History and traditions of the Maoris of the West Coast, North Island of New Zealand, prior to 1840
[The ancient inhabitants of the Taranaki Coast]
* This date is arrived at by allowing twenty-five years to a generation, and taking the mean of a very large number from the date of the heke to the present time, i.e., about twenty-two generations down to the year 1900. These numbers have been checked by the genealogies of Tahiti, Hawaii and Rarotonga, which are all in very fair accord when deduced from common ancestors.
It has been shewn elsewhere,* that it was about the year 650 that the Polynesians commenced that series of extraordinary and daring voyages, that in 250 years from that date carried them to all parts of the Pacific, and as New Zealand—under its Rarotongan name, Avaikitautau—is mentioned amongst the list of islands visited by some of these voyagers, we may fairly assume that, between the two dates mentioned, this country was first settled, and by people of the same Polynesian race as those that comprised the heke of 1350.
It seems probable, and also natural, seeing their positions, that the Bay of Plenty and the Northern Coasts were first settled, and from there the people spread to other parts, until, at the date of the hekey the aborigines seem to have occupied most of the North Island and probably parts of the Middle Island as well.
* "Hawaiki," second edition, 1904.
In the district we have particularly under consideration, there is little doubt that at one time the forests extended right down to the sea shore, and that the narrow belt of open country fringing the coast, found by the early European settlers, was due to the action of fires and clearings originating with the early Maori inhabitants.
Even as late as the times of Kupe (? Kupe the second) the navigator, whom the genealogies and traditions place in the generation preceding the heke, or about 1325, the country would seem to have been very generally forest-clad along the coasts, for we have an expression of his that has come down with the ages, which refers to the difficulties he experienced in traversing the country. Nga taero o Kupe—the "obstructions of Kupe"—referred originally to the tataramoa (bramble) and matakuru (or wild Irishman) through which he found so much difficulty in forcing his way. This expression has, in more modern times, become emblematical of mental troubles also. We do not know how far Kupe went inland, except in the north, where he crossed from Hokianga to the Bay of Islands; nor do we know with any certainty the date at which he arrived here—it was clearly before the heke of 1350. But on the subject of Kupe, see chapter III.
* It seems somewhat doubtful if the pukeko was one of the original birds of New Zealand. This is a question, however, for naturalists to decide. The Maori traditions on the subject are so persistent in saying that the bird was brought here with the heke, that there must be some foundation for them. The bird is common in Samoa and other islands, and if the Maoris did introduce it, they probably picked it up on their way when they called at the Kermadec Islands, where it still is to be found.
The statement above, that the Moa inhabited the forests may be taken exception to, principally because their bones are to this day chiefly found in the open. But they are sometimes found in the forest, and the many names of places there are in which the word moa enters, now under forest, seems to show that the monster bird did inhabit the forest; though no doubt preferring the open and the forest margins.
Old Hiha of Moawhaugo, in the Mokai-Patea country, told the writer that neither his father, nor his grandfather, had ever seen the Moa, but that his forefathers had hunted and killed it long ago. He often had seen the bones, and once found those of a complete head; it was about eighteen inches long. In former times such bones were very plentiful on the hills in that district, but generally rotten (as he put it), whilst in the streams they were quite hard and well preserved. The Moas, he said, lived in cliffy places, but went out to feed all over the country, eating leaves, etc. When attacked they stood on the left leg, whilst the other was raised up close to the body, and so soon as the hunter approached within striking distance, the bird kicked out; if the hunter was struck, it killed him. The bird, he knew from tradition, was about ten feet high, and their way of killing it was by throwing spears at it. One very effectual way was to strike the leg the bird stood on with a long heavy pole which usually brought it down, when it was killed by spears or clubs. The bird was—says Hiha—quite clever at warding off (karo) thrusts made at it, with the upraised leg. This confirms Mr. Fenton's account of the method of killing the bird. It may be added, that in his younger days (say about 1840) Hiha had hunted and caught numbers of Kakapo in the Kai-manawa mountains—the last the writer knows of was caught by Te Kepa-Puawheawhe in those mountains in 1895.
