Fishing Methods and Devices of the Maori
Although the Maori had no white-armed goddess Anguilla from whom to trace his much-valued eels, yet he assigned to them a celestial origin, and viewed them as the progeny of supernormal beings.
* Ko Puna-kauariki te puna i noho ai a Tuna i nga rangi tuhaha.
The above myth shows us that, in Maori teachings, the eel had a celestial origin; and in far Greece it was held that Jupiter and the white-armed goddess Anguilla generated eels. Throughout many centuries strange myths have been associated with the eel. I have myself, in long-past years, heard it gravely stated that a hair from a horse's tail placed in water would develop into an eel. This was an introduced myth from the British home-land.
Ngoiro and koiro denote the conger-eel in Maori, but throughout Polynesia puhi and pusi are the general names for sea-eels. The Maori atua Puhi is connected with the conger-eel (see Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 2, p. 213), but in vernacular speech I do not think that the Maori uses the word puhi as a name for the conger.
Hine-moana, mentioned above, is the personified form of the ocean, who was taken to wife by Kiwa, and Kiwa and Tangaroa are both guardians of the ocean realm. Mataaho was the origin of sharks, as explained in the above myth, but elsewhere sharks are shown as the offspring of Punga. Pohuhu, of Ngati-Kahungunu, also explained that eels descended from the heavens: they were not produced and nurtured by the Earth Mother. He also gives a list of the "clans" of the tuna, or eel, tribe which is here inserted:—
These are names of varieties of eels known to the natives of the Wai-rarapa district. A considerable number of such names has been collected in different districts, but doubtless many of such terms are duplicates, as we find to be the case in names of birds that have been collected.
As in other lands, the eel enters into the myths of our Maori folk, and in the myth concerning the first woman it takes the place of the snake in the Biblical story. It seems fairly clear that in the myths of southern and south-eastern Asia the eel and snake are as it were, interchangeable, and that Ila and Indra are both names for the eel-god in that region. Ila-putra, son of Ila, was a snake-god, while Ila page 85was the sky-born eel-god. Now, why should eels be sky-born in the myths of two such widely separated peoples? The image of Ila was a lingam with a lunar crescent on its head, the symbol of fertility, and the phallic eel was known far across the Pacific region, as it was in southern Asia. At Mangaia the Milky Way is said to represent the sea-eel that was destroyed by Maui.
In his dissertation on the natural history of New Zealand the Rev. R. Taylor made the following remark: "The ruahine is a large species of eel. In former times these large eels were tamed, and regularly fed, They were treated as gods, and had daily offerings made to them." Elsewhere he writes: "They also paid a sort of worship to an enormous kind of eel, the ruahine; to such offerings were made, by which, in process of time, they were rendered quite tame." He also stated that eels were viewed in a similar manner in the Fiji Group. With reference to New Zealand we know of no such generally followed custom as that referred to, but a few notes collected tend to show that something of the kind was occasionally done. J. S. Polack, who sojourned in New Zealand for some years in the "thirties" of last century, stated that a lake exists in the summit of Mount Hikurangi, and that "large eels abound in this lake, which are honoured by the natives with the appellation of atua." This term, atua, is usually rendered as "god," but was used to denote anything supernormal or uncanny.
There is a place known to natives as Te Rua-o-Puhi, situated near Tauranga. At that place a huge eel is said to have occupied a pool or hole, and that eel was viewed as an atua by the local natives. Eels are said to have been tapu to those folk, hence they could not eat them, and a saying concerning them was, "He uri no Puhi kaore e kai i te tuna" ("The offspring of Puhi do not eat eels"). Puhi and Tuna are both terms used to denote the tutelary being of eels, or the personified form of such.
Colonel Gudgeon, in his notes on the "Takitumu" vessel, published in vol. 12. of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, gives a native account of eels being brought to New Zealand on board that vessel.
In Polynesia the eel is also met with in native myth, and the strange story of Tuna and Hina is known, with variations, in many islands. Hina, the female personification of the moon, often appears as the first woman; she is connected with women, childbirth, and the art of weaving. In the Mortlock Isles, Caroline Group, the eel is called Tiki-tolo, or Tiki the generator, and appears in local myths as the equivalent of the serpent in the Garden of Eden myth. In New Zealand Tiki is the personified form of the male organ of repro-page 86duction, one of whose titles is Tiki-toro. Myths pertaining to eels are extremely widespread.
Although certain mythical beings are said to have been the progenitors of the eel family, yet eels are also connected with Tangaroa, the tutelary being of all fish. One often hears old natives alluding to eels and other fish simply as Tangaroa, as is noted in an old saying applied to eels, "Ko Tangaroa ara rau" ("Tangaroa of the many paths or ways"), an allusion to the well known elusive nature of the wily tuna.
The ordinary folk-tale version of the origin of eels is to the effect that when Tuna was slain by Maui for interfering with Hina fresh-water eels originated from his head and the conger-eel from his tail. (See Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 32, p. 57.) This Hina is said in one version to have been a daughter of Tuna and Repo, or Hine-i-te-repo, the personified, form of swamps. In another, Hina appears as the sister of Irawaru, and Tuna as the son of Manga-wairoa, the latter name probably representing a personified form of streams. Tuna was slain in the waters of Muriwai-o-Hata (Muriwai-o-Ata, Mulivai-o-Ata), a name widely known throughtout Polynesia and which recalls the Muriwai-o-Whata of the Gisborne district, New Zealand.
In yet another version, collected at Taranaki, Tiki appears as the slayer of Tuna, whose body he cut into six pieces, from which sprang the six kinds of eels known to the Maori world. Here the phallic eel is destroyed by the personified form of the phallus, a very remarkable concept. (See Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 32, p. 56.) In one of the many versions of the slaying of Tuna we are told that from his body sprang the puku-tuoro, "the monster of Aotearoa." In some districts we hear stories of a mythical creature known as the tuna-tuoro that is said to have pursued persons in order to slay them. In the Tuhoe district the Tuoro appears in folk-tales as a huge creature of subterranean habits and domicile that burrows its way about underground, uprooting trees and devastating the land. Thus one of these monsters is said to have so formed the valley of the Waikare Stream, near Maunga-pohatu, in the misty days of the past. If this was so—and far be it from me to deny it—then the marvellous feat was probably performed by the tuoro that is said to have lived in the pond named Otara, on the summit of Maunga-pohatu. Te Ana-tuoro (The Tuoro Cave) is a place-name at Ahi-kereru, Te Whaiti Occasionally the Tuhoe folk speak of these monsters as hore.
The Rev. J. W. Stack published a short paper on the tuna-tuoro in vol. 10 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute. He states that the myth is known to the natives of both Islands, and that the page 87creature was described as uttering croaking sounds; that it rendered senseless any person it touched, and pursued its prey with great rapidity. The only means of escape was by burning the fern, as the tuna-tuoro was unable to pass over ashes.
Among the Ngati-Manawa folk of Whirinaki we hear of one Hine-i-wharona, who seems to have been a patroness or local tutelary being of eels. She is said to abide in the lagoon at Te Puta-kotare, where kingfishers form their burrows in the vertical cliffs of consolidated pumice. Eels that came under her sway carried her mark, a stripe or band, and when an eel carrying this mark was caught it was highly necessary that it be cooked in a separate oven and eaten by one person, lest trouble ensue. Methinks one sees here the hand of the local tohunga: in all ages priests and shamans have cultivated the art of attending to the welfare of No. 1.
The famous eight-tailed eel of Te Wera referred to at p. 68 of vol. 35 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute seems to have disappeared from human ken since the country became overrun by the intrusive paleface.
The Ngati-Manawa people referred to above were at one time desirous of blocking the progress of eels up the Rangitaiki River, so that certain objectionable folk who lived higher up the river should not benefit by such a desirable food-supply. They therefore performed some magic ceremony in order to place a ban on the upper waters. The material symbol of this ban, and its down-stream limit, was a drift log, a "sawyer," named Tangi-auraki, that was fixed in the river-bed near Nga Huinga. Another such ban, marked by a pole, was once instituted at Puketoatoa, on the same river.
The above-described ban may be viewed as a kind of white magic, and the mauri was a somewhat similar thing. A mauri was a material symbol that possessed powers of protection and attraction; it attracted eels to the surrounding waters, and also protected and fostered the welfare of all fish coming within the radius of its influence. These desirable powers were implanted in the material object by means of a charm recited by a tohunga (shaman or priestly expert); in reality they emanated from the atua (spirit, supernormal being) that empowered the charm. This mauri, or material token, may be a stone, a log, a tree, &c. It serves as a medium, an abiding-place for the atua or the mana of the atua whose aid was sought during the whakanoho mauri ceremony. The stone or other object represents the symbolical usage, an indirect mode of dealing with occult matters that appealed to the Maori.
The material mauri here described derives its power from those of a certain atua, or spirit, with which it has been impregnated, as it page 88were, by a tohunga. The material mauri is instituted in order to protect the immaterial mauri, or life-principle, of the protected fish. The Maori tells us that men, birds, fish, and many other things possess this tapu life-principle, and hence all can be affected by magic arts: as one of my informants put it, "All people possess a mauri; also all birds, whales, fish, and eels, &c" The Maori is much given to speaking of "fish and eels." The material mauri of birds and fish seem to exercise a double influence—they are believed to protect such creatures adjacent to the symbol, and also to attract others from other districts.
The mauri of sea fishing-grounds was often a stone. Bay of Plenty natives state that the expert operator would obtain the gills from a fish of the species mostly taken in the extent of ocean fished by a community, and conceal such with the object utilized as a mauri. By means of certain ritual formulae he would endow that object with power to attract and retain the fish in that area, and this was done by locating one or more atua in the mauri. That object would thus serve as a kind of shrine for the protecting spirit from which its powers were derived. The mauri would be concealed at some place on the coast. It preserved, says a native informant, the welfare of the ocean, and ensured good takes to fishermen. Should such catches fall off, then it would be known that something was wrong with the mauri; it had "gone to sleep," and so an expert would proceed to wake it up, to cause it to resume its activities. He would take the object in his hand and recite over it a charm, termed a whakaara, that was believed to have the desired effect. This was not the formula repeated when the stone was first endowed with its powers. (Ko te mauri he kohatu, aha ranei, ka apititia ki te piha o te ika, he kahawai te ika i tenei takiwa, a ka hunaia. He mea karakia hei pupuri i te ora o te moana, i te mate mai o nga kai. Ki te kore e kitea tena mea, ara mehemea kaore e nui te mate mai o te ika, ka tikina ka whakaarahia e te tohunga taua mauri, he mea karakia kia hoki mai nga ika. Ka puritia e ia ki tona ringa, a ka karakia i te whakaara. Ehara i te karakia o te whakatakotoranga, ara o te hunanga, engari he mea ke tenei, he whakaara tona ingoa.)
