The Maori As He Was : A Brief Account of Maori Life as it was in Pre-European Days
Chapter II. Traditional History. The Maori as Navigator, Explorer, and Colonizer. The Settlement of New Zealand
Chapter II. Traditional History. The Maori as Navigator, Explorer, and Colonizer. The Settlement of New Zealand
Takitumu traditions the best preserved. Polynesians as seafarers. The homeland of the Polynesian race. The lands of Uru and Irihia. ari, a prized food product. Ancestors of Polynesians leave homeland and become seafarers. They reach the eastern Pacific region. Polynesian voyagers. Voyage of Kupe and Ngahue from eastern Polynesia to New Zealand. Mouriuri folk settle North Island. Polynesians settle in New Zealand. Subsequent voyages. South Island traditions. Local Maori history. Polynesian vessels.
The more ancient traditions and esoteric lore of the Maori have been better preserved by the Takitumu tribes of the east coast of the North Island than by those of any other district. For that reason they will form the principal basis of this narrative, albeit tribal versions in other parts differ somewhat from them.
Oral traditions collected from many regions of Polynesia point clearly to two outstanding features—viz., that the race has had a long and adventurous career in seafaring, exploring, and colonizing; also that the original homeland of the Polynesians must be sought for outside the region now occupied by the race. The Maori of New Zealand represents one of many colonies of this far-scattered people, though we are now treating of a period long prior to his settling in these isles.
Takitumu traditions tell us that the old homeland of the race lies far away to the westward. It was a mainland region known as Uru, and there the ancestors of the Polynesians seem to have dwelt far back in the night of time. At a certain period these folk were much harassed by warfare with some other peoples of those parts, hence a number of them under a chief named Puhi-rangirangi, migrated eastward to a hot-climate land called Irihia. A traveller or voyager named Tu-te-rangiatea had told them of a fine land far to the eastward, a land known as Irihia, inhabited by slim, spare, dark-skinned people, a land producing strange food products, including one called ari. This ari was a bloodless or sapless food, and hence was utilized page 15 page 16 as an offering to the gods. Thus, we are told, there were two causes for the migration, one being war, the other the attraction of a new food-supply.
So came the migrants to the hot land of Irihia—sometimes called Irirangi, on account of the heat of the sun in that land. They settled among the dark-skinned original inhabitants, some of whom had no settled places of abode, but moved about from place to place.
This tradition is a very old one, and there are two versions of it. One appears to show that the migrants from Uru expelled the ancestors of the Maori from the land of Irihia. The other seems to show that the migrants were the remote forbears of the Polynesians. An important chief of Irihia was one Kopura-tahi, who had, it is said, five hundred sub-chiefs under him. So numerous were his people that they were compared to the ocean sands in the saying, “Tena te ngaoko na me te onepu moana.”
The peculiar name Irihia is said to have also been applied to a certain mountain of that far land, a mountain the ascent of which occupied two days, and the summit of which was an extremely tapu place. There were performed and chanted the various ceremonies and invocations to Io the Parentless, the Supreme Being, and there were believed to lie the bodies of the supernatural offspring of the primal parents, the Sky Father and Earth Mother. page 17 There also was the wondrous house known as “Hawaikirangi,” or “Hawaiki-nui”—of which more anon.
In the land of Irihia the ancestors of the Polynesians are said to have been harassed by wars with the aborigines, and, finally, a number of them left that land and sailed forth on the ocean in search of a new home. As to the length of their sojourn in the land of Irihia there is no hint in tradition, but presumably it must have been for a lengthened period. The original homelands of Uru and Irihia have long been unknown to all save the few highly trained record-keepers; the great majority of the people state and believe that Hawaiki was the homeland of their forefathers. This name was that of the tapu place already alluded to, and which has, in the course of time, come to be employed as a name for the homeland of the Polynesians, including the Maori of these isles. As to the name of Irihia, it is of interest to remember that Vrihia was an ancient Sanscrit name for India, and that this name can be pronounced by the Maori only as Irihia or Wirihia. The word ari, the name of a very important food-supply of Irihia, is the Dravidian word for rice, and it may be compared to vari, wari, pari, &c., all of which denote rice. An old Sanscrit name for rice was vrihi, which may possibly have been the origin of the name Vrihia. Again, Mr. S. Percy Smith has shown in his work Hawaiki that Hawaiki-te-varinga is mentioned in Rarotongan tradition as the name for the homeland, and here again this vari = rice word appears. As for the land of Uru, conjecture again is our only resource. There is, or was, a land of Uru to the westward of India, and in Conder's work, The Rise of Man, we are told that the ancient kingdom of Uru was situated on the lower Euphrates. It is mentioned as Ur in the Bible.
