History of New Zealand
Chapter i. — The Maoris
Ethnologists and speculators have disputed as to the manner in which the Maori race found a way to the country which a Dutch voyager called New Zealand, but which ought to be called Maoria.1
There is, however, no reason for distrusting the traditions of the Maoris.
There may be an admixture of fable coined by Eastern imagination, but there is internal evidence sufficient to confirm the story in the main.
From the day when Cook's Tahitian companion, Tupia, freely conversed with, and was thoroughly understood by the Maoris a hundred years ago, it could not be doubted that the Maori race was a branch of the family which had spread itself throughout the Isles of the Pacific, and was found in prosperous but warlike communities at the Sandwich Islands twenty degrees north, at New Zealand more than forty degrees south, of the equator, and at Easter Island, five thousand miles from New Zealand, and only half that distance from South America.
Natives of many of these islands have visited New Zealand during the last forty years, and, like Tupia, have found their own language spoken by the Maoris—slight terminal differences, or interchange of one letter for another, having failed to present serious difficulty.
1 We have taken the substance, and might accord the name of the Maoris to their land.
They add that a previous explorer, a chief named Ngahue, fleeing from civil war at Hawaiki, had discovered New Zealand and returned with the precious Pounamu or green-stone, found in the Middle Island, which was then named Te Wai Pounamu.
There was internecine war at Hawaiki when Ngahue returned thither, and on the death of a great warrior his sons carved enormous canoes with axes made of the Pounamu so auspiciously brought; one of the canoes being called Arawa, and arriving first.
Such was the Arawa tradition, and on the east coast a large tribe still proudly bears the name of Arawa. In memory of it,1 at this day, on the tribal meeting-house at Rotorua is carved the name of the great ancestor who led the immigration—Tama te Kapua.
Other tribes arrogated for other canoes the honour of having first reached the promised land, the guiding star to which was the Southern Cross, called in Maori language Star of the South. Amongst the most celebrated canoes were the Aotea, Tainui, Kuruhaupo, Takitumu, Tokomaru, and Matatua.
The calabash, the kumera, the taro, and the yam, were carried in the fleet. The karāka,2 or New Zealand laurel, was also imported, as well as the dog, and the kiore, or small rat, which formed an article of food until the Norway rat (introduced by Europeans) destroyed the southern creature, and was ominous of human destruction in like manner.
The canoes were of larger kind than those afterwards used in New Zealand, and the veneration of the Maoris imputed greater strength and skill to their ancestors than has belonged to posterity.
1 Amongst the accounts given of the Maori fleet differences will be found in learned works. Variance between tribal traditions accounts for many differences. One copious narrative was published by the Rev. Richard Taylor, in ‘Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants.’ He was a missionary of the Church of England for more than thirty years in New Zealand, and published several works. In 1870 a second edition of ‘Te Ika a Maui’ was published (730 pp.), and represented the accumulated experience of years of observation and comparison.
2 Corynocarpus lœvigatus. The fleshy fruit was used by the Maoris.
The great distance between the Sandwich Islands and New Zealand has caused many persons to endeavour to find some other island as the original hive of the Maori.1 Savaii, at the Navigator group, has been chosen by some, but without any favouring tradition.
It was my fortune to hear a Rarotonga chief and a Sandwich Islander discuss these traditions with Maori chiefs on the banks of the Waipa in the Waikato district, in 1879.
Explanation followed fast upon question, and it was interesting to compare the Sandwich Island tradition with the Maori. A general concordance might have arisen from vague and floating rumour. But the Europeans present were surprised when it was found that the Sandwich Island story agreed with that of the Maoris, not only as to the migration, but as to the names of the canoes in which the voyage was undertaken.
Of all but one canoe mentioned by the Maoris the Hawaiian knew the names; and his ignorance of that one tended to confirm the general truth of the separate traditions by proving that one was no servile copy of the other.2
1 Recently a traveller who had previously deemed the distance of the Sandwich Islands from New Zealand impassable by canoes, saw reason to qualify his doubts. He found that the Maori fleet might have a fair wind throughout.
Mr. J. C. Crawford, after forty years' acquaintance with New Zealand, sailed thence to the Sandwich Islands in April, 1879. He encountered “a head wind all the way from Auckland to Honolulu—a noticeable fact in connection with the migration of the Maori race and the peopling of New Zealand by it… Such a voyage now seems to me possible, although it still looks highly improbable… This theory of migration will, however, in no way explain how the Maori race arrived at Hawaii or Hawaiki, which is a far more difficult problem”(p. 377).—‘Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia,’ J. C. Crawford. London, 1880.
It perhaps deserves notice that one of the principal islands of the Hawaiian group is Maui, that Maui is the demigod of Maori mythology, and that the Northern Island of New Zealand is called Te Ika o Maui, the fish of Maui, because he drew it up from the depths of the sea.
2 A Maori chief earnestly dissuaded me from crediting the Hawaiian tradition in one particular. The Maori belief was that civil war and the fame of the Pounamu caused the emigration. The Hawaiian declared that in the civil war one party was hopelessly surrounded and doomed to die, when an old chief said, “Let us not kill them. Are they not our brothers? Let us rather mark out trees from which canoes may be made to carry them elsewhere.”His eloquence prevailed, and when the canoes were about to depart he implored the exiles to live in peace in the land they were seeking. They would prosper if they tilled the earth, they would be miserable if they followed the deeds of Tu, the god of war… The Maori in 1879 declared that the Hawaiian was right in all that he said except as to the overcoming of Maori ancestors at Hawaiki. They were, he said, unconquerable, and greater than any men in these degenerate days.
The canoes were parted on the voyage, and arrived at different times and places in New Zealand.
The tradition in Rarotonga is precise. The ancestors of the people came from Avaiki.1
Ingenious speculators have found in verbal similarities and in phrases, proof that the Maori has close affinity with the Chinese, with Hindoos, and with the Japanese. Such arguments may strengthen a belief in the descent of all existing men from one family, but except upon the supposition of several migrations do not elucidate the problem as to the abode of the Maori before he floated southwards.
It is true that he took with him images which strangely resemble the sitting idols of the East. A red porphyritic image about a foot high, and of great specific gravity, reported to have been carried by the Arawa canoe, was presented by Arawa chiefs to Sir George Grey, and has been seen by thousands amongst the antiquities treasured at the island of Kawau.2
1 The island is called Hawaii by its natives—Hawaiki by the Maoris,—Avaiki by the Rarotongans,—Havaiki at the Marqu esas,—Havaii at Tahiti—and Savaii at Samoa.
The slight literal changes which the language has undergone (where l is used in Hawaii the Maori uses the letter r) do not impede conversation after the lapse of many centuries. There are slight differences in pronunciation even in the Northern Island of New Zealand.
2 The stone buildings and gigantic sculptures found at Easter Island are conveniently ascribed by speculators to an extinct race. But the carved images carried by the Maoris in their migration prove that whencesoever they came they were acquainted with sculpture and venerated its productions. It is the fond idea of so many that a society of man cannot retrograde in arts, that they would annihilate races of mankind rather than forego a theory. It must be admitted that the Easter Island problem is crucial. A statue carried thence to the British Museum is eight feet high and weighs four tons. In the island some statues were between thirty and forty feet high. Cyclopean stone platforms on various headlands presented an array of the vast images for each of which a rock-carved crown had been made of different material from that of the body. The gaze of the images is said to have been always upward.
Protruding from the hideous mouth is the tongue,1 as in the wooden carvings at Maori buildings and fortifications, and it may be that the sculpture is but a remnant of the religious observances of some other land.
Moreover, the savage acts of the sect which worshipped Siva and the ferocious Kali were emulated in New Zealand, and the carvings of the Maoris might be adduced to show that the Lingamhari of Hindostan had taught the sea-rovers of the Pacific those obscene rites which defiled the Dionysiac festivals in Greece,2 and which two thousand years ago were suppressed in Rome with a vigour and a care which demonstrated the conviction of the Senate that the corruption was widespread and the danger terrible.
Some writers have imagined that the Maori migrated from North America. Whencesoever he sprung he belonged to a sea-roving band, which conquered island after island from the darker races found in possession, and eventually fitted out the expedition which seized New Zealand.
However dimmed by time in some respects, or encrusted with mythological additions, there is little doubt that the mental grasp and fond veneration of the race enabled them to preserve their folk lore with wonderful accuracy.
In one volume3 Sir George Grey gathered five hundred pages of their songs and story, and it was the glory of a chief to adorn his speech with gems from song and proverb. The Maori Lares were carved upon the inner posts of their tribal houses. The tribes, like the Heraclidæ, gloried in the heroic name from which they derived their own.
1 If one fact could confirm a theory, the contortions of the Maori wardance might be held to prove a Maori migration from India. Mr. Bidwell in 1839 saw a handsome woman so transform her features as to become “very much like some of the most forbidding of the Hindoo idols.”—‘Rambles in New Zealand,’ by John Carne Bidwell. London, 1841.
2 The ὠμοφάγια of Greece may be remembered not as palliating Maori cannibalism, but as a sad instance of the atrocities to which human flesh is prone.
The love of ancestors was cherished with a fervour amounting to religion; and to doubt that the Maori, like the Druid, could retain from generation to generation the main facts is to show more credulity in one's own fancy than in evidence.
The genealogical wands, representing each ancestor from the date of the Maori landing, and comparison of the genealogy recorded in one part of New Zealand with that preserved in another with which there had been intermarriages in the past, have shown in English courts the trustworthiness of Maori records.
A brief summary of the districts in which the various leading tribes settled, and of the positions which they occupied when Captain Cook saw them in 1769, may here be given.
The Arawa canoe left a few persons at Maunganui (the projecting steep cone which stands like a sentinel seaward of Tauranga), and the remainder proceeded to Maketu, claiming all the land within sight.
Tradition declares that their hero's stature was nine feet.
Their territory included the coast at Maketu and the lake district of Tarawera and Rotomahana.
The luxurious warm baths provided by nature did not soften the savageness of the Maori heart. The feuds of the Arawa tribe were as ferocious as those of others, but fortunately for the colonists it has ever prided itself on loyalty to the Queen.
It arrogated superior importance on account of having carried to New Zealand not only the stone image which was obtained by Sir George Grey from the chiefs in recent years, but a larger one jealously treasured in the island of Mokoia in Lake Rotorua.
Other tribes contended for the honour of having carried with them the fruits of the earth with which to replenish their new home, but the massive carved idols were the precious freight of the Arawa canoe. They appear to have been venerated rather than worshipped. Though all Maoris treasured the green-stone “heitiki,”they could not be charged with adoring those quaint resemblances to images. I have been assured by one whose experience coursed over more than forty years,1 that the only tribe in which he remarked an approach to idol-worship in New Zealand was the Ngatiruanui.
1 Bishop of Wellington, Dr. Hadfield.
The voyage of the Tainui was notable from the fact that after landing a few persons at the East Cape and at Katikati, the leader, Hoturoa, entered the Hauraki Gulf, and at the head of the Tamaki, having observed sea-birds flying from the west, conjectured that he was near a narrow isthmus.
The fact being ascertained the canoe was dragged overland from Tamaki to the head of the Manukau harbour, and a final landing being made at Kawhia the voyagers became the parents of the tribes which, as Waikato, Ngatimaniapoto, Ngatiraukawa, Ngatitoa, and others, occupied the Waikato territory, with rights upon the west coast.
The volcanic hills near Auckland, whose terraces and excavations tell of the labour of centuries, were peopled by men of the Tainui. At the earliest date probed by English researches (early in the 18th century), the occupants of that coveted and much-suffering isthmus were known as Nga Iwi, or “the tribes.”
The Tokomaru1 bore the progenitors of the great Ngatiawa tribe, commanded by Manaia, who, after a dispute with the rovers of another canoe at Aotea, passed to Mokau, and was not induced to settle until he reached the rich lands of the Waitara, where he found and slew “the original occupants of the country.”
The Aotea carried her people, under the guidance of Turi, to the harbour which bears her name on the west coast. Proceeding southwards he gave names to Waitara, Oakura, and other places, and planted seeds of the karaka (laurel) on his way. He founded a colony at Patea, and his people were the ancestors of the tribes of Wanganui.
The great Ngapuhi tribe has a tradition of its own, and scorns the assertion of the Arawa people that the Ngapuhi progenitors were carried in the prow, “Puhi,”(or adorned with feathers) of the Arawa canoe and were thence named.
The Ngapuhi declare that their forefathers, under Nukutawhiti, immigrated in a canoe named Mamari, which followed another voyager, a chief named Kupe; and that the men of the Mamari learning from him that he had circumnavigated the North Island settled at Hokianga, which Kupe had named.
1 One tradition tells that the Tokomaru like the Tainui was dragged across the isthmus between Tamaki and Manukau.
They point with reverence to a massive stone which Nukutawhiti placed near Tarawaua at Hokianga. Long after the English were established in the neighbourhood every passing Maori laid on the stone a branch of Raurekau1 and uttered an incantation.
The Matatua landed her voyagers at Whakatane. The Kuruhaupo brought others to Poverty Bay. One tradition averred that the Takitumu, commanded by Tata, carried the first immigrants to the Middle Island, with the evil reputation of having seen lots cast and bodies devoured when hunger raged among the crew.
There were vague rumours that aborigines were found and destroyed by the Maoris in both islands. If some were spared and enslaved their features may be partially preserved among the varieties of physiognomy found in the islands.
