Migration south and life at Barrett’s shore whaling station at Te Awaiti

Updated, 9 September 2019

Although Te Ātiawa were victorious in the Battle of Otaka Pā, in the expectation of retribution by the numerically stronger northern tribes the iwi subsequently decided to join their relatives who had moved south in two earlier migrations. A small number choose to remain, including Rāwinia’s parents. Chiefs leading the Te Heke Tama Te Uaua (as the migration south was called) included Tautara, Te Puni and Te Wharepouri. According to Rangi-pito of Ngāti Rāhiri who was a boy at the time, the heke comprised members of the following hapū of Te Ātiawa: Ngāmotu (including Ngāti Tuwhirikura), Puketapu, Manukorihi, Pukerangiora and Ngāti Rāhiri (Smith, 1910, p50). Te Ātiawa settled in Te Uruihi near Waikanae, with some subsequently moving on to Te Whanganui-a-Tara (in what was later to become Wellington).

Also fearful of the hostile environment, and facing a greatly diminished supply of dressed flax due to the imminent departure of those producing it, Barrett, his family and most of his fellow traders joined the heke. Their objective was to join the profitable shore whaling industry at Te Awaiti on Arapawa Island that had first been established (on a permanent basis) by John Guard in 1827.

The heke was not without its problems. In his journal, Barrett described it thus:

Packing our pikau each adult had carried 40lbs, including the women, we took a quantity of guns and ammunition. We made our way by the Te Whakaahurangi track, much hard work was entailed in cutting our way, but favoured by good summer weather we made fair progress but was compelled to rest a great deal on account of the children becoming foot sore. On reaching Whanganui we found ourselves involved in a serious battle, in which we lost a few men. Continuing our journey we reached Port Nicholson after three months of hardship, the party numbered about 2000 all told.

Barrett and co initially spent some time on the Kapiti coast, where they met the famous Ngati Toa chief, Te Rauparaha, a man with reputation as an innovative and relentless fighter.

Barrett and Love initially settled at Te Uruhi where they were known as part of the Ngāmotu hapū because of their exploits during the siege of Otaka pā (J & H Mitchell, page 323). The Mitchells went on to record that ‘Barrett and his colleagues were accorded high mana by the tribes and hapū of Ngāmotu as exceptionally brave men whose intervention was instrumental in saving Otaka Pa from almost certain destruction by the Waikato/Maniapoto in 1832. Further, their entrepreneurial spirit and fair dealings enabled many Taranaki Māori to benefit from the new economy they helped as traders in Taranaki and whalers and traders in Tory Channel’ (page 333).

Resettlement along the Kapiti coast became a challenge for Te Ātiawa. Tautara was at the Battle of Haowhenua Pā (on the south side of the Otaki River) after unrest between Ngāti Raukawa and Te Ātiawa led to Ngāti Raukawa laying siege to the pā. Although many were killed in the conflict Te Ātiawa managed to fend off the attack. However, the underlying conflict between the tribes triggered the relocation of some Te Ātiawa to Arapawa Island (in the Marlborough Sounds), and area already claimed by conquest by Te Ātiawa.

Barrett and Love also met John Guard, the whaler who had set up more than one whaling station in Te Wai Pounamu. Guard was persuaded by Barrett and Love to hand over his whaling operations at Te Awaiti to them.

And so Barrett & co arrived in Te Awaiti in late 1833, prior to the Battle of Haowhenua Pā. Guard had moved to Cloudy Bay, although his former lieutenant, Joseph Thoms, remained. The Europeans were accompanied by about 60 Te Ātiawa from Waikanae (joining their relatives who had first migrated to the area in 1827 and had helped John Guard establish the first whaling station) and several Ngati Tama and Ngati Toa.

The area though was not without inter-tribal conflict. For several years there were raids on Te Awaiti from the southern iwi, Ngai Tahu, and between Te Ātiawa and Ngati Toa, at times forcing the whalers on to ships or into the bush to avoid the conflict, and at other times the whalers joined forces with Te Ātiawa to drive off Ngai Tahu raiders. It was perhaps for this reason that local rangatira regarded the close proximity of whalers as being advantageous to them, and so they were keen to keep them around. Te Rauparaha also perceived the same advantages, and was happy to have whaling stations based at Kapiti and Moana Islands (Trevor Bently, 1999).

The new whaling crew had limited equipment initially, and at first just whale bone was sold to passing ships (Caygill). During that early period at Te Awaiti the Pakeha/Maori community lived in close co-existence with the resident Māori – particularly Te Ati Awa – and relied on them for protection. Barrett’s marriage to Rawinia ‘…was important in an area with a significant Te Ati Awa population’ (McLean).

Wakaiwa Rawinia and other Māori wives also played a significant role. The Mitchell’s noted that ‘It is highly likely that partnerships formed between resident whalers and Māori women were made with the assistance of senior Atiawa women such as Wakaiwa, Mereruru Love and Hikimapu Keenan (page 336).