Fig. 10.—Rude craft employed by the Moriori folk of Chatham Islands
Tradition states that the migrants steered eastward from Irihia in their quest of a new home. They must have been residents of a sea-coast prior to that time in order to acquire a knowledge of navigation. This voyage continued, we are told in Maori tradition, for eleven nights, when the migrants reached a land named Tawhiti-roa, where they settled. This account gives some particulars of the vessels of the voyagers, and the management thereof at sea. They were evidently a form of prau fitted with outriggers; sails were used, and the vessel covered with a kind of awning during bad weather; the double outrigger seems to be referred to. The method of employing sea-anchors in a strong head wind is explained, also that of steering by the sea-breeze from the east on nights when the heavens were obscured.
After a sojourn at Tawhiti-roa, the length of which is unknown, the migrants, or their descendants, again sailed down into the east until they came to the land of Tawhitinui, where they again settled. These isles or lands have not been identified, and the names given were probably assigned to them by the voyagers, and so would not be preserved by the original and permanent inhabitants. From this land the wanderers, or their descendants, once more sailed out into the unknown, and so began their long career as voyagers, explorers, and colonizers of the Pacific area. In the Maori version we are told that they steered ever toward the rising sun, and so entered the region we now know as Polynesia. (Mr. S. Percy Smith was of the opinion that Tawhiti-roa and Tawhiti-nui are names for Sumatra and Borneo. One tradition tells us that the migrants who left Tawhiti-nui reached the isles of Ahu, Maui, and Hawaiki, and there settled. Mr. Smith identifies these islands as Ahu, Maui, and Hawaii of the Hawaiian Group.) We cannot clearly define the route by which these daring voyagers crossed the Pacific, but we do know that within the Melanesian area are many Polynesian colonies, small communities speaking the Polynesian language. Such communities are found at Futuna, Tikopia, Rennel, Ontong-java, and other isles, and also at Nukuoro, south of the Caroline Group. Some of these small colonies are probably due to drift voyages from Polynesia; we have records of such to Tikopia, and to Uvea in the Loyalty Group. It is possible that some represent descendants of the original migrants who settled by the wayside.
Having entered the eastern Pacific area, possibly by two or three routes and in several different migrations, the ancestors of the Polynesian folk settled the principal page 19 page 20 page 21 archipelagos from Samoa and Fiji eastward, and then continued to make innumerable voyages in many directions. For centuries these practised and courageous navigators were ever voyaging among the far-scattered isles and archipelagos of the Pacific, settling and resettling, exploring and colonizing. Though many involuntary drift voyages and consequent settlings occurred, though many movements from isle to isle were caused by defeat in warfare, and so were compulsory, yet evidence clearly shows that many voyages, some of great length, were prompted merely by a spirit of adventure. This adventurous sea-life appealed deeply to the Polynesian, and his very peculiar faith in his gods enabled him to perform some marvellous voyages. Ignorant of compass and of metals, he yet made long deep-sea voyages and cross-hatched a vast oceanic area with the wake of his carvel-built craft. Nor were those craft commodious and decked longboats; they were narrow open vessels of the prau type, offering scant accommodation, and, at the best, a mat awning in rough weather.
Regarding the voyages made by Polynesian navigators, some very interesting information is recorded in Mr. S. Percy Smith's work Hawaiki, and a map published in the Geographical Review of New York (March, 1918) shows many of the routes followed by the neolithic seafarers. No other race of that culture stage has ever approached the Polynesian as deep-sea voyagers; truly have they written the wonder-story of the western world on the rolling sea roads of the great Pacific!
The isles of New Zealand were probably about the last to be discovered by the Polynesians, so remote are they from the archipelagos and isles of the northern area. Yet these far-southern lands were not only settled by colonists from eastern Polynesia, but tradition also tells us that drift voyages have reached these shores. The voyage of Kupe, who is said in Takitumu tradition to have discovered New Zealand, may have been one of exploration, but it has become, to some extent, encrusted with myth.