The Waitaha, a portion of the first canoe-immigration, are reputed to have held possession of the Middle Island until overborne by a wave of conquest in the 16th century, when the destroying Ngatimamoe intruded from the North Island, to be themselves similarly swept away in the 17th century by the Ngai Tahu, who again were harassed by raids from the Northern Island, and were finally decimated by the conqueror Rauparaha within the memory of English visitors.
The varying or conflicting traditions treasured in each tribe make it impossible to assert confidently that any of them is true in all particulars. But there is sufficient general agreement to enable the antiquarian to rely upon the main thread of the story.
The date of the Maori occupation or conquest can only be conjectured. It can be computed only by guessing the length of life of each Maori ancestor.
Genealogies were graven on a staff. The name of each ancestor was recalled by serrated projections, and the Maori recited the roll from father to son with the fervency of a devotee and the pride of an Englishman who now holds lands held by his forefathers in the days of the Saxons.
1 A species of coprosma.
All were not chiefs of high degree, but no indolence was allowed to mar the pedigree of the highest families.
The roll-call of the genealogical tree was strengthened by the records of song and chaunt.
This proud race in its native state was found defiant, bloodthirsty, and cannibal. Yet it was good-humoured and honourable. There was much variety in physiognomy as well as in colour. Aquiline noses were not uncommon, and even a Grecian type of face was sometimes seen. Often the nose was broad and flat. The men were generally tall, the women not so. The lower part of the women's faces was massive, and expressed determination. Dark-haired and brown-skinned though in some cases not duskier than many Spaniards, muscular in body, with well-formed intelligent heads, the Maoris were manly in bearing; fluent and vigorous in speech.
Dark oracular sayings, poetic imagery and allegories, proverbs which required an interpreter to apply them, coloured the language of an orator. Its meaning was sought like that of the Delphian oracle—by careful study.
The deadliest foe of the Maoris could not scorn them. Their dignity, chivalry, eloquence, and capacity, their intuitive talent for war and skill in fortification forced themselves upon the recognition of the world; and the colonists, who have eaten their way into the territory, paid a moral tribute to the dispossessed when they placed them in the halls of the Legislature.
Such is the testimony of an accomplished eye-witness who lived long years amongst them, and held office as Attorney-General in the early days of English colonization.
Another writer (W. Colenso, F.L.S.) declared, after long study,1 that the intellectual and moral faculties of the race were of a high order, their subtlety great, their memory good, their fidelity, conscientiousness, hospitality and courage remarkable. Their undying revengefulness, their thirst for the blood of an enemy, and a total want of gratitude, darkened in his eyes the aspect of the national character; but their courtesy extorted his admiration until under European influences they became ruder in demeanour. “Sometimes,”he wrote, “when a besieging party knew of their enemies wanting food, or stones, or spears, they sent them a supply, laying them down in heaps near their defences, and then retiring.”
Continually at war with one another they selected promontories or isolated hills for fortified abodes; and with wooden implements made embankments, ditches, and terraces, the magnitude of which astonished all observers. They were eminently an agricultural people. As one plot of ground was exhausted, the tillers passed on to another, as was the habit of the ancient Germans. They never used manure. They passed from plot to plot as they deemed that fresh ground was required.
Captain Cook observed that as to the disposition of filth they were more advanced than some European countries; but though kept from sight it was not used to fertilize their fields, and when the early missionaries began to manure their gardens the Maoris were shocked at the uncleanness.2
The Kūmără, or sweet potato, and the taro (caladium esculentum), were cultivated with care and neatness, which was, in the opinion of Sir Joseph Banks (1769), unsurpassed in the best English garden. The hŭĕ (gourd) provided convenient vessels.
1 ‘On the Maori Races of New Zealand.’ Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, vol. i.
The men also dug up fern-root (Pteris esculenta) at special seasons and stored it, under the name of Arŭhĕ, for food. They fished, they made eel-weirs, they made stone hatchets useful not only in war but in cutting down timber. They carved canoes and built houses. They ground the green-stone with much labour into ornaments, into weapons, carpenter's tools, and images. The grinding and polishing of this hard material was accomplished by friction with flint and wet sand. The perfection of a green-stone mĕrĕ was the labour of years, and carried with it the admiration of a tribe.1 The manufacture of wooden agricultural implements, spears, fish-hooks, the preparation of dyes for mats, the carving of boxes, the adorning of the principal whārĕ, or house, at which the tribe assembled for (korero, or) discussion, occupied the time not needed for the great work of hewing timber, carving war-canoes, and preparing weapons of war. As the war-canoe moved the chief or other appointed warrior chanted songs with which the oarsmen kept time. Each song had its appropriate time. Cook noticed that more than one hundred paddles struck the sides of a canoe so accurately as “to produce but a single sound at the divisions of the music.”
While the men had these duties to perform, for the women was reserved the preparation of food, and the weaving of the baskets in which they cooked it. Such baskets in ancient days were never used a second time to contain food.
The women prepared flax (Phormium tenax), and made it into clothing; they procured shell-fish and firewood, and weeded the cultivation grounds. On them fell the heavy task of carrying on their backs every year the fresh gravel required for the kumara, or sweet potato fields. They also gathered fruit and expressed the juice of the Tutu (Coriaria ruscifolia) for drinking.
1 The “green-stone mĕrĕ,”about fourteen inches long, was shaped like the blade of an oar.
The “heitiki”or image was of various sizes. The largest were several inches long, and massive. The perforation and polishing entailed immense labour. The heitiki was suspended upon the breast. The art of perforating the pounamu or jade was notable in the Maoris. Sir John Lubbock (‘Prehistoric Times’) remarks: “The smiths of the Bronze Age seem to have been unable to pierce bronze, and the holes for rivets are cast and not pierced.”Yet the Maoris (classed with the Stone Age) drilled holes through one of the hardest of substances.
The ample supply of fish, cray-fish, and shell-fish, made amends for the paucity of animals on land. Numerous varieties of wild-duck and the mutton-bird (Titi or Pelecanoides urinatrix) furnished food in season. The great rail, the weka (Ralus Australis), was as large as an ordinary domestic fowl. Quails, and pigeons, and other birds, if not abundant, furnished variety of diet.
The remains of the Pipi shells, strewn on every old pah in myriads, attest the enormous supply and consumption of cockles in the islands, and the part performed by the Maori women in providing the principal meals, of which there were two—morning and evening—eaten hot, the men sitting apart from the women A siesta after noon was usual.
The Maori averred with pride that he had imported from Hawaiki the sweet potato, the taro, and the gourd. The latter supplied not only refreshing food in summer, before the kumara was ready for use, but vessels for containing water, oils, or cooked animal food. From the karaka (corynocarpus), of which the kernel is poisonous unless prepared with care, the Maoris made a wholesome and pleasant food.
The edible fern provided unfailing support. The root was dug up in spring, cut into pieces, and stacked in dry places so as to admit of ventilation through the stack. When required for use it was steeped in water, sun-dried, and then roasted at the fire.
The cultivation of the kumara, or sweet potato, was almost a solemnity. The men adorned their hair and their wooden spades. The seed-end of the potato was carefully placed towards the east. Songs were chanted to propitiate the god of cultivated food. The tillers washed their hands and held them over a tapu-ed fire before breaking their fast.
The cooking consisted of baking and roasting. Captain Cook observed that the mode of baking was exactly like that adopted at Tahiti. A hole was dug, and a fire kindled in it, stones being placed in alternate layers with wood. The hole having been sufficiently heated, a layer of warm stones was placed at the bottom. Green leaves were laid upon the stones. The flesh to be baked was placed on the leaves. A layer of leaves placed over the food was covered with more hot stones. The whole was covered with a layer of earth, and in three or four page 13 hours the food was well baked. At their hospitable feasts, for which long preparations were made, enormous quantities of food were dispensed. At one given by the first Waharoa, to one friendly tribe, there were twenty thousand dried eels, several tons of sea-fish (principally young sharks), many calabashes of shark oil, albatrosses, and baskets of potatoes, and of sweet potatoes, which the observer was unable to number.
The Maoris had no kind of intoxicating liquor. Their drink was water. The expressed juice of the Tutu was merely refreshing. Cook saw many Maoris of great age, “not a whit behind the young in cheerfulness and vivacity.”He remarked their perfect and uninterrupted health.
It has been said by a medical authority that the scrofulous tendencies developed in later generations of Maoris have arisen from the inferior diet introduced by Cook—the sweet potato, the taro, and fern-root being far more nutritious than the common potato which was the gift of Cook and became the principal food of the island.
The Maoris did not use salt; dried fish which had been steeped in the sea supplied them with saline food. Tribes which had no sea-fishing of their own exchanged mats for dried fish with their neighbours.
The pig, though known in Polynesia, had not been carried by the Maoris to New Zealand.
They had no means of boiling water. Their vessels were wooden. To open shell-fish they obtained hot water by putting hot stones into water in their wooden vessels. Yet with their scant appliances, Maoris feasted in thousands.
In the neighbourhood of the hot lakes nature had provided them with an unbought luxury of cooking of which they were boastful.
Labour was divided into classes—male, female, sacred, and common.
Though the chiefs were honoured as of noble blood, they worked hard equally with and amongst their numerous slaves. In labour, as in war, it was the glory of the chief to excel, though the baser kinds of work he did not touch.
Vast posts appeared in the palisade which enclosed the houses of the fortified village. The enormous war-canoe with its hundred page 14 paddles bore witness to the strength and diligence with which by the aid of stone axes and adzes they had been shaped. The adze was a repetition or imitation of that represented in Egyptian sculptures.
The numerous fabrics made from various vegetable fibres attested the inventive faculty of the race, or the high state of art which they carried with them from Hawaiki.
The string-turned drill with which they bored the hard greenstone as deftly as an European lapidary was tipped with quartz.
The wedge (matakahi) enabled them to split blocks of timber. Of the saw they were as ignorant as were the Russians before the days of Peter the Great.
Tradition was precise, and the demands of custom were inexorable. Only the chief (Rangatira) could wear the white-tipped tail-feathers of the Huia (Neomorphia Gouldii); and the staff of the chief was adorned with feathers and inlaid eyes of mother-of-pearl.
There were large war-gongs, various kinds of flutes, whistles, and a trumpet, made of wood or of a large conch-shell, which alarmed Tasman in 1642.
Though they had no medium of exchange, they gave and received gifts, and it was a point of honour that the recompense should exceed in value that of which it was a recognition. There was an exchange of commodities, however, and inland tribes gave mats or other articles of value in return for dried fish or shark oil, supplied by friends from the coast.
But for their continual warfare the tribes might have been the happiest of mankind in the luscious but temperate climate of the North Island.
Yet they encumbered life with ceremony. There was rejoicing over birth; there was a function of naming, or removal of tapu from the child; and betrothal often occurred as soon as the child drew breath.
Tattooing ensued at the age of puberty. The whole face of the man was deeply scored with curved lines having some beauty in themselves if not in their position, and the breech and thigh were carved deeply with sinuous lines darkened with dyes. The completed operation occupied years, the lines being deepened at intervals.page 15
The lips of the women needed to be tattooed before they could marry, and perpendicular or curved lines from the mouth to the chin added to an effect more strange than pleasing on a naturally handsome face.
The statuesque appearance of an old chief whose head seemed rigid as the figures in an Egyptian temple, excited more wonder than disgust.
Both sexes wore a short kilt, and a mat was fastened over the shoulder. In war the men discarded everything but their weapons and their belt, which was made of flax. Dog-skin mats were a favourite garment with the chiefs.
Polygamy was encouraged, and divorce was easy. Alliances of the well-born in different tribes were valued because of the influence they created or ensured. At the death of friends there was formal wailing or tangi, which was often repeated if the deceased was of high reputation.
The Maoris gashed themselves like other ancient people of the East in their great lamentations. Mourners came from far to join in the doleful duty.
The body of the deceased was allowed to decay, and another ceremony, the hahunga, or cleaning of the bones, ensued after many months or even after years. Those who scraped the bones were tapu, or sacred, and could only be relieved from their state by the tohunga or priest. The bones when cleaned were carried by a select few and secretly deposited in some cave or rocky cleft in uninvaded recesses. For a stranger to touch them was desecration. An enemy if he could find them would make flutes or fish-hooks of them, and the tribe of the deceased would be horror-struck.
Captain Cook was not allowed to know how the Maoris buried their dead, although he saw them cutting themselves grievously for the loss of a chief. In later times the ceremony was well known to the colonists.
Priests dressed the body and placed it in sitting posture, garlanded with flowers. Albatross feathers adorned the hair. The face was smeared with oil and red ochre. The body was enveloped in a fine mat. The weapons of war he had used were around the body of the chief in the midst of the bones of his ancestry. Birds were sacrificed to the gods. Tribes came page 16 to visit the spot. Long wisps of grass were placed in the hands of the corpse and held by weeping friends.
Laments were sung, of which the following, composed by a Rarawa chief, Papahia, may serve as an example:—
“Behold the glare of the lightning!
It seems to rive Tuwhare's rugged mountains.
From thy hand the weapon has fallen,
And thy spirit has departed
Beyond the heights of Raukawa.
The'sun grows dim and hastes away
As a woman from the scene of the battle.
The ocean-tides weep as they ebb and flow;
The mountains of the South melt away;—
For the spirit of the chief wings its way to Rona.1
Open the gates of the heavens;
Enter the first heaven, then enter the second,
And when thou shalt traverse the realm of spirits
And they say unto thee, What meaneth this?
