The Battle of Waitaramea
Tutemakohu was either the son or nephew of the famous Kati Mamoe chief, Te Rakitauneke who won fame for the many battles he fought against Kai Tahu in his fighting retreat through Canterbury and Otago to Murihiku.
Like Te Rakitauneke, Tutemakohu also won fame in the fighting between Kai Tahu and Kati Mamoe. At this time Tutemakohu was living at kaika at Otaupiri (now known as Otapiri Hill), on the edge of the Waimea plain. He was often allied with the similarly famous Marakai who lived nearby at Takerehaka, Lake Wakatipu, approximately where Kingston now is. This pair eventually held a line against their enemies that approximately followed the Clutha – Mata Au river.
Both he and Marakai, had won fame with defeating and killing the Kai Tahu chief Waitai at Mokamoka. This success had made them a target for those seeking utu to increase their mana as fighting chiefs. Two Kai Tahu expeditions set out from Kaiapoihia. One led by the cousins Taoka and Te Wera followed the coast while another under Kaweriri went inland to Lake Wanaka, then to Kawarau river where it leaves Lake Wakatipu and from there followed the Papanui (Nevis) and Nokomai streams to the Waimea Plains. Kaweriri may have been seeking Tutemakohu in person as one source describes Tutemakohu as earlier killing Tu-takahi-kura, thought to be the son of Kaweriri, after he had tried to abduct a wife of Tutemakohu.
The inland expedition surprised some of the Otaupiri people fishing and captured all but one, Te Kirimatua who escaped and outrunning the speedy Parakiore, managed to get to Otaupiri and tell Tutemakohu. Tutemakohu doubted Te Kirimatua’s report that it was only a small taua and felt the pa could not be defended successfully. So he led his small force toward Lake Wakatipu where Marakai lived.
Through being slowed down by the old chief Te Kairere (who unsuccessfully pleaded to be left so they others could travel faster) by nightfall they were only able to get as far as Waitaramea (Oswald Steam) on nearby Fiver Rivers Plain. The next morning Kaweriri’s taua caught up with them there. In the resulting battle, Tutemakohu and his people were outnumbered 3 or 4 to 1. Despite this Kaweriri was killed by Tutemakohu. Still heavily outnumbered, Tutemakohu managed to escape through the intervention of a mist*. Disheartened by Kaweriri’s death the Kai Tahu taua turned back.
Tutemakohu married a Kai Tahu women after this fight, probably as part of a peace made to end this particular round of fighting and returning to Otaupiri, he did live out the rest of his life peacefully. He died at Otaupiri and according to one of Beattie’s informants was buried there but another stated that his body was taken to the ancient burial place at Omaui where Te Rakitauneke and other great chiefs were buried.
* The fighting took place around two mounds near the stream known as Hakataramea. Tutemakohu started with letting his hair down so disguising himself as an ordinary warrior. Then Tutemakohu succeeded in killing Kaweriri who was arrogant enough to take on three at the same time (Te Kirimatua, Wahahauka and Tutemakohu). He then fled but was pursued by Te Maiwerohia but this chief was of mixed Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe and Waitaha lineage and was related to Tutemakohu. When he learnt who he was pursing he let him go. Parakiore however continued the pursuit up the slopes of Tarahau-kapiti (the West Dome). Tutemakohu said karakia asking for mist to descend. The gods answered his plea and so he escaped.
The place and its importance
Tutemakohu was intercepted while trying to get from his kaika at Otaupiri to where his ally Marakai lived near present day Kingston. Kaweriri’s taua had come onto the Waimea Plains from the Nevis and the inland route from Canterbury. It was making for Tutemakohu’s pa at Otaupiri. It is reasonable to assume that battle took place on or close to an area where the tracks that connected those places intersected.
These were major parts of the network of inland routes, tracks and waterways that connected hapu and whanau with each other, in peace and in war, and enabled them to exploit their inland stone and mahika kai resources. This network connected the Five River Plains to the kaika of the southern Murihiku coast via Lake Te Anau and the Waiau river valley. It connected the Five River Plains plains to Tuturau and the ford of the Mataura River there, an important junction on the Mataura river section of the inland route between South Otago’s foothills and the southern coast. It connected these routes to the coast to the lakes of the interior, to their associated important mahika kai and in particular to the important sources of pounamu to the NW of Lake Wakatipu.
The extent of their intersection at Waitaramea on the Fiver River Plains is not clear but that sometimes they did is certain as is also their proximity to each other there.
Over the years war parties, trading parties, marriage parties, hapu and whanau working their inland mahika kai or stone resources, would have passed close by if not over this precise site.
The mahika kai exploited would have included in the more distant past, moa. Birds such as weka remained an important mahika kai in this area and in the mountains around the lakes of the interior, into the period of European settlement, only ending with the loss of weka because of that settlement and the introduced pests that accompanied it. The eels of the area and of the lakes were also very important.