Friday, 1 February 2019

The Matakana Island Incident, November 1842

By the 1830s, European mariners who seriously transgressed tikanga Maori were increasingly subjected taua muru rather than taua ito.
Angus McBride: ‘Natives and Captain Cook,’ Look and Learn, Issue 813, 13 August, 1977
Between Abel Tasman’s visit in 1642 and the attack on the cutter Jane at Turakina in 1840, there were 112 recorded taua ito (blood vengeance) and taua muru (ritualised plundering) raids against European ship’s crews who transgressed tikanga Maori (customary laws). Serious offences included killing, kidnapping, assaulting and insulting Maori and plundering crops and tapu sites. Before the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, vessels like the Waterloo, John Dunscombe, Harlequin, Byron, David, Active and Lucy Ann were plundered by taua muru. Their crews were released minus their clothing and personal effects after being harangued, and in some cases beaten, as the tribes, over time, and in the interests of trade, moderated their responses to European transgressions.

One of the last incidents involving the stripping and plundering of offending Europeans in the Bay of Plenty region, occurred near Katikati in November 1842. Sailing their cutter Nimble from Maketu to the fledgling Auckland settlement with a cargo of pigs, the traders Charles Joy and Peter Lowrie were obliged to anchor inside the northern entrance to Tauranga Harbour due to contrary winds. Encouraged by their three Arawa passengers, the traders went ashore at Katikati and began plundering a crop of potatoes to sell in Auckland. They were seen by the local Waitaha people on Matakana Island, who immediately launched a large waka. Swarming aboard the Nimble, the warriors slashed the sails before stripping the traders and towing the cutter with the naked prisoners, pigs and potatoes aboard, back to Matakana. The three Maori passengers fled into the forest.

The senior Ngaiterangi rangatira Tomika Te Mutu negotiated the release of Charles Joy and Peter Lowrie on Matakana Island in 1842.
John Nicol Crombie: ‘Tomika Te Mutu,’ PA2-2893, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, NZ.
The utu extracted for the theft of tapu crops, whether by Maori or Pakeha plunderers was always severe. Waitaha tracked the Arawa passengers and killed one of them. After being held captive for some days, Charles Joy was freed at the instigation of the senior Ngaiterangi rangatira Tomika Te Mutu to travel overland to the fledgling Auckland settlement, clad only in a shirt, where he arrived ten days later. Thomas Lowrie was freed to proceed to the Tauranga settlement.

Waitaha kept the cutter Nimble and its cargo as compensation. The two surviving Arawa passengers were rescued and fed by the Tauranga trader James Farrar and a companion aboard their cutter George, which passed by two days after the attack. The rescued men promptly repaid their saviours by stealing their boat. Arawa at Maketu, subsequently used the 16 ton George to launch a successful taua ito against the inhabitants of Mayor Island (Tuhua), before returning it to Farrar.


Best, Abel, The Journal of Ensign Best, Wellington, Government Printer, 1966.
Brown, A.N. The Journals of A.N. Brown, Gisborne, The Elms Trust,1990.
The New Zealander, 18 November, 1848.
Thomson, Arthur, The Story of New Zealand, Vol 1I, London, John Murray, 1859.

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