The last shot fired of the New Zealand Land Wars

 

It was Wednesday afternoon on the 14th of February 1872 and in rough country.

One lone soldier fired off what was to be the last shot of a long running dispute.

This dispute had flared from one area to another for close to thirty years and cost the lives of: 1,600 British and Colonials; 250 loyal Maori; approximately 5,000 Maori hostile to the Crown; and an untold number of non-combatants.

The soldiers name was Private Nikora-te-Tuhi and he came from the Ngati Rangitihi Iwi: one of the eight Iwi descended from the Arawa canoe.

He was running now and he was soon out of breath. He had been in the bush for several weeks and even though it was still summer he had not eaten for some time.

Some of the men had apples but mostly it was biscuits at best.

He was armed with a Terry carbine.

His captain, Captain Preece had been asking for better guns from the government for many months. It seemed to Preece that many others: people in much more salubrious surroundings, were also much better armed with the new Snider carbines, while the few doing the actual fighting were given not much at all.

The Terry was useable but was prone to jam on occasion and the ammunition cartridges would spoil in wet conditions and in the heart of the Urewera Mountains, it was often wet.

The Urewera were named after an incident in the night, on the eve of battle when a mighty chief took a vow of celibacy in accordance with Tapu regulations in order to be well-favoured on the morrow.

During the night, his lust was such that he experienced great anxiety and in a moment of excited frustration he rolled over into the fire and burned his engorged penis in the burning embers.

Running out of his hut for relief and showing his nakedness to all present, he was doubly punished by this common shame which proved to destroy his standing and position among his people for all time.

This loss of Mana was not to be forgotten and hereafter the place was called?Te Urewera: the Burnt Penis.

This seemingly never-ending stretch of mountain ridges, hooded in mist and mythology, was the last sanctuary of another leader whose Mana had also?begun to decline, Te Kooti Arikirangi te Turuki.

Te Kooti had been hunted by the government for close to four years now and he had lost much of his support due to a series of badly executed actions and loss of faith amongst his followers.?Only a ?die-hard? few remained with him and his time was running short.

He had recently made up his mind to abandon all further armed revolt and attempt a final retreat to the King Country. Here, he hoped he would find a final place of refuge from the government forces which had been pursuing him for so long.

The mood from the Crown was slowly turning towards one of mercy, predicated from a sense of not wanting to make more?of a martyr than Te Kooti already was and Te Kooti, ever the pragmatist and running short on friends, had made his final decision in open revolt.

His small band of rebels were now about six miles south?of Lake Waikare-moana and heading west.

It near here in the?early 1960’s?that the last of the Huia bird was heard before vanishing into living memory and this was also to be the final resting place of the New Zealand Land Wars.

Private Nikora had?set out amongst a company of about forty men several weeks?before?and had advanced from the lower Waiau River after Captain?Preece had heard reports of suspicious activity south of the lake.

It?had been yesterday,?the 13th of February 1872, when the men had discovered a campsite. Captain Preece had ordered two groups of about twenty men each on?the following day to carry on searching upstream.

There had been heavy rains the week before and the waters of the creeks were high.

Sergeant Huta had taken one of these parties and had found further evidence of a campfire.

This fresh trail was now followed aggressively by Captain Preece and Huta for seven miles to the mouth of the Mangaone creek bed.

Further up the gorge the rebels were finally sighted on the opposing bank, making their way steadily up the other side.

Te Kooti was identified as one of the fleeing rebels and?Captain Preece called on him to surrender and come forward. He was duly met with a volley of fire which was received and answered by the hunting party at around 400 yards.

During this exchange Captain Preece?s carbine jammed:

?I could hear curses on each side of me for the same cause.? – P.462 of?The New Zealand Wars, Volume 2, by James Cowan.

The rebels retired up the bank and a running battle was pressed for about two miles before the last of the rebels and the last of the hunting party?s lungs were expended.

It was then that Private Nikora sighted his fleeing enemy, another Maori, raised his carbine and pulled the trigger.

He missed.

And that was the last official shot fired in anger in what we now know as the New Zealand Land Wars.

Te Kooti eventually received the crown?s pardon and was graciously given a pass to travel anywhere but his own birthplace before dying in 1892.

Captain Preece later moved to Palmerston North where at the outbreak of war in 1914 he walked down to the recruiting office. Despite his enthusiasm and ardent reasoning, he was denied entry into the New Zealand expeditionary force.

He was 70 years old.

 

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