The mauri of eels in the Whakatane River near Ruatoki is known as Otangiroa; it is a log in the river-bed, and in former times eel-fishers repeated at that place charms to ensure them good luck. Another, near Murupara, Rangitaiki River, is a stone. Mauri were often located at eel-weirs.
When poachers became troublesome to the Maori of old he had two remedies at his hand: one was the convincing club; the other was makutu, the dread art of the sorcerer. The Maori has the firmest page 89faith in the alleged powers of the warlocks of old, and assuredly their spells were deadly in many cases wherein the victim was aware of the work of the sorcerer.
Another institution whereby food products and other things were protected was the form of embargo or prohibition known as rahui. This was a form of tapu; it was the protection of a close season, and so fish, birds, or any other product of Nature could be protected by means of a rahui. Such a restriction could not be enforced by any person; the originator would necessarily be an influential person. Such a ban placed on a forest, field, or stream was often marked by the erection of a post or pole at the place. In some cases black magic was employed in defence of the prohibition, and any trespasser interfering with the protected products was destroyed by the gods or demons who empower the arts of the magician.
In the account of Sir G. Grey's pedestrian tour from Auckland to Taranaki in 1849-50 an eel rahui, or preserve, is mentioned as having been seen near Orakei: "We came to a small lake, about an acre in extent, in the middle of a swamp, and which the natives said abounded with eels, and, on the top of a little ridge just above, a rahui, or mark to preserve the eels, was erected. It was made of an old rusty musket-barrel stuck in the ground, to which the stock was tied with a piece of flax, with a bunch of kakaho (reed) tops stuck on like a plume of feathers." It is needless to add that the infringement of a rahui in olden days meant trouble, swift and certain. The death penalty for such a misdemeanour was a common one.
In former times natives occasionally conveyed eels to eelless waters and there liberated them. I have also been told that they kept certain waters stocked with eels, such as ponds or lagoons that had no direct connection with the sea. The Para or Rotokura Lagoon, that formerly existed at Miramar, near Wellington, was so stocked with the eels called matamoe and haumate. These two kinds are said to be suitable for liberation in a roto hawai—that is, a lagoon that sometimes dries up to a considerable extent—because they at once burrow into the mud, and there await better and wetter times. In Heaphy's Narrative of a Residence in New Zealand, published in 1842, we are told that in those days plenty of eels were to be caught in this Burnham Water (as the lagoon had been named by Europeans) at Miramar. Natives have told me that attempts were made by their forbears to stock such high-lying waters as Waikare Moana with eels, but without success.
As to eels crossing dry land, there is a considerable amount of evidence to hand showing that eels certainly move from one body of water to another, and that such movements take place during the page 90night. A correspondent at Mauku, Auckland, tells me that he has known eels to cross at night a grass-paddock some 400 yards wide in order to avoid a high waterfall of about 70 ft. By this movement they reached a stream having no such obstruction, down which they passed on their way to the sea. This correspondent states that during an abnormally dry summer a pond on his farm dried up until there was little water left in it, and that water was filled with a wriggling mass of eels. As the water receded, the exposed banks of the pond dried and were converted into dusty slopes, and through this dry, dusty substance the eels could not pass. Under such conditions eels become coated with the dust, earth, or sand, and are incapable of moving on.
The same correspondent witnessed another example of the adaptability of our friend Tuna, the rover. He chanced to observe an eel making its way up a small creek. On reaching a pool it encountered a vertical face of about 3 ft. in height. Now, leaning against this rock-ledge, with its lower end in the pool, was a pole or branch. The eel decided to use this pole as a ladder, and soon twined itself up until it reached the top of the ledge and the next pool.
In the Otaki district eels have frequently been found dead between two lagoons. Evidently they had been passing from one to the other during the night and had been caught by the rising sun, which would dry the grass and put a stop to their progress.
The Dominion of the 9th February, 1928, has the following note on eels:—
A Waitotara farmer is getting big hauls of eels at present, which he converts into food for his poultry (says an exchange). One of his creeks has gone practically dry, and the eels congregate in large numbers in what few pools there are and can be easily caught. The farmer states that it is interesting at night-time to see the tuna travelling up the dry bed of the creek, migrating farther on in quest of water.
There are said to be no eels in Taupo and Waikare Moana lakes, and they are very scarce in the headwaters of some of our rivers, such as the Whakatane and Whirinaki. The Rev. H. J. Fletcher tells us that, in the Taupo district, in an area of fifty by sixty miles in extent, the eel is practically unknown. (See Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, vol. 51, p. 259.)
Natives appear to believe that some species or varieties of eels migrate to the sea—an annual migration—while others do not. Some writers have stated that all eels do so, while others deny this; for which see a paper in vol. 8 of the above-mentioned Transactions. Mr. T. W. Downes, in an excellent paper on eels and eel-weirs published in vol. 50 of the same journal gives some interesting information anent page 91the annual migration of the tuna-heke down the Whanganui River to the sea. These eels are said to move down-stream during the night, and Wiwi, of Pipiriki, informed me that they swim on or near the surface, with the head held up. This migration occurs in the autumn. I have seen snakes swimming across Elk River, in California, in that manner.
A note from Castlecliff describes a night movement of eels in March from lagoons and ponds to the sea. A local resident took two one evening as they were making good headway toward the beach.
Mr. Karlson, of Dargaville, stated that all eels do not spawn at sea, for in his country (which he does not name) sea-eels go up the streams to spawning-grounds in stony and shallow places.
Mr. W. D. B. Murray, of Palmerston North, wrote as follows on the subject of elvers. These remarks were published in the Dominion of the 2nd August, 1928:—
Where do Eels Spawn?
In 1876 I was surveying a large block of land for settlement in the Glenkenich, Tapanui, district in Otago. Through a portion of the block flowed the Waikoikoi Stream, a branch of the Pomahaka River. The source and head of the stream was a large swamp—say, from four to five miles long, and from a quarter to half a mile wide. I was camped on the banks of the swamp for months. The upper mile or so of the swamp was covered by a tangled mat of vegetation from 1 ft to 2 ft thick, underneath being water from 8 ft to 10 ft deep—a kind of covered lake. Scattered over this portion here and there, were clear stagnant uncovered portions of water, and when the sun was shining I have seen near the surface in these pools hundreds, maybe thousands, of young eels from 1 in. to 3 in. long swimming about; and undoubtedly these young eels never came from the sea. The idea is ridiculous, the sea being fifty miles away as the crow flies. The swamp contained thousands of eels, all sizes up to 3 ft and 4 ft in length. After a spell of heavy rain the swamp would overflow the adjacent land, and at night the eels would come out through the grass in hundreds, and with a table-fork lashed on the end of a stick you could spear a cartload if you wanted them. The swamp, years after I was there, was drained by a deep channel taken up the centre, as the toll of sheep drowned or bogged was considerable.
In a paper by Mr. James Duigan (Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, vol. 8) appears certain evidence concerning this question of the seaward migration of eels. The writer is assuredly right when he says that there is something more than physical difficulties to account for the absence of eels in the upper parts of some rivers and in certain lakes. He gives some interesting evidence, and evidently believes that the dislike for cold waters keeps eels away from high-lying lakes and headwaters of rivers. But is this the true reason, or the only one? Take the Whakatane River: in this stream eels frequent the page 92lower part, but an eel is seldom seen in the Ruatahuna district, on its headwaters; during a fifteen years' residence I saw but one there. There are no falls in this river, and the rapid at Ohaua would never hold up eels seeking the upper reaches. In the next valley we have the Rangitaiki River, which has a vertical fall of 65ft. situated some miles below old Fort Galatea. Eels have always been taken in this river far above the falls, as also in its tributaries. As for the headwaters of the Rangitaiki, which are in high-lying country under the shadow of Kaimanawa, I cannot say whether eels are found there or not.
Mr. Duigan evidently held the view that all eels do not go to the sea, and in evidence thereof refers to eels in the isolated Virginia Lake, at Whanganui, and to others caught by him in isolated swamps and lagoons far in the interior of Australia.
An article on the absence of eels in the upper waters of the Waiauuha River, by W. T. L. Travers, was published in vol. 3 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute. The writer seems to have concluded that the eel-fry were unable to pass certain rapids in the river. If these elvers can ascend vertical cliffs, as we are told, then the Waiau rapids must be somewhat formidable. In like manner Hoch-stetter tells us that the rapids in the Waikato River prevented eels reaching Lake Taupo. Mr. T. Potts also mentions eelless streams of the upper Rangitata area, and states that eels are quite able to reach such streams; hence he thinks that either the temperature of the water or certain qualities thereof prevent eels going to such places.
As a sea-traveller the eel appears to excel, according to our scientific authorities, and Dr. Anderson has stated that marked eels have been known to travel nearly a thousand miles in a month.
Some natives have peculiar beliefs or theories as to the origin of eels, and one of these is that the conger-eel gives birth to the fresh-water eels, which then betake themselves to fresh water. This idea was scouted by an old native of the Wai-rarapa district, who spoke as follows: "There are many kinds of eels, such as the ruahine, kokopu-tuna, tarehe, karaerae, kopakopako, matamoe, matawera, haum-ate, and hao. The kaka is another: that eel is not found here, but at Waikato; it is seen sticking to waterfalls and cascades; it is a little longer than my forefinger. These eels cling to each other, and are taken by means of a close-woven basket-like net. Such eels are fat from head to tail, and are seen in the months of December and January; they may be compared to the tuwerewere, also the maero—that is, the kopakopako, which is called maero because it is dried by us. Now, observe the many kinds of eels, from large ones down to small ones like the kaka. It would not be correct to say that the conger-eel page 93is the breeder. The conger produces congers just as lizards produce lizards. All things breed in that manner: the young always resemble their parents. The fish of the ocean have their distinctive peculiarities, just as fish of the waters of land have. Even so, the eel has its peculiarities, and its progeny of all breeds are true to breed. The movements of the young of the eel are of this nature: When the time comes when they are able to move about, in the month of August, they are taken by their parents to land, to streams containing alluvial deposits where the water-plant called retoreto is found, where they shelter themselves. At that time they are about as thick as a rush-stem and as long as the little finger. The female parent leaves the young there to develop and goes off on her own affairs. The blind-eel, the lamprey, the conger, and the shark all give birth to their young in the same manner."