Voyage of Kupe and Ngahue from Eastern Polynesia to New Zealand
The story is that Kupe and Ngahue (whose other name was Ngake) were natives of the Society Isles, and that they sailed from their home in two vessels. That of Kupe was page 22 named “Matahorua,” and that of Ngahue was “Tawirirangi.” These daring voyagers made their landfall in the far north of New Zealand, and, after a brief sojourn in those parts, ran down the east coast of the Island. Great Barrier Island was named “Aotea,” and the North Island “Aotearoa,” by these explorers. The name “Aotea” is said to have been derived from a white cloud (ao tea) that was the first sign of land seen by the voyagers as they approached the North Cape region. After landing at Castle Point and Palliser Bay, they came on to Wellington Harbour and camped at what is now Seatoun. We are told that Somes and Ward Islands were named “Matiu” and “Makaro” after two relatives of Kupe, though no name appears to have been assigned to the harbour. From here the voyagers went to Sinclair Head; thence to Pori-rua; after which they sailed round the South Island. They are said to have discovered greenstone (nephrite) at Arahura, and Ngahue is credited with having slain a moa at that place. We are told that these isles were uninhabited by man at that time, and that the voyagers returned to eastern Polynesia. The period of this discovery of New Zealand has not been fixed. As a rule, the Maori has carefully preserved genealogies from the famed immigrants and chiefs of former times, and these have been checked by lines collected from different sources. In the case of Kupe, however, we have no satisfactory line, and are compelled to fall back on conjecture—a poor substitute.
The next Polynesian voyager said to have reached New Zealand was Toi, who flourished about thirty generations ago, and he found the northern half of the North Island occupied by a dark-skinned folk of apparently inferior culture. These people are alluded to by the Maori as “Mouriuri” and “Maruiwi,” but probably had no collective name for themselves. To judge from tradition, one must suppose that not less than eight or ten generations had elapsed since the discovery by Kupe, when Toi arrived here. Thus only can we account for the number of the original folk said to have been in occupation of Taranaki, the Auckland Isthmus, Hauraki, the Bay of Plenty, &c., when these first Maori settlers arrived.
The original settlers of New Zealand, the Mouriuri folk, are said in Maori tradition to have been castaways, the descendants of the crews of three canoes named “Kahutara,” “Taikoria,” and “Okoki”. These vessels had been driven from their homeland by a westerly gale, and, after a drift page 23 page 24 voyage, made the coast of northern Taranaki, where the castaways settled. The wind that caused them to drift to those parts may have been a north-west one, but scarcely a west wind, unless a southerly drift took place later. These unwilling colonizers may have come from the New Hebrides, but not from Tasmania or Australia, the natives of which lands constructed no vessels that could live to cross the intervening ocean. They are said to have come from a hot-climate land, and found the climate here unpleasantly cold. Maori accounts describe them as having flat noses, distended nostrils, bushy hair, and restless eyes. They wore little clothing, and were improvident as to food-supplies. One might well suppose that the description was that of a Melanesian people, they being also described as dark-skinned—that is, in comparison with Polynesians. Personal and clan names, &c., preserved are assuredly Polynesian in form, though these may possibly have been given by Polynesian immigrants, or altered by them in order to conform with their own rules of phonology. Some writers believe them to have been a mixed Polynesian-Melanesian folk. The Maori states that they were a slim-built people, which Polynesians are not, and the account of them reminds one of Forster's description of the natives of Malekula. The whence of these early settlers will never be known, for we possess no reliable information concerning their language. An interesting fact is that among our Maori folk we find certain customs, arts, and artifacts not known to the natives of Polynesia proper, the isles to the northward. If these—for example, such things as curvilinear designs in decorative art, and the custom of erecting defensive earthworks round villages—were practised by the original inhabitants, then they cannot have been the rude savages that Maori tradition makes them. I suspect that the description of the Mouriuri people has become confused and mixed with that of some inferior folk encountered by the ancestors of the Maori in far-distant lands. There is some evidence in support of such an assumption.
Had any reliable collector worked the southern part of the South Island field in early days we might have possessed some further information concerning the discovery and settlement of these isles. Our early missionaries we have little to thank for in connection with the collection and recording of Maori lore. A few fragments seem to show that a mine of wealth has been neglected in the South, and it is now too late to save it.
