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The Coming of the Maori



Eel traps (hinaki) were in common use throughout New Zealand for the streams, rivers, swamps, and lakes supplied a quantity of freshwater eels (tuna) nowhere approached in the Pacific area. The self-acting funnel entrance, the single-pair twined technique, and the name hinaki were brought from central Polynesia but changes in shape and extra details were developed to meet local requirements. The common type of Polynesian trap made with the single-pair twine was circular in form with a flat bottom and with the funnel entrance above. It was used for catching crayfish, crabs, and rock-frequenting fish. It is curious that the people of the east coast and Bay of Plenty made crayfish traps (pouraka) of the same shape but with an entirely different technique (21, p. 55). The eel trap which preserved the single-pair twine was cylindrical in shape and it was set on its side with the funnel entrance at one end (Pl. XVII).

The preferable material was the aerial roots of the kiekie as in Polynesia but a number of other vines formed excellent traps usually of a smaller size. Baited traps (hinaki tukutuku) were set in various waters and the type of bottom influenced the shape of trap used. Thus for muddy bottoms of swamps and lakes, the traps were usually short and deeply curved to allow for sinking into the soft mud whereas those set on the hard shingly bottom of streams were fairly straight sided and not so deep. An average trap for a muddy bottom measured 3 feet 4 inches in length and 2 feet 3 inches at its greatest diameter, whereas a trap for a shingly page 231bottom measured 4 feet 9 inches in length and 12 inches in diameter. The people made their traps to suit the places where they were to be set.

Descriptions of the technique of construction have been given by Downes (27) and Best (21) but details are not always clear owing to the lack of definite terms for the various elements employed. The term whatu applied to weaving was also applied to the making of hinaki traps, probably owing to the technique of using spaced rows of single-pair twining across longitudinal elements. There should be no objection to using the weaving terms and so calling the longitudinal elements warps and the crossing twine, the weft. In the simplest form of trap the warps are straight and parallel and this technique was termed torotika (straight), pakipaki, and aurara. In the traps made of mangemange, the warps ran obliquely and this variation was termed whakawiri (to twist). In the finest work, the warps were crossed which received the descriptive term of ripeka (crossed). It is convenient to term the warps inclined towards the left as sinistral warps and those towards the right as dextral warps.

Fig. 64. Fish trap technique.a-c, weft fixation of hoop.

Fig. 64. Fish trap technique.
a-c, weft fixation of hoop.

The kiekie aerial roots were soaked in water and the skin removed. The whole vine was used for warps but they were split in half for the wefts. Work commenced with the inner end of the funnel (akura) with a weft pair forming a twine around the required number of warps. The weft twine continued in a spiral forming rows about seven-eighths of an inch apart. Additional warps were added to gradually increase the diameter of the funnel. The warps were from one-eighth to three-sixteenths of an inch in thickness and from three-quarters to seven-eighths of an inch apart. At a length of from one to one and a half feet, the funnel reached the outer opening and the warps were turned over and back to continue in the body of the trap. At this point, a new element was added in the form of internal hoops (whiti) formed of slender manuka rods or other wood from three-eighths to one-quarter of an inch in thickness.

The details of technique need further study for variations occur in different traps. Thus in the mangemange traps with oblique, parallel page 232warps, the internal hoops consist of thick bands of twisted mangemange which are separate and arranged in groups with wide spaces between groups. They are attached to the warps by one element of the weft pair passing around the hoop and returning to the twine at intervals of about seven warps (Fig. 64). On the other hand, the hoops of the kiekie traps with crossed warps, continue in a spiral on the inner side of every weft row. Here the hoops are fixed by a dextral warp making a complete turn around the manuka hoop on every weft row (Fig. 65). The interval between the binding dextral warp varies but the average is about seven warps.

Some of the variations are due to difference in material and the various tribes developed different ways of dealing with the minor problems which cropped up. The turning back of the warps from the outer funnel opening to form the body differs in mangemange and kiekie traps. In some traps, the ends of the warps were left long at the inner opening of the funnel,
Fig. 65. Fish trap technique.a-c, warp fixation of hoop.

Fig. 65. Fish trap technique.
a-c, warp fixation of hoop.

to form a further obstacle to the escape of fish. In other traps, a flax funnel net was attached to the inner end of the funnel.

The Waikato tribes also made traps with an entrance at each end which they termed waharua (two mouths) in distinction to one-entrance traps termed torino. The other end (kotore) of single-entrance traps had an opening covered by a twined cap (taupoki) for emptying the catch. In double-entrance traps, the exit opening was on the side or just within the outer funnel entrance. Loops were attached as handles or as lugs for the fastening of tether ropes.

Traps used with weirs were fitted with a funnel-shaped flax net, the smaller opening being sewn with flax to the circumference of the outer funnel opening. The wider end was sewn to a hoop which fitted into a slot arrangement at the end of the weir.

A corf (korotete) or receptacle for keeping live eels in water was made with the same technique as a hinaki trap except that the funnel entrance was not necessary. Shapes varied, some being flat bottomed with a fairly wide body. All had an opening at one end fitted with a taupoki cap. Some were reinforced with outer hoops and spaced vertical rods tied on with flax.

page 233

A crayfish pot (taruke), circular in shape with an entrance opening above, was made of fine manuka rods on the east coast and Bay of Plenty. The circular or elliptical bottom was formed of a framework of stouter rods and the manuka rods were attached to project evenly around the circumference. The rods were bent upwards, crossed, and tied to a series of inner hoops which were graduated to round off the shape of the trap. The upper end was narrowed in and the rim of the opening formed with the fine branching ends of the rods. A funnel-shaped flax net was attached to the opening with its small end hanging clear of the bottom of the trap. The trap was baited and anchored with a stone sinker on the bottom of the sea, a wooden float attached to a rope indicating its position. The series of illustrations published by Best (21, pp. 55-59) were taken during a Dominion Museum expedition to the east coast and I took full notes of the various stages of construction but so far I have not been able to write them up.

A specialized trap made of a species of rush was used in the streams flowing into Lake Rotoaira for catching koaro (Galaxias huttoni). The warps were caught in pairs with a single-pair twine, each warp having a zigzag course to pair alternately with the warp on either side. The opening was large and fitted with a flax net which took the place of the usual twined funnel. The traps were set in the autumn when the fry of the koaro were migrating down into the lake from the breeding places said to be in the underground reservoirs of the stream (21, p. 193).

Another specialized trap (pouraka kpkopu) was used in Lake Taupo to catch kokopu (Galaxias brevipinnis). The traps were made of flax netting fixed to a flat, circular frame about 3 feet in diameter and 4 or 5 (inches deep (21, p. 189). Stone sinkers were attached to the sides and the baited trap was lowered to the bottom of the lake on a line which had a float to mark the position.