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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 14, October 1970

By W.P. SNELGAR

An isolated spot on the bank of the Ohinemuri River is marked by a low Sandstone Memorial bearing the inscription –

KO TARAIA NGAKUTI TE TUMUHIA

I MATE KI OHINEMURI I TE 13.0

NGA RA O MAEHE 1872

KO ONA TAU 97.

Ones first reaction is to wonder about the forgotten man buried in this 1one1y grave. But this is not really a grave, and certainly no ordinary tombstone though it records a death of almost 100 years ago. The very name provides the clue that the remains of so great and tapu a Chief would never have been left to lie in a spot where the common man might tread.

It has been recorded that Taraia was a fierce, uncompromising old fire-brand until the end of his days although he was never known to kill a white man! From boyhood he was constantly on the war-path, leading his tribe, the Ngati Tamatera (a sub-tribe of the Ngati Maru) on numerous expeditions. He was one of the principal fighting Chiefs of what was known as the Marutuahu, a confederation of numerous and powerful tribes living around the Waihou Valley.

At one time Taraia joined Ta Rauparaha and went with him on one of his marauding expeditions to the South Island. He fought at Kaikoura and Kaiapoi against the powerful Ngai Tahu of Canterbury. After this action he returned to his home at Puru near Thames but in 1842, soon after our first European settler (Mr. Joshua Thorp) came to Paeroa, he set off again to settle an old score with the Ngai te Rangi at Katikati. This culminated in what is reputed to have been the last cannibal feast in New Zealand. Subsequently the erstwhile warrior spent considerable time in the Ohinemuri district, particularly in the vicinity of the engraved stone round which the grass grows on accumulated deposits of river silt.

The historic memorial tells us that Taraia died at Ohinemuri on the 13th March 1872 at the age of 97. Therefore he must have been born shortly after Captain Cook explored the Waihou River. There is no doubt that the ancient warrior spent his last days here but we have it on good authority that according to custom his final resting place would be some secret unmarked spot.

Reference:

Personal observation.

Maori Affairs Department.

Biographical sketch accompanying Lindauer's "Maori Paintings", Reed. [publishers - E]