Another native contributed the following brief note: "Our elders had much to tell us concerning eels and their ways. Eels go to the ocean to produce their young, not in the form of eggs, as does the inanga, for the young eels are born as children are; the waves of the ocean cause them to be born. These young eels are called porohe. They pass up the rivers, and on reaching a fall they ascend it by means of clinging to the vegetation, &c. Then they again enter the water and proceed to their own places. They were collected by the men of yore (Nehe ma) to serve as food."
Another native informant gave the following: "Young eels, when ascending the rivers about January, are known as porohe. At water-falls they avoid the main fall, and ascend at the sides, where the light trickles of water are. They are caught in great numbers by laying bundles of fern [Pteris] at the top of the rock-face, into which fern they crawl. The bundles of fern are carried away and shaken over spread nets, on which they are dried in the sun, being afterwards packed in closely woven baskets. Porohe are thus taken in great numbers in the Waiapu River during the night."
In John Rochfort's narrative of his expedition to the west coast of the South Island, published in the Australian and New Zealand Gazette of the 2nd June, 1860, the following remarks occur in his account of ascending the Buller River: "Nov. 17.—… arrived at a rapid with a fall of 9 ft. in 1 chain …. the ground at the side was precipitous …. Here the eels and inanga literally swarmed. One would think this fall would be an effectual barrier to the latter, but they had the ingenuity to climb the perpendicular faces of rocks, which were literally black with them as they scrambled over the top and dropped into the eddy above; so numerous were they that one might take a hat and brush it full with the hand."page 94
In his admirable paper on "Eels and Eel-weirs," published in vol. 50 of the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Mr. T. W. Downes speaks of the eel-migration to the sea taking place in March, April, and May, and adds that the natives have no record of the large eels returning, but that "the young fry go up the rivers in the spring in countless numbers." This writer also describes the taking of eel-fry at the mouth of the Ohura tributary of the Whanganui River. At the base of a waterfall is a deep pool wherein the eel-fry are seen in great numbers during the running season, and wherein they appear to stay awhile ere ascending the fall. In that pool natives take them in great numbers by placing in the pool rolled-up bundles of fern, brush, or rushes, into which the elvers, from 2 in. to 6 in. in length, creep, and are so lifted from the pool. These crude fish-traps are termed koere by local natives; in some other districts they are known as taruke.whakaweku, and tau. Capatin G. Mair describes the taking of these diminutive eels at the same place in vol. 12 of the same journal. He states that they are seen wriggling up the vertical rock where no rush of water is, but the rock face is wet. They seem to ascend in dense columns, and if the head of a column be swept away by the hand, then all the rest fall back into the water. These tuna-riki, as the elvers are often called, are taken by means of suspending on the rock-face conical basket traps fashioned from green Phormium leaves into which the elvers crawl in large numbers. Similar accounts have been given of the Waitangi Falls and of other such places in various districts. The ascent of such a barrier as the falls of the Rangitaiki River, near Waiohau, must be somewhat of an ordeal for annual migrants of tuna-riki or porohe. These falls are 65 ft. in height.
A correspondent at Galatea has lately sent me a note on this movement of eel-fry up the Rangitaiki River. Harehare Aterea, a local native, informed him that such fry ascend the falls in great numbers in June and July by means of wriggling up the rock-face where it is wet and moss-grown, but away from the falling waters. At such times they are seen in numbers in any small pools above the falls, possibly resting after their arduous climbing; at this time the young eels are about 3 in. in length.
Different times are assigned to this movement of eel-fry up our rivers. One informant states that it occurs in the spring; another says in December and January; another, January; another, February; another, June and July; and yet another makes it August. This seems to cover the whole year, but the run seems to be brief at any one place. Does it occur at different periods at different places?
The many names applied to eels by natives are a pitfall to the unwary, and, moreover, like bird and plant names, they often differ page 95in different districts. In collecting such names the seeker after knowledge should carefully choose his district and ever after refuse to budge therefrom, and so attain peace; otherwise, should he move on, he may find it necessary to begin collecting names again. The following list of eel-names, though incomplete, will tend to show that Maori nomenclature, albeit often exasperating, lacks naught in the number of names employed:—
|Aopori ..||..||A name for the matamoe at a certain stage of growth. See under Matamoe.|
|Arawaru ..||..||Whanganui district. See Downes, Trans. N.Z. Inst., vol. 50, p. 300.|
|Arokehe ..||..||A thick-skinned black eel. First two names from South Island.|
|Kirirua ..||..||A thick-skinned black eel. First two names from South Island.|
|Orea ..||..||A thick-skinned black eel. First two names from South Island.|
|Hao ..||Mud-eel. An Otaki native gave hao as a name for the young of heke (tuna-heke). At Waiapu hao is a mud-frequenting eel, not cleaned for cooking, because no food is found in its stomach. Downes, of Whanganui, says, "Hao or puhi, a blue-eyed eel, the best eating." See Mr. Downes's paper, p. 299. T. Roach, of Otaki, says that the puhi is a big eel, dark-coloured, but light-coloured underneath; it has a big, flat head, with a strong grip. It is found in lagoons and swamps, and is taken with eel-pot, bob, and spear.|
|Pango ..||..||Mud-eel. An Otaki native gave hao as a name for the young of heke (tuna-heke). At Waiapu hao is a mud-frequenting eel, not cleaned for cooking, because no food is found in its stomach. Downes, of Whanganui, says, "Hao or puhi, a blue-eyed eel, the best eating." See Mr. Downes's paper, p. 299. T. Roach, of Otaki, says that the puhi is a big eel, dark-coloured, but light-coloured underneath; it has a big, flat head, with a strong grip. It is found in lagoons and swamps, and is taken with eel-pot, bob, and spear.|
|Puhi ..||..||Mud-eel. An Otaki native gave hao as a name for the young of heke (tuna-heke). At Waiapu hao is a mud-frequenting eel, not cleaned for cooking, because no food is found in its stomach. Downes, of Whanganui, says, "Hao or puhi, a blue-eyed eel, the best eating." See Mr. Downes's paper, p. 299. T. Roach, of Otaki, says that the puhi is a big eel, dark-coloured, but light-coloured underneath; it has a big, flat head, with a strong grip. It is found in lagoons and swamps, and is taken with eel-pot, bob, and spear.|
|Hau ..||..||A small, slim eel, about 18 in. in length, dark-coloured. Wai-rarapa district. See Downes, pp. 299-301.|
|Haumate ..||..||A small eel, short-eared; resembles hao. Wai-rarapa district.|
|Heke ..||..||Eels that migrate to sea during autumn. Probably applied to several species or varieties. See Downes, p. 298 on.|
|Tuna-heke ..||..||Eels that migrate to sea during autumn. Probably applied to several species or varieties. See Downes, p. 298 on.|
|Hikumutu ..||..||A small eel. Said to be the same as matamoe.|
|Hōhō ..||..||A large eel.|
|Horepara ..||..||A South Island name. Light green, white underneath.|
|Horewai ..||..||A large eel. Tuhoe district.|
|Horo-pukeko ..||..||An eel that is said to frequent both fresh and salt waters. Bay of Plenty east.|
|Horowai ..||..||An eel that is said to frequent both fresh and salt waters. Bay of Plenty east.|
|Huwha-pikorua||..||Term for a very large eel.|
|Iakaaka, tuna iakaaka||This should probably be hiakaaka. Of a light-green colour. Perhaps the same as taiaka. Downes, p. 302. Whanganui district.page 96|
|Kaiherehere ..||..||A small species. Dark-coloured back, light-coloured underneath. Tuhoe; also Bay of Plenty east.|
|Kaingara ..||..||Of a yellowish colour, large head, carries no fat; does not descend to sea in autumn. Whanganui. Downes, p. 303. Kai-ngarara was given as an eel-name at Bay of Plenty east.|
|Kakaka ..||..||Wai-rarapa district.|
|Kanakana ..||..||Blind-eel or lamprey. See Korokoro.|
|Karaerae ..||..||Wai-rarapa district.|
|Kauaetea ..||..||Said to be young of the whakaau.|
|Kaueri(?) ..||..||Downes, p. 304. Also South Island.|
|Keke ..||..||A Whanganui district name. Downes, pp. 300-305.|
|Koaro ..||..||A long-bodied eel, dark-coloured back, light-coloured beneath; frequents muddy streams. Waiapu district.|
|Kohau ..||..||Mud-eel. Whanganui district.|
|Koiro ..||..||The Conger-eel.|
|Koiero ..||..||The Conger-eel.|
|Koriro . .||..||The Conger-eel.|
|Totoke ..||..||The Conger-eel.|
|Kokopu ..||..||A large species. See Downes, pp. 301-306. Wai-rarapa natives say that there are two forms of this eel—the paratawai, which is short, and the putake-harakeke, of a reddish colour. Whanganui; Wai-rarapa; Waiapu.|
|Kokopu-tuna . .||..||A large species. See Downes, pp. 301-306. Wai-rarapa natives say that there are two forms of this eel—the paratawai, which is short, and the putake-harakeke, of a reddish colour. Whanganui; Wai-rarapa; Waiapu.|
|Pouaru, or tunapouaru ..||..||A large species. See Downes, pp. 301-306. Wai-rarapa natives say that there are two forms of this eel—the paratawai, which is short, and the putake-harakeke, of a reddish colour. Whanganui; Wai-rarapa; Waiapu.|
|Kongehe ..||..||Said to have a soft, flabby body; often caught by hand. Wai-rarapa district.|
|Kopaopao||..||Silver-eel. Williams's Maori Dictionary. A swamp-eel, about 30 in. long; spiny fins; bony; poor eating. Downes, p. 302. See Tuwerewere.|
|Kopure ..||..||Waitotara district.|
|Korokoro ..||..||The lamprey (Geotria australis). The name korokoro is used on the east coast of the North Island. Korokoro-pounamu, a fish-name, may or may not pertain to the lamprey, Whiwhirau also calls for explanation.|
