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The Maori Canoe

The "Arawa" Canoe

The "Arawa" Canoe

Some of our native correspondents assert that the vessel known as "Te Arawa" was a double canoe, but there appears to be no detailed description of her preserved in any tradition. In Sir George Grey's account of the coming of the "Arawa" there is no word in the original about the vessel being a double canoe, but in the translation a remark to that effect has been inserted by the translator.

In a Maori manuscript written by Wi Maihi, of Rotorua, and now in the Auckland Public Library, is a representation of the "Arawa" canoe, made by the writer. This crude sketch shows a single canoe with a very peculiar form of prow, consisting of a horizontal beam, on which, in a vertical position, are three projections arranged in a row, and ornamented with feathers, apparently. Secured to the top of the foremost one of these upright pieces is what seems to be a bar or plank that projects out in front of the canoe, and under which are written the words te tohu (the sign, mark, or pointer. (See fig. 157A, p. 325.) As to what the writer meant we are at a loss to know. The sketch may represent some form of figurehead used at the time of the last immigration from Polynesia—that is, in the time of the "Arawa" canoe. It is well worthy of note that the ordinary double canoe of Tahiti, called by Ellis a tipairua, was furnished with a plank that projected out horizontally in a line parallel with the surface of the water. It was 5 ft. or 6 ft. long, and 12 in. to 18 in. wide; it was known as the ihu va'a (Maori ihu waka). Illustrations of these canoes in Ellis's Polynesian Researches and Cook's Voyages show the flat projecting prow-piece and high stern-pieces described by Ellis. (See figs. 153-155, pp.306-312.) These vessels are described elsewhere in this paper. They were used in coastal work; the larger deep-sea vessel differed in form as to the prow. The flat prow depicted by Wi Maihi may have been in use on deep-sea canoes when the "Arawa" was afloat, five hundred years ago. Porter states that the Marquesas canoes he saw had a flat prow that projected 2 ft. (see "Canoes of the Marquesas Group"), which sometimes had a board attached to it, but in what position is not clear. A plate in Cook's Voyages shows carved upright pieces at the prow of a Marquesas canoe, and such projections appear on the prows of canoes of other groups. (See fig. 157, p. 324; also fig. 65, p. 151.)

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The Rev. R. Taylor, in his Te Ika a Maui, remarks of the "Arawa" canoe, "Ngatoro-i-rangi did not live inside the canoe [on the voyage to New Zealand], being too sacred a person, but on the top, the canoes having houses built on them, with side poles, probably outriggers, and roofed with raupo." This sentence is none too clear: presumably the "side poles" pertained to the canoe, not to the house. The canoes of the Society Group (whence came the "Arawa") had in some cases awnings or roofs, also an elevated platform. Awnings were used on the canoes that came to New Zealand, but we do not know that any stable form of house or cabin was erected on them.

No details of outstanding interest have been preserved concerning the voyage of the "Arawa" to these shores. On arriving at Cape Colville the mauri of the vessel was left there. Every vessel that reached these isles from Polynesia seems to have had certain ritual performed over it prior to leaving, and also to have been provided with a mauri. This was a sort of talisman, a material object which served as a shrine or abiding-place for the gods under whose care the vessel was placed. It represented the welfare of the canoe and its crew. A canoe, house, village, or land may have such a mauri, which is rendered effective by, and possesses virtue only after, certain ritual has been performed over it. This object, the mauri of the "Arawa," has ever been included or mentioned in ritualistic chants by the descendants of the crew of the "Arawa" for the past five hundred years. It imparts force and power to such effusions.

The "Arawa" ended her long voyage at Maketu, in the Bay of Plenty, where she is said to have been shortly afterwards burned by some of the original inhabitants of the land. Her crew settled in that district among what are termed the Toi tribes, who were a mixed people of Polynesian and aboriginal descent. They were originally known as Nga-Oho, but in later times took the name of Te Arawa as a tribal name.

According to superior tradition the burning of the "Arawa" was an accident. Raumati, son of Tama-ahua, when on a visit to Tauranga, from Taranaki, went to Opua, up the Kai-tuna River, to see the famous "Arawa" vessel, where, owing to a carelessly left camp-fire of his party, the canoe-shed and its valued contents were burned. This enraged Nga-Oho, who attacked the party and slew Raumati, whose head was secured by Hau-tupatu, who stuck it on the hand-grip post of his latrine as a tekoteko. Raumati was a member of the local tribe known as Te Piri-rakau, a division of Te Tini o Toi, through his mother, Tauranga—hence his visit to this district, Raumati married Te Kura-tapiri-rangi, of Kawhia, and had a page 400daughter named Uru-te-kakara, who married Ngarue. Concerning this pair a long and interesting story has been preserved, in which Whare-matangi, son of Uru-te-kakara, leads a party from Taranaki to the Bay of Plenty to avenge the death and degradation of his grandfather. It was after the burning of the canoe that the immigrants by it, Nga-Oho, assumed the tribal name of Te Arawa.

A vessel known as "Puketea-wainui," commanded by one Ruaeo, arrived at Maketu shortly before "Te Arawa." Ruaeo had been included as a member of the crew of "Te Arawa," but had been deserted by Tama-te-kapua, who, however, brought Whakaoti-rangi, wife of Ruaeo, with him. Ruaeo, evidently a man of resource, at once fitted "Puketea-wainui" for a sea voyage, sailed forth on the trackless waste of Hine-moana, and reached Maketu before the "Arawa" arrived there from Whanga-paraoa. The subsequent proceedings, when Ruaeo and Tama met, were marked by incisive remarks and strenuous action.