Maori Storehouses and Kindred Structures
III. Platforms or Stages Elevated on Posts or — Trees, but not Supporting Any Building, — or only a Roof; also Racks or Frames, and — Scaffolds for Divers Purposes
III. Platforms or Stages Elevated on Posts or
Trees, but not Supporting Any Building,
or only a Roof; also Racks or Frames, and
Scaffolds for Divers Purposes
These stages, used for the purpose of storing food products on, were simply platforms of timber supported by one or more posts, or by tree-trunks. The latter were sometimes constructed among the branches of living trees, and sometimes on dead tree-trunks. They were often elevated at a considerable height above the ground, and hence were not so likely to be reached by the indigenous rat. Access to them was gained by means of a pole with notches cut therein, which served as a ladder, and was taken down and laid aside, except when actually in use, lest rats ascend thereby. This crude ladder is termed ara-whata. The illustrations given will convey a very good idea of the aspect of these structures.
Darwin, who was at the Bay of Islands in 1835, says, "The villages are chiefly conspicuous by the platforms, which are raised on four posts 10 ft. or 12 ft. above the ground, and on which the produce of the fields is kept secure from all accidents."
Polack (1838) says, "The whata is a platform built upon trees, or raised on stout branches. These are solely used for the purpose of preserving the provisions from the damp ground, the incursions of the rats, and the insidious affections of the dogs."page 60
Jameson, who travelled in New Zealand in 1840, describes some whata he saw at the Bay of Islands: "Among other articles of produce I observed three or four small stacks of wheat, which they had built upon posts encircled with pieces of wood inclined downwards—a contrivance which prevents the depredation of rats. On many of the trees, also, we observed small stages on which potatoes and kumara were deposited, beyond the reach of these voracious animals."
The Rev. W. Yate, in his work on New Zealand, published in 1835, remarks, "That which most strikes the attention in approaching a native village is the stores which are built at the top of the highest trees(?). They are platforms made of strong poles interlaced with twigs, and are very durable. Placing potatoes and corn at this height secures them from the rats, and also ensures to the owner the whole of his property, as no person can ascend to take it from him without being detected." In another place this writer speaks of stages "about 20 ft. from the ground, upon which are placed two or three hundred baskets of corn (maize)."
In Wade's "Journey in the Northern Island of New Zealand" (1842), we note, in his description of the fortified hamlet of Wakatiwai, at the Bay of Islands, the following item: "In all the enclosures, and elsewhere about the pa, are storehouses, consisting of a platform raised upon stakes 10 ft. or 15 ft. high, on which are deposited the potatoes, &c.; and here and there are poles on which are hung bundles of dried fish, scattering their fragrance abroad." In another part of his little work the same author remarks, "One of the methods which the New-Zealanders adopt for preserving their winter stock of potatoes, maize, or kumara is by fixing an open framework on strong posts, commonly about 6 ft. or 7 ft. high, so as to form a stage of the required dimensions, on which the baskets of food are piled, and a rude covering or thatch put over them. These stages are called whata. Sometimes one thick post supports a whata, but more frequently four, six, or nine posts, according to the size. Sometimes you may see the whata with its load raised aloft among the branches either of a decayed or growing tree." The writer speaks of pitching his tent on one of these platforms in order to escape from the swarming fleas of a native settlement.
In the above extract we note that although these stages had no houses built on them, yet in some cases a rude thatch covering was put over the goods stored thereon, in order to protect them from the weather. We may also note that many of these platforms were constructed in an open manner, with spaces between the horizontal page 61timbers, while some had close floors. The former served well for storing large items on, such as baskets of potatoes, &c.
Small islets or rocks were sometimes utilized by the Maori as places for the storage of food, as being free from rats. A low stage would be erected on such places, on which food products were placed. Thus, a small rock islet in the Wai-rau arm of Wai-kare Moana is known as the Whata kai o Maahu (the food-stage of Maahu), because that ancestor had a food-store thereon. Another such, known as the Whata kai o Tamai-rangi, was a small sandbank or islet situated in the eastern arm of Pori-rua Harbour, where that famed chieftainess of Ngati-Ira had a food-store.
In constructing these platforms on trees advantage was taken of the branches, beams or poles being placed in branch-forks in a horizontal position, and then covered with timbers in order to form a floor. Any food stored on such places was much drier than if placed on the ground, and these elevated places were much used in situations where the dampness of the earth rendered it unwise to place food in pits.