|Piharau ..||..||The lamprey (Geotria australis). The name korokoro is used on the east coast of the North Island. Korokoro-pounamu, a fish-name, may or may not pertain to the lamprey, Whiwhirau also calls for explanation.|
|Pihapiharau ..||..||The lamprey (Geotria australis). The name korokoro is used on the east coast of the North Island. Korokoro-pounamu, a fish-name, may or may not pertain to the lamprey, Whiwhirau also calls for explanation.|
|Kuia ..||..||A large eel. Whanganui. See Downes, p. 300.page 97|
|Kukahika ..||..||Frequents forest streams. Bay of Plenty east. Found in stagnant pools, not in running water. Williams's Maori Dictionary.|
|Whakaea ..||Frequents forest streams. Bay of Plenty east. Found in stagnant pools, not in running water. Williams's Maori Dictionary.|
|Mairehe ..||..||A light-coloured eel. Mairehe is the Wai-rarapa form of the name. Cf. Whakatarehe, Torehe, Tourehe.|
|Tarehe ..||..||A light-coloured eel. Mairehe is the Wai-rarapa form of the name. Cf. Whakatarehe, Torehe, Tourehe.|
|Tirehe ..||..||A light-coloured eel. Mairehe is the Wai-rarapa form of the name. Cf. Whakatarehe, Torehe, Tourehe.|
|Matairaira ..||..||Elvers; eel-fry. Ngorengore also applied to inanga fry. Ngaeroero is a Tuhoe form of the name.|
|Ngaeroero ..||..||Elvers; eel-fry. Ngorengore also applied to inanga fry. Ngaeroero is a Tuhoe form of the name.|
|Ngoiro ..||..||Elvers; eel-fry. Ngorengore also applied to inanga fry. Ngaerorero is a Tuhoe form of the name.|
|Ngorengore . .||..||Elvers; eel-fry. Ngorengore also applied to inanga fry. Ngaeroero is a Tuhoe form of the name.|
|Tunariki||..||Elvers; eel-fry. Ngorengore also applied to inanga fry. Ngaeroero is a Tuhoe form of the name.|
|Porohe||..||Elvers; eel-fry. Ngorengore also applied to inanga fry. Ngaeroero is a Tuhoe form of the name.|
|Tutuna||..||Elvers; eel-fry. Ngorengore also applied to inanga fry. Ngaeroero is a Tuhoe form of the name.|
|Mataka ..||..||Said to be of a brownish colour. Waiapu district. Mr. Downs tells us that this eel has its eyes covered with a kind of film; hence its name of matamoe ("closed eyes"). In the Bay of Plenty east district I was informed that four names denoting stages of growth are applied to the matamoe eel; these are rara, oue, aopori, and papawhenua, the first of these representing the very small eels, and the last the matured form. The Tuhoe folk know this eel by the name of paewai, which enters into the saying, "He ua ki tepo, he paewai ki te ao," which hinges on the fact that rainy nights favour the eel-fisher. Of the matamoe Mr. Downes said that its length is about 30 in., it frequents stony and sandy streams, becomes fat, occasionally takes a bait, and is a migrating species. Dark-coloured back, lighter below. All of these eight names are applied to the one variety.|
|Matamoe. ..||..||Said to be of a brownish colour. Waiapu district. Mr. Downs tells us that this eel has its eyes covered with a kind of film; hence its name of matamoe ("closed eyes"). In the Bay of Plenty east district I was informed that four names denoting stages of growth are applied to the matamoe eel; these are rara, oue, aopori, and papawhenua, the first of these representing the very small eels, and the last the matured form. The Tuhoe folk know this eel by the name of paewai, which enters into the saying, "He ua ki tepo, he paewai ki te ao," which hinges on the fact that rainy nights favour the eel-fisher. Of the matamoe Mr. Downes said that its length is about 30 in., it frequents stony and sandy streams, becomes fat, occasionally takes a bait, and is a migrating species. Dark-coloured back, lighter below. All of these eight names are applied to the one variety.|
|Hikumutu. ..||..||Said to be of a brownish colour. Waiapu district. Mr. Downs tells us that this eel has its eyes covered with a kind of film; hence its name of matamoe ("closed eyes"). In the Bay of Plenty east district I was informed that four names denoting stages of growth are applied to the matamoe eel; these are rara, oue, aopori, and papawhenua, the first of these representing the very small eels, and the last the matured form. The Tuhoe folk know this eel by the name of paewai, which enters into the saying, "He ua ki tepo, he paewai ki te ao," which hinges on the fact that rainy nights favour the eel-fisher. Of the matamoe Mr. Downes said that its length is about 30 in., it frequents stony and sandy streams, becomes fat, occasionally takes a bait, and is a migrating species. Dark-coloured back, lighter below. All of these eight names are applied to the one variety.|
|Moepapa ..||..||A small species.|
|Mohu ..||..||A small species. Tuhoe; Bay of Plenty.|
|Monanui ..||..||A small species.|
|Napia ..||..||Blind-eel (Eptatretus cirrhatus).|
|Pia ..||..||Blind-eel (Eptatretus cirrhatus).|
|Tuare ..||..||Blind-eel (Eptatretus cirrhatus).|
|Tuere ..||..||Blind-eel (Eptatretus cirrhatus).|
|Ngahuru ..||..||A Whanganui name. See Downes, pp. 298-299.|
|Ngehe ..||..||A swamp-eel. Cf. Kongehe.|
|Ngoringori ..||..||Small and black.|
|Opuha, or hopuha||..||Whanganui district.|
|Pa, or tuna-pa||..||See Downes, p. 302. Whanganui district.|
|Paewaru ..||..||A large eel.|
|Pakarara ..||..||A large eel. (Pa'arara is an eel-name at Tahiti.)|
|Pakeha ..||..||The silver-eel. South Island.|
|Pango ..||..||A silver-bellied eel. Whanganui. See Downes, p. 299. See also under Hao.|
|Papaka ..||..||Of a yellowish colour. Otaki district; Waikawa River.|
|Paraharaha||..||A large eel, short and thick, black above, yellowish below; frequents clear, stony streams. Caught with bob or hook. Otaki.|
|Paranui ..||..||A black eel. Whanganui district.|
|Paratawai ..||..||A large-sized eel. Resembles the kokopu-tuna. Waiapu natives say a short species. Wairarapa natives state that paratawai, a short eel, and putake-harakeke, a reddish-coloured one, are two kinds of kokopou-tuna.|
|Pehipehi ..||..||A yellos-bellied eel. Otaki.|
|Piki, or tuna-piki||..||Pig-eared eel with "bristles" on back. Whanganui. See Downes, p. 304.|
|Piwekeweke||..||A small-sized eel.|
|Wekeweke ..||..||A small-sized eel.|
|Pou, or tuna-pou.|
|Puharakeke||..||A large eel, yellowish-brown, large head, small eyes with black pupil surrounded by yellow ring, projecting lower jaw; grows to a great size. Whanganui. See Downes, p. 302. Waiapu natives say that the puharakeke is the colour of a green flax-leaf, hence its name.|
|Puhi ..||..||See under Hao|
|Puhi-korokoro||..||The yellow eel. Large lamprey (Williams).|
|Putaiore ..||..||A tuna-heke, or migrating species. Blue-black in colour large pectoral fins, flat head, broad tail, blue eyes. Whanganui names. See Downes, p. 299.|
|Tuna-rere ..||..||A tuna-heke, or migrating species. Blue-black in colour large pectoral fins, flat head, broad tail, blue eyes. Whanganui names. See Downes, p. 299.|
|Tuna-riri ..||..||A tuna-heke, or migrating species. Blue-black in colour large pectoral fins, flat head, broad tail, blue eyes. Whanganui names. See Downes, p. 299.|
|Putake-harakeke||..||A large eel; resembles the kokopu-tuna. See under Kokopu. Cf. Puharakeke.|
|Reko||..||Light-coloured, silver-bellied; comes down-stream in February and March. Wai-rarapa. See Downes, p. 301.|
|Rere, or tuna-rere||..||See Riri, Putaiore.|
|Rewharewha||..||Tuhoe district.page 99|
|Riko ..||..||A large eel. Said to be largest taken in the Wai-rarapa district.|
|Rino ..||..||A large eel.|
|Ringo ..||..||Said to be a reddish-coloured eel of medium size and extremely active. Possibly the tuna-riri or tuna-rere of Whanganui.|
|Riri, or rere ..||..||Tuna-riri or tuna-rere. A tuna-heke, or migrating eel, of Whanganui. See under Putaiore.|
|Ruahine ..||..||A large eel. See Downes, p. 301.|
|Tahimaro ..||..||A large black eel frequenting lagoons and swamps. Is taken up to 20 lb. and 30 lb. in weight. Taken with eel-pot, bob, and spear. Otaki district. This correspondent says that another eel of that district is long and thin, of a yellowish colour, and having dry, tough flesh; the name he does not supply; it may be the papaka.|
|Taiaka ..||..||Waitotara district. See Downes, p. 305.|
|Takariwha ..||..||Waiapu natives state that the takaruha is of a light-green colour, and that it has a prominent puku (stomach).|
|Takaruha ..||..||Waiapu natives state that the takaruha is of a light-green colour, and that it has a prominent puku (stomach).|
|Takaruwha ..||..||Waiapu natives state that the takaruha is of a light-green colour, and that it has a prominent puku (stomach).|
|Tangaroa ..||..||Whanganui district.|
|Tapa-harakeke||..||Apparently a brownish colour on back (He whero a runga o te tawaka o te tuara). Bay of Plenty east.|
|Tararahia ..||..||A large eel.|
|Tararawhia||..||A large eel.|
|Tātā ..||..||A small eel. Tuhoe district.|
|Tātā-kareao||A salt-water eel; not edible.|
|Tātā-rakau..||..||Similar to the riko. Dark-coloured on back and light beneath, according to Waiapu natives; those of Wai-rarapa say that it carries the same thickness from head to tail.|
|Toke, tuna-toke||..||The Whanganui term for all eels that are taken with a bait of toke (earthworms), hence not a specific name for one variety. See Downes, p. 298.|
|Torehe, tourehe||..||Cf. Tarehe.|
|Tuhoro||..||According to Whanganui natives, a black eel with large head and small tail. Seldom caught or seen, and, if it is, then the fact is ominous of evil. Probably the same as the tuoro or tuna-tuoro, alluded to above. See Downes, pp. 303-304.|
|Tuoro ..||..||According to Whanganui natives, a black eel with large head and small tail. Seldom caught or seen, and, if it is, then the fact is ominous of evil. Probably the same as the tuoro or tuna-tuoro, alluded to above. See Downes, pp. 303-304.|
|Tuna ..||..||A generic term for all eels. Tuna-heke, a migrating eel that does not take bait. See Heke.page 100|
|Tuna-whero ..||..||Found in tidal waters. East Coast.|
|Tunokenoke ..||..||Wai-rarapa district.|
|Tutuna ..||..||A small eel; one of the tuna-heke, or migrating eels. Wai-rarapa district.|
|Whakaau ..||..||Mature form of the kauaetea. See Papawhenua.|
|Whitiki ..||..||A small eel. Waikato district.|
Mr. T. Roach, of Otaki, an old and enthusiastic fisher of eels, described a dark-coloured eel having light coloured spots, and light circles round the eyes, that comes down the Otaki River about February and moves out to sea. It apparently does not grow to any great size, but is remarkable for its broad tail. There is a considerable diversity as to form, colour, habits, and size attained in the eels of these Islands, which calls for special and prolonged study.