Now that we know the effects of environment on all life, it is obvious that great changes must have taken place in the Maoris after a sojourn of some centuries in a country so different from the tropical islands, from which they came hither. No longer could they depend on nature to supply them with the means of existence without effort on their part: no longer would the forests furnish the abundance that is referred to in the old Maori saying, "Hawaiki kai" Hawaiki the prolific, and in the words of the old song:—
Ka toi au ki Hawaiki,
Ki te kai ra, i rari noa mai,
Te raweketia e te ringaringa.
I will away to distant Hawaiki,
To the food there abundantly given,
Not touched (produced) by hand.
Daily was strenuous effort necessary to procure from the sea, the rivers, and the woods, the where-with-all to keep off the onge-kai (starvation); and long distances must be traversed in search of these foods, gradually leading to a knowledge of the country and its productions. In a colder climate, the thin garments so suitable to the tropics, and made of aute bark, had to be abandoned for warmer material, which they luckily found in the harakeke or native flax, the page 21strong silken fibres of which they discovered how to separate from the leaf, and form into woven garments of great strength and warmth, adorned with handsome patterns (taniko), which patterns, however, were probably brought with them, for we see an almost identical one on the garments worn, at this day, by the people of Pleasant Island, but no where else. The houses common to the Tropical regions had likewise to be abandoned for others of a warmer nature, and hence these old-time people invented the whare-puni, quite unlike any thing in the Pacific until we reach the shores of far Alaska, and this implied most arduous labour, with the tools they possessed—stone axes and adzes, in the finish of which no other branch of the race approaches—only equalled by their beautifully adorned canoes, excelling any thing of the kind in other parts of the Pacific. The Maori carving likewise appears to be an art of local origin or of great local development, for it is not found elsewhere in so perfect a form. Tradition says it was invented by Rauru —some say by Rua—who flourished some five or six generations before the heke; but may be, he in reality only improved on ideas which had long previously been initiated. The same remarks apply to their tattooing; it is apparently local—no other branch of the race possessed it in the Maori form, though some form of tattooing was common wherever the Polynesians are found.
It would seem also that this forest environment has affected the mental aspect of the people towards their gods. We know for certain, in some branches of the Polynesian race—and there is a strong probability in the case of others—that Tane was the great god of the Polynesians at one time; he seems to have been the supreme ruler (always excepting Io, about whom we know little or nothing) subsequently deposed to an inferior rank on an equality with several others, or even superseded almost wholly in some branches by Tangaroa, who, with the Maoris, takes quite a secondary rank. Tane, with the Maoris, seems to have retained much of his ancient glory, but owing to the forest environment he has developed into the god of forests and all connected with wood-work, and the feathered inhabitants thereof. This seems to be a natural development, just as Tangaroa, god of the sea and all connected with it, should have developed in some cases to be the supreme diety of all; as in the case of most of the Polynesians whose lives were largely passed on the deep.
The extremely ancient cult of Rangi and Papa, seems to have been retained by the Maoris more fully, with more persistence and greater detail than any other branch of the race. And this seems due to the early isolation of the tangata-whenua, who brought with them from the Pacific the full knowledge of this cult, which was not greatly affected page 22by the invasion of more recent modifications introduced by disturbing elements from other parts of the Pacific. In the islands, Rangi and Papa are certainly known, but amongst the Maoris alone is to be found the great detail and full belief of the origin of all things through them. For proof of this we have only to refer to the traditions of the Moriori of the Chatham Islands, where we shall find the same belief in, and detailed account of Rangi and Papa—modified in some respects, no doubt by their environment, but still the same fundamentally. And no one at this date will probably deny that the Morioris represent most closely the ancient tangata-whenua of New Zealand. All evidence seems to indicate that those people migrated from here a few generations before the date of the heke.*
The only native writer on the old tangata-whenua was Hamiora Pio, now gone to join the majority. He refers in many places to the peaceful lives led by this old-time people, and states that wars and troubles only arose after the arrival of the heke. This may have been true as a general statement, in fact seems highly probable, for some of the common causes of war were non-existent at that time—there was abundance of room for the people to spread—the forests, lakes and mountains would not, at that period, have been appropriated so closely by family and tribal claims, such as obtained afterwards. Moriori history, whilst accounting for the migration to the Chatham Islands by war, would seem to confirm the idea that peace was the rule with the tangata-whenua, otherwise the agreement come to by the people during the first generation of their occupation of that island, to the effect they should live in peace in future, as they did from that date until their conquest by the Maoris in 1836, would not have been possible.
Against this theory of Hamiora Pio's, we have the fact that a great many of the fortified pas still existing were built by the tangata-whenua, which seems to show that the necessity for protection had arisen in some parts, and, moreover, the Maori pa is a feature peculiar to New Zealand.
* In "Transactions, N.Z. Institute," vol. xxxvii., p. 604, is to be found the following:—"In the discussion which followed, Captain Mair mentioned that the Morioris were quite a distinct race from the Maoris, but they appeared subsequently to have intermingled with the Maori, and formed with them a mixed race, introducing into their own language a proportion of Maori words." After thirteen months residence in the Chatham Islands, and a constant study of the Morioris, the writer must differ entirely from Captain Mair—there can, we think, be no doubt as to the identity of the two people in physique, traditions and language, somewhat modified by their long isolation and their environment.
Table I.page break
It is now necessary to enter more particularly into the evidence of the early occupation of the Taranaki district, and, as will be seen, it is somewhat meagre. In doing so some long genealogies will have to be quoted, but as these have never been printed before, it is considered advisable to herein preserve them for future reference. The first is one obtained by Mr. John White in the sixties, and is of great interest, for it does not, as so often occurs, start with one of the crew of the heke of 1350. It was recited by the fathers of Mahau,* last but one on the pedigree. It will be observed that the list begins with Rangi and Papa—the Sky-father and Earth-mother—but it does not necessarily follow that the old tohungas believed that Kahui-ao was the actual son of these two; rather does it mean that he was a descendant of the common parents. Indeed, the name implies a tribe rather than a personal name.
* Old Taranaki settlers will remember Mahau, a finely tattooed old warrior who lived at Mahoe-tahi, a fortified and pallisaded pa in the forties, and where the battle of Mahoe-tahi was fought between the Maoris and Taranaki Volunteers under Major (afterwards Sir Harry) Atkinson, November 6th, 1860, and H.M. troops.
† Which possibly means that he belonged to some visiting canoe from Hawaiki.
In "Journal Polynesian Society," Vol. III., p. 12, is a genealogical table of the Middle Island people, showing a descent from one Awa-nui-a-rangi who flourished thirty-seven generations ago, whereas the child referred to in the above story is shown, by the table, to have lived thirty-nine or forty generations ago. There may be nothing at all in this approximation of dates, but it is clear from the nature of the story that it is very ancient. Much the same story is related of other ancient ancestors.
It is a question of great interest to genealogists as to whether this Awa-nui (40 in the table) is, or is not, the son of Toi-kai-rakau, the well-known tangata-whenua ancestor. It is possible he may be misplaced on Table No. 1, and really should come two places after Te Manu-waero-rua, which would make the position agree with the East Coast genealogies. But it is impossible now to settle these questions, though they are really all important as the only basis on which dates may be determined.
At twenty-seven generations from the present time we find Te Manu-waero-rua, who was undoubtedly one of the tangata-whenua living in New Zealand, and is given by the East Coast traditions as either father or mother* of Toi-kai-rakau, who by a mean of numerous line, flourished thirty-one generations ago. See chapter IV.
The first three names on the line beginning with Tu-mua are called Te Kahui-Tu, and the first six on the right are the Kahui-Ru—Kahu[gap — reason: illegible] meaning a flock, a name which is only applied to the tangata-whenua people. These lines do not tell us when the junction occurs with the crew of the heke, but the marriage shown at generation twenty-four is about the period.
Te Kahui-Tu people, or Tribe, are said by tradition to have lived at Waitara and the names of their whare-kura (houses of learning, council, &c.) have been preserved—they are as follows: Ramaroa, Uro-weka, Puaki-taua, Maruarua, and Poporo-tapu.
Te Kahui-Rangi and Te Kahui-Tawake are also mentioned as tribal names of people who formerly lived at Waitara. These possibly refer to the people shown in Table No. 1 as the descendants of Rakeihaea, and of Rakei-tiutiu, under the heading of Te Kahui-Ru.
* The name is generally no indication of sex in Maori.
"This is the line; it commences with the descendants of Rangi and Papa":—page 26
* This Table breaks off at the last name given, and does not come down to the present time by many generations.
Mere lists of names like the above are of little interest to the ordinary reader, but to anyone who will take up the study of the ancient cult, of which these form a part, they are pregnant with meaning. This, however, is not the place for that—they are printed here to preserve them for the future student, for no where else are they to be found, in their present form.
* Ka ingoatia a Pou-a-kai maunga, ko te pou a Rua-tupua raua ko Rua-tawhito. (From whence Pou-a-kai ranges take their name, the pillar of Rua-tupua and Rua tawhito.)
† From him descend the Kahui, or flock of Ruas.)
‡ (In his time were great earthquakes.)
'Ko "Hahau-tu-noa," te waka o Te Kahui-rua,
I ruku ai nga whatu, i
Ka rewa ki runga ra
Ko te whatu a Ngahue
Hoaina, ka pakaru.'
'Hahau-tu-noa was the canoe of Te Kahui-rua
From which were the stones dived for,
And then floated up above
The Stone of Ngahue,
By spells broken up (were made into axes) etc.'
† See "Hawaiki," p. 209.
‡ Tran: N.Z. Institute, Vol. xxiv.
On the subject of the early visits to Milford Sound, on the West Coast of the Middle Island, the following is interesting and has not—it is believed—been recorded before. In January 1891, Mr. Lewis Wilson, then Under Secretary, Marine Department, on his return from Milford, told the writer that the prisoners, who had been sent to that place to make a road up to and along the shores of Lake Ada, in excavating for a house-site, at three feet from the surface a Maori stoneaxe was found. The surface of the land was covered with very large trees. On 14th February, 1891, Professor Aldis, who had just returned from Milford, told the writer the same story, which he and Professor Hutton obtained from the gaoler in charge. But the Professor called the object a chisel; it was two and a-half inches broad, not made of greenstone, and was found under two and a-half feet of shingle and sand, the surface of which was covered with large trees. This object must have been lying there a very great many years to have allowed of large trees growing over it. Of course it does not follow that the tangata-whenua made, used, and lost the axe.
† In a note by Tutange, a leading chief of Patca, he says… "But there were people here before even Kupe. Tai-kehu was the name of one, and the canoe he came in was named 'Kahui-maunga.'" He lived at Patea.
Of Uchcnga-puanake we shall have to speak later on, in chapter VII. It will be observed that there are twenty-two generations down to the time of the heke, which seems to imply that Tikaro was the first of this line to come to New Zealand, and that the date is about the same as that derived from the other genealogies preceding.
The following is also a tatai from the Ngati-Ruanui tribe, partly no doubt a recitation of ages, or periods, partly a genealogical table, which ends at one who was a contemporary of Turi—of the "Aotea" canoe.page 31
The Tamatea with the long name above was the father of Rua-uri, who married Whakaari, who will be mentioned in chapter VII. This Tamatea is said by my informant to be the same as Tamatea-pokaiwhenua who was drowned at the Huka falls, Taupo—but I doubt it. At any rate his name shows him to have come from Tahiti here. The above Tamatea is said to have visited Turi at Patea, after the latter had settled down here—and this gives us his period as shortly after the arrival of the fleet in 1350.