Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Maori Canoe



The hull of our craft having been rough-hewn into form, the next task is to haul it out of the forest to tide-water, river, or lake, where the final adzing of all surfaces will be carried out and the vessel fitted up. In some cases at least the top-strakes were hewn out and placed inside the hull when it was hauled out. This toto waka, or canoe-hauling, was a strenuous task, for which many people collected, the hull being dragged by means of rows of men hauling on long ropes attached to the vessel. Heavy house-timbers and stockade-posts were dragged from the forest in the same way. The last such scene witnessed by the writer was when, about the year 1900, a massive ridge-pole, 70 ft. long, was hauled by man-power about three miles from the head of the Pae-koau Stream to Taua-rau, at Ruatoki. This was done in the old manner to the old hauling-chants.

The hauling-road having been cleared ready for action, a number of skids were procured and a party told off to attend to them. Theirs was the task of picking up the skids over which the canoe had been hauled, carrying them forward, and re-laying them in front. Certain charms were repeated over the skids, that were supposed to be very effective and reduce the labour of hauling.

Skids were sometimes carried in canoes, and special ones were sometimes named. Any skids over which a canoe passed with more than ordinary ease would certainly be named, as the Maori believed that the gods were responsible for such easy movement.

The following notes were contributed by an east coast native: Usually in the moving of a canoe six people are employed behind the canoe to pick up the skids over which it has passed, and to page 102carry them to the front, and six more men are employed in laying down in front the skids over which the canoe will have to travel. Four ropes are led out from the bow with which to haul the canoe over the skids, whilst four ropes are led out from the stern with which to check the speed if, when going down a declivity, there is a tendency to go too fast, so that control over the movement might be lost. Then, on each side of the canoe there are a number of men to keep it from swaying from side to side, and so coming to harm.

The number of hauling-ropes usually mentioned is two, but one authority states that two others were in some cases attached to the after part of the hull, in addition to the two made fast near the bow.

Mr. Colenso writes: "With smart songs of encouragement, sung alternately and in full chorus, they eased the heavy labour of their most laborious works—such as dragging the hulls of their large canoes from the forests, often over many miles of the roughest country, without any road, to the sea; also the large totara timbers for their chiefs' houses; and often whole trunks of trees to form the outer wall of fortification around their town (pa)."

Fig. 28 Hauling a Canoe. Poles lashed on to canoe fore and aft to enable men to steady it; three drag-ropes out.

Sketch by Miss E. Richardson

In some cases, when hauling a canoe, long poles were secured along the top of the vessel fore and aft, from bow to stern, the ends projecting well out at either end of the vessel. Men stationed at these projecting ends were enabled to give great assistance in keeping the canoe from turning. (See fig. 28.)

Marsden mentions a canoe that was made in the north and hauled over twenty miles to be floated.

page 103

When William's 60-ton vessel was carried some distance inland at Rarotonga by a hurricane, she was hauled back to the sea "by the united strength of about two thousand people."

The "Jewess," a 60-ton vessel built at Tahiti and owned by some Wellington residents, ran ashore at Pito-one in the early "forties" of last century. She was hauled down and refloated by about two hundred natives.

The following account of canoe-hauling was contributed by Tuta Nihoniho: The hauling-lines made for dragging canoes were stout ropes carefully plaited in the rauru or five-strand method, and about as wide as one's wrist. They were made from dried leaves of ti torere (Cordyline Banksii) or ti kauka (C australis), both strong materials, for they have to bear a very great strain. Three tow-ropes were used in dragging a heavy canoe. (See figs. 28 and 29).

When the canoe was being rough-hewn, a piece of timber was left projecting upwards from the bottom of the interior at the bow end (see "Te Heke Rangatira" canoe in the Dominion Museum), and a similar one at the stern end. Holes were bored in these projections through which to pass the hauling-ropes, which were so secured. One such rope was tied to the forward putiki, or maunga taura, as they were termed, and two to that at the stern. Of the latter, one was led along on either side of the canoe, so that there was one hauling-rope running straight ahead from the bow end and one on either side, each being manned by a number of men.

All such heavy weights were hauled over smooth skids of round pieces of green timber. For this purpose the natives always endeavoured to obtain pieces of houhou (Panax arboreum). When the bark
Fig. 29 Hauling a Canoe. The projections to which the ropes were attached were down inside the hull.

Sketch by A. H. Messenger

page 104is knocked off, it is seen that the exposed surface of the wood is remarkably smooth and glairy. This slimy and slippery surface is most desirable in a skid, inasmuch as it tends much to lessen friction when a heavy body is being dragged over it. Such skids (ngaro, neke, or rango) are usually about 6 in. in thickness, and 5 ft. or 6 ft. long, one end of each skid being sometimes reduced in size in order to provide a good hand-grip for the men who were told off to handle the skids—to keep taking them from behind the canoe and relaying them in front of it.