The following article on eels has been culled from the Otaki Mail; it is interesting as giving the data collected by an observant man. The lagoons along the Otaki coast-line have always been famous eel-preserves, and so were highly valued by the natives in pre-European times:—
The Habits of the Eel: An Interesting Study.
In a recent issue of the Mail there was published an article by a Danish scientist, Professor Schmidt, giving the results of recent investigations into the life-story of the eel, a subject that has engaged the attention of naturalists from the earliest times. A local observer, Mr. Rod McDonald, supplements Dr. Schmidt's conclusions by the knowledge he has gained during a long residence on this coast, and his remarks, which will be found below, will be found by nature students to be full of interest.
"Long before the question had begun to interest European scientists the Maoris knew that the eels went to sea to spawn, and they had a regular lore built up about their times and manner of migration. So accurate was their knowledge that they could tell to a day when the migrations would commence, and on what nights they would be running, and so certain were they in their deductions in the latter instance that on these nights they would not [?] set nets, and the sceptical pakeha who doubted their knowledge soon found out from experience that he himself merely wasted time in doing so. The Maori was interested in eels from no such abstract reason as a desire to benefit science, but for the very practical one that a close study of their habits made the catching of them more certain. For this reason, theory entered into his calculations not at all; everything was directly practical and the result of, probably, centuries of close study, with the result that what he knew he knew thoroughly. In Horowhenua, Buller, and most of the local lakes the eels are divided into two broad divisions or species. Firstly, as being the more interesting for our present purpose, and also incomparably the better for eating, there was the dark-brown, copper-bellied species, the page 101female of which was known as the puhi and the male as the hau. The male at the time of the run to sea was usually about 18 in. to 20 in. in length, the female being several inches longer, which bears out Professor Schmidt's statement that the male matures at an earlier age than the female. These eels cannot be caught on the hook, the only way of taking them being by means of the hinaki, or eel-pot, or by spearing. Also, they are not mud-eels, as the other species is, which, no doubt, accounts for their better flavour. They differ slightly in different lakes, a fact which it is of importance to note. The second species is divided into three kinds, the main one being the papaka. This is the ordinary silver-bellied eel caught on the hook. The next kind, which was not eaten by the Maori, is a large-headed, yellow-bellied eel called pehipehi, which the Maori claims is the one that, under ordinary circumstances, attains the huge size sometimes found in our rivers and lakes. Under unusual circumstances the first-named—the puhi and hau—also grows to a great size. The third kind of the species was the ringo.
"These two divisions of the eel world make their migrations at different times of the year, the puhi and hau leading off in the autumn, starting at the beginning of February and continuing through March. They commence travel at about 6 p.m. in the evening, as soon as dusk begins to fall, and travel for two or three hours. Wherever they happen to be, when some instinct compels them to halt, they remain until next evening. During the migration season they may be found lurking in the watercress and under banks during the day. On nights when the moon is up they do not run, unless there should happen to be rain. The common eel begins its migration in August, continuing it until early September. However, although these periods are absolutely definite under natural circumstances, if for any reason the eel is blocked from escape at this time, he will begin his migration on the first opportunity, whatever the season may be. The slight differences to be observed in the eels of practically every lake in this district are particularly valuable as proving that not only does an eel come back into the stream from which his parents started, but into the exact locality, wherever it may be, and whatever the difficulties of reaching it. This difference, though slight, is so distinct that any Maori by looking at an eel can tell immediately where it was caught. For instance, in the Pakauhokio Lake, the puhi and hau are shorter and broader for their weight than in the Horowhenua, and this is especially remarkable from the fact that to reach Pakauhokio they have to come right through the Horowhenua Lake, up the Mangaroa Stream, through the Poroutawhao Swamp—in all of which places the Horowhenua variety is found—and then cross a ridge 100 yards wide and about 80 ft. high, before reaching their destination. Natural outlet from this lake there is none, although in the remote past the Maoris, by what immense labour one can imagine, considering the tools at their disposal, cut a drain 6 ft. wide at the bottom and gradually widening according to the requirements of the sandy soil, towards the top. This outlet was religiously kept blocked except for about a week at night, and eel-baskets set. Although it was three months from the natural migratory season, the eels, as soon as they felt, or sensed, the pull of the escaping water, swarmed out through the opening and were caught in hundreds. The important point to notice for page 102the moment, however, is that except for this week there was no means for the baby eels to reach the lake except by crossing the ridge. Yet an eel of the Pakauhokio type was never caught below the ridge, although to reach its home it had to pass through quite suitable feeding-grounds for more than ten miles after leaving the sea. Also, no eel of the Horowhenua type was ever found in Pakauhokio.
"In the Wairarawa and Buller Lakes the eels of the puhi and hau variety are slightly longer than elsewhere, and are distinguished by the peculiarly high crown of the head. Wairarawa also is peculiar in that it is inhabited by this species only, although there is apparently no reason why the others should not be present, except that in the remote age when eels were evolved the original ancestors of the papaka, pehipehi, and ringo failed to enter it.
"Although eels would appear to go to sea at the age of five years, or there-abouts, and, having bred, never return, apparently dying as soon as this final act in their life-history has been accomplished, the evidence against this being necessarily the limit of age to which they may attain is conclusive. There are on the old Horowhenua run several small lakes with no outlet whatever, other than evaporation or soakage. These lakes, up to thirty-five years ago, the Maoris regularly stocked with eels, using only the common eel, which would take the bait, for the purpose. In my time the eels were caught in Horowhenua and carried across on horseback in split-sack saddlebags, to be liberated in the lakes. Prior to the advent of the pakeha they were transported in eel-baskets. In connection with their liberation in their new home a peculiar ceremony was gone through. A piece of fern along the bank of the lake would be burnt, and in the light fluffy ashes the eels were rolled, the Maoris claiming that this cleaned them and made them of better quality. These eels were caught in the ordinary hinaki in the lake, and at the time of being liberated would be up to a foot in length, so that they already must have been more than half-grown. Nevertheless, they were never fished for until six years had elapsed, when the Maoris would carefully count the ones they took out, and always got the tally pretty nearly correct. An even more remarkable illustration of this fact is offered by the case of Lake Rakauhamama, which lies about a mile to the south of the Hokio Stream, and which, within my memory, was connected with the sea by a creek. Owing to the sand-drift, this creek, together with part of the lake, has been filled up, the final blocking taking place at least thirty-five years ago. Now although, eels have been known to cross dry land, they are absolutely helpless in sand, yet there are still eels in the lake, and of enormous size. They are of the puhi and hau variety, which explains the fact that they have not been caught, this variety, as has been explained, not taking the bait; and, whereas before the blocking of the creek they were of the same size as those caught in the other lakes, they now occasionally are speared up to 20 lb. in weight, which would seem to prove that age is not responsible for the death of the eel so much as the fact that, having completed its life-work by breeding, Nature has no further use for it.
"It was, no doubt, a knowledge of the fact—learned from the Maoris—that the eel, having gone to sea never returned that made some of the old whalers assert that conger-eels were merely the survivors of the annual migration."
Another interesting budget of notes concerning the eel-run to the sea has been contributed by Mr. J. G. Miller, and this appeared in the Wellington Dominion of the 1st March, 1929. These notes deal with the Wai-rarapa district, wherein eels pass down divers streams into the Wai-rarapa Lake, thence to the lower lake, Onoke, and so to sea. It is when they find access to the ocean barred by a bank of shingle that these migrating eels are taken in large numbers by the koumu method, described elsewhere in this paper.
Mr. Miller states that on three occasions he has witnessed the "eel-run" referred to above, and on one of such he caught some 1,500 eels. He learned from local Maori folk that the eel-migration consists of seven different "runs" at different periods of the season; the first to appear consists of small-sized eels, while the big eels, from 25 lb. to 40 lb., do not come down until about the middle of May. The first migrants to make seaward are of the kind called hau, a small, slim eel much appreciated by the Maori. When these are taken by means of a koumu the trench is, according to Mr. Miller, "a slithering mass of eels." This run continues for about a fortnight. After this variety comes a small, bronze-backed eel that we are told is not eaten by natives. The seven "runs" or heke of eels are known to the Maori by different names, but it is not known that they consist of different varieties: this is a matter that calls for a close study of the subject.
At p. 101 of vol. 42, Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Mr. T. W. Downes tells us that when small or thin eels were caught they were liberated on a spot where some fern had been burned near the water, and across the ashes they had to crawl in order to regain the water. This treatment, in Maori belief would cause the eels to grow and wax fat. In Captain G. Mair's Reminiscences and Maori Stories we are told that Ha-tupatu stocked the Rotorua Lake with eels brought from Oraka and elsewhere. When released at Ohine-mutu the ill-fated eels were treated as follows: "A quantity of dry fern was placed where the shore sloped steeply into the lake, and when it was burnt to white ashes the eels were emptied into it, wriggling into the water more or less scorched." We are also told that had this not been done no eels would ever have been caught in the lake.
Dr. Marshall, in his Narrative of Two visits to New Zealand in 1834, mentions a form of rake as being used in taking eels. Of this I have no knowledge. The rake-wielder would, methinks, have to be pretty nimble to take eels with such an implement. The statement is as follows: "Eels are found in great plenty, and to catch these they use valvular baskets, and a sort of rake, than which it is hardly possible that anything better adapted for the purpose should be contrived."page 104
In some districts, as the far North, and at Wairau, Marlborough, swamp lands were intersected by drains and canals excavated centuries ago. Awanui, Kaitaia, and Tongonge, in the far North, show many signs of such excavations. These drains, extensive in some cases, served two purposes. They carried off the confined overflow of the surrounding land, and so provided an easily worked circumscribed area for the operations of eel-fishers and fowlers. Water-fowl were easily snared and netted in these water-channels, as compared with the method of setting snares in open waters. In like manner was the task or the eel-fisher simplified, and in these runs eels were taken by means of eel-pots and long narrow nets used without a pot. In the latter method the net is set at a place where the current runs strongly; otherwise the eels would escape. In these narrow waterways eels were taken as they were moving to and from the sea.