Whata rangi: "Maori Art" gives this as a name of "a stage or paltform, on two or more posts." It seems to be applied to stages used for many different purposes, and also to small elevated storehouses. Some tribes apply it to the scaffolding used in tree-felling. A Taumaru-nui native informs us that in his district the name was applied to an elevated stage erected in a village, and used as a seat or reclining-place by the two ariki (first-born male and female of a high chief's family). This would bring it under the head of tapurangi, as will be seen anon.
Williams's Maori Dictionary gives—Komanga: Elevated stage for storing food upon. Timanga: Elevated stage on which food is kept. Paparahi: Stage for drying kumara (sweet-potatoes). Paparahua: A kind of table from which food is eaten (a Rarawa word). Rara: Stage on which kumara are dried. Rangitapu: Scaffolding for raising a ridge-pole
The Rarawa word is of interest, inasmuch as the Maori was by no means addicted to the use of dining-tables. He preferred for such the breast of the Earth Mother, and, for manipulating his food, the tokorima a Maui (the five fingers).
Tregear's Maori Dictionary gives—Kaupapa: A raised platform for storing food; (2) an altar or sacred platform; (3) a raft. Kahupapa: A raft; (2) a shield, a tortoise, a sapping-shield or protection to an attacking party. Kauwhata: An elevated stage for storing food. Tiro: A food-store; a raised place for storing food. Kaiwhata: A pole page 62placed on two forked sticks for the purpose of suspending food, &c., from it. Whata-amo: A litter.
The word kahupapa is also used to denote a platform such as those constructed on trees by fowlers, or a causeway made of fascines or timber, and similar items.
In "Maori Art" occurs the statement, "Near the cooking-houses would be one or more whata or stores for firewood, raised on posts about 6 ft. from the ground." Probably the most common method of stacking firewood was either in conical stacks, made by leaning long pieces against each other, or by stacking short pieces horizontally at the back or sides of cooking-sheds, such stacks being termed apaapa wahie. The conical stacks of firewood were called kotutu wahie by the Whanga-nui natives, and whakatutu wahie by some others.
Williams gives, "Pouraka or poutaka, a platform attached to one post." Also rara, a stage on which kumara are dried. This latter name was also applied to a horizontal rack on which eels, &c., were placed, and under which a fire was kept going in order to both cook and dry them; and, in fact, to any similar contrivance used for drying things on. In like manner birds were cooked for potting by being suspended in rows from the horizontal bars of a perpendicular rack, termed a matiti among the Tuhoe Tribe.
Maize is dried and kept on a large rack made by attaching poles horizontally to two -shaped trestles. Such poles are fastened to both legs of each trestle, so that a double rack is thus formed. The shucks are stripped from the grain, but are not severed from the base of the cob, and hence the cobs are easily formed into bundles by tying the shucks together. These bundles are then suspended on the bars of the whata or rack. Another form of whata kaanga (corn whata) does not properly belong to this division of our paper. It is a rough shed built on piles or posts about 4 ft. high, with open walls, often made of manuka brush, but with a weatherproof roof. The corn is shucked and the cobs thrown loose into the shed, where offtimes they remain until next season. When not so filled, these whata are often used by natives as sleeping-places. The ventilation of such a chamber is beyond cavil. These corn-stores are, of course, a modern institution, the natives of the Bay of Islands, who were the first to acquire maize, having been provided with the grain in the "nineties" of the eighteenth century by Governor King, of New South Wales.
In former times, when canoes were housed in long sheds, platforms or lofts were sometimes constructed in such sheds, which served as sleeping-places for families.page 63
Perpendicular racks, for drying fish on, were much used in former times by the coastal tribes. In his account of Queen Charlotte Sound Wakefield says, "Much of their (the natives') food consisted of dried whale's flesh, of which we saw large quantities hung on racks about the village." Many of us have seen such racks in Maori villages. Such racks are often termed tarawa.
In his account of Port Nicholson in 1839 Major Heaphy remarks, "A pa stood at the mouth of the Hutt River, on the eastern side, with large war-canoes drawn up on the beach, while at the hill-foot were tall stages, from which hung great quantities of fish in the process of sun-drying."
A curious form of hollow or semicircular whata was often seen in former times. Some of these were made of a short piece, a section, of an old canoe, set up on the top of a tall post, with the hollowed part upwards. Others were made of the half of a short section of a hollow tree, fixed up on a post in like manner. Some thirty or forty years ago such items were a common feature in native villages. One appears in Brees's picture of the Maori village at Nga-uranga, Wellington.