The Polynesians settle in New Zealand
According to Takitumu tradition, the first Polynesians to settle in New Zealand were the crew of a single vessel that, under the command of a chief named Toi, reached these shores from eastern Polynesia. This Toi was a native of Tahiti, in the Society Group. He set forth from that island in search of a band of ocean waifs, among whom was his grandson Whatonga. These had been carried out to sea from Tahiti by a gale, and their vessels drifted to various isles—at least one reached the Samoan group. Toi visited different islands, and found some of the waifs at Pangopango, but heard no tidings of his grandson. He then ran down to Rarotonga, from which place he crossed the southern ocean to Aotea-roa, or New Zealand, thinking, we are told, that Whatonga's vessel may have reached this land. If his friends had been swept from the coast of Tahiti by an easterly gale, we may wonder why he came south-west to New Zealand in quest of the waifs; but these inconsistencies are not common in native traditions.
Toi is said to have missed New Zealand in his run down from Rarotonga, but he discovered the Chatham Isles, then apparently uninhabited. Eventually he reached New Zealand, and sojourned a while with the aborigines at Tamaki (the Auckland Isthmus), after which he went to the Bay of Plenty and settled at Whakatane. He is said to have dwelt in a pa maioro (village with earthwork defensive walls) called Kapu-te-rangi, situated on the hill overlooking the present township of Whakatane. If this is correct, then the Mouriuri folk must have been in the habit of erecting such defensive works, for they were unknown in the Society Group, and we have to turn to Fiji to find similar places.
We are told that, some time after Toi had sailed from Tahiti, Whatonga and his companions returned from the island their vessel had drifted to, Rangiatea. This is another weak point in the story, if that name stands for Ra'iatea, of the Society Group, as it is supposed to do; for Rangiatea is spoken of as though a hitherto unknown place, whereas it must assuredly have been perfectly well known to the people of Hawaiki, as Tahiti is called in the tradition. Finding that Toi had sailed in search of him, Whatonga fitted a vessel named “Kura-hau-po,” manned her with sea experts, and sailed off to look for Toi. Thus the seeker of the searcher sailed out upon the ocean that has been for many centuries the lure of Polynesian adventurers. This page 26 page 27 expedition, after searching northern isles reached Rarotonga, and there learned that Toi had sailed for Aotea-roa; hence Whatonga swung his prow round southward of the setting sun, and sailed out upon the pathless waste that rolls for over five hundred leagues between Rarotonga and New Zealand. This expedition reached the Taranaki coast, then rounded the North Cape and ran down the coast to the Bay of Plenty, where Whatonga found Toi living at Whakatane. Both these leaders, with their companions, settled here, and obtained wives from the aboriginal Mouriuri folk, and so commenced the Polynesian invasion and resettlement of the North Island.
From this time onward for about two centuries many vessels reached these shores from Polynesia, bringing immigrants to strengthen the local Polynesian colony. Inasmuch, however, as many of these new-comers took to themselves aboriginal wives, a people of mixed origin was the result—namely, the Maori folk of New Zealand. As time went on these mixed folk became strong in numbers, quarrels arose between them and the Mouriuri people, and finally the latter were attacked and harassed until exterminated. We are told that some sought refuge in the interior, and in forest areas, such as Maunga-pohatu, while some went and settled at the Chatham Islands, where their descendants were found in 1791, when the “Chatham,” Vancouver's store-ship, visited the islands.
Thus commenced a long series of voyages made from Polynesia to New Zealand by adventurous seafarers. Some of these voyagers returned to Polynesia, but most of them settled here. Shortly after the arrival of Whatonga, four vessels from eastern Polynesia, commanded by two chiefs named Manaia and Nuku, reached Cook Strait and sojourned a while at Pae-kakariki. Manaia seems to have remained here, but Nuku returned to Polynesia. Other voyagers, among whom were Rongokako, Tama-ahua, and Tu-moana, also returned to the islands. About two hundred years after the coming of Toi and his companions there arrived from Polynesia a number of vessels, often referred to by us as “the fleet.” These were named “Te Arawa,” “Tainui,” “Matatua,” “Takitumu,” &c., and the “Aotea” arrived at about the same time. These vessels brought many immigrants who settled among or near the mixed Polynesian-Mouriuri folk already in occupation. By this time there were perhaps no pure Mouriuri left in the land, which was page 28 held by the Toi tribes, as we often term the mixed folk. After this time communication between these islands and Polynesia seems to have decreased, until, finally, it altogether ceased. We have a tradition to the effect that, ten generations ago, two vessels left the east coast in order to reach Polynesia, but the natives of New Zealand have evidently been isolated for a long period.