Another advantage derived from these drain-excavating operations was the fact that considerable areas of swamp land became dry, and so provided suitable land for the cultivation of crops.
The Wairau canals are described in vol. 21 of the Journal of the Polynesian Society. In the jubilee number of the Marlborough Express, dated the 21st April, 1926, appeared an article by J. M. Butt entitled "Memoirs of a Pioneer." In this article is given a brief account of how eels were taken by the Maori in ditches that had been excavated through swamps of the Wairau district. The account is as follows: "Many of the swamps and lagoons had carefully-dug ditches or miniature canals carried up into them, which were usually kept closed by small dams. At certain times the dams were removed and the waters allowed to rush through the ditches, carrying with them quantities of eels, which were caught in beautifully-made eel-baskets previously fixed in the outlets. The muddy creeks and lagoons between the Boulderbank and the Vernon Hills were favourite eel-catching grounds, but probably the largest takes were secured in the swamps on the opposite side of the Wairau River …. Another favourite eel with the Maori was the kokopu. This was often kept in convenient streams or waterholes near the kainga [villages] and fed as a sort of stand-by, so that a properly guided kainga could always put its hand on a fat eel or two for the delectation of visitors."
The Dominion of the 17th January, 1928, describes the visit of an eel-fishing party to Waikiwi, where in two hours 485 eels were caught. Lower down the paragraph we see that the catch was made "just below the By-products Company's premises," which seems to explain a good deal. The Kawhia Settler of 18th March, 1927, describes the night migration of eels from the Taharoa lagoons down prepared shallow trenches to the sea, the trenches being lined with spear-armed page 105natives. This would represent the autumn migration of eels that occurs every year, when they pass out into the ocean and so to their breeding-ground, wherever that may be. The Dominion of the 28th March, 1927, mentions another raid on Waikiwi eels, when 1,075 eels were taken, the eel-pot used being 15 ft. in length and 4 ft. in diameter. The largest eel taken in this great catch was 7 lb.; but the same issue describes a catch of seventy-three eels at Dipton, of which four were each well over 20 lb. in weight. The Wellington Post of the 19th May, 1928, mentions the catching of a 30 lb. eel, 4 ft. 9 in. long, at Grey-town.
The following was culled from the Wellington Dominion of the 1st February, 1927:—
A freak eel was caught in the Kaupokonui River about a month ago, and is now exhibited in a shop-window in Hawera (says the Star). Except for a black spot at the end of its tail and another on the tip of its nose, the eel is canary-yellow in colour. The hook with which the freak was caught is still inside it, but nevertheless the fish still appears to be quite lively, and has created a good deal of interest, especially on the part of the Maoris.
This yellow eel was caught by Mr. L. S. Mackie, of Otakeho. Writing from Otakeho on the 24th March, 1927, Mr. Mackie says: "A good many people have seen it, including all the local Maoris, both old and young, but it is quite a novelty to all of them. The colour is bright lemon, or just about the colour of the common lead-pencils. The black patch on the nose is about the size of one's fingernail, and the patch on the tail is just a shapeless one on each side, covering about 1 square inch…. I notice that it seems thinner than ordinary eels." Mr. Mackie also remarks that he has kept a tally of all the eels he has caught during seventeen years' residence in the district, and that the total is 1,870.
An old resident of the Otaki district has favoured me with the following note on the subject of yellow eels: "The tuna papaka is a long, thin, yellow eel up to 2½ft. in length and about 2 in. thick, found in the Waikawa River, near Otaki. Its flesh is dry and tough. I never saw a fat one, and I never saw one with black spots on it. There were plenty at Waikawa in my time [the 'eighties'], but I never found them in other streams in that district, though I caught a few at Tawa Flat when we were there [in the 'sixties'], and have caught a few in other parts of the Island. I once saw some in a Wellington fish-shop, and was told that they had been taken in the Wai-rarapa Lake. The specimen caught at Kaupokonui seems to be of a brighter yellow than the papaka I have seen, but they are all yellow."page 106
We have all heard of the great size attained by eels in these isles, and some of us have seen very large specimens, but apparently all species, or subspecies, do not attain a large size. Moreover, the larger ones are but occasionally taken. The heaviest one that I ever took weighed 19½ lb., and that was not taken by pot, bob, or spear, or by any other orthodox means, inasmuch as I shot it with a 45·60 Winchester rifle as it was leisurely making its way up a drain to a lagoon. That was near the Omatuku lagoon, south of Otaki. Various authorities have told us that eels have been caught in New Zealand up to 70 lb. in weight. Mr. Downes tells us that he saw two, one being 46 lb. and the other 32 lb., caught in an eel-pot in the Whanganui River. Hochstetter states that eels over 50 lb. in weight are taken here. A newspaper article of the 4th April, 1923, speaks of a 23½ lb. eel of the puhi kind being speared at Hokio. At the same time two others, of 20 lb. and 18 lb., were taken. A local eel expert remarked at the time that when the eels of that district proceed to the sea they average about 2 lb. in weight, and that the heke, or procession of migrants, is always headed by two large specimens of the particular species or variety that is on the march. The Muaupoko natives style these leaders ruahine, while the Raukawa folk call them tahimaro. He also seems to intimate that a number of these large eels act as a rear-guard to the migrants. This note seems to show that ruahine and tahimaro are but full-grown puhi, and this may be doubted; I suspect a different application of some terms in different districts.
Another catch reported about the same time was a 27 lb. eel at Nelson that was 5 ft. in length; while another correspondent tells us of an eel he saw north of Auckland that was 6 ft. in length, but weighed only 10 lb. Eels seem to differ somewhat widely in their proportion of weight to length. A 70 lb. eel was reported from Lake Wakatipu many years ago. Natives have stated that it was formerly looked upon as an evil omen to see a large eel in the daytime. Exaggerated tales are told by natives about huge eels. A 28 lb. eel was reported from Spring Creek in November, 1925. In May of the same year a 21½ lb. eel caught near Mauku Falls, Auckland, was 4 ft. 6 in. in length and 18 in. in girth.
A Taranaki paper (November, 1925) gives an account of a feat performed by Mr. V. Warner at the Kapuni River, where he landed a 14 lb. eel on a light trout-cast.
Mr. Potts, author of Out in the Open, speaks of eels of 80 lb., 94 lb., and 96 lb. weight as having been caught in the South Island. He also tells us that the late Dr. Hector stated that eels upward of 130 lb. weight have been taken in Lake Wakatipu! Haast during his explorations in Westland caught eels of 20 lb. and 251b. weight. page 107In one weighing 12 lb. he found an entire blue duck. The Dominion of the 19th November, 1927, describes an eel caught in the Manganui Stream, Taranaki, weighing 28 lb.; it was 4 ft. 9 in. in length and 15 in. in girth. In the issue of the 28th December, 1927, of the same paper we are told of a 27 lb. eel caught with rod and line in the Grey River. The issue of the 7th January, 1928, mentions another 28 lb. specimen caught at Kaimai, where two others, of 22 lb. and 24 lb., were also caught. The Evening Post of the 21st April 1928, gives a photograph of two eels, caught at Bell Block and Okato, of 25 lb. and 26½ lb. weight, for which see fig. 31. Another, officially vouched for by the Wellington Acclimatization Society, weighed 34 lb., and a 41 lb. eel was caught at Waikanae.
The first eel caught at a new eel-weir was put aside as an offering to the gods—that is to say, one of the first batch was so utilized. This was considered a proper thing to do whenever a person or persons went a-fishing. Man ever needs the assistance of the gods, and also ever needs to placate them, lest their keen eyes turn redly upon him and prevent him catching a tuna for supper. The Ngati-Awa folk of the Bay of Plenty explained that when the first catch of eels was taken, and when a youth caught eels for the first time, a ceremonial feast of those eels was arranged. The catch was cooked at a specially kindled fire, known as the ahi parapara; but no other food was cooked at that fire—it could only be used for the one purpose, on account of the restrictions of tapu. Women were not allowed to join in this ceremonial feast, which had to be carefully conducted in order that the eel-fishers might retain their good luck. All such functions as these were really placatory rites. After this first catch had been disposed of in this manner the restriction was lifted, and subsequent catches might be distributed among the village folk. "When Tangaroa enters the hinaki [eel-pot], then the ahi parapara is kindled" was an expression used by Tumutara when explaining these matters.
A brief note in my budget is to the effect that natives recognized the sexes of eels, and knew how to render male eels infertile. Quien sabe?
Birds, fish, &c., were counted in braces by the Maori, and this binary system was formerly in common use; it is termed tatau topu. In actually counting objects the counter proceeded in this manner: "Ka tahi pu" (one brace), "Ka rua pu" (two brace), to "Ka iwa pu" (nine brace); then came "Ka tekau" for twenty, or ten brace. In some places the expression "Ngahuru pu" (ten brace) was used instead of tekau. In the Waikato district a singular method of tallying eels was employed. Thus forty-four eels seems to have been the smallest unit in tallying large numbers of eels, and this number formed page 108 page 109 a tui (this word serves to denote a string or cord on which objects are threaded or strung). Five tui, or 220 eels, formed a rau, and ten rau, or 2,200 eels, made a mano. Karaka Tarawhiti used the term kaui instead of tui, but it has the same meaning—a kaui tuna is a string of eels.
The Maori knew, as do all eel-fishers, that moonlight nights mean an empty bag: for some reason Tuna does not like moving abroad at such a time; he prefers to stay at home. A warm and moonless evening it is that calls the eel-fisher forth: a po tuahuru is a po tuna; a warm, close night is an eel night. When you see many moths fluttering around your camp-fire or slush-lamp it behoves you to go forth with bobbing-rod or eel-pot. The Maori ordered his eel-fishing activities by means of his almanac, for his month was strictly a lunar one, and not the arbitrary time space of civilized folk. Thus all natives knew what nights it was advisable to select for taking eels. One list of names of nights of the moon's age contains thirty such names. No. 14 of these names marks the full moon; while Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30 are said to be good nights for eeling. Another native list is marked as showing that Nos. 10, 14, 21, and 22 are unlucky for all forms of fishing. The kokopu* fisher finds that the fish begin to be restless on the sixth night of the moon; by the eleventh they are unapproachable, and difficult to take until the twenty-third night, when they are again taken. In another list the kokopu fishing is marked to commence on the twenty-fourth night. In yet another list, from the Napier district, Nos. 4, 5, and 20 are marked as good for eel-fishing; No. 9 for eel-spearing; Nos. 23, 24, and 25 for fishing; No. 11 for taking crayfish; Nos. 15 and 16 for "taking sea-products"; while 27 is marked "The inanga now migrate if the proper moon has arrived." Many of the remarks pertaining to the different nights or phases of the moon are clearly applicable to but one month, possibly several, but not to all. The night called Atua (No. 14 or 15) is always condemned as unlucky for all forms of food-seeking.