Say that the wings of this world of ours
Have been torn from it in the death of the brave,
The leader of battle.
Atutahi2 and the stars of the morning
Look down from the sky:—
The earth reels to and fro,
For the great prop of the tribes is laid low,
Ah! my friend, the dews of Hokianga
Will penetrate thy body:
The waters of the rivers will ebb away,
And the land will be desolate.
From afar I see the cloud arising
Over the head of faméd Heke.
Let him be extinguished, yea, for ever,
Let the heart now sad with grief ne'er think of evil more.”3
1 Who according to Maori tradition was borne “aloft to the moon and stars.”
3 ‘Maori Mementos,’ C. O. B. Davies. Auckland, 1855. In the same work will be found the following dialogue between the locust and the ant, a song, by an unnamed Maori poet.Tatarakihi (Locust).Come hither quickly, oh my friend,
And to my urgent call attend;
They work, Oh Ant, is wondrous fair,
And thy commanders act with care.
Pokorua (Ant).Come hither thou, and dig the ground
And raise with me a spacious mound,
Where we may house us from the rain
Of heaven, and hide our stores of grain
For food, when each successive blast
Of winter's dreary night sweeps past.
Locust.But is not this my sole delight,
To bask in sunbeams, warm and bright?
To rustle with my wings and cling
To some high branch and gaily sing?
After about a year the bones were scraped clean and secretly deposited by priests, with those of ancestors, in caves or recesses in the mountains. Then the “mere”was received by the heir.
But, for a great warrior, hahungas might be repeated for years. The preserved head was brought from its hiding-place to grace the ceremony, and fervid orations commemorated the virtues of the dead, and aroused the emulation of the living.
The tohunga or priest was not the only or principal priest. The Ariki, the head of the tribe, the first-born male or female by the eldest branch, was the chief priest of the people. As the representative of the great progenitor, from whom the tribe was named, he or she was entitled to and received respect amounting to homage. Yet, as amongst the ancient Germans, incapacity might cause a transfer of the active duties of a chief to some one worthier than the heir of the great name, though in matters affecting the whole tribe the blood right was never forgotten.
The offspring of intermarriage of important chiefs or chieftainesses might become of higher blood than the father, and the child or heir of the name was honoured accordingly.
But the “mana,”or prevailing influence of the well-born, might be tarnished by unworthiness, and the low-born but daring and sagacious counsellor and warrior in troublous times page 18 rose to commanding power. The incessant warfare of the tribes made such a transfer probable, and it often came to pass.
Chiefs wore the insignia of their position. Only they could wear the huia feathers and the white plume of the crane. They wore the heitiki or green-stone image on their breasts. They kept the green-stone mere, the cherished heirloom of the tribe.
Even the slave, the αἰμάλωτος, spared by his captors, might by prowess obtain position amongst them, and such instances have been known. Though slavery was a reproach, it was a lot which all who went to war might encounter, and if a captive was spared after a great battle he might and often did live in comfort among his conquerors.
The land was the domain of the people, and though by separate cultivation a man had a right to the product, he acquired no fee-simple of the land. Over the whole domain the tribe hunted, and as the kiore or native rat was snared in distant places the boundaries of each territory were well-known, and, if necessary, defined by marks.
Alienation to a foreigner could not be the act of the separate occupier. Only common consent could alienate the common property.
In the same manner if a hapu, or sub-tribe, of a neighbouring clan was invited to settle on the lands of a tribe, the new-comers, under the general tribal sanction, acquired such rights as any occupier of the inviting tribe could have possessed. Inheritance was from father to son.1
Treasure-trove belonged to the finder in ordinary cases, but certain royal fish or a white crane fell to the ariki, or head of the tribe.
1 Mr. Colenso, F.L.S., states this broadly (vol. i. ‘Transactions of New Zealand Institute’) in an elaborate paper on the Maori race, and it may be accepted as a maxim, subject to such qualifications as are elsewhere mentioned.
The men were good oarsmen. The sails were made of mat, but their chief use was in sailing before the wind.
Sea-fights were not common. When they took place the object on each side was to overturn the enemy's canoe and brain the crew struggling in the water.
Cook was informed that the implements with which the carving was done were stone. Green-stone was the most useful as well as the most revered material. Nothing that Cook could offer induced a Maori to part with his green-stone axe.
The “whare,”or ordinary house of the Maori, was, in Cook's opinion, a wretched abode. The frame was of wood and the roof of thatch. The entrance admitted a man on his knees. Dried grass was strewn over the floor. The height of the ridgepole of the roof was usually five or six feet. There was a fire-place, and a hole near it let out some of the smoke and was the only window.
Cook may not have seen a whārĕ-pūnĭ, or great house, dedicated to the ancestor of the tribe. Its proportions were much larger than those he described.
One which was built in 1878 at the mouth of the Thames by the chief Taiperi of the Ngatimaru tribe, was nearly seventy feet in length and thirty in breadth. There was a large porch in front about twelve feet in depth, extending to the width of the building. An elaborately-carved door admitted visitors from the porch to the main building. On the pediment, high above the door, was carved the name of the progenitor of the Ngatimaru, Hotonui. Other ancestors were carved in grotesque forms on the massive posts of the interior walls, which were more than seven feet high, while the steep roof rose with Gothic pitch.
The ordinary whare, or abode, which Cook saw, was often a damp den in which the inmates were crowded in unwholesome manner. There was no partition. Men, women, and children slept on the rush-strewn and sometimes damp earth, and inhaled page 20 the heated and injurious air, relieved by no ventilation. Even under such deadly conditions the race was healthy and long-lived, although consumption marked its prey amongst the less hardy. Skin-diseases, as might have been expected, were not uncommon.
The Hakari was a great festival which accompanied the making of peace or conference about great affairs, or was in return for a previous feast. Crops were obtained from land planted for the occasion, and after the great dances the ruler of the feast divided to each tribe its portion.
Six thousand guests have been seen by Europeans at a Hakari. It was a point of honour that a feast given in return should be more profuse than its precursor. The Maori poured forth all that he had. The assembly was like a joyous fair. Presents were exchanged, bargains made, and all the popular pastimes of Maoris made their Isthmian games a round of pleasure.
Their musical instruments were wooden or shell trumpets and flutes. Dancing, singing, wrestling, spear-throwing, contests with long sticks, and great orations, furnished memories of a happy Hakari.
The national songs and chants have, fortunately, been preserved by Sir George Grey, and it is sufficient here to say that they are full of imagery, Oriental in colouring, and oracular in expression.
The assembly of a tribe was called a Runanga, and great orations were made at it. The conference itself was called a kórero. An orator who could touch the strings which roused the veneration of the race for their ancestors or their traditions could work a Maori audience to frenzy.
They were fond of games. They had whipping-tops, and kites which hovered in the shape of birds. They had a game with ball, and played maui, or intricate cat's cradle, with dexterity. The young men practised athletic exercises by wrestling, running, leaping, swimming, and in contests with the spear. The dance, in which the performers bounded as one man in admirable time, wielding their weapons as if one muscle moved every spear or gun, excited them to seeming fury. The savage distortion of face, and the grating, quivering sound like page 21 the roar of wild beasts which issued from the mouths of all, as if from one, terrified many beholders.
Grossness of speech, which would have been intolerable amongst the unrefined Europeans of the 15th century, did not offend the Maori taste, and some of the indecencies of Bacchic orgies might seem to have been conveyed by the Maori Vikings across the Pacific from Hindostan, where they existed under another name.
The Maoris reckoned time by lunar months, of which they had thirteen. May was their first month, and was marked by the appearance of the star Puanga (Rigel) in the morning. The flowering of certain trees distinguished various months, the rising of stars accompanied others.
March was the period in which the kumara crop ripened, and April was the season for digging it up. Errors arising from the lunar calculation were sufficiently remedied for Maori uses by the rising of stars and the flowering of plants. They continually rectified their calendar instead of allowing it to run into such disorder as compelled Julius Caesar to change the style when he had to intercalate two long months to reform it. Nights, not days, were the units into which the month was divided, each having a distinct name.
Marriage was attended with no solemnities. Polygamy was practised, and divorce could be obtained by turning a wife out of doors. If a man wished to marry a woman of different tribe the consent of his own tribe was required as well as that of hers. The wife was treated well if faithful (as was the rule), but might be killed for infidelity. The unmarried girl was allowed liberty unknown to the married. Captain Cook noticed that friends of a girl would consent to her accepting a lover, but that all intercourse before the world was to be scrupulously delicate, and the lover who disregarded the Maori custom was rigorously repelled. As in some of the Polynesian Islands, visitors were as a mark of great politeness and respect provided with a partner at night. It was a custom unforbidden and even encouraged by the moral law of the land, but under the restriction already mentioned.
Children of importance were named by a priest, with a formal rite, in which he sang an incantation praying for heroism and strength for a boy, and industry for a girl. The boy was page 22 dedicated with a chant to the god of war, which imprecated for him all the virtues of a ruler, a workman, and a warrior.
The salutation of Maoris was the hongi, or rubbing of their noses together; and ceremony required a (tangi or) wail on meeting of long-parted friends, or on arrival at any place where friends had died since the last visit.
Dignity was the characteristic bearing of a chief, and there were many Europeans whose admiration of the Maori was unbounded. There were others who commenced their acquaintance with respect, and were repelled into aversion by the uncleanliness of their savage friends. Yet persons of all classes were found who took up a permanent abode with them long before the English set up any form of government in the islands. Such denizens became the clients of a Rangatira or chief, and were called Pākĕhā1 Maoris. A Pakeha of good birth was admittedly a Rangatira Pakeha, but he came under the “mana,”or authority of his Maori patron.
Patron and client acknowledged reciprocal duties. Profit was supposed to accrue to the first from the bargains he made through his Pakeha with, traders. The client, on the other hand, submitting to friendly extortions from his Rangatira, was protected from ill-usage by others.
These singular relations have been described by one who entered into them (Mr. F. E. Maning), and carried to his client-sphere, strength and audacity, which would have made him the idol of gladiators; intelligence and humour, which rank him amongst the raciest of English narrators.
His experiences were published under the title of ‘Old New Zealand, by a Pakeha Maori,’ and it may safely be affirmed that, allowing for passages written for effect, no New Zealand story which is at variance with the spirit of Mr. Maning's book can be trusted, though the lights and shades of his picture show contrasts which, as in other countries, leave room for large and varied disquisitions.
1 Pakeha meant “foreign.”
It may be well to cite his interpretation of a Maori word, on which turned, in the opinion of some persons, the war of 1860 between the colonists and the Maoris, and the greater war which was its consequence.
“Mana' has several different meanings, and the difference between these diverse meanings is sometimes very great, and sometimes only a mere shade of meaning, though one very necessary to observe; and it is therefore quite impossible to find any one single word in English, or in any other language that I have any acquaintance with, which will give the meaning of ‘mana’ And, moreover, though I myself do know all the meanings and different shades of meaning properly belonging to the word, I find a great difficulty in explaining them.… Virtus, prestige, authority, good fortune, influence, sanctity, luck, are all words which, under certain conditions, give something near the meaning of mana, though not one of them gives it exactly.…Mana sometimes means more than a natural virtue or power attaching to some person or thing, different from and independent of the ordinary natural conditions of either, and capable of either increase or diminution, both from known and unknown causes. The mana of a priest or tohunga is proved by the truth of his predictions as well as the success of his incantations, which same incantations performed by another person of inferior mana would have no effect. When most of a doctor's patients recovered his mana was supposed to be in full feather.… Mana, in another sense, is the accompaniment of power, but not the power itself; nor is it even in this sense exactly ‘authority,’ according to the strict meaning of the word, though it comes very near it.
“This is the chief's mana. Let him lose the power and the mana is gone; but mind you don't translate mana as power; that won't do; they are two different things entirely. Of this nature also is the mana of a tribe, but this is not considered to be the supernatural kind of mana.
1 Lizard Skin was Mr. Maning's Rangatira. He had borne a part in killing and eating the Frenchmen killed with Marion du Fresne in 1772. He was not the head of his tribe, but nobly connected. “He was,”says his Pakeha, “a model of a Rangatira. He was a little man with a high massive head, and remarkably high square forehead, on which the tattooer had exhausted his art. Though of great age he was still nimble and active. He had evidently been one of those tough active men, who though small in stature are a match for any one. There was in my old friend's eyes a sort of dull, fiery appearance, which when anything excited him, or when he recounted some of those numerous battles, onslaughts, massacres or stormings, in which all the active part of his life had been spent, actually seemed to blaze up and give forth real fire. His breast was covered with spearwounds, and he also had two very severe spear-wounds in his head, but he boasted that no single man had ever been able to touch him with the point of a spear. It was in grand mêlées where he would have sometimes six or eight antagonists that he had received these wounds. He was a great general, and I have heard him criticize closely the order and conduct of every battle of consequence which had been fought for fifty years before my arrival in the country.… Before the introduction of the musket the art of war had been brought to great perfection, and when large numbers were engaged in a pitched battle the order of battle resembled in a most striking manner some of the most approved orders of battle of the ancients… My old friend had a great hatred of the musket. He said that in battles fought with the musket there were never so many men killed as when in his young days men fought hand to hand with the spear; when a good warrior would kill six, or eight, ten, or even twenty men in a single fight.”The old man thus celebrated by Mr. Maning had accidentally killed his own father. Returning from a successful war foray he saw the smoke of fires on the coast. He landed at night to attack the supposed enemy;—surprised the camp, killed the first man himself, and found it was his father. Blows ceased, wordy recriminations ensued as to whether the fault was with the assailants or assailed, for indolence or carelessness:—a tangi or lamentation was indulged in by all, a prisoner was slain and eaten, and Lizard Skin's father's body was carried home with due respect. The killing was considered cleyer, the parricide thought merely unlucky. Mr. Maning saw him die. The old man bequeathed his “mere”to his Pakeha, adjured his tribe “to be brave that they might live,”said that his two old wives would hang themselves (as they did), and with battle cries ringing from his lips, with eyes actually blazing, passed away, and was secretly buried with his spear and tomahawk beside him.
