Life in Early Poverty Bay
Behind the Veil — Poverty Bay in Pre-Maori Days — Toi Finds District Sparsely Peopled in 1200 A.D. — Who Were The Tangata Whenua? — How Turanga Received its Name
Behind the Veil
Poverty Bay in Pre-Maori Days
Toi Finds District Sparsely Peopled in 1200 A.D.
Who Were The Tangata Whenua?
How Turanga Received its Name
It is not known for certain how or when the mid-East Coast districts of the North Island of this Dominion first came to be peopled. That members of the race designated “Maoris” were not the original inhabitants is, however, stated by all investigators to be a positive fact. According to most authorities one or more types of people made their abode in these parts prior to the major Maori migration which, it is claimed, took place, roughly, about 1350 A.D. Kupe and Ngahue were, it seems, the first Polynesians, according to Maori history, to visit New Zealand. Their visit was made around 950 A.D. and, from all accounts, none of their people settled in this country as a result of these voyages. Seemingly, also, neither Kupe nor Ngahue saw any trace of any inhabitants or of any habitations. Incidentally, they found greenstone on the West Coast of the South Island and both returned to Hawaiki with glowing stories concerning great birds they had seen. Whether or not they actually killed a moa is not clear, although certain traditions credit them, rightly or wrongly, with having done so. In due course, the coming of the Toi people followed. That event, it is laid down, occurred about 1200 A.D. Toi and his people found on their arrival that the country was the home of a race known as “Mouriuri” or “Maruiwi,” who may, or may not, have come here even before the days of Kupe and Ngahue. If they did, those famous sea strollers did not, as has already been mentioned, see any signs of them. Whither the aboriginals came, and when, is not now likely ever to be settled beyond doubt, but it may, with good grounds, be laid down that the various Native peoples who, in turn, settled in this country sprang from a common parent stock which had gravitated into the Pacific in the misty past.
How Kupe Came to Discover New Zealand.
In his work “Nga Tupuna Maori,” Sir George Grey tells of Kupe's famous voyage of discovery. It seems that Kupe and one Hoturapa one day went out to fish off their island home, Hawaiki. When the canoe gained the fishing-ground Kupe let his line down. “O, Hotu!” he said, “my line is foul at the bottom. Do dive and clear it.” Hoturapa said: “Let me have your line.” But Kupe answered: “Oh, no! You cannot get it loose unless you dive.” (Kupe wished to slay Hoturapa so that he might secure his wife.) Hoturapa dived and, when he was down, Kupe cut the cable of the canoe and pulled away. On reaching the surface Hoturapa cried out: “O, Kupe! Bring the canoe to me.” But Kupe did not so much as look round and pulled on. Hoturapa swam on till he became exhausted and was drowned. Kupe got on shore and took the wife of Hoturapa, but he was afraid lest evil should come to him and to escape vengeance, he and his party embarked in the canoe “Matahourua” and sailed to New Zealand. Kupe crossed over to the South Island and pulled page break page 15 over the sea of Raukawa and went on to the French Pass, where he met the octopus of Muturangi. When it heard the canoe coming, it rose to take it, but Kupe killed it! After four years' absence Kupe returned to Hawaiki.
No Pre-Maori Relics.
It has not been ascertained that any traces are left to-day in Poverty Bay of settlement prior to the advent of the Maoris in A.D. 1350. Searching enquiry has, indeed, failed to reveal a single relic of any earlier people hereabouts. Tradition is, of course, not silent on the matter, but it is vague and contradictory on this as in regard to so many other important matters. In some accounts it is stated that the original Native settlers were lanky people with dark complexion. Other stories aver that they were short and plump as well as dark. And, again, there are traditions alleging the existence in this country in times long past of fairy folk, and of a light skinned race with reddish hair. Generally, tradition hath it that the “tangata whenua” were inferior physically to the Maori. And so it would appear, for the predecessors of the Maoris, in this as in other parts of the country, failed in the race for the survival of the fittest. They were killed off or died out and all that remains to be remind the world that they ever existed are changes in the Maoris due to the inter-marriage of the main body of Polynesian migrants with the peoples who were found in this land on their arrival. Toi's people no doubt intermarried with the “Mouriuri” or “Maruiwi” and, in due course, the Maoris of the A.D. 1350 migration amalgamated with both earlier races. Melanesian castaways, it is also known, reached this country from time to time, which state of affairs is held to account for such strong traces of darker blood in some localities, notably in the Bay of Plenty.
Toi Describes Poverty Bay.
Despite the absence of definite traces of settlement on the East Coast by an earlier people than the Maoris Toi is the authority for the contention that, even at the time of his advent, this district was not altogether unpeopled. This, at any rate, may be gathered from his speech of farewell to Mahutonga and Popoto, who visited him at Whakatane and were in search of a new home:—
“Farewell!” said Toi. “When you see a bay trending inward to the north-west, wherein are two rivers, one at the southern end of the sandy beach and the other at the other end of the beach where it trends westward, a bald cliff south of the southern river, a ridge on the eastern side of the other river, the outspread (hora) land lying between the two rivers, a range to the south west and one to the eastward—when you see this lay of the land, then that is the place where I stopped (halted) out at sea and inspected the place from my vessel. Now do you make your home there, for human occupation is scattered, as it also is further south. When you enter the bay turn your face to the south, and you will see the point of land I spoke of projecting outward; this is the place I speak of. Now do you name it Turanga for me, in memory of my turanga (halting, stopping his progress) out on the ocean.”
Popoto consented to this request of Toi and, on reaching here, no doubt, found, as Toi had advised him, that this district was already sparsely settled. The fate of the pre-Toi Natives of Poverty Bay must, however, now ever remain a mystery.
“Turanga” a District.
As to the original naming of Poverty Bay, Mr. Elsdon Best has this to say:—
“Evidently the name Turanga was applied to the district, not to a place or small circumscribed area. Turanga is the gerundial form of the word tu, which means ‘to stand, to remain,’ but in connection with any person, animal or object in movement it carries the meaning of ‘to stop, to come to a standstill, to halt.’ Of a train halting at a station a Native will say ‘Kua tu’—‘It has stopped’—as the vessel of Toi did prior to continuing his voyage. So that Turanga page break page 17 denotes the halting or stopping of Toi's vessel as he surveyed the land of Aotearoa on his way to the ‘ants’ nest' of Tamaki, and his final home on the bold cliff brow at Whakatane. The name of Turanga-nui-a-Kiwa is probably of later origin, the name of a prominent chief being connected with the old name, as we see in Taupo-nui-a-Tia, and Roterua-nui-a-Kahu. Another name, that of Turanga-nui-a-Rua, had probably a similar origin, but I know not as to which Rua to assign the connection. It may have been Rua-te-hohonu, a reputed ancestor of Rongo-whakaata of Turanga of that ilk, or Ruapani, the eponymic ancestor of Ngati-Ruapani, or any other old Rua who pervaded the land in the dim days of yore. Waimaha-nui-a-Rua is a place at Te Papuni; Tamaki-nui-a-Rua is the Seventy Mile Bush region. One thing is fairly certain, that the Kiwa connected with Turanga was not the Kiwa after whom the far spread ocean was named the Great Ocean of Kiwa (Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa). This latter Kiwa was one of the mythical offspring of the primal parents, the Sky Father and the Earth Mother, and he was appointed as one of the poutiriao, or guardians of the universe, his particular charge of realm being the great ocean, hence the full name of the ocean.”