Historic Hawke's Bay: Bad day in Kiwi trading history


When Captain James Cook sailed into Hawke Bay (which he named after Admiral Edward Hawke) on October 15, 1769, the crew of the Endeavour were met north of Bluff Hill by canoes of Maori.

Cook's attempts to trade were not successful that afternoon as he found the Maori hostile but, as some commentators have pointed out, their unfriendly acts may have been a challenge, which Cook, only in the country nine days, culturally misunderstood.

The next day some trade was made possible, with Cook remarking of a change in attitude by Maori from the previous day. However, Tayeto, the servant boy (one version says son) of the Tahitian interpreter, Tupia, was lowered over the ship's side to hand over goods and, as they were traded, was grabbed by Maori and put on board a canoe. A local newspaper's version to mark Cook's 120-year anniversary of his arrival in Hawke's Bay, stated that a shot was fired at the Maori canoeists (over their heads) who were paddling like fury for the shore and, in the confusion, Tayeto jumped out and swam back to the Endeavour. This was not likely the full story and, in the 1840s, missionary William Colenso was able to find out the names of the two Maori that Cook's men shot dead in that incident and the one injured man.

When Cook left to sail past the cape, he called it Cape Kidnappers in view of the event that had just occurred.

Some believe that Maori would not have treated this as a kidnapping, but more rescuing someone who looked like themselves, and who had been themselves kidnapped by white men.

Despite Cook's three visits to New Zealand, he never set foot on ground in Hawke's Bay.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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