How many ideas clustered around the word in the mind of a Maori could be guessed only by those who had lived amongst the people.
It will be seen hereafter that a colonial minister, a prime mover in the great war of 1860, spoke scornfully of the word “mana,”declaring in the General Assembly that he neither knew nor wanted to know anything about it.
The Tapu of New Zealand, like the Taboo of the islands of the Pacific, was a mysterious power which Europeans were continually offending ignorantly if not maliciously. It held universal sway over all Maoris. A superstitious awe compelled obedience. Though the Ariki, the chief priest or pontifex maximus, could impose it upon any object, he was himself bound to submit to it. In each chief resided a kind of sacredness; the head and back being its principal depositories. If he desired to preserve any land or other object from intrusion he called it his head or back, and to violate the “tapu”thus conferred was a deadly insult to the chief who had imposed it. War-parties were “tapu”; any property could be subjected to it, for a time or indefinitely, and it could only be removed by religious obedience to prescribed forms. The staff or wand on which genealogies were preserved; the first-fruits of the sweet-potato crop; Maoris engaged in making nets; slaves in attendance on chiefs or priests; fishing expeditions, and numerous objects were held to be “tapu”in a sacred sense. The graves of ancestors were “tapu”in the highest degree. He who touched anything sacred placed himself under a ban. He who, when under the “tapu,”entered a house rendered it page 26 unfit for others to approach. Mysterious terror surrounded even an unwitting violation of the singular institution.
A chief with a war-party happened to leave a portion of food prepared for his dinner. Slaves and camp-followers came afterwards to the spot, and one strong man, seeing the food, ate it without asking questions. Being told of the atrocity he had committed the man was seized with convulsions and died in a few hours.1 Yet he was a warrior remarkable for courage, though a slave.
Tapu was thus a mode of preserving property. It preserved the forests, fishing-grounds, and game.
The sick were tapu and isolated accordingly. Enemies of the Maori declared this law selfish. Their friends said that sickness arose from a visitation of an “Atua”or offended spirit, who must be avoided. Tapu thus pervaded every relation in life or death.
The Pakeha Maori himself, Judge Maning, violated it by performing an act of humanity.
Returning with sixty men from an expedition he saw a number of bones on the beach, picked up a human skull and buried it. His companions fled or shrunk from him. He sat apart at night. They placed food near him, which it was his duty to eat without touching it with his hands. They shuddered when in spite of their cries he handled it. They left in dismay, travelled all night, and warned his household, all Maoris, of the accursed plight in which their master would return. The inmates fled. When he reached his home it was desolate. Four days he lived or fumed alone, cooking his own meals and dwelling in his kitchen. Then a “Tohunga,”or priest, came in a canoe to charm away the “tapu.”Mumbling incantations, he made the culprit eat a baked kumera. All the kitchen utensils were doomed to destruction. The very clothes of the offender were thrown away. At night the household returned to their allegiance; but a new kitchen was built, as none of them would enter the old one for many years after its desecration.
1 ‘Old New Zealand, by a Pakeha Maori.’ London, 1876.
The bewildered audience had retired to rest when Mr. Maning heard the report of a gun and the wailing of women. The distracted girl had shot herself, and her father, himself a Tohunga, with one hand supported the lifeless body as he knelt, and with the other twisted in agony his matted hair, howling in despair, as he sustained the shattered remains of his child. Thus speaks Mr. Maning: “A calm low voice spoke close beside me— ‘She has followed her Rangatira,’ it said. I looked round and saw the famous Tohunga of the night.”
On the minds of such a people the tapu wielded a potent influence. Dread of supernatural rather than of human vengeance sanctified it in their eyes; but their traditions, laws, and customs, gave it minute application, and hardened its use. The authority which first enjoined obedience had passed into the hand of the high-born Ariki, at once patriarch and priest, and endowed with a power which if scorned by the wilful or careless might call supernatural curses upon them. Supposed to be sprung from Heaven the power was wielded by man, and no Maori disputed it.
The Maori prized “high birth, vigour of bone, desert of service.”The noble families which had immigrated from Hawaiki were, in their several tribes, the governors of the new land. Yet the principal chief could scarcely be called a kind even in his own tribe. Priest and the great chief were the two highest orders. Next to them were the “Rangatira,”the general name for every chief of noble birth.page 28
There was a middle class, and a lower class of people, and under all were the slaves; the captives, and the children of the αἰχμαλῶτοι, who abounded in the land, as the hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Stern even after death, the law of slavery was believed to extend beyond the grave. The great were to be happy, and in various dwellings in space each Maori was to find his eternal abode.
A Rangatira of great fame might acquire more weight in council than the tribal chief, but the latter was not deposed from his hereditary position.
Like the Germans of old, Maori chieftains came of noble birth; their leaders in war were chosen for their valour.1
In the councils of the old men the movements of the tribe were determined, and great meetings were held at which orators declaimed before their countrymen. Ever among them the speaker who could most artfully or pathetically interweave ancient song or proverb with his reasoning succeeded best in reaching their hearts, and sometimes roused them to ungovernable applause.
Ancestry and veneration for the past held sway. They loved the land which enshrined their forefathers with a feeling repellent of marketable value.
War was the delight and occupation of every chief.
The almost universal salutation to Captain Cook was, “Haromai, Haromai, harre uta a Patoo-patoo oge,”which Tupia translated into, “Come on shore, come on shore, and we will kill you all with our Patoo-patoos.”
Tradition said that the warriors who landed in the Tainui, at Kawhia, crossed the island and burned the Arawa canoe at Maketu, while the people were spread abroad at Rotorua and Taupo.
The torch of war was never afterwards quenched.
A proverb said that women and land were the causes of strife.
The first Europeans who visited New Zealand found the Maoris dwelling in forts framed on hills to prevent surprise.
1 Reges ex nobilitate, duces ex virtute, sumunt.—Tacitus.
An ill-tempered man might, however, bring on war at any time by rearing an effigy of a chief and striking it. The insult demanded redress as if cast upon the living man. It was an insult not to him only, but to his tribe, and any of them might avenge it. The result was chronic war.
“Wherever we landed,”Cook wrote, “the people told us that we were at but a small distance from their enemies.”
With the savageness of cravers for an enemy's flesh the Maori mingled feelings of delicacy and honour.
Opposing armies have broken up their forces until a fixed day, in order to let one or other side attend to a farming operation, or celebrate the obsequies of a friend.
On the day fixed the ranks of war were resumed. It was customary to warn an enemy of the time when he would be attacked. If he was starving food has been supplied. After a battle visits were sometimes interchanged, and even the future plan of the campaign discussed, before it was resumed with Maori ferocity.
The weapons of old time were spear and club. Captain Cook described the heavy spear as fourteen or fifteen feet long. There was also a lighter lance hurled by hand, and clubs were used as battle-axes. The Patoo-patoo, or wooden club, described by Cook, was, he thought, the main weapon relied upon. It was larger than the favourite weapon, the “mere,”made of choicest green-stone. He noted with wonder that there was no defensive armour, and that neither the sling nor the bow was to be seen or heard of. He saw their war-dance, and described the contortions of limb and face, the thrusting out of the tongue, the strength, agility, and harmony of movement by every performer. With brandished weapons, sudden but concerted motion, now bounding in the air and cleaving it with his club, yelling in chorus and pausing at the same instant, each Maori maddened himself for the combat in which each selected an individual foe. The darling object was to inflict more loss than was received, page 30 and to seize the bodies of the slain. The victors pursued the defeated and then returned to their cannibal rites. The heads of their own slain chiefs were carried home with reverence, those of the enemy were carried in derision on the points of spears.
The women went out to meet their returning warriors. The widow of a slain warrior has been known to brain more than one prisoner brought back in bonds. She could also doom a slave to die to avenge her husband. The tapu was duly removed from the returning war-party.
The heads of fallen chiefs were placed with the bones of their ancestors, but could be produced to excite the tribe to vengeance. Those of the foe were reared about the pah or village, and continually insulted.
“Where is your father? eaten! Your brother? eaten! Your wife? There she sits, a wife for me! Your children carry burdens as slaves!”
The doom which Hector dreaded for Andromache fell with dire reality on Maori wives. Maori savageness, more cruel than the Greek,1 strove to torture the spirits of the dead whose families were enslaved.
Captain Cook visited a pah at Mercury Bay, and described it minutely. It stood on a promontory facing the sea on two inaccessible sides. A steep avenue led to it on a third side from the beach, and the fourth could be approached by a narrow ridge communicating with the mainland. The outer palisade (which encircled the whole pah) was ten feet high, consisting of strong timbers bound with withes. There was a ditch outside. There was an inner palisade. The ditch between the palisades was twenty-four feet deep. Two stages, twenty feet high, forty feet long, and six broad, afforded a station whence, from within the inner palisade, the besieged might hurl darts and stones on their assailants. Piles of such missiles were ready for use. The only entrance to the interior was by a narrow passage communicating with the avenue from the beach and passing under one of the stage-forts.
1 'Aλλἀ μἐ τεϑνειω̃τα χυτὴ κατὰ γαι̃α καλὐЛτοι Пρἰν γ' ἔτι ση̃ς τε βοής σον̃ ϑ' ἑλκηϑμοι̃ Лυϑέσϑαι. ‘Iliad,’ vi. 464.
By the side of the hill was a patch of cultivation tended by the dwellers in the fort.
The great navigator was lost in astonishment at a people who having genius for building so admirably a place of defence, had invented no better missile than the dart thrown by the hand. Every village, he said, was a fort.
Carved heads, or figures like vast idols, were placed over the gateways of pahs, and wooden figures with protruded tongues were placed at intervals in the palisades.
Before the introduction of fire-arms Maori villages were forts placed on hills. The inhabitants marched down to till the soil under the guard of fighting men in times of danger.
There was one compensating result. The hills were healthy sites, and in spite of decimation by wars the population of the North Island was considerable when first seen by Europeans.
A law called “Muru,”or “plunder,”was strange. If a man's child fell into the fire, if his canoe were upset, if a fire he had kindled spread too far, the “hapus,”or subsections of the great tribe to which he belonged, were entitled to assemble and inflict the penalty of the “muru”upon him. The victim was informed beforehand, and the compliment to him was greater in proportion to the size of the marauding band. He prepared a feast of all that he had.
The “taua muru”(or party for the muru) arrived, and was welcomed with shouts. The inevitable war-dance was exhibited by the guests and hosts. A spear-combat ensued between the victim and the leader of the “muru”band. Fierce as it seemed it was not meant to be fatal. When blood was drawn it ceased.
The visitor roared out “Murua! Murua! Murua!”and his friends began, according to law, to sack the village, while the late combatants sat down to converse together, scrupulously avoiding any allusion to the original delinquency which caused the “muru.”
The general effect of the custom was, according to Mr. Maning, to destroy the privileges of personal property.
He saw a coat, purchased from a trader, pass into six hands page 32 before, under the operation of the muru, it returned dilapidated to the first purchaser.
The muru may have been a partial antidote to the conservative operation of the tapu. Though life was sacred during the muru it was little cared for if taken during a proper quarrel. Yet if a man killed another by accident his offence was heinous. He and his kindred were open to plunder by the friends of the deceased. A Maori commentator speaking of the Muru Whakanui (stripping to exalt), or complimentary Taua, argued that in Maori eyes it really honoured its sufferer. If any disaster to a chief were to be unnoticed, men would quote the proverb, “Ah, the death of a dog, no heed need be given to it.”Another object was, he said, to caution the men of the tribe to take proper care of the chief. In preserving his influence they were guarding themselves.1
A slave might at any time be killed by his master.
The reverence for war extended to sanctioning acts which would otherwise be wrongful. A war-party, or even a band which had travelled for a great war-dance and festival, could lawfully plunder inoffensive strangers as it travelled homewards. But its legalized rapine was moderate. It did not sack or destroy.
Where land was proverbially a cause of war, titles orally preserved became hopelessly involved.
The paramount authority of the chief, his “mana,”was the only safeguard.2 He could not sell the village of his friends, nor the patrimony of any of them; but the tribe required his sanction to make good their own transactions. Strange rights accrued and multiplied. A fishing right possessed by a man's father entitled him to compensation, and the owner of the spot could not sell without satisfaction to the claimant.
Marriage relations conferred partial rights.
One man claimed compensation because his grandfather had been murdered on land—another because his own grandfather had committed the murder.
If wise counsels could not allay strife, fresh fighting conferred fresh rights.
2 Chiefs descended from the leaders of the immigration from Hawaiki were deemed to have special mana over the tribal land.
Conquest—absolute conquest with occupation—gave indefeasible title. But if a remnant of a defeated tribe escaped death or captivity, it preserved its rights except as regarded those portions of its birthright which the conquerors chose to occupy, to till, or to hunt or fish over.
