Rimene) frightfully wounded in the jaw, from the same cause. Your friend, Nopera Tamure, is badly wounded; but of course, is with his
friends, the Ngatiruanuis. His leg is broken, and it is said he received the shot from the Puketapus.
Henry was bound over as a witness, in the murder ease; but the steamer took the prisoner, Cassidy, and all the witnesses, except him. He was detained by the whole of us, in the absence of an Officer in your Department, to conduct the Maori business that arises out of these disturbances. I cannot understand why the Government do not appoint a man, --- I do not say Henry, --- to fill his place, to fill the office of District Commissioner, in a Province having a large and distributed native population. The purchase of land should not be the only motive. What we want more is to have a man who is known to the natives, to be in constant correspondence with you; and acting under your orders. As it is, the Inspector of Police has nothing whatever to do with you, and the natives know it perfectly well.
The Nelson steamer took about twenty people, (chiefly on a visit) to Auckland. I wrote very fully to Turton at Auckland, but the infernal Captain left after the first boat; and my letter is at the Post Office. As he was the only man I could write to there, in this unofficial style, on native matters, I thought
it provable he might communicate the contents, or nature of my letter, to the Government; as Flight had sent a very short and unconnected account of the quarrel. I have also written by to-day's mail to Woon; knowing he will be anxious to hear of his old Southern flock's doings. I shall also write to Rogan, for the information of the Mokauites.
In great haste,
To:- Donald McLean,