When the canoe-hull was about to be lowered down a bluff or steep hillside a change was made in the disposal of the attached ropes. The two ropes fastened to the stern were swung back so as to trail astern, and were brought near together instead of being some distance apart. An extra rope was likewise fastened to the putiki at the bow of the canoe: thus there were now two ropes at each end of the hull. The two bow-ropes were also led back, one on either side of the canoe, and each one was passed round a tree-trunk (or post firmly set in the ground) with one turn. The two stern-ropes were led straight out astern of the hull, and a turn of each was taken round the same tree. With these four ropes and plenty of man-power control was kept over the canoe. The rope-tenders took station, the canoe was started down the declivity, the four ropes being slowly and carefully payed out as she glided downhill, the whole operation being under the direction of an adept, such as a Californian lumberman would term a "head chain-tender."

When the two bow-ropes were run out to their full length, word was passed to the tenders of the rear ropes to belay. They at once took an extra turn of their ropes round the snubbing-tree, and held on. The tenders of the bow-ropes then cast off, trailed ahead, and, selecting two fresh snubbing-trees, ran their lines round them ready for a new start. When the stern-lines ran out, new snubbing-posts were utilized in a similar manner, the bow-lines holding the canoe meanwhile. Naturally, no skids were used in a downhill haul unless the slope was an extremely easy one. In open country posts were set in the ground for the snubbing-lines, which were passed round the bases of them. Ropes were fastened to the tops of such posts, and held by a few men to render them more stable. On a hillside covered with fern, and especially if the soil was of a loose nature, a canoe would have to be hauled down quite steep slopes, on account of the great amount of friction. (See fig. 30.)

When engaged in a heavy haul, as on level ground or an up grade, the hauling was timed to certain songs, termed rangi waka, or to page 105
Fig. 30 Method of lowering a Canoe down a Steep Hill.

Sketch by A. H. Messenger

waka—one of the different classes of tewha, or work-songs, employed by the Maori. They consist of short chanted phrases sung by the kaea, or fugleman, and a chorus, usually short, given by the haulers. The kaea sometimes runs back and forth as he performs his task and sometimes stands in the canoe as it is hauled along. His phrases are yelled out at the top of his voice; and should his vocal chords give out he is relieved by another person. The chorus is also rendered in an energetic manner by the haulers, who at that time are most strenuous in their work and haul with fierce energy. When such labour is properly conducted it is an inspiring sight. Resting-intervals occur with greater or less frequency, according to the heaviness of the task.

The following is a specimen of the above songs:—

The kaea cries Toia te waka!
Chorus by haulers E!
Kaea Toia te waka!
Chorus E!
K. E, toia te waka ki—
C. Runga ki te maunga e tu mai nei
Ka whakatakotoria ki runga ki te rang parapara koa
Me he tete waka
A, me he tete waka
Me he pitau whakareia
E!page 106
K. Kumea mai …
C. Tewaka
K. Ki te urunga
C. Te waka
K. .. … Ki te moenga
C. Te waka
K. Ki te takotoranga
C. I takoto ai te waka … E!

Here another kaea, or fugleman, takes up the signal cry:

Kaea Karearea
Chorus Hi!
K. Karearea
C. Hi!
K. Hopu ki waenga
C. Hi!
K. Po ka po
C. Haramai nei hei awhi, hei ai.

(And so on: above eight lines repeated.)

When the hull was hauled to its destination near a launching-place, where it was to be redubbed, fitted up, and finished, a shed with open sides was erected to contain it. This shed is tapu, and only the tohunga tarai waka, or canoe-hewing experts, are allowed inside it. As a rule the putiki was now chipped out, being no longer needed.

The same correspondent furnished the following:—

A Canoe-hauling Song
Fugleman Turukiruki, panekeneke i a ihu wak Aue! Turuki! Turuki!
Chorus by haulers Paneke! Paneke!
F. Turuki! Turuki!
C. Paneke! Paneke!
F. Paneke i a wai?
Paneke i a aitu
Hui-te-rangi-ora te toki matapo.
C la!
F. Matapo!
C. la!
F. Huri te poi
C. Marino mai.

Should the canoe get jammed or caught in some difficult place during the process of hauling, then the following chant was started, page 107and the team redoubled its efforts to move the great weight:—

Fugleman Tuturi, pepeke, hokai o waewae
Ki te rangi nui e tu nei
E ha! Mou hikitia!
Chorus by haulers Mou hapainga!
F. Mou hikitia
C. Mou hapainga
F. Whakakake maunga e tupa
C. Whaiake
F. Whakakake maunga e tupa
C. Whai ake
F. Whakaeke pari e tupa
C. Whaiake
F. E tupa whai ake
C. Hoi…E!