Known of all men among Maoris, after a fashion, these rights were to be the source of unnumbered woes by means of Englishmen whose interests were supposed to lie in despising or disputing them.
In 1871 the Native Lands Court was long engaged in an inquiry as to the consequence of a Maori war of 1830.
The Ngatihaua chief claimed Te Aroha on both sides of the Waihou river by virtue of conquest. The Ngatimaru admitted their defeat at Taumatawiwi, in the Waikato district, and their expulsion therefrom, but denied the loss or evacuation of the Aroha block, which they pleaded that, though it was ravaged by marauding parties, they had never ceased to occupy more or less. The allegation of the Ngatihaua was that certain of their number had occupied places in the land, and thus acquired complete title accruing from conquest.
After much conflict of evidence before Judges Maning (the Pakeha-Maori) and Monro, the claims of the Ngatihaua were rejected by the Court.
The dispute furnished a key to the endless causes of war amongst a race whose titles were recorded only in oral tradition.
Another trial of a question of title before the Native Lands Court in 1869,1 gave startling proof of the sufferings undergone by the dwellers on the rich lava fields, which abound on the isthmus which divides the Hauraki Gulf from the harbour of Manukau. Each volcanic cone was in 1720 a fortress terraced by the hand of man. The traveller marvels now at the vast remains of labour performed with wooden implements. More than a score of such hills, varying from one hundred and fifty to six hundred and forty-two feet in height, are within six miles of the centre of the isthmus.
1 The Orakei Case. Chief Judge Fenton's Judgment.
The ancient dwellers, the Ngaiwi (i.e. the tribes), had been broken; the isthmus was the highway of war-parties; and the Ngatiwhatua, who were the nominal occupants, were plundered by each marauding war-party that traversed their territory, and were also involved in perpetual strife with the Ngatipaoa.
The distribution of the tribes at the time of the English occupation in 1840, may be briefly summarized thus:
In the extreme north of Te Ika o Maui (the North Island of the colonists) the Aopouri had been decimated by wars with their neighbours, the Rarawa.
South of the Rarawa territory, which approached Hokianga, the Ngapuhi, Hongi's tribe, occupied the land from sea to sea, until they reached the land of the Uriohau, extending from Kaipara to Cape Rodney, and bounded on the south by the territory of the much-enduring Ngatiwhatua,1 at and near Auckland, the highway of war-parties.
The Ngatitai held the small block which is bounded on the west by the Tamaki Creek and the Manukau harbour, and does not quite extend to the Papakura river nor to the Wairoa on the south.
Thence the Waikato tribes occupied the Waikato river from its mouth upwards, above the confluence of the Waipa river, where was the Maori settlement Ngaruawahia, or “the meeting of the waters.”
1 “Nga”—the plural of the article “te,”“the,”or Ngati—was the usual affix to the names of tribes, e.g. Ngatimaru, Ngatimaniapoto, Ngatiawa. Sometimes, e.g. Rangitane, the affix was not used. Sometimes it was abbreviated, as in Ngapuhi.
Inland the Ngatimaniapoto met the Ngatiraukawa, a tribe which held land on the Waikato upwards from Maungatautari towards Lake Taupo, from which the Waikato or Horotiu river streamed northwards.
The Ngatitama held a tract of land extending inland from Mokau to upper sources of the Wanganui river. The Ngatiawa held a much-loved territory at the Waitara, although their principal chief had, in concert with Rauparaha, led forces southwards to conquer new lands. Mount Egmont was included in the Ngatiawa boundary.
The Taranaki tribe held a small tract on both sides of Cape Egmont, with the whole of its coast.
The Ngatiruanui held the land fronting the Waimate bight, and stretching inland so as to include a portion of the Wanganui river. A small tract, including Waitotara and extending nearly to Wanganui, was held by the Ngarauru.
The Ngatihau held the lower part of the Wanganui river and joined the Ngatiruanui on the north, although the Ngarauru boundary projected sufficiently to enclose a small portion of the Wanganui.
South of the Ngatihau territory was an expanse in which the Rangitiki and Manawatu rivers and a portion of the Tararua mountains were included. In this expanse were the lands of the Muaupoko, the Rangitane, and the Ngatiapa.
Superadded to them in certain places were the Ngatiraukawa, who, on the invitation of Rauparaha, followed him to enjoy his southern conquests. When the Colonial Government endeavoured to buy lands in the district the numerous titles were so little understood or respected that neither Sir Donald McLean nor any other agent could ascertain how to deal with them; and undoubted claims of ownership were in danger of being set aside at the risk of violence or war, until, after many years of temporizing and shuffling on the part of one ministry after another, the Native Lands Court in 1869 applied the test of law, and some of the blunders of the Government agents were exposed.
The Ngatitoa, under Rauparaha, held the Island Kapiti, and also a tract on the mainland, including the Porirua harbour and a great portion of the (Eritonga or) Hutt river.
The peninsula which includes Port Nicholson was held by another branch of the Ngatiawa, of whom the principal chief was E Puni.
In the enumerated tribes each will be seen to have held some land bordering on the sea. But there was one great tribe which occupied the heart of the island and had no such sea-claims. Nevertheless the great Lake Taupo, often called m&ocar;&acar;n&acar; or sea, by the Maoris, was in their domain.
The Ngatituwharetoa, under the giant Te Heu Heu, held that domain; which was bounded on the west by the Waikato tribal lands, by the Ngatitama, by a small portion of the Ngatiruanui mountain land, by the interior boundaries of the Ngatihau lands, and by the district of those composite claims which no New Zealand Government or agent could unravel.
On the north Te Heu Heu met the Ngatiraukawa; i. e. the residue of the tribe who had not cast in their fortunes with Rauparaha at Rangitiki and Manawatu.
The east coast from Cape Palliser to Paretu (north of Table Cape) was considered to be the land of the Ngatikahungunu. Their western boundary was formed by the eastern limits of the lands of the Ngatiapa, the Ngatitoa, the Ngatiawa (at Waikanae), the composite district, and by Te Heu Heu's central domain, and ran for a long distance along the great Ruahine Range. Their spacious territory was occupied by numerous hapu or sub-tribes. Mr. Colenso, preparing a census in 1849, enumerated forty-five without exhausting them.
Poverty Bay was the heritage of the Rongowhakaata, who were bounded at Gable End Foreland by the Ngatiporou, who held the coast thence round the East Cape to Cape Runaway.
Thence on the eastern are of the Bay of Plenty to Opape the Whanauapanui held the land. From Opape to the river Whakatane the Whakatohea ruled.
Both the Whanauapanui and the Whakatohea territories were bounded by the land of the Ngatiporou in the interior.page 37
From Whakatane to Waitahanui the land was held by a section of the widely-distributed rovers, the Ngatiawa.
From Waitahanui to Papomoa the Arawa held the coast, and their territory extended inland to the hot-lake district of Rotorua and Rotomahana.
There was in the interior, at the back of the Ngatiawa district just mentioned, a rugged tract belonging to the Uriwera tribe. They required the almost inaccessible fastnesses of the Whakatane mountains to shelter them from their numerous neighbours. Their boundaries touched upon the lands of the Ngatiawa, the Arawa, the Ngatituwharetoa under Te Heu Heu, the Ngatikahungunu (from Tauhara to Lake Waikaremoana), the Rongowhakaata, and the Whakatohea.
On the coast from Papamoa to Katikati the Ngaiterangi held the land. On their northern boundary they met the Ngatimaru and Ngatipaoa, who, with their numerous subdivisions (some of which derived their name from ancestors of bygone centuries), held the whole of the Coromandel Peninsula, with great portions of the Thames and Piako rivers, and whose western boundary was co-terminous with the Waikato boundary, and ran through the Wairoa range, trending northerly until it met the waters of the Hauraki Gulf at the mouth of the Wairoa river.
The population of the tribes thus distributed in the Northern Island was believed to exceed one hundred thousand. Rumour said that it had once been greater. It was plain that by desertion or otherwise many once populous forts and villages had become desolate.
There were amongst the Maoris living in 1840 many who held high reputations as counsellors or warriors. Hongi had left the world which he had troubled, and Te Waharoa had died of disease. But Rauparaha at Kapiti, Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitake at Waikanae, Te Whero Whero in Waikato, Rewi among the Ngatimaniapoto, Waka Nene and his brother Patuone among the Ngapuhi, Panakareao among the Rarawa, and other chiefs on the east and west coasts, maintained their fame. Conspicuously at Lake Taupo the Ngatituwharetoa chief, Te Heu Heu, was the undisputed leader of men.
1 ‘Rambles in New Zealand,’ by J. C. Bidwell. London, 1841.
The Middle Island, Te Wai Pounamu, the land of mountain, flood, and fiord, seems never to have been largely peopled. Various traditions were extant as to the manner in which the Maoris overspread it sparsely.
No distinct story explained the fate of the tribe supposed to have been landed from the Takitumu canoe. It may have recrossed Raukawa (Cook's Strait) to the warmer land of Te Ika o Maui.
Precise narratives declare that under Tauriapareko a detachment of the Ngatihau sailed from Wanganui and occupied the Arahura country, where the precious green-stone was found; and that from that detachment sprung the Ngaituahuriri, a powerful hapu of the Ngaitahu, whom the English found in possession.
Maori tradition ascribes to another migration from Taupo, by way of Wanganui, the occupation of the southern shore of Cook's Strait by the Ngatitumatakokiri, who were, in 1642, the assailants of Tasman in what is now called Golden Bay.
Other migrations succeeded.2 The sanguinary wars of the North Island were imitated in the South. Reinforcements sallied from the Northern Island to aid friends or conquer new lands.
The Ngatikuri, a branch of the Ngatiruanui, migrated to Cloudy Bay.
1 Te Heu's brother who succeeded him composed a pathetic but proud lamentation for the lost chief, who was “a spreading tree to shelter his people when evil hovered near.”Stars disappearing were emblems of the beloved lost one.… What strange god has caused so dread a death?… Show again thy strong frame… Ah! the people are comfortless and sad… Lo! thou art fallen. The earth receives thee as its prey. But thy wondrous fame shall rise resounding through heaven.
2 Details may be found in ‘A Compendium of Official Documents relative to Native Affairs in the South (or Middle) Island,’ compiled by Alexander Mackay, Native Commissioner, 2 vols. Printed at the Government Printing Office, Wellington, 1873.
The Ngatimamoe, descendants of the warriors of the Aotea canoe, migrated from Wanganui, rather to slay and conquer than to discover new lands.
The Ngaitahu, sprung from the Ngatikahungunu of the east coast, went forth to slaughter their cousins in the Middle Island about the time when Philip II. planned the destruction of the English by means of his invincible Armada.
After wars, reconciliations, inter-marriages, and renewals of slaughter and cannibalism, the Ngatimamoe were thrust to the south, and the Ngaitahu held sway to the north of the 43rd South parallel.
For them a murderous doom was prepared by Rauparaha long after white men had frequented Cook's Strait, increasing rather than diminishing the ferocity which prevailed.
In 1827 Rauparaha slew hundreds at Kaikora, and though peace was made he planned fresh assaults. In one expedition he met a rebuff which he never forgave. His uncle, Te Pehi, while engaged with other chiefs in entrapping the Ngaitahu, was slaughtered, and Rauparaha, who had been wily enough to avoid the fate of his uncle, sullenly retired, brooding over schemes of vengeance, in which he was to be aided by the master of a British vessel, in 1831.
Speaking in general terms it may be said that, in 1831, Rauparaha and his allies had, by slaughter and subsequent occupation, acquired a title to much territory on the south shore of Cook's Strait. But he was not glutted with revenge, and besieged and captured, with the usual cannibal results, a great pah at Kaiapoi, where hundreds of the Ngaitahu fell. Nevertheless the remnant of the tribe maintained a desultory warfare, and Tuhawaiki on one occasion surprised the wary Rauparaha himself, who only escaped by swimming in the sea to his fleet of canoes at the mouth of the Blind River. About 1835 Rauparaha formally apportioned to his own tribe the Ngatitoa, and to his Ngatiawa and other allies the territories at Cloudy Bay, at D'Urville Island, Queen Charlotte's Sound, and Tasman Bay.
The Ngaitahu by degrees returned from the south, and under the increasing influence of the missionaries felt themselves safe near their old homes at Kaiapoi. Soon after Bishop Selwyn's page 40 arrival he went with a son of Rauparaha in a small vessel to preach peace among the Ngaitahu, upon whom Rauparaha's vengeance had fallen so heavily.
The decimation of the Ngaitahu and the Ngatimamoe, though it left territory to them, grievously impaired their importance, and made it easy for the English to procure for trifling sums enormous tracts, which were represented as useless to the owners. Part of the consideration was to be the provision of schools, hospitals, and the application of fifteen per cent. of the land revenue for their welfare. The “unfulfilled promises,”of which they complained year after year, and the ignoble evasions of the New Zealand Government, form a dreary episode in their history. It may be mentioned that when the British Government assumed the sovereignty of the Middle Island the Ngaitahu were recognized as lords of the soil of the east coast from Kaiapoi to Stewart's Island, but there had been much intermarriage between them and the Ngatimamoe.
There was a race, the Moriori, settled at the Chatham Islands, and it has been suggested that they, the original denizens of New Zealand, had gradually been driven southwards. But their language was not so different as to demand such an explanation.
The proclivity to decay and degradation which, after a period of high culture, plunged ancient Egyptian and Phœnician cities into relative barbarism, has often abased other families of the human race, and the Moriori cannot fairly be classed as a being of different order from the Maori because he is not his equal now.
