A Strategy from the North

by Ross Himona, "Te Putatara", 20 May 1989





Long ago Ruanui brought his people to Aotearoa/New Zealand on the Mamari canoe. They landed first at Hokianga and eventually came to live at Pawarenga on the Whangape Harbour in the far north. There the Ngati Ruanui tribe built a fortress called Makora.

After many generations they were attacked in force and were in danger of being conquered even though Makora was large and skillfully sighted. But Ngati Ruanui knew that strategy would always defeat force, and thus they devised a strategy which saved them, and which is still used by them to this day.

It was drastic and bold, and it worked.

Firstly they gathered all their treasures together. Some of the bigger treasures were buried where the attackers would not find them, and those that could be carried away were prepared for the journey. Next they gathered huge piles of wood so they could set fire to their fortress and to all their houses. And then they set fire to the lot, and to the green bush surrounding the fortress.

It was a huge, fierce fire.

For hours and hours the fire raged and there was a great dark smoke which covered the fortress and the harbour and no-one could see Makora, or any of Ngati Ruanui.

Under cover of this thick smokescreen Ngati Ruanui slid their canoes into the water and paddled to their escape.

They crossed Whangape Harbour and then traveled by land carrying their canoes with them north to Ahipara (at the southern end of Oneroa-A-Tohe or Ninety Mile Beach), round Te Reinga to Muriwhenua, and finally to Te Kao. There they settled and there they remain to this day. And that is how Ngati Ruanui tribe came to be known as Te Aupouri (the dark smoke) tribe.

Many generations later, after the arrival of the European muskets, they used the same strategy again. This time they were in their fortress, Hukatere, at Oneroa-A-Tohe when they came under attack.

The attackers had many muskets and Te Aupouri had only two or three. This time they set fire to the dune grass and a thick smokescreen hid them from the aim of the attacking marksmen. Then once again they withdrew to safety behind the cover of the smoke.

So; when Eru Manuera, or Shane Jones, or Trevor Wi-Kaitaia, or Ripeka Evans, or Hone Harawira, or Ned Ihaka, or Sir Kingi Ihaka, or any of the Norman clan, or any other of those northern notables sound as though they're avoiding the issue, or changing the subject, or being deliberately obscure, you'll know what they're up to. That's right. It's that brilliant old smokescreen strategy.

How do you defeat it? Well, smoke is a two edged weapon. If you attack straight into the smoke the defenders can't see you coming either.



Re: A Strategy from the North
Thu, 6 Mar 1997

Dear Ross,

I have browsed your Web site and thoroughly enjoy the whole flavour and content of your site. I decided I would send you an e-mail commenting on one issue however in general congratulating you on the site.

I offer the following information because it simply is another piece to the
jigsaw of how we (meaning all Maori) came to be and I believe it makes life
more interesting.

A Strategy From the Far North:

Your review of events is very much what I recall seeing in various family documents and I think is available in the National Archives. I had an interesting discussion with my Father recently about how he stumbled across the Whakapapa of an old Kaumatua who is no longer with us.

Basically it goes like this... The meeting house in Te Kao is called Waimirirangi. Waimirirangi is generally acknowledged as one of the founders of Te Aupouri. She must have been a highly revered woman to have the meeting house named after her as well as being married to Kairewa who was a Chief from the Hokianga.

The interesting point here is that Waimirirangi is a direct decendant of Tohe (the same Tohe from whence the ninety mile beach was named - how the beach was named is a story in itself) Tohe was the Great Grandson of
Pohurirangi who was the captain of the canoe Kurahaupo which landed at
Muriwhenua (The North Cape - there or there abouts).

One must confess to feeling joy and sadness upon hearing this story. The joy from finding a treaured book in your library that you knew never existed. The sadness in realising that this book has had very few readers for many many years. There is no denying that Te Aupouri are descendants of Mamari however it is equally as likely that they are descendants from Kurahaupo.


I acknowledge that your reasons for publishing text was not to report it as
factual but as an example of interest such matters can hold.

kindest regards
Henry Ihaka
Henry and Janine Ihaka jrat@voyager.co.nz