Dr. Marshall, in his "Personal Narrative of Two Visits to New Zealand," which he visited in 1834, speaks of a food-storing platform suspended from tree-branches, a singular form: "The whata is of very varied construction, being sometimes a mere stage, lifted up about 20 ft. above the ground, upon four stanchions, and in its turn supporting the winter store of potatoes, corn, &c., all carefully covered in with a matting of reed or bulrush; sometimes a rudely manufactured raft, slung from the dead or dying branches of a decayed tree, and apparently out of reach of any common thief, answering the same purpose, and certainly giving an additional touch of the picturesque to the general character of a New Zealand village." The same writer, in describing Te Namu pa, mentions "several whata, or stages, supporting baskets of seed-potatoes, carefully sewed up with dried grass and covered in with fern-leaf."
To turn to the most diminutive item we have seen described as a whata. This was a small platform constructed in a hangi, or steam-oven, and on which a kumete, or wooden bowl, was placed. The whole was then carefully covered, and so the water was brought to boiling-point. (See Bulletin No. 3 of the Dominion Museum: Dr. Buck's paper on Maori weaving.)
Whata karaho: This was a term used to denote an elevated platform, open and roofless, with four supporting-posts. It is apparently synonymous with rahoraho.page 64
At the tauranga waka, or place where the canoes of a hamlet were kept and hauled up on returning from a fishing expedition, a platform was usually erected, on which the fish were laid, head and tail, by the women as they cleaned them, and after this task was completed such fish would be carried by the women to the village. These tasks were always performed by the women on the return of a fishing-party.
Whata papa does not seem to have been a specific name for any particular kind of platform or raised hut, or one used for any particular purpose, but the expression simply implies a raised place constructed of papa, or hewn slabs.
In Bishop Selwyn's journal of his travels in New Zealand occurs the following passage, showing how much struck he was with the appearance of the lofty platforms erected at native villages. Those described were seen on the second day's march south of the Rakaia River: "January 13, 1844. Arrived at a native settlement, Te Wai a Te Rua-ti, standing out of the plain like an oasis of the desert. Its lofty whata (potato-stores) standing up against the sky, by the aid of a little imagination, suggested the idea of the ruins of an ancient temple."
A whata kupenga, or net-rack, on which large fishing-nets were hung to dry, usually consisted of two horizontal and parallel rails fixed on the top of posts, and about 8 ft. or 10 ft. apart. The nets were spread over these racks to dry and then put away in a pataka, in which were stored all forms of fish-nets and traps, such as purangi, tawiri, hinaki, &c. Such a raised storehouse for nets was often called a whatanga tawiri; for it must be borne in mind that the word whata is not only a noun, but also a verb, meaning "to elevate." A fish-drying rack was termed a tarawa or whata ika.
An elevated platform, with a roof over it, but no walls, was used for the purpose of drying fish, and was termed a wharau. In modern times leaves of the tobacco-plant have been placed in such places to dry.
Whata with two or three floors: In an illustration of an old-time Maori fortified village are depicted two whata, each of which has three floors or stages. On these stages are piled baskets of food products, while from the outer edges are suspended rows of dried fish. Each whata is supported by four posts, which in one case are carved on their lower parts. The same picture shows such a stage with two floors or platforms; and another such stage appears in an old sketch of a place near Nelson.
Te Whatahoro, of Wai-rarapa, has never seen or heard of any whata or open platforms with two floors. Such a thing would be page 65looked upon in his district as unlucky, simply because it would be an innovation. "Kia heke iho ra i nga tupuna, katahi ka tika" (Were it a mode handed down from our forefathers, then it would be correct).
A crude arrangement used at temporary settlements or camps, and known as a whata kura, is described by Te Whatahoro as being simply a small tree taken up with roots attached, and the stem cut off perhaps 8 ft. or 9 ft. above the ground. This was then set in the earth with the roots upward, whereupon the roots formed a convenient place to put baskets of potatoes or other items on. Such rude erections were used by women in camps in open country. When camped near trees, a platform would be constructed among the branches of a small tree. The ake rautangi tree was favoured as a whata kura at a place periodically visited, such as a fishing-village, on account of its durability.
The following items were also given by Te Whatahoro:—
Whata pu kiore: This was a carefully constructed raised platform, on which were placed bodies of the dead intended to be eaten. The four horizontal side beams of this structure, on which the platform rested, were carved with the pattern termed pu kiore. This pattern is seen on the sides of canoes of a superior type. These carved beams were termed huapae, a general term for beams, &c., in a horizontal position, and not by any means a specific term. [This definition of the above term differs from those given by other tribes, and we look upon it with some doubt.]