The Ngatiawa proved their roving tendencies long after Europeans were visitors to their country. A chief chartered an English vessel in 1838 and sailed to the Chatham Islands, where he subdued the Moriori inhabitants, and established his own people.
1 A grammar, drawn up by Kendall previously, had, by Mr. Marsden's aid, been printed in Sydney in 1818. Revised by Professor Lee as described in the text, the new edition was printed by the Church Missionary Society in London in 1820.
Their veneration for nobility of birth preserved them from becoming an undistinguished herd. Their intricate laws of tapu had lost no vigour during the centuries of their occupation of New Zealand, which preceded the English intrusion. Divided into tribes and rent by wars, the Maori race clung to the laws and rites of its ancestors. It had, or rather it may be said each tribe preserved, definite laws and rules of conduct for all cases. Howsoever or wheresoever adopted it had a code commanding right and forbidding wrong in a manner questioned by none. It had all the foundations of sovereignty which resides in lawful states. There was no disaffection; there was unhesitating submission or concurrence with that which the accredited rulers declared to be just.
But for their wars and their lust for cannibalism the Maoris might have been happy, so far as man can attain happiness without hopes and aspirations which prepare him for a life to come. Of that life to come they had consciousness, but their laws did not teach how to attain it with the blessing of a Father in heaven. The priceless heritage of man in the Lord's Prayer was not revealed to them until gifts from vile sources had poisoned the springs of their life. Yet they retained remnants page 42 of creeds which their ancestors in America or other lands had professed. They believed in a future state though they did not worship one great Creator. They recognized rather than worshipped special powers or gods, the makers of trees, of mountains, of fish, the patrons of men and of war. Even to them they did not address prayer, though in their ancient karakia, or incantations, they referred to their attributes, more by way of exorcism than in humility.
The nearest approach to practical worship was reverence for ancestry, but it did not assume the form of prayer. The Lares Familiares of Italy, the Θεοὶ ἐΦέστιοι of Greece, the Pitris of Hindustan, were reproduced if not continued in the tūpŭnă (ancestors) of the Maori. High on the pediment of the great house of a tribe was carved the image of the Ἥρως ἐЛώνυμος. To the distant progenitor were often assigned virtues or powers more than mortal. In the dim regions of mythology the supernatural and natural were blended.
Maui was mortal, but had power to fish up the Northern Island from the depths of the sea. He controlled the sun and moon in their courses.
Yet were the Maoris not without traditions of the throes by which the world they saw around them was wrought into its forms.
From primæval night had sprung light and thence came nothingness. Afterwards followed in succession various abstractions, which produced at last Rangi and Papa (Heaven and Earth). From them sprung the things which men see. Before Heaven and Earth were parted their children were in darkness and became rebellious. They determined to rive asunder their parents or to slay them. One only, Tawhiri-matea, the father of winds and storms, would not consent.
Rongomatane, the god and father of the cultivated food of man, struggled to rend apart Heaven and Earth, but failed. Tangaroa, the god and father of fish and reptiles, Haumiatikitiki, the god and father of the food of man which springs without cultivation, Tu-matauenga, the god and father of fierce human beings, strove in vain in like manner. Then Tane-mahuta, the god and father of forests, of birds, and of insects, rose and with giant force suceeeded. Heaven and Earth were sundered; darkness was made manifest, and so was the light.page 43
Then were seen the multitudes of human beings hitherto concealed between the bodies of Rangi and Papa. But the god and father of storms, Tawhiri-matea, followed his father to the realms above, and hurried to the sheltered hollows in the boundless skies. Thence, in indignation at the sundering of his parents, he sent forth clouds and hurricanes, sweeping away forests, lashing the ocean into fury, and terrifying his rebellious brothers, all but one of whom he conquered. But Tu-matauenga, the god of fierce man, resisted him, and slew and ate his brethren who would not aid in the struggle. But, like Tu-matauenga, Tawhiri-matea was unconquerable, and remained the enemy of man whom he still vexes with storms. Tu-matauenga taught the human race incantations and prayers;—to Heaven for fair weather and to Earth to bring forth all things abundantly.
The tradition told by the Maoris to Sir George Grey concluded thus:—“Up to this time the vast Heaven has still remained separate from his spouse, the Earth. Yet their mutual love still continues. The soft warm sighs of her loving bosom still ever rise up to him, ascending from the woody mountains, and men call these mists; and the vast Heaven, as he mourns through the long nights his separation from his beloved, drops frequent tears upon her bosom, and men seeing these, term them dewdrops.”1
The children of Tu-matauenga multiplied upon earth, and in due time Maui, the Maori demigod, was born.2 How he wrought great deeds; arrested the wandering sun so as to lengthen the daylight within which man might work; wielded enchanted weapons; fished from the sea the Northern Island (Te Ika o Maui, “The Fish of Maui”); procured fire; transformed himself at will; and vainly strove to win immortality for mankind by defying Hine-nui-te-po, the goddess of death, may be read in the traditions recounted to Sir George Grey by the Maoris, who claimed descent from Maui as the ancestor of the men of Hawaiki and of Aotearoa.3
3 The general name for the islands in Maori tradition.
Howsoever the custom arose, the cannibalism imputed to Tu-matauenga, the god of fierce man, was not only imitated but enshrined as a part of the religion of the Maoris. It was not as mere food that flesh was eaten. The feast was the incarnation of triumph, and, as such, was not shame but glory.
The foulest and most disgusting scenes were enacted in the sight of Englishmen. Human bodies strewn about the ground; fragments carried to the ovens and thrust before the face of the visitor in boasting or derision; sights at which humanity might shudder to its inmost core,—were the sequel to every battle.
Maori tradition tells that the Maori was not a cannibal when the Arawa and her sister canoes carried the race to its new homes; but the horrid rite existed and remained among islands of the Pacific.
Revenge and superstition gave it force in New Zealand. The hatred of the living was fed; the dead were disgraced by being eaten. One corpse was set apart for the god of war; and portions of it were kept as symbols to remove the “tapu”from the conquering war party. It was the ferocious desire of the victors to prevent, as it was ever the heroism of the vanquished to secure, the carrying away of the dead and wounded. It was so great a disgrace to the Maoris to be eaten that if a crew of them were starving, under circumstances in which Europeans have yielded to the dying lust for human food, the Maori would welcome death rather than let a morsel of a friend approach his lips. He devoured his enemy with a passion accursed by his religion. He ate a slave as a tribute to a friend who was dead.
The women were not indulged in the repast. But for the chief woman of the tribe was reserved the devouring of a portion of the first victim slain in battle, consecrated to the Atua, or god, who had given victory.
The ferocity of the Maori was raised to the dignity of a religious rite.
Captain Cook, from whom the natives did not conceal the truth, was at first inclined to ascribe their cannibalism to a want of animal food. But, during his stay, he did not acquire a knowledge of the superstitions connected with it. On his second visit he said: “Neither this, nor the want of food of any page 45 kind can, in my opinion, be the reason. But, whatever it may be, it was too evident that they have a great liking for this kind of food.”
Trained thus, the Maori was athirst for blood and gloried in inspiring terror. Thus was said to have sprung up the custom of tattooing, which Maoris declare to have been adopted after the migration to New Zealand. Yet, as it prevailed among the islands whence they came, it is open to every inquirer to decide for himself whence the New Zealand custom was derived.
The face, hips, and thighs of men were scored in waving patterns, of which each line had a name. The heraldic bearing of a chieftain was worn on his face, and was as well known as the tartan of a Highland clan. The duskier countenances became almost black with the process, dark vegetable pigments being inserted when the lines were cut. The priest performed the operation with a mallet and sharp incisor. Bystanders sung ancient songs to inspire the patient with fortitude. The elders accumulated their adornments by degrees, and shone superior to the young.
Whether adopted to terrify the enemy or not, the curved lines became beautiful to the Maori eye, and the women suffered the disfigurement on the lip, chin, and eyelid. Captain Cook, in 1770, though disgusted with the horrid deformity of the “human face divine,”could not but admire the dexterous elegance with which the lines were impressed with such “luxuriance of fancy that, of a hundred which at first sight appeared exactly the same, no two were, upon a close examination, found to be alike.”
1 Many of the traditions of the Maoris have been preserved by Sir George Grey, vide ‘Mythology and Traditions of the New Zealanders,’ London, 1854; and ‘Poetry of the New Zealanders,’ New Zealand, 1853. They are also detailed at some length in ‘New Zealand and its Inhabitants,’ by the Rev. Richard Taylor, M.A., F.G.S.: London, 1870; and in the Volumes of the ‘New Zealand Institute,’ by the learned W. Colenso, F.L.S.
The word “Maori,”which means “native,”was used as the descriptive term for “man,”before the arrival of European voyagers made it necessary to invent another term, Pakĕha, “foreign,”to describe other races of mankind.
Savagely addicted as were the tribes to war their abodes appear to have been, for some time, comparatively unchanged until the introduction of fire-arms revolutionized the mode of warfare.
Early in the 19th century the visits of whaling and other vessels had supplied fire-arms to a limited extent in the districts north of the Gulf of Hauraki.
In 1820, Captain Cruise of H. M. 84th Regiment, saw twelve muskets in the hands of a tribe at Whangaroa, and heard at the Bay of Islands that the fire-arms possessed by the Ngapuhi had made them “the terror and scourge of New Zealand.”
An illustration of Maori conquest, within the range of modern evidence, may here be given.
The wily Ngatitoa chief Rauparaha, at Kawhia, when he heard of the traffic of fire-arms in the north, scented danger from afar, and devised schemes of conquest at Cook's Strait which might not only place him at a distance from the Ngapuhi, but enable him to barter successfully for powder and shot.
At the same time the savage Hongi was hungering for yet more weapons, and told Cruise “he should die if he did not go to England;”for there he would procure at least twelve muskets and a double-barrelled gun.
Another chief, about to become a great warrior, was keenly observing the course of events, and plotting for the aggrandisement of his tribe, a section of the Waikato people. Te Waharoa, the Ngatihaua leader, was the son of Taiporutu. Taiporutu in the act of attacking a pah, had been slain in the Waharoa, or principal gateway, and when his widow brought forth a son soon afterwards, she called him Te Waharoa in memory of the father's deeds.
Carried away captive to Rotorua, when two years old, he had page 47 almost grown to man's estate when, about 1795, he was allowed to return to the dwelling-place of his tribe, then established near the Maungakawa Range, which overlooks the Waikato river, near Cambridge, and from which in a northerly direction the heads of the Piako river, the Waitoa, and the Thames flow down the extensive valley called after the latter.
Established upon the streams were the Ngatimaru and their kindred; and the brain of Te Waharoa devised schemes for expelling them, and seizing the rich lands on the upper portions of the Piako, the Waitoa, and the Thames, as well as securing possession of a portion of the east coast at Tauranga by conquest, or by negotiation with the occupying Ngaiterangi, and obtaining, by traffic with European flax-buyers, the fire-arms which in Maori eyes were the only safeguards against death or slavery.
Active, subtle, and ferocious, distinguished for address and reckless bravery in single combat, he obtained, in spite of the taint of slavery in childhood, undisputed leadership of his tribe. He succeeded in allying himself with the Ngaiterangi, and with their aid inflicted severe loss upon the Ngatimaru.
It has been asserted that Te Waharoa's subtle schemes and alliances with the Ngatimaniapoto branch of the Waikato people drove Rauparaha from the home of his ancestors. It seems more probable that Rauparaha elected his new career for the reasons previously stated.1 He had blood relations amongst the Ngatiraukawa tribe whose head-quarters were at Maungatautari, a remarkable range on the west bank of the Waikato river a few miles above Cambridge. He had visited and won the admiration of the great Taupo chief Te Heu Heu. He had sounded the Ngatimaru about alliances; and it was suspected that with the help of the Ngatiraukawa and the Ngatimaru he hoped to conquer the Waikato tribes who under Te Whero Whero held the valley of the Waikato from Pirongia to the sea.
About 1812 he had visited the Ngatiwhatua, the harassed holders of the lands near Auckland.
1 ‘The Life and Times of Te Rauparaha,’ by W. L. T. Travers. ‘Transactions and Proceedings of New Zealand Institute,’ 1872. Mr. Travers derived much information from Rauparaha's son, and I have availed myself of portions of his narrative, checking them by means of evidence adduced in courts of law.
There the wily Rauparaha, conceiving a design to possess the land, thought it useful to conciliate the occupying Ngatiapa, and friendly relations were established, though a tribute of cherished green-stone implements was extorted.
Again the war-party proceeded to Cape Terawiti, whence the Ngatikahungunu had fled, warned by rumours of the slaying and devouring which had marked the path of the invaders.
Pursued to their pah at Tawhare Nikau the fugitives saw it stormed with great slaughter; and, scattered amongst the hills, fled in terror from the death-dealing fire-arms with which they could not cope. Slaying and capturing, Rauparaha and his friends chased the unhappy flyers as far as Porangahau, north of Cape Turnagain, before they retraced their steps to gorge their warriors upon the bodies left at Tawhare Nikau.
As they finally departed homewards the sagacious Waka Nene, seeing a European vessel in Cook's Straits, said: “Rauparaha, see you those people sailing on the sea? They are a good people. If you subdue this land and traffic with them for fire-arms you will become very great.”
