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Medicine Amongst the Maoris, in Ancient and Modern Times



Another effect of civilisation upon the Maoris was the breaking down of the Maori system of laws. The ancient laws against adultery and the infringement of tapu were drastic but well suited to existing conditions. The laws introduced by Europeans were against the summary punishment demanded by the ancient Maori law but at the same time they fell short as they could not be enforced. The consequences were that the masses were quick to take advantage of the abrogation of their own laws and the non-enforcement of the European laws. Combined with the example set by the early sailors, traders and soldiiers, the moral tone deteriorated. Licence grew up. In a few places around the whaling centres immoral traffic, hitherto unknown, took place. The uncivilised page 87supply was created by the civilized demand. These excesses were a further factor in the diminished fertility of the women and the deterioration of the race.

The first effect of civilisation was to take away institutions established by the experience of centuries, dislocate the environment to which the Maoris had adapted themselves and completely shatter their system of economics. To replace these nothing assimilable was given. The Maoris are stil groping for something to replace that which was taken away. In acquiring knowledge and assimilating civilisation, he has passed through the fiery furnace of strange diseases and altered environment. He has marked the trail down the years with thousands of his dead. Cook roughly estimated the population when he arrived as 100,000. Judging by the remains of fortified villages? perhaps it was nearer 150,000. Some years ago the population sank as low as 37,502.