A few scraps of historical tradition collected in the South Island seem to show that a considerable population has occupied portions of that region in remote times, but of their origin we know nothing. Divergences in form of certain stone implements found in that area, and the peculiar Melanesian-like form of a long-buried canoe found there, are suggestive and highly interesting facts. We also know from tradition that a harassed clan of the original inhabitants of the North Island sought a new home in the south probably five or six centuries ago. Behind this meagre data lies an unknown history of the south that is for ever lost.
As the northern parts of the North Island became more populated by increasing numbers of the mixed Maori folk, intertribal quarrels became frequent, and weak tribes were often compelled to seek new homes elsewhere. The general direction of these movements was southwards, and so, in the course of centuries, many such peoples were pushed southward to Wairarapa, the Wellington district, and the South Island. As the population increased, so, apparently, did hostile conditions and isolation, for intercommunication between tribes would tend to decrease as dissensions and fighting became more common. Maori tribal history is but a monotonous recital of intertribal quarrels and fighting relieved by very few incidents of any real interest. It is much too tedious to enlarge upon here. A certain amount of intertribal intercourse existed, but it was limited. There was but little barter carried on between the tribes.
The vessels employed by Polynesians in their deep-sea voyages were of two types, the outrigger and the double canoe. These were carvel-built craft, often constructed by securing successive strakes to a shallow hull little more than a keel-piece. In many cases each strake was composed of a number of pieces. In this building-up process the different parts were secured by lashings passed through holes in the plank. The Tongans and Samoans had adopted page 29 a Fijian method in which cants or projecting rims were left on the inner sides of all four edges of each hewn plank. The holes to accommodate lashings were pierced in these rims instead of in the body of the plank, so that the outer side of the hull presented a fair surface on which no lashings appeared. The making of such a vessel with rude page 30 tools was a prodigious task, but the various forms of Polynesian vessels, usually termed “canoes,” were marvels of symmetry and neat finish. The double canoe of Polynesia ranged up to 150 ft. in length; the outrigger craft were smaller than that. Sails were employed on one or more masts; the huge lateen sail of western Polynesia, as used on double canoes, was a cumbrous affair; the smaller upright form was much easier to manipulate. The Tongans employed some of the largest double canoes, and were adventurous navigators, making voyages into Melanesia as far as Tikopia, the Loyalty Group, and New Caledonia. The outrigger type seems to have been more manageable in rough weather than the double canoe, and most of the vessels that reached New Zealand were probably of that form. When Polynesians settled on these shores they found here large timber from which a big canoe could be dubbed out that needed but a single top-strake to render it fit for sea faring. Both the double canoe and the outrigger gradually fell into disuse here, though Cook saw both at Queen Charlotte Sound and on the northern coast. The wide-beam canoe gradually displaced both the outrigger and double forms. A most interesting specimen of the old form of narrow outrigger is in the Dominion Museum—an illustration of stone-tool work. In the Auckland Museum is the only specimen of a large war-canoe that has been preserved; it is 83 ft. in length and 7 ft. beam.
Polynesian methods of navigation are of surpassing interest, for here we have a neolithic folk who attained a remarkable skill in that science. Possessing but rude forms of stone implements, ignorant alike of compass and of charts, the ancestors of the Maori far surpassed Europeans of a much more advanced culture status in sea voyaging. They steered their primitive craft by the heavenly bodies, and by the regular roll of the waves before the trade-winds. With marvellous courage they explored vast areas of the Pacific Ocean; they settled and resettled many far-sundered isles; they carried with them cultivated food products, and practised agriculture in all suitable places. As time rolled on certain colonies became isolated; some communities abandoned ocean voyaging; dialects of the common tongue were evolved. Variations arose in common myths, ritual, traditions, customs, from the same cause. The race began to fall apart, to become separated into many independent page 31 communities: this was owing to the peculiar geographical conditions. Whatever the innate powers of the Polynesians might have been, those conditions would effectually prevent the formation of a nation.
Fig. 17.—Ancient outrigger canoe (in Dominion Museum)
As neolithic navigators the Polynesians had no compeers. They traversed and explored a vast oceanic region; they wandered half a world away from their original homeland, and here, at the edge of the world, they abide, conservative and disdainful as of yore, to await the end.