Rauparaha hardly needed the hint. On his return he cultivated the friendly feeling already established with the Ngatiapa. The chief of that powerful tribe had avoided the general ruin as Rauparaha and his friends passed down the coast. He led his people into the mountains, and the scourge passed on leaving page 49 his tribe unscathed. A few scattered individuals were caught, but their capture did not constitute a war, nor was it deemed serious. Amongst them was a chieftainess, Pikinga, and the wily Rauparaha, instead of treating her with indignity, negotiated a marriage between her and his nephew Rangihaeata, one of the fiercest of the warriors of the expedition.
Thus were the powerful Ngatiapa ingratiated,1 and made to form a friendly barrier between the new country which Rauparaha intended to occupy, and the northern territories where the musket-possessing tribes were an object of fear.
To his Ngapuhi companions Rauparaha showed no distrust on the return to Kawhia. They passed on loaded with slaves and other spoils to their homes in the north.
But Rauparaha took no rest. The power of fire-arms, proved in his recent bloody campaign, and the ambition of Hongi, who did not conceal his intention to carry fire and slaughter among the tribes south of Auckland, told too surely the probable fate of a small tribe like the Ngatitoa assailable either by warcanoes coastwise, or by land.
Yet the veneration of the Maori for the homes and burialplaces of his forefathers presented a serious obstacle. Rauparaha devoted all his energy to overcome it. He visited his kindred the Ngatiraukawa at Maungatautari to induce them to join in his migration to his southern conquests.
The Ngatiraukawa leader, Hape Tuarangi, the “Ariki”of the tribe, was at the point of death before the assembled people. The dying man asked if his successor could tread in his steps, lead the tribe to victory, and thus keep up their honour. His sons were silent. After a pause Rauparaha rose and said:
“I am able to tread in your steps, and do more than even you.”
1 In ascribing importance to Rauparaha's negotiations and alliance with the Ngatiapa I do not follow Mr. Travers' paper. But I agree with the judgment of the Native Lands Court in the Rangitiki-Manawatu case in 1869, when scores of Maori witnesses were examined. It is better to be right with the Chief Judge (Fenton), and Mr. Maning (the Pakeha-Maori, who delivered the judgment) than to be wrong with Mr. Travers, who as counsel for the losing side may not unfairly be thought to have been biassed. But the point was disputed by many intelligent persons acquainted with the various tribes.
No other chief spoke; the superstitious chiefs accepted the omen, and thenceforward Rauparaha was accepted as a leader of the warlike Ngatiraukawa.
The adoption was not unnatural, for both the Ngatiraukawa and the Ngatitoa tribes traced their descent from a common ancestor, and Rauparaha's mother Parekowhatu was a Ngatiraukawa chieftainess.
Fortified by his new dignity, Rauparaha in frequent visits impressed upon the Ngatiraukawa the necessity of detaching a portion of the tribe to obtain new territory with a coast line which would enable them by traffic with ships to procure the one thing needful—fire-arms—to save them from the incursions of the well-armed men of the north. Gradually he prevailed, and in 1828 a large section of them joined him. Nor was this all, The powerful Ngatiawa tribe which held the land between Mokau and Mount Egmont was largely connected by marriage with the Ngatitoa. He induced many of them also to follow the example of the Ngatiraukawa.
Further diplomacy was needful. His principal successes in war in his youth had been achieved against the Waikato tribes. If the whole tribe of Ngatitoa should be in movement a war-party from Waikato might wreak vengeance for past disgraces. The women and children could not escape the Waikato wrath.
Rauparaha through agency of friendly chiefs of Te Whero Whero's tribe proposed a cessation of hostilities, and offered to cede, on his departure to Kapiti, the Ngatitoa domains to the Waikato tribe.
1 Although these facts have been ascertained after full inquiry in courts of law, I observe that in ‘Reminiscences’ published in a New Zealand newspaper in 1882, Rauparaha's departure is absurdly post-dated to a period long subsequent to the time in which it occurred. He migrated before the invasion of Waikato by Hongi. But the author of the ‘Reminiscences’ attributes his flight to a subsequent invasion at Taranaki by Te Whero Whero.
The main body passed on to Taranaki. In spite of entreaties Rauparaha refused to take back more than twenty chosen warriors to escort the women who had been left behind. He lost no time, for he shared the dread of his people. The Waikato, or the Ngatimaniapoto, might be unable to resist the temptation to destroy the small Ngatitoa band.
Rauparaha himself carried his new-born son. His wife, Akau, of commanding stature, arrayed like a chief with feathers in her hair, and brandishing a war-club, strode in the van with twenty other women similarly attired. As the custom was for women to wear the upper mat over one shoulder, and for men to wear it over the other, the deception was convincing. The weaker people followed, and Rauparaha with his chosen warriors occupied the post of danger.
His precautions were necessary. A band of Ngatimaniapoto had prepared to destroy the travellers; but, deceived by the apparent numbers of Ngatitoa warriors, shrunk from the encounter. The sagacious Rauparaha, having espied them, dashed upon them and slew five. Arriving at the Mokau river he found it swollen by rain and by a high tide. He was constrained to encamp. Again his wiles deceived the enemy. He caused many large fires to be made, and at each were women disguised as warriors. Only one man was at each fire. The rest, with Rauparaha, acted as scouts throughout the night. The men at the fires were ordered to call loudly to one another, saying— “Be strong, ye people, to fight on the morrow if the enemy should return. Think not of life. Consider the valour of our tribe.”
In that night, so awful for the women, a terrible incident occurred. Tangahoe, a chief's wife, had her infant at one of the fires. It began to cry. Rauparaha saw that his stratagem might be exposed. He said to the mother in oracular sternness—“I am that child.”She understood him, and with Roman rigour strangled her babe to save the lives of others.
By these arts and horrors the Ngatimaniapoto were deceived, page 52 and before day-light Rauparaha had crossed the river when the tide was low.
Leaving the women safe in a friendly pah he returned for the bodies of the slain, amongst whom was a notable chief, and the disgusting orgies of cannibalism were revelled in by Rauparaha and his Ngatiawa friends.
The enraged Ngatimaniapoto procured the aid of Te Whero Whero and brought a larger party into the field, accompanied (some said) by Waharoa the Ngatihaua chief.
But the star of Rauparaha was in the ascendant; and, availing himself of a favourable position, with the aid of the Ngatiawa warriors he fell upon the assailants and inflicted a loss of more than a hundred men, who were devoured with the usual atrocities.
Thus freed from danger in the rear, Rauparaha travelled to Tuhua, on the Wanganui, where Te Heu Heu promised assistance in taking possession of Kapiti, but no more. Confident in his own resources he required no new territories.
Thence Rauparaha went to a gathering of the Ngatiraukawa under the authority of the chief Whatanui. Earnestly and eloquently Rauparaha pleaded that the only safety for the Ngatiraukawa was in obtaining fire-arms, and that at Kapiti they could be obtained.
The tribe would not be persuaded. Rauparaha passed on to Rotorua (and even, it was rumoured, to Tauranga), to obtain recruits, but failed.
Months, even years, were consumed before he procured the aid he thought sufficient to ensure safe possession of the lands he had so easily overrun with Waka Nene and Patuone.
The details need not be dwelt upon. It is enough to say that he obtained some Ngapuhi auxiliaries from Pomārĕ, a Ngapuhi chief; that in 1827 he persuaded Te Rangitake, the Ngatiawa chief at Waitara (whose father Reretawhangawhanga accompanied his son), and a large body of Ngatiawa to follow him; that a band of Ngatiraukawa under Ahu Karamu joined him, that Whatanui himself, in company with Te Heu Heu, travelled down the Rangitiki river to see the promised land, and that the result was that, in 1828, a large section of the powerful Ngatiraukawa tribe migrated to share the territory with the successful Rauparaha and his people.page 53
The hairbreadth escapes of Rauparaha, the ferocity with which he pursued the remnants of the conquered tribes, the disputes amongst the conquerors about the conquered land, it would be tedious to relate.
There were battles in which Rangihaeata was distinguished as a fighting chief. There was no occasion on which by guile, strategy, or cruelty, Rauparaha failed to be a gainer.
Once, while he was on the mainland, a combination of the Rangitane, the Muaupoko, the Ngatikahungunu, and others, attacked the Ngatitoa on Kapiti, and hemmed them in at Waiorua. A truce was agreed upon, but it was rudely broken by the arrival of Rauparaha and his warriors, and two hundred of the allied tribes were destroyed.
By a rough rule of rapine, in accordance with Maori law, the land was appropriated by the Ngatitoa, the Ngatiawa, and the Ngatiraukawa. The Ngatiapa, by reason of their alliance with Rauparaha, retained their possessions on the north of the Rangitiki river. At one time there was fighting between the conquerors about the land, but at the suggestion of Rangihaieta's mother, backed by the command of Rauparaha, the Ngatiawa took possession of Waikanae, leaving the Horowhenua country to the Ngatiraukawa. The hapless expelled tribes, pursued by the wrath of Rauparaha (who never forgot or forgave an attempt to murder him at night in a Muaupoko pah, to which he had been inveigled by an offer of canoes; Rauparaha being the only one who escaped), sought refuge in mountain fastnesses, or with their friends at Wanganui and Patea. Some were received as accessions to the Ngatiapa tribe; and Whatanui the Ngatiraukawa leader was kind to them.
As soon as possible, Rauparaha encouraged flax cultivation and other means of bartering for the coveted fire-arms; and vessels calling at Kapiti supplied his wants. Obtaining these, the immigrating Ngatiraukawa were content with their lot, and roving bands of their countrymen joined them occasionally, passing through the friendly territory of “the king of men,”as they esteemed him,—the high-born and gigantic Te Heu Heu.
Some of these events occurred after the bloodthirsty designs of Hongi had been matured and were deluging the north with page 54 blood, but Rauparaha had evaded them, by abandoning Kawhia,1 and ensconcing himself behind the friendly tribes of Te Heu Heu; the Ngatiapa; and his Ngatiraukawa friends in their new homes.
The large migration of many hundreds of the Ngatiawa under Te Rangitake in 1827, strengthened the Ngatitoa position, but it left the remaining Ngatiawa at Waitara a prey to incursions of the Ngapuhi and of Te Whero Whero and the Waikato warparties.
How the ferocious Rauparaha carried to the Middle Island the horrors from which he himself had fled is told elsewhere.
The savage exploits of Hongi, foolishly assisted by high personages, in England and elsewhere, in spite of the imploring voice of Marsden, fill the next page of blood in this story.
The changes in the disposition of the tribes, as above narrated, were chiefly effected by Maori modes of warfare, the fire-arms possessed being mainly confined to the north of Auckland, and few in number, as well as inferior in kind.
Enough has been said to show the state in which the Maori lived before Europeans discovered him, and though some of the foregoing pages have dealt with a condition partly due to the introduction of gunpowder amongst a warlike people, the description of that condition has been confined to the intertribal relations over which no Europeans exercised control.
Up to the date of Rauparaha's conquests no white man could reside in New Zealand except on sufferance. An armed ship might destroy canoes or even villages, but on the land the Maori was undisputed master. Though he traded with white men and appreciated their manufactures, he neither owned nor felt a personal inferiority.
It may be convenient now to cast a hasty glance at the nature of the land of the Maoris, and at some of its productions.
1 I have been assured (1881) by the Bishop of Wellington, Dr. Hadfield, that when in 1840, and subsequently, Rauparaha, then secure in his island home Kapiti, used to discourse on native affairs with him, he could not but reflect, as he saw how the old man guided the movements of the tribes and weighed the consequences of events, that there was before him a man equal in sagacity and eloquence to such personages as Talleyrand or Metternich.
It is a land of mountain and of flood, of everlasting snow, of glaciers, lakes, hot springs, and steep-down precipices outrivalling Norwegian fiords. It is essentially the land of fern. No part of the islands is far enough from the sea to deprive it of moist influences even in the hottest weather, and the nights are cool.
Containing about a hundred thousand square miles, the three islands stretch nearly from the thirty-third to the forty-fifth parallel of south latitude, trending westward from the thirty-sixth.
Cook's Straits divide the Northern (Te Ika o Maui) from the Middle Island (Te wai Pounamu, the water of the green-stone), at the thirty-ninth parallel, while the small Southern (Stewart's) Island (Rakiura), is separated by Foveaux Straits from the south end of the Middle Island. The Northern Island contains about forty-six thousand square miles, the Middle about fifty-seven thousand, while Rakiura is limited to less than sixteen hundred.
Mountains rib the Middle Island from north to south, frowning precipitously on the west coast, and declining more gradually to the east. In the Northern Island Mount Egmont, near Taranaki, towers more than eight thousand feet, while in the Middle Island numerous peaks shoot higher far, and Mount Cook rears his hoary head more than thirteen thousand feet in air.
Frowning towards the west coast in steep-down precipices the mountain range, which includes the granite masses of Mount Cook, forms fiords which have been pronounced equal to those of Norway in grandeur and surpassing them in beauty. Milford Sound, the most celebrated of them, was early chosen as a place of call by steamers carrying pleasure-seekers.
The tourist who wanders inland to see the attendant glories of Mount Cook, arrives at the glaciers of which he may, at one time, count many, and at the same time see towering above and unintercepted by surrounding hills the gleaming snows of the monarch mountain forming a grander solitary peak than European Alps can show. From a cavern in the terminal moraine of the Tasman glacier, three miles wide and more than twenty in length, issues from the cleft ice the Tasman river with a giant's force, hurling large stones, on the surface of the water, page 56 like feathers, and spitting fragments from the upper part of the ice-cliff like stony hail.