* This is the small fresh-water fish so named, but kokopu is also the name of a variety of eel.
Information given by natives as to the best nights for eel-fishing does not agree in different districts, or even in the same district in some cases.
A native contributor informed me that the Maori knows the nights of the moon on which eels will take bait; also the time of night at which they will bite. All depends on the phases of the moon: some nights and days are no good for fishing. See No. 21 of Appendices.
A member of Ngati-Raukawa, of Otaki district, stated that on the fifth night of the lunar month eels in running streams may be found in the quieter pools, lying with their heads down-stream, and can be taken easily by torchlight. He remarked that he obtained the information from Ngati-Porou natives, and had proved it correct on several occasions in the Waikawa Stream. Some very quaint beliefs in connection with fish are held by natives.
The most interesting item to record in connection with these suitable phases of the moon for fishing is a calendar used by certain natives that shows the adaptability of the natives. In 1918 I was told by a correspondent at Otaki that a local native possessed a marama-taka, a calendar consisting of a list of the names of the "nights of the moon," as natives put it—of the days or phases of the moon throughout the lunar month—numbered consecutively. Also, opposite each name was one or more of a series of symbols, each of which had its special signification in connection with the suitability of the different days and nights for taking various species of fish by different methods. This communication interested me, and I took the earliest opportunity of following the matter up. I found that the Rev. Metara te Ao-marere, of Otaki, possessed a copy of the calendar. (See fig. 32, list A.) He readily allowed me to copy the list and the few explanations accompanying it, but he did not seem to be thoroughly acquainted with the system, and it is not yet fully explained. Metara died during the epidemic of 1918, and I have failed to meet page 111 since any one who can explain all the phrases employed. I was told the symbols had been devised by an old native who died about the year 1888, and whose name was Mokokai, though Metara seemed to credit one Mita te Tai with the device.
I am not certain as to whether these symbols apply to sea-fishing or not, and two of them would appear to be connected with agriculture rather than fishing. Observe the words ngaro hue and ngaro kai opposite Nos. 8 and 9. It seems improbable that these expressions are connected with fishing: the first includes the name of the gourd-plant, and the second may apply to food products generally. The following list includes the ten symbols employed, also their application:—
Here I am in the unfortunate position of being able to explain only four of these symbols; the balance still await explanation. Nos. 8 and 9 may refer to other food-supplies, to planting crops; No. 6 may possibly refer to bird-snaring, or to the peculiar diving-crate said to have been sometimes used by persons taking crayfish and shell-fish, and which is mentioned elsewhere in this veracious chronicle; No. 7 may possibly be connected with fish-weirs; of Nos. 4 and 5 I cannot speak with any assurance, but see the whakaata of the South Island at p. 129. The above symbols were marked on the calendar opposite the names to which they pertained, as follows:—page 112
In the original, No. 1 (the Whiro night) is marked "kohititanga" a word employed to denote the appearance of the new moon. Nos. 15, 16, and 17 are marked "huanga," denoting full moon. Apparently the commencement of the lunar month was not always precisely page 113fixed, for Metara's notebook contained a statement to the effect that sometimes the full moon (Ohua) appeared on the 16th night, or even on the 17th, in which latter case the 15th, 16th, and 17th nights would all be called Ohua, and several of the final night names of the list would be dropped for that month. This would be for the purpose of balancing the lunar month.
With regard to the origin of the above system, and of the arbitrary symbols employed, one can but suppose that the native who originated it knew something of our calendars and had some knowledge of the use of symbols therein to denote the phases of the moon, &c. He may even have had the assistance of some European. Certainly it is an ingenious device, and reminds us of the syllabary invented by George Guess, a Cherokee Indian, and of another evolved by a negro of the Vei Tribe of West Africa. All of these men knew of the principles of written language ere they began their tasks, and so, after all, were but showing imitative ability.
It will be seen that the 10th, 14th, 21st, and 22nd nights (or days) of the moon's age are marked as ra he, days on which no form of fishing, &c., is successful. The first night is suitable for line fishing and fishing by torchlight. On Nos. 2 to 5 five different methods may be employed. No. 24 carries six signs, and, No. 25 has seven (this is the highest number assigned to one day); ten have but one each.
Symbol No. 3 denotes what is often termed rapu tuna (eel-seeking); rami, the term used in the calendar, means to squeeze. Both are used to describe taking eels by hand, which is practised during the day. In many places certain lagoons and swamps dry up in the summertime, the surface thereof becoming perfectly dry, and eels in such places burrow downward to where the soil is wet and there pass the summer. At such times natives seek the eels by means of digging, and this is also called rapu tuna. One might think that keri tuna (eel-digging) would be a better name for it. Such was the origin of the place-name of the Te Roto-rapu-tuna at Waikawa.
A similar list of symbols (shown in fig. 32, list B) employed for the same purpose was collected by Mr. W. J. Phillipps at Ohaeawai, in the far North. Inasmuch as eight of the ten symbols are the same in the two lists, it is clear that they had a common source, and possibly that was one of the Maori marama-taka, or "almanacs," that have been published in past years. In the Ohaeawai list, No. 1 denotes a favourable fishing-day; No. 2, favourable for torch fishing; No. 5, for netting fish in rivers; No. 7, for netting mullet; No. 9, for sowing melons; while No. 10 is unlucky. Two other explanations are not clear, and two of the symbols differ from those of the Otaki list.page 114
The Tamatea days are said to always bring wind and a rough sea—at least, on the east coast; hence fishermen did not venture out to sea during that period. The Tangaroa phases are said to bring fish, and in the above list they show the greatest number of symbols against them. We are told that Matohi, a star, disputes with these Tangaroa "nights," and, if successful, then no fish will be caught since the Tangaroa phases bring fish (hence perhaps their highly suitable names). This is possibly an allusion to one of the systems of intercalation formerly employed by the Maori. When a thirty-day lunar month is instituted, then occasionally some rectification must ensue. Matohi is said to be a blue-coloured star seen only at the time of the Tangaroa phases, which looks highly dubious. The name of Rakau-matohi is applied to the eighteenth night of the moon's age, and this is said to mark the commencement of the waning of the moon. The word tohi is employed to denote the waning moon.
In former times eels were dried, and so preserved as food-supplies in great numbers in some districts where heavy catches were made. The fire at which they were so dried was called an ahi rara tuna. The fish were cut open, cleaned, the backbone, head, and tail end removed, and they were then laid on an elevated grating of green rods, under which a fire burned. They would be dried and partially cooked by the heat, after which they would be hung up in a shed, or, in some cases, packed in baskets. When required they were cooked in a steam-oven, which process tended to soften them. These tuna maroke (dried eels), or tuna pawhara, formed a favourite food-supply. In Bishop Selwyn's diary that energetic pedestrian notes having seen the above process: "On a small stream, a few feet in width, we found a native eel-weir, with a net full of eels; the construction of the whole weir and net would have done credit to an Eton waterman…. They were busy drying eels for winter consumption, which they do by toasting them over wood-ashes. Many hundreds were on the ground, and more were over the fire, laid on horizontal sticks, in a square hollow pit, ten or more eels in a bundle of flax neatly tied up."
Dr. Thomson tells us, in his Story of New Zealand, that the natives cured fish by half-cooking them and then drying them in the sun or exposing them to a slow smoky fire for several days.
Colenso explains that mackerel were gutted, and heads and tails were cut off; after which they were split into halves, steamed in a hangi, dried on racks in sun and wind, then packed in large baskets for winter use.
A favoured method of drying these prepared eels was to hang them up on a form of scaffold or rack, called a tirewa, where they were suspended from rods fixed in a horizontal position. A number of rows page 115of the eels, overlapping each other, would be so suspended. There was no form of roof over these racks, and the racks were sometimes of a considerable length. The eels were hung up with the opened side outward; when dried and hard they were reversed and the skin side turned outward, when they would keep for a long time. When used they were steamed in the universally used steaming-pit, and such preserved food products were often presented to neighbouring clans. These last notes were obtained from H. T. Tikao, of the South Island, and are given in the original in Appendix I.
In An Account of New Zealand, by the Rev. W. Yate, published in 1835, we find the following on eel-curing: "They have a method of drying eels which makes them very delicious, and causes them to keep good for many months. When dried they require no further cooking, but are ready to be eaten upon removal of the skin. They tie them in rows between six small sticks, and place them over a very slow and smoking fire, where they remain for several days, by which means the fat does not ooze through."
The toasting process is described by the Maori as a hardening one and so tends to preserve them. (Hai whakapamaro te tikanga o te ahi rara tuna, kia roa e takoto ai.) The steaming process prior to eating served to soften the hard dried eels. In some places dried eels were packed in baskets in layers for preservation: the term whakamata describes this packing process.
The kope method of cooking eels was commonly employed. The Tuhoe folk style it kopaki. It consisted of wrapping the eels up in leaves and then roasting them before a glowing mass of embers. Tuhoe use leaves of the rangiora for the purpose, plucking such leaves two on a stalk for the wrapping (kopekope) process; the binding is deftly done, no tying being necessary. They clean the eels in some cases, and cook the entrails in a small separate kopaki, or wrapping.
In the account of Sir G. Grey's journey from Auckland to Taranaki published in 1851, occurs the following: "We had some eels for breakfast, cooked in a way that was new to most of us, called kope, and which is done in the following manner: Fern-stalks are run down the whole length of the fish (which is not skinned or in any way prepared for cooking) from the mouth to the tail, then two eels thus skewered are wrapped in leaves of the raurekau tree, and tied together with flax, when they are roasted before the fire with one end resting on the ground and the other leaning against a stick supported in a horizontal position in front of the fire for the purpose. When cooked in this way they are eaten leaf and all, the leaf serving as a relish, and page 116are considered by the natives a great delicacy, though they proved rather too rich for our European stomachs." This banquet on tuna kope was partaken of in the Thames district.
