The Trail Of Waitangi

Muskets and Cannibalism

(iii) Cannibals and Other Horrid Events

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"On the 19th of December 1821, and following Hongi's expedition to the south, three of the war canoes returned from the Thames and arrived at Kerikeri. They had upwards of a hundred prisoners with them who were easily distinguished by their sorrowful appearance. Some of them were weeping bitterly, and in particular one woman before whom they had with savage cruelty, placed the head of her brother, stuck upon a pole. She sat upon the ground before it, the tears streaming down her cheeks. These canoes brought the news of the death of Tete, son-in-law to Hongi, who was slain in fight. He was one of the most civilised and best behaved of the natives. His brother Pu, a fine young man, was also among the slain. This created great grief in the family.

Tete's wife, and Matuka his brother, were watched to prevent them from putting an end to their lives. Pu's wife hanged herself on hearing the news, and Hongi's wife killed a slave, which was a customary act on such occasions.

The next day Hongi and his people arrived with the dead bodies of Tete and Pu. Messrs. Francis Hall and Kemp went to see the ceremony of their landing, but were very sorry that their curiosity had led them to witness such a scene of horror. A small canoe with the dead bodies first approached the shore. The war canoes, about forty in number, lay at a short distance. Soon after, a party of young men landed to perform the war dance and "pihe," a song over the bodies of the slain. They yelled and jumped, brandishing their weapons, and threw up human heads in the air in a shocking manner; but this was only a prelude to the horrid work which was about to follow.

An awful pause ensued. At length the canoes moved slowly and touched the shore, when the widow of Tete and other women rushed down upon the beach in a frenzy of rage, and beat in pieces the carved work at the head of the canoes with poles. They proceeded to pull out three prisoners into the water and beat them to death. The frantic widow then went to another canoe and killed a female prisoner. The missionaries retired from the distressing scene, as no interference of theirs could avail; and they were told that after they went away Hongi killed five more with his own hand. In the whole nine persons were murdered that evening, and were afterwards eaten.

The prisoners were very numerous, men, women, and children, but chiefly the latter. They were said to amount to about two thousand, and were distributed chiefly among the tribes of the Bay of Islands. The people were now more bloodthirsty than ever, and. talked of going again soon, meaning to devastate the whole island. In this expedition they had done all the mischief they had threatened. Poor Hinaki, the chief to whom Hongi had given warning a short time before, was killed and eaten.

The next day Hongi was busily employed in making an inclosure with pieces of canoe, decorated with feathers and carved work, in which to deposit the bodies of the two brothers Tete and Pu. Part of the remains of the people killed the day before were toasting in the fire at a little distance, and some human flesh, ready cooked, lay in baskets on the ground. Hongi had the audacity to ask Mr Kemp to eat some, and said it was better than pork. A part of one of the poor women killed the day before by the natives was cooked on the side of the hill at the back of Mr. Kemp's house. The head they cut off and rolled down the hill, and several of them amused themselves with throwing large stones at it, until they had dashed it to pieces. Among the slaves who were taken to Waimate on the preceding day, one of them, a woman, becoming tired or lame, could not keep up with the rest, and was therefore killed.

A few days later it was reported that Hongi and his people had killed more of the prisoners, making the number eighteen who had been murdered in cold blood since their return. Several heads were stuck upon poles near the mission dwellings, and the tattooed skin of a man's thigh was nailed to a board to dry, in order to be made into the covering of a cartridge-box.

It did not occur to this people that their relatives had fallen in fair fight, or rather that they had brought upon themselves a well-merited death by going to attack those who, by comparison, were defenceless, and perhaps, too, had given no sufficient cause for hostilities. Neither did they bear in mind how much larger a number of the enemy had fallen than the few over whom they were grieving. They had lost their nearest relatives, and they knew of no other way of moderating their grief for this than by the indulgence of brutal revenge. ..."

Within a few months these incidents were repeated again when another large force was assembled to revenge the deaths of Tete and Pu upon the natives of Waikato.

The above is extracted from pages 31-35 of "Christianity Among The New Zealanders," by The Right Rev. William Williams, DCL. Bishop of Waiapu. (1867).

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