At times an apparently tropical vegetation of ferns and tangled vines may be seen almost overhanging a glacier of purest ice. And the mountain scenery extends far to the north of Mount Cook. Great lakes are found on the eastern watershed. The rivers run eastward principally, and on the east are the most level and inviting lands for colonization. Treeless plains or undulating prairies were found at Christchurch, but the high lands are clothed with dense woods. On most of the open ground fern grew extensively, but was not so luxuriant and had not such exclusive possession in the Middle as in the Northern Island.
Only in the Middle Island, and in few places there, was found the valued green-stone. More than three-fourths of the Middle Island are occupied by mountains. In the North Island about one-tenth of the surface is similarly formed.
Yet the Northern Island is neither tame nor wonderless. From the central plateau, elevated two thousand feet, rise two giant peaks Tongariro and Ruapehu, surrounded by smaller hills called by the Maoris the children of the mountain pair. The fires of Ruapehu, which rises more than nine thousand feet above the sea, and is covered for three thousand feet with snow, are now extinct; but the cinder cone of Tongariro is ever capped with the cloud of steam issuing from active craters near its summit. Beneath the cone thus devoured by fire the cooler shoulders of the mountain sometimes put on their garb of snow.
Lake Taupo, covering more than five hundred square miles, lies at the north, and is fed by the streams which flow from the watershed of the great hills. From the lake flows the Waikato river, towards Orakeikorako, a hot-spring district, and after curving westwards, runs northwards through the great Waikato plain. In a line between Lake Taupo and the ever-active White Island, in the Bay of Plenty, is the Lake district, whither travellers resort to gratify their wonder or restore their health.
The boiling water sends up jets of steam, which are so numerous at Rotomahana (or warm lake), that they heat the waters of the whole lake. From a sulphur pool a hot muddy page 57 stream flows to it at one place. Mud is spouted from rocky pits. A roar issues from one hole which stuns the bystander. Close to a hot mud excretion is found a green stagnant pool of great depth, which is cold.
But the terraces of Rotomahana are its glory. The waters coursing downwards to Rotomahana from their boiling pools, have deposited a fretwork of stone in terraces, on one side of the lake white, and on the other pink. At each the water is of vivid blue. At Tarata, the White Terrace, basins as of alabaster, which enclose the pools in terraces widening as the water descends towards the lake, invite the bather to luxury if he has not been sent there for the medicinal favours they afford. From the rims of the terraces hang delicate stalactites. The rock of silica thus created assumes all forms. The most delicate twig or fibre thrown upon the terrace is petrified in marvellous fretwork. The solid rim which forms the ledge of the pools seems like flint corded in gigantic coils to contain the blue water. Some parts of the terraces are solid, and the traveller pauses, fearful of marring the delicate tracery under his foot. At the Pink Terrace (Tukapuarangi, The Clouded Sky), the colour is not all-pervading, but blushing through the white ground-work. Yet as approached by the lake the colour seems general to the eye.
The charm of so rare a colour in rock extorts the admiration of all beholders, but the more symmetrical widening of each concentric terrace, as the geyser overflow descends to the lake, gives the White Terrace the palm in general effect.
Whatever toil the wanderer encountered in journeying to Rotomahana, even when travelling was attended with difficulty, was amply repaid. At the Pink Terrace the fretwork on which the bather treads is not harsh but soft to the touch, and the sourest valetudinarian is compelled to join in admiration.
The Arawa tribe were proud of their heritage in Nature's freaks of beauty and of wonder, for each of which there was a special and descriptive name.
Travellers from afar did not admire Nature less, but more, because the guides to the lakes were the Maoris.
But ever and anon might be heard, as the European population multiplied, muttered complaints that so rare a treasure page 58 should be held by savages. The Arawa, having been consistently friendly to the settlers, could hardly be robbed as others were who had been in arms against the local forces, or who were connected with those who had thus been in arms.
Some diplomacy was needed. The Government (Mr. Hall's) in 1881 passed a law based on an arrangement made by Chief Judge Fenton (of the Native Land Court), with the Arawa chiefs. A block of land was appropriated for a township at Lake Rotorua, which Mr. Rolleston, the member in charge of the bill, predicted, “would become the sanatorium of the world.”1
It is not only at Rotomahana and Rotorua that the earth sends forth its steam and geysers. A slightly curving line from Tongariro to White Island in the Bay of Plenty, passes a steams-pouting district, at Orakeikorako, before, extending by Rotomahana and Rotorua, it trends to the bay. The Maori story connects the fires of Whakare (White Island) with those of Tongariro. At Whakare sulphur is found in great quantities.
Westward of the Horotiu or Waikato river is the valley of its confluent, the Waipa, and amongst its mountain feeders are stalactite caves in regions once haunted by the moa.
Volcanic action has not been confined to Tongariro, the isthmus of Auckland being studded with its works, and the land on both sides of Cook's Straits at times throbs with earthquakes. The wide valley through which the Waikato now flows presents in most places a level or slightly undulating sea of pumice. The subsidence of the ashy material in places has created fissures or clefts of various depths at the bottom of which flow running streams, or else is seen a winding narrow swamp through which water sluggishly oozes to join the nearest watercourse.
Volcanic action has left its traces in the south, but it was in times long past, and geologists generally agree that a process of gradual upheaval is taking place throughout the islands.
1 The passage of the bill afforded a proof of Maori honour. The Arawa had stipulated that the existing private leases granted by them should be respected. As prepared by the Government the bill did not give effect to the stipulation. The Lower House passed the bill; the Upper House amended it so as to confirm existing leases, and the Lower House was fain to accept the amendment.
The harbours of the Northern Island could accommodate the fleets of nations. The Hauraki Gulf is itself an enormous harbour studded with islands, and the ancient volcano Rangitoto standing opposite the Auckland entrance only adds to its beauty and tranquillity as it leaves a channel on both sides.
The climate of the islands is favourably modified by the ocean. In the north the mean average temperature is said to be 57°, in the south 52°; but a difference of more than 10° of mean temperature exists between Dunedin and the Bay of Islands.
The indigenous animals were not numerous. The gigantic moa (dinornis), more than twelve feet high, has never been seen since the English settled in New Zealand, but the Maoris spoke of its having been hunted in recent times. At first their stories were doubted. Some so-called natural philosophers, having committed themselves to the opinion that the moa must have become extinct in times anterior to modern man, have striven to rebut the evidence of facts. But Maori middens abounding with moa remnants; bones with integuments still clinging to them; feathers and egg-shells; Maori traditions of the habits of the bird, and of the mode in which it was hunted; and Maori memories that even in the 18th century its feathers were worn as ornaments, have commended themselves as satisfactory to common sense. There may be doubters remaining. There is a class of men sceptical as to everything but their own sufficiency to expound how the world ought to have been made.1
1 A philosopher of different order, the truly great but unassuming professor, Richard Owen, was jeered at when in 1839 he deduced from a thigh-bone of a moa a correct idea of the bird. Subsequent discoveries awarded the palm of merit where it was due. Though often told the story may be mentioned. In 1838 a man called upon the professor with a bone which a Maori had told him was the bone of a bird. The man thought it must be an eagle. Astounding as the conclusion appeared, and little as others could credit it, Owen firmly believed that, hitherto unreported, there had been in the small islands of New Zealand a larger bird than the ostrich. In 1839 he published a paper in the ‘Transactions of the Zoological Society.’ Copies were sent to New Zealand. The good Chief Justice Martin (a friend of Owen's) promoted search. The missionaries aided in it, and in 1842 various bones were sent to England by William Williams (afterwards Bishop of Waiapu). Before long Professor Owen had completely restored fifteen species of the Dinornis. Vide ‘Royal Colonial Institute Proceedings,’ 1878-9.
New Zealand was meagre in its fauna. Fish were abundant, and the enormous quantities of pipi (bivalve) shells, scattered wherever Maoris have dwelt, attest the extent to which the Maori was sustained by shellfish.
Assuming the truth of the Maori tradition that the dog and rat were imported by the Arawa and her sister canoes—and in this instance the pretensions of speculators agree with tradition—the only indigenous mammals in New Zealand were two kinds of bat. Of these one is said to be allied to a bat in Australia, the other to be of a genus peculiar to Maoria, but related to bats in South America.
The gigantic moa was not the only apteryx in the islands. The kiwi, of which there are several varieties, was found in both. Though the bird is not larger than a common fowl, the egg is five inches long and nine in circumference.
A gigantic rail, the weka, is nearly as large as the kiwi. There are two migratory cuckoos, whose path through air philosophers find it as difficult to account for as that of the Maori by water. There are owls of a kind not elsewhere found. There are parrots and honey-suckers. There are, of course, various wild ducks and cormorants, but there were no swans. The huia, of which the chiefs wore the feathers, was found only in special districts, and was of the order called Upupidæ. The tui, or parson-bird of Captain Cook, one of the songsters of the island, was a delicacy prized by Maoris. It was more often noticed than many New Zealand birds, which, from the nature of the forests, it was difficult to see. Wherever there was forest there was also dense undergrowth, intertwined with tangled vines and fern-trees. In the Northern Island the luxuriance of the tall, common ferns also screened small birds from observation. The number of species of birds, supposed a few years ago to be limited to about eighty, has recently been stated to be one hundred and forty-nine.1
1 ‘Transactions of New Zealand Institute,’ 1873 vol. v., p. 206.
Of reptiles there was a scarcity in New Zealand. No snake of any kind was found. There were a few species of lizard. One of them (sphenodon punctatum1) has not been found elsewhere. The Maori regarded it with horror, and the sight of any lizard was deemed an ill-omen; yet no Maori would ill-treat the creature. The mere sight of the kakariki (Naultinus elegans, a small, green lizard) was a prognostic of death. An Atua, or spirit, was supposed to dwell in or to actuate it. If the animal emitted its usual sound the native felt that death was in the air. A carving on a Maori tomb has borne the effigy of the dreaded reptile. For a long time it was supposed that frogs were not indigenous, but in 1852 some were exposed by gold-miners at Coromandel.
Eels were abundant, and, with the numerous fish of the sea, entered largely into the diet of the people. Cray-fish abounded both in fresh and sea-waters. The frost fish, prized as a delicacy by colonists, was a favourite with the Maori. Not caught with net or line it often makes for the shore in winter, and, with head erect, flings itself upon the beach, where it is picked up by watchers or passers-by.
1 Various naturalists have given various names to this lizard. I have quoted a name to which two learned men have agreed.
The Rata (metrosideros robusta) is, however, the apparent monarch of the forest; an honour which it attains by the arts of the parasite, who supplants his benefactor. At first a tender climbing thing, it attaches itself to the rīmū or some other tree, and sends down trailing cords, which root themselves at the base. Then it clasps the doomed stem with bonds which strengthen with years and at last envelope the hidden trunk. Exalted in air it spreads its leaves on high, and spangles the forest with a blaze of red flowers. Another tree of the same genus, the Pohutukaua (metrosideros tomentosa), stands on its own merits. It is called the Christmas Tree by colonists, as its red luxuriance flushes its ample boughs at the end of December. Gnarled alike in root and trunk and branch, it affords hospitable shade on the rocky shore of the sea, and thence derives its Maori name, which means “spray-sprinkled.”It abounds only in the Northern Island, and its strong timber is of value for the knees of ships. The fact that it grows on the shores of Lake Tarawera has persuaded one scientific person that the sea once made incursions to that spot.
The puriri (vitex littoralis), allied to the teak of the East page 63 Indies, possesses valuable properties, and after inearthment of forty years, posts have been found sound under the soil. It also confined itself to the Northern Island, and the Maoris devoted great labour in carving ornamented boxes out of it. Various kinds of beech adorn the woods.
It was not only from trees of the forest that the Maori derived assistance. They supplied him with gigantic trunks, of which his canoes were made; with the solid posts of his houses and of his fortifications. The raupo (typha angustifolia), a great bulrush, and other rushes, furnished material for the sides and roof of his whare. The root of the raupo supplied a substance of which he made a rough kind of bread.
To diversify the scene, shrubs, such as Veronica, Pittosporum, Clianthus, and many others, as well as fern-trees, and a palm tree (areca sapida), and several racænæ, were scattered widely in the belts of forest which skirted the rivers, hung thickly on the hills, filled most of the gorges and ravines, and were occasionally found in patches amidst great plains or rolling downs, where common fern held almost undisputed sway.
The Hărăkĕkĕ (Phormium tenax), or New Zealand flax, which was indigenous only in New Zealand, Norfolk Island, and the Chatham Islands, was almost as useful to the Maori as the edible fern. With it he made the ropes which bound the walls and roof of his dwelling. Of it he made his garments and baskets. From its flowers he obtained a liquid like honey. The dried flower-stems he used for fuel when, as was often the case amid undulating fern-plains or swamps, no wood could be procured. The root provided a purgative medicine.
The plant most infamous in the eyes of colonists was the Kărĕăo, or supplejack (Ripogonum parviflorum). Trailing widely, and climbing to the tops of shrubs and trees, it made a passage through the forest almost impossible for a European. The unclothed Maori found it easier to escape its toils; and in binding together his palisading and fences it was invaluable.
It is unnecessary to describe further the productions of the islands. The reader who desires more information may obtain it in works on natural history, or in Taylor's ‘New Zealand and its Inhabitants,’ where the assiduous investigations of a life are gathered together.