Karaka Tarawhiti, of Huntly, Waikato, has told me that his folk apply the kope method of cooking to the puhi eel only. His account tallies with that given above as to the wrapping, but he does not mention the stick thrust endwise through the eel, or the tying of two together. The puhi eel, he says, carries much fat. Persons living in open country where raurekau or other suitable leaves were unobtainable used green leaves of flax (Phormium) to enwrap eels in. As many as ten eels would be enclosed in such a kopaki, and these would be cooked in a steam-oven together with sweet potatoes or whatever vegetable food was available. He explains that this mode of cooking was employed for the fresh fish only, and that when a big catch was made the eels were kauitia (impaled on rods, as described above) and so partially cooked before a fire, then hung up to dry, when they became hard. Later this informant remarked that his people applied the term only to the process of wrapping eels in flax or mauku (Cordyline pumilio) leaves and cooking them in a steaming-pit. The puhi and whitiki varieties of eels were so cooked. These notes appear in the original in Appendix 2. It will be seen anon that the tapora mode of cooking fish is very much like the kopaki method here described.
The tapora mode of cooking eels consisted of packing them in small woven basket-like receptacles, covering them with a quantity of leaves, and then cooking them in the ordinary steaming-pit. The Tuhoe folk use the leaves of puwha (sow-thistle) and the young fronds of Asplenium bulbiferum (mauku, the young underdeveloped of which are called pikopiko) as a covering for the eels in the basket. These leaves are thus cooked with the fish and are eaten with it. If these leaves are not obtainable, then fronds of the paraharaha and rereti ferns were used for the purpose. These ferns are Polypodium diversifolium and Blechnum lanceolatum. Our Tuhoe friends fashion the small baskets from leaves of two species of Astelia, called mauri and kokaha, the latter being A, Cunninghamii.
A note from the northern part of the North Island is as follows: Small eels were wrapped in leaves of raurekau when cooked, and then eels and leaves were eaten together. Large eels were placed near a fire in order to dry the slimy matter that adheres to the skin, then cleaned, but not skinned, then wrapped in small plaited squares like diminutive mats, which did not overlap, and then cooked with puwha or nikau, &c., in a steaming-pit. When cooked, these eels were divided at the junctions of the different sections of covering-material, and each page 117such division was one person's share. Eels were never skinned prior to being cooked.
A saying among the Awa folk of the Bay of Plenty is, "Kopaki tuhera tu ana Tamaika" ("When a kopaki of cooked eels is opened Tamaika is there"). This Tamaika was an ancestor who always appeared where a kopaki of eels was about to be partaken of. The saying is employed in connection with persons of cadging habits. Ngati-Raukawa have a similar story about one Hauokanga. His sister, Hine-rongo, was engaged one day in tending a fire whereby to cook food for her children, and said to the fire, "Blaze up, lest you be forstalled by Hauokanga." But that worthy was just behind her, and said, "What is that about me, Hine-rongo?" His sister replied, "You are always coming here and consuming the food of my children." Said Hauokanga, "I came often because we are relatives, but now we part for ever."
We have noted a case of a lagoon being stocked with eels by natives in former times, and this has been reported from several districts, including Horowhenua. The Ngati-Porou folk told me that their forbears occasionally formed a dam in a small stream and stocked it with eels. Probably this would be situated near a village, where it would be handy when the family cooking pit-was empty.
Several cases are on record of eels having been "tamed—that is to say, accustomed to coming to a certain place to be fed. Thus the Taranaki Herald published an account of some eels occupying a pond at Marton. In this case the eel-trainer would stand at the edge of the pond and whistle, whereupon the eels, eight of them, would appear to be fed. The eels ate pieces of meat out of his hand. He then held pieces of meat 4 in. to 6 in. up the bank, and the eels reached out of the water to obtain them. He then put his hand under some of them and practically lifted them out of the water. They would slip from his hand back into the water and swim round for more meat. They seemed to have no fear of the feeder. A "family" of such tamed eels was reported from Wai-pukurau in 1924, and in the Northlander of the 5th June, 1924, appeared an account of another lot of "tamed" eels at Whatuwhiwhi, near Mangonui. These were fed each evening, and on the food being placed a little way from the water's edge the eels crawled up the bank to obtain it. The feeder would sometimes lift the eels from the ground and handle them. They did not appear to be alarmed at a number of persons standing round discussing the sight.page 118
The following extract from the Wellington Dominion of the 2nd December, 1925, is yet another illustration of "tamed" eels:—
Pahiatua possesses some "educated" eels (states a Wai-rarapa exchange). In a stream running through the property of Mr. J. Ebbett, at Pahiatua, are about thirty eels, and for some three years Mr. Ebbett has been in the habit of feeding these. The process he adopts in calling them to meals is a novel one. The creek at the rear of the house appears to be devoid of fish of any kind until Mr. Ebbett beats two stones together, and then the eels swarm to the side of the creek to receive their meals. The eels are quite tame, and will allow any one to handle them. The eels first gathered at the spot for food when hens owned by Mr. Ebbett, in scratching, deposited some of the scraps in the creek. Mr. Ebbett noticed this, and then began feeding them on pieces of meat, &c., and gradually trained them to come to dinner by striking two stones together.
Mr. W. Gray, of Okato, stated that a large tamed eel in Stony River was fed by the natives, often on birds. It was named Korakonui.
It is quite possible that the Maori had been in the habit of feeding and taming eels ere he settled in these isles. Ellis tells us that such was a Tahitian usage: "The rivers furnish few fresh-water fish; eels are the principal, and they are very fine. Eels, being great favourites, are sometimes tamed and fed until they attain an enormous size…. These pets were kept in large holes, 2 ft or 3 ft. deep, partially filled with water. On the sides of these pits the eels formed or found an aperture in a horizontal direction, in which they generally remained, excepting when called by the person who fed them. I have been several times with the young chief when he has sat down by the side of the hole and, by giving a shrill sort of whistle, has brought out an enormous eel, which has moved about the surface of the water and eaten with confidence out of its master's hand."
The Wellington Dominion of the 7th July, 1927, gives us this further note:—
Miss Stevens, an Inglewood lady, one morning saw an eel basking in the sun in a pond (relates an exchange). Having heard of people who had tried to tame eels, she set herself the task of taming the one that attracted her attention. It accepted bread-crumbs she gently threw into the pond. She continued to provide crumbs for several days. She then varied the diet with meat, and the eel would take crumbs no longer. Her patience was further rewarded when that eel, and a small silvery one, showed their confidence by taking food out of her hand, and by allowing her to softly rub their heads with one of her fingers. She attracted the eels when she went to feed them, and she soon saw them coming from under leaves or sticks to be fed. Children who went to see the tame eels at first drove them away by their presence, but after a time the eels came as readily as before. page 119The big eel, becoming jealous of the smaller one, attacked it and bit pieces out of its fin. They sometimes fought against each other nose to nose, with their backs doubled up. They always selected the sunny part of the pond to lie in.
The issue of the 28th March, 1928, of the same paper mentions an eel that was not quite so tame as the above:—
An extraordinary happening occurred at Balfour on a recent afternoon (says an exchange). Miss Lyla Grant, who is a keen swimmer, was sitting on the banks of the Mataura River prior to taking a plunge into the river. Her hands were dangling near the water, when all of a sudden a 3 ft. eel bobbed its head out of the water and grasped the finger next the thumb. The finger was somewhat badly lacerated with the network of teeth, and the eel was lifted right out of the water before it would release its grip. To add to the confusion, Miss Grant slipped off the bank, and had to swim quite a distance before she reached safety."
Mr. J. Ormsby, of Otorohanga, remarked concerning the Kawa Swamp that in former times it had eel-weirs erected at its different outlets for the taking of eels as they commenced their migration to the sea. He went on to say that the Maori had several ways of preserving eels, and a favoured and simple method was to keep them alive. They were placed in large wickerwork baskets or eel-pots, which were placed in the water and secured by means of cords. Such corfs are known as hinaki whakatikotiko. Mr. Downes gives the Whanganui terms for it as puwai, korotete, and puhara. Eels so kept are fed with potatoes or anything else that is available.
Mr. Ormsby went on to give the following data: There were two methods of drying eels, known as kope and kaui. Tuna kope were treated as follows: When the eels were coming down from the swamps in great numbers it was impossible to deal with them except in bulk, so relays of men were set to emptying the eel-pots as they filled at the weirs. These were emptied regularly day and night while the eel-run continued, eels being placed alive in pits—dry pits in which they would not live long. In the drying process these eels were transfixed or spitted on stiff fern-stalks (the stipes of Pteridium aquilinum), and in this form were leaned in long rows against rods of manuka fixed in a horizontal position. Two such long series of rods were erected in parallel lines a little distance apart, and the two long rows of skewered eels leaned inward toward each other. The space between the two rows was occupied by the ahi rara tuna, or eel-drying fire, a long bed of embers. The eels were turned occasionally by attendants, who also manipulated the embers as found desirable. When sufficiently grilled the eels appeared as though the fat had come to the surface; they were then cooled off and stowed in some dry place for future use.page 120
In the preparation of tuna kaui the eels were tied together by the head between two sticks, a long fire was kindled, and when burning freely was covered with green brushwood. The bundles of eels were then laid on the brush, where they were subjected to the effects of smoke, steam, and heat. When sufficiently treated by this process the bundles of eels were taken away and hung up within open-sided sheds. These dried eels were employed to some extent as a form of currency—that is, they were bartered for other products among clans not so well provided with eel preserves. A couple of these fat eels, skewered on fern-stalks and cooked in raurekau (Coprosma grandi-folia) leaves is a prized meal with the Maori.
European trout-fishers are hostile to the elusive tuna, for the latter has gained a reputation as a trout-killer. A newspaper correspondent asserts that the killing is effected by means of a bite at the back of the head.
Nicholas tells us that among the Maori folk eels were not killed prior to being roasted. Apparently he had observed such a usage, or an instance of it. It is credible when we remember that the Maori occasionally served human beings in a similar manner.
When Brunner was exploring Westland in 1848 he had to rely largely on eels as a food-supply. His diary contains the following, under date the 29th February: "Last night the natives found a hole of water in which they caught thirty-five eels. They …. set to work to dry and smoke the fish, after taking out the bones. If eels are carefully wiped dry, not skinned, the head cut off, and opened down the belly, the bones carefully taken out, and the flesh exposed to the smoke to dry, they can be preserved for some months, and this is the best way of eating the eels of this country…. If soaked some few hours in water and then toasted over a slow fire they are very good." As a rule, these dried eels were steamed in a hangi when required as a kinaki (relish). The larger eels would need to be opened up down the back for drying if the backbone was not taken out. The Rev. R. Taylor writes as follows in Te Ika a Maui: "The small eels are often dried by being hung up in the sun, when they become like bags of rancid oil; the larger ones are split open and dried in the usual way." The bag of rancid oil does not sound alluring, but, according to Cook's evidence, the Maori was somewhat partial to rancid oil in his time.