As the whaling season lasted just four months of the year, and despite the terrain being mountainous with steep sided valleys and small areas of flat land, the community managed to supplement their seafood diet by cultivating vegetables and fruit in the area, and raising pigs.

After overcoming their initial hardships, Barrett and his crew went on to establish a second whaling station at Te Awaiti. Over time the station became better organised and fully equipped via funding by Sydney merchants, and the whalers obtained more arms and ammunition.

Life at the station, particularly during the whaling station, was a distinctive male culture where large quantities of alcohol was consumed, often leading to violence and disciplinary measures of various kinds. Singing and the spinning of yarns were frequent sources of entertainment, and Barrett developed a penchant for storytelling.

While the male culture was strong, the Māori wives of the whalers played a moderating role and were able to exercise some influence over the behaviour of their partners. The whalers’ wives ‘… adopted European clothing and grooming habits. The women and children spoke English in addition to Maori’ (McLean).

Barrett eventually become too fat to go out in the whaling boats. However, in his role as chief headsman, Barrett was in charge of running the whaling station. In that role that he built and maintained relationships with local chiefs and with merchants in Sydney, traded with local Māori for pigs and agricultural produce, and supplied the whaling crew with goods and services – including rum – the cost of which were deducted from their share of the catch.

Barrett and the other chief headsmen were seen as leaders or rangatira (chiefs) by both European and Māori, and as such were expected to show hospitality and generosity – values shared by the whalers and Māori. ‘When Edward Jerningham Wakefield visited Barrett’s house at Te Awaiti it was reported to be half full of whalers and Maori. Barrett was noted for his kindness to both Maori and whaler’ (McLean).

As chief headsman, Barrett was responsible for keeping order and for resolving disputes. McLean noted that Barrett ‘… had a reputation for hospitality and kindness that was highly valued in [the] male culture’. According to Edward Wakefield, a stranger at Te Awaiti ‘was always welcome to a share of the meal, a drop of the grog and a seat on a stool …’ (McLean).

During the whaling off season, Barrett resumed his trading activities in the Harriet, a 40 tonne cutter, and gained a thorough knowledge of the coastal area. The Harriet made a sealing trip down the west coast in 1836; it was sighted north of Wellington and it was used to collect coal from Manganui, near Cape Farewell (Mclean).

By the time Colonel Wakefield arrived on the Tory in 1839, there were three whaling stations at Te Awaiti, under the direction of Joseph Toms, Dicky Barrett and Captain James Jackson (Caygill, 1948:23). Barrett’s whaling station was the largest, operating nine boats, making it the largest whaling station in New Zealand at the time. Many of the Māori employed by Barrett were from Nga Motu. Te Awaiti had a population of 40 to 60 Europeans, 25 Maori/European children and 200 Maori. Interestingly, the crew of the Tory noticed that many of the Maori spoke a good deal of english (Emily Owen, 2007).

Interestingly, Barrett and Love both took their wives and children to Sydney in December 1836 on the Hannah. According to James Heberly’s journal, while they were in Sydney they heard that the ‘southern part of the North Island was to be settled by the English’, so they bought tobacco and blankets to purchase land at Port Nicholson (J & H Mitchell, p 300). So by the time the Tory arrived in 1839, Barrett would have had time to dwell on the expected arrival of English settlers and get prepared for that.

Edward Wakefield described Barrett’s house as being, “… a very superior edifice, built of sawn timber, floored and lined inside, and sheltered in front by an ample veranda. A long room was half full of natives and whalers. His wife, Rangi, a fine and stately woman, gave us a dignified welcome and his pretty half-caste children laughed and commented on our appearance to some of their mothers relations, in their own language” (E Wakefield, Adventure in New Zealand).

E J Wakefield recorded that, ‘Barrett has adopted a son of an old trader and friend of his named Jacky Love, who was on his deathbed, regarded by the natives as one of themselves … his son Daniel was treated with that universal respect and kindness to which he was entitled by the character of his father and the rank of his mother’ (page 33).

Jacky Love died at Te Awaiti in October 1839. Wakefield went on to record that, “During our absence from Te Awaiti, Jacky Love, the trader whom I mentioned as having the affection of the natives had died. 200 natives followed his body to the grave; and they subsequently erected a monument over it such as usually graces the tomb of a great chieftain” (page 99).

Memorial to John Agar Love

Hikirau Street in New Plymouth is named after Jacky Love.

2 thoughts on “Migration south and life at Barrett’s shore whaling station at Te Awaiti

  1. Pingback: Te Atiawa – Barrett Honeyfield Ancestry

  2. Pingback: Richard (Dicky) Barrett and Wakaiwa Lavinia (Rawinia) – Barrett Honeyfield Tupuna / Ancestry: their lives, the times and their legacy

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