Whata kaupe: A rough, raised platform, supported on four posts, and used as a place whereon to put eel-pots, &c., to dry, to keep baskets or other items; a generally handy place.
The series of racks consisting of two upright posts and a horizontal cross-piece, over which a heavy ridge-pole was slid into position, was termed a kaupae or amorangi.
Tunui-a-rangi, of Wai-rarapa, states that a curious form of whata kai was erected at the taumata korero of a pa—that is, at the place where the elder chiefs assembled in order to discuss affairs of the clan. This form of whata was simply a small tree, which was felled, conveyed to the hamlet, and set upright in the ground. The branches were not cut off—that is, a number of branches were left on the trunk, one for each member of the party that was wont to meet at the spot. Doubtless the ends of such branches would be cut off, leaving a certain length thereof projecting whereon to hang baskets. The trunk of such a whata was carved in some fashion, and painted page 66with red ochre. Attendants would bring food for the assembled council, and, after the meal, any remains of such meal were put in baskets which were suspended from the branches of the whata, each man's leavings being placed in a separate basket and hung on the particular branch assigned to him. This custom was, of course, in observance of the law of tapu. Any person interfering with such food would be slain.
The Tahitians erected within their houses a curious form where-from to suspend divers vessels. Ellis says, "The fata, or stand, with one or two projections, and a notch on the top, from which the calabashes of water, baskets of food, umete, &c., are suspended. Great labour was formerly bestowed on this piece of furniture, and the fata pua was considered an ornament to the house in which it was erected. About a foot from the ground a projection extended 6 in. or 8 in. wide, completely round, flat on the top, but concave on the under-side, in order to prevent rats ascending and gaining access to the food."
Platforms for stacking firewood on were termed rahoraho wahie, says Te Whatahoro. These were platforms placed on four or more posts about 5 ft. high, having no roof, but merely three or four uprights at each end to confine the stack of wood, the pieces of fuel being of irregular lengths.
A stack of firewood stacked as we "cord" up fuel would be termed a taiki wahie in the Wai-rarapa district. When placed on end so as to assume a cone-like form, such is termed a whakatutu wahie or kotutu wahie. Firewood thrown into a loose heap would be a haupu wahie. The expression apaapa wahie is applied by some tribes to firewood stacked as the taiki above mentioned, while others apply it to fuel stacked in and supported by slings of aka (tough stems of climbing-plants). These slings, or pieces of aka were secured over the doorway inside the front wall of a sleeping-house, says Te Whatahoro, arranged so as to bow out like the letter D, and the pieces of fuel were arranged in these loops. This was all good fuel selected for the little fires kept burning in the takuahi, or fireplaces, and might not be taken for cooking purposes. Fuel was also stacked in the apaapa or taiki style in cooking-sheds. In the Matatua district the suspended slings for fuel seem to have been affixed to the back wall of a sleeping-house, not over the door.
Another method of stacking fuel for a cooking-shed was that known as a pahuki. This mode implied the stacking of fuel lengthwise along the inside walls of a cooking-hut. To keep such a stack in position, two upright poles were used to confine it, having the page 67lower ends inserted loosely in the ground, the upper ends being hitched to the wall-plates or outer posts by means of cords. Thus, when taking out a long piece of wood from the stack, one of the upright poles could be untied and inclined outwards from the stack in order to facilitate the process. These movable uprights are called pou wha-kaawe. In this method there are no close walls to the hut, walls being represented by a few upright posts to support the roof, and which serve to confine the stack of fuel. As the fuel on the inner side of such a stack was consumed, that on the outer side was moved inwards, and occasionally a fresh supply replaced that taken from the outer part of the stack.
The kaiwhata, explains Te Whatahoro, was a small receptacle for food that served the purpose of the safe or meat-safe of the European, and was suspended from a high gallows by means of a cord. It was constructed as is a hinaki, or eel-pot, the framework consisting of many wooden hoops made from pieces of aka, the tough pliant stems of climbing-plants. These hoops were of different sizes, the largest thereof forming the base of the kaiwhata, the others diminishing in size upward until the topmost one was merely a diminutive item; thus the apparatus was cone-shaped. Small straight of pieces aka were fastened to these hoops (whiti), much as an eel-pot was made. The bottom was of similar material, and was often a separate piece that acted as a door, being secured to the body of the apparatus by tying. The food to be so preserved from rats and birds was placed on this circular base, then the cone-shaped structure was placed over it