In a note published in volume 17 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, at page 167, Hare Hongi remarks: "In addition to the ropemen, a number of haulers were ranged along from end to end of the canoe itself. These men would, when the word was given by their fuglemen, extend one arm forward and one arm aftward, grasping the topsides, with chests pressed against the canoe-sides, simultaneously impel the canoe forward, and march along beside it. The phrase or call of the fugleman, "E … e … e, tupa whai ake," whilst ensuring a unity of effort on the part of the two sets of haulers, exactly pictures the work and attitudes of the haulers:—

Toia mai te waka
E … e … e
Tupa whai ake.

In some cases, it is said, a kind of sheepshank, called a koromatua, was formed in a rope and used in lowering a canoe down a hillside, the shank enclosing the projecting stern end of the canoe, it being lowered stern first. The ends of the rope trailed backwards and were held by two lines of men. Such a place where a canoe was lowered down a hill was called an ara tukutuku waka. or canoe-lowering way; hence we find such place-names as "Te Ara Tukutuku waka o —" (the name of some chief occupying the blank space).

The following item was collected by Mr. John White: When a new canoe is about to be hauled from the place where it has been fashioned, the tohunga repeats the following charm over the canoe, the stump, and the severed head of the tree. This charm is known as a page 108wehe, or poroaki ki te tumu (a taking-leave of the stump—it is the farewell of the canoe to its origin). The expert stood on the right-hand side of the canoe as he chanted the ritual, which formed a part of the placation of Tane on account of the destruction of the tree, about to be transferred to the realm of Kiwa (the ocean).

Kotia te pu, waiho i kona
Kotia te kauru, waiho i kona
E ai ra ko te umu tuhi
Kihai i tae ki nga pukenga
Ki nga wananga, ki nga tauira
Matua kuru, matua whao
Matua te toki, matua te tatai haruru
Tu ake au ki runga nei
Ki te whare hukahuka no Tangaroa
Tangaroa i whatiia i ahunuku tai maroro
Orooro te toki na Hine-tu-a-hoanga
Kaore ko au, ko Rata, e kimi ana
E hahau ana i te awa i Pikopiko-i-whiti
Mate iho ana ki Maunga-roa
Mate mai ai Kowhiti-nui.

(Chorus by people) Ta taua rangi!
(Tohunga) Mate mai i a Rata Wahie-roa
(Chorus) Ta taua rangi
E ri, e re … e
E ra, e ra … e
(Tohunga) Huka!
(Chorus) Huka!
(Tohunga) Huka te riri
(Chorus) Huka!
(Tohunga) Huka te tauarai
(Chorus) Ha!

During the repetition of this effusion the men are all standing by the ropes attached to the canoe, and as they shout forth the final word "Hal" they all haul on the ropes and start the canoe from her bed. The hauling is then proceeded with to a time song, termed to waka, and intervals are allowed for resting. The hauling is done over a skidway. When the canoe is launched, should there happen to be no water in the hold the tohunga dips a bailer into the water and pours some into the canoe. He then steps into the canoe and dips the forefinger of his left hand into that water, and then puts the page 109finger in his mouth. Then, as he waves his hand up and down before him, he recites the charm called a whakainu. All items used in war, as weapons, canoes, &c, have a whakainu charm repeated over them ere they are first used. Food is then cooked for a ritual feast. That for the tamatane, or male element, is eaten by old men, and old women eat that prepared for the female element, the two lots of food having been cooked in separate ovens. The bulk of the people merely look on while this food is being consumed. When the food for men is taken from the oven it is put into a new basket, which is held up by a tohunga and waved before him as an offering to Tane, Tangaroa, and Rongo. The food for women is served in a similar manner by a ruahine, or priestess. Only a small quantity of kumara is cooked for this rite, not sufficient to form a meal for the persons participating in it. This ceremony is said to be for the purpose of conciliating the gods, and so ensuring success in battle. (It was also probably a whakanoa.)

Here follows another hauling-chant, such as were employed by canoe-haulers. It also was collected by the late Mr. White, author of the Ancient History of the Maori.

Canoe-hauling Chant, or Time Song

The fugleman or time-giver sings—
Toia Tainui, Te Arawa
Kia tapotu ki te moana
Koia i hirihiri te mata whatitiri
Takatakatu mai i taku rangi tapu
Ka tangi te kiwi Response by haulersKiwi.
Ka tangi te mohoMoho.
Ka tangi te tiekeTieke.
He poho anakeTo tikoko, tikoko.
Haere i te araTikoko.
Ko te taurua te rangiKauaia.
Ko te hao taneKauaia.
Homai me kaweKauaia.
Me kawe ki wheaKauaia.
A ki te takeTake no Tu.
E hautoiaToia.
Hau ririToia.
Toia ake te takeTake no Tu.
page 110
Fugleman Response
Koia rimu haere Kauaia
Totara haere Kauaia
Pukatea haere Kauaia
Homai te tu Kauaia
Homai te maro Kauaia
Kia whitikia Kauaia
Taku takapu Kauaia
Hihi … e Haha … e
Tipi … e Tata … e
Apitia Ha
Ko te here Ha
Ko te here Ha
Ko te timata E ko te tikoko pohue
E ko te aitanga a mata E ko te aitanga o te hoe manuka
Fugleman Response
Ko au, ko au Hitau … e
Mate ko te hanga Hitau … e
Turuki, turuki Paneke, paneke
Oioi te toki Kauaia
Takitakina I … a
He tikaokao He taraho
He parera Ke-ke-ke-ke
He parera Ke-ke-ke-ke

The hauling of canoes across portages was not an uncommon usage in former times, and much labour was sometimes expended in such tasks when considered necessary in order to accomplish a set design, as seen in the Ngapuhi advance on Roto-rua. I cull the following from Mr. Wade's journal of a journey through the Manukau district in the far back "thirties":—

"There is a remarkable facility of water conveyance in this part of the Island. With perfect ease canoes can be dragged over the short distances between one river and another; so that the tribes of the Thames on the east coast can pass over to Manukau on the west, and thence on to Waikato. From Wai-te-mata, in the Thames Gulf, canoes are brought to Manukau over the dragging-place on which we were travelling. Crossing Manukau Harbour, they pass up a river or creek, which brings them within so short a distance of the Awaroa, a branch of the Waikato River, that another easy page 111drag puts them in a position either to go out to sea by Waikato Heads, or to paddle on beyond Manga-pouri, upwards of a hundred miles up the river."

In speaking of the portage at Otahuhu, as seen by him in 1834, Missionary Williams remarks: "We walked over the neck of land to Manukau, which is about three-quarters of a mile in extent— good ground, and the appearance of a cart-road, from the numbers of canoes which have been drawn over it from time to time."

When Ngapuhi attacked Waikato at Matakitaki they hauled their great canoes over the portages of Otahuhu and Waiuku, to find the Awaroa Stream, down which they must pass to the Waikato River, blocked by felled trees, the work of their enemies. 'The Waikato tribes," writes Mr. S. Percy Smith, "in anticipation of this event, had felled trees across the stream to stop the fleet, but these were cleared away, and in some places, which are pointed out still, Hongi had to cut short channels across sharp bends in the stream to allow his canoes to pass. The native account says it took Hongi two months to clear away the obstructions."

These northern raiders had a similar task when advancing on Rotorua from the Bay of Plenty in 1823. They took their canoes from Waihi up the Pongakawa Stream. Writes Mr. Percy Smith: "The stream, although deep, is narrow and tortuous, so that it must have been a great labour to force the Ngapuhi war-canoes up its course. On arrival at the head of the stream, where the subterranean water comes forth (from Roto-ehu), the expedition cleared out the old path leading through the forest to Roto-ehu Lake, and then dragged their canoes along it to the lake itself. From Roto-ehu there is a level valley joining the above-mentioned lake to Roto-iti Lake, about a mile and a half in length. Along the path through the beautiful forest there the canoes were again dragged to the shores of Roto-iti at Tapuae-haruru."

In Brees' Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand is a picture showing a number of natives hauling a canoe down what is now Hawkestone Street, Wellington. (See fig. 31.)

Having hauled the rough-hewn hull to tide-water or river-side, wherever the craft was to be launched when completed, the next task was to finish the dubbing. It seems probable that at various stages of the process of hewing out the hull it was left alone for considerable periods of time, in order that the timber might season without splitting. One of these stages was after the rough dubbing of the dugout hull had been done, prior to the final adzing-down of the surfaces. This latter process left the hull ready for its fittings to be attached, its dressed surfaces either smooth or showing the vertical page 112
Fig. 31 Natives hauling a Canoe down Hawkestone Street, Wellington, in the "Forties" of last Century.

From Brees' "Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand". Re-sketched by Miss E. Richardson.

and parallel but extremely shallow depressions produced by the slight curve in the cutting-edge of the stone adzes employed. This singular ngao tu impression or effect is admired by Maori craftsmen, and, in finishing off the adzing of house-timbers, different designs, each having its special name, were worked on the hewn surfaces.