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Te Ika a Maui, or New Zealand and its Inhabitants


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In presenting Te Ika a Maui to the Public, it will be necessary to commence with saying, that this was formerly the only name which the Natives had for the Island, and that it is nearly identical with that which Cook first received; being literally The Fish of Maui, the Maori creator, who first drew up this second Britain “from out the azure main.”

The name of New Zealand has succeeded it; and it seems a pity that so noble an appendage of the British Crown, which has been gained, not by the power of our arms, but by the voluntary consent of its inhabitants, solely through the influence of the Gospel, should still retain so unmeaning a name, which was not even given by the first discoverer. The good taste of the present age has re-named the neighbouring Continent and its attendant Isle. Van page vi Diemen's Land and New Holland will soon be obsolete names, being supplanted by the more euphonious ones of Australia and Tasmania. Why should not New Zealand, also, be re-named?—why not call it Austral-Britain, Australbion, or something similar? The present name is about as appropriate as those given to the provinces into which the first Governor divided the country—Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connaught. They have been blotted out, so let this also. Thus much for the name.

Next, with regard to the Work itself. The Author's aim has been to rescue from that oblivion into which they were fast hastening, the Manners, Customs, Traditions, and Religion of a primitive race: already the remembrance of them is rapidly being forgotten; the rising generation being almost as unacquainted with them as our Settlers in general. The Traditions of the Creation are now first presented to the Public. The late Governor Sir G. Grey has published a valuable collection of general Traditions, but I am not aware that any one has previously collected any of those here given, and few, indeed, could have done so, unless intimately conversant with the language and people. The natural features of the Islands are also described, and the Author, being a resident before it became page vii an English Colony, was enabled to watch the various changes it has successively passed through. Its present position, and its eligibility as a home for intending Emigrants, are also described; but, in pointing out its advantages, he has not wilfully concealed any of its contraries. The Colony is now rapidly increasing in population and stability; it possesses a constitution, and though, perhaps, sufficient time has not yet elapsed to make all its benefits manifest, doubtless in a few years the economical management of the public revenue, and the disinterestedness of its officers, will win for them the esteem and admiration of their fellow-colonists, and succeeding ages will regard them as the patriot fathers of their country.

The Author would here acknowledge the obligation he is under in the Natural History department to Cunningham, Dr. Hooker, Dr. Grey, and his coadjutors in the British Museum. The Illustrations, he may state, are all from sketches taken by himself on the spot, and have at any rate the merit of being faithful drawings of the various objects they represent And with the hope that Te Ika a Maui will not prove altogether uninteresting to the Public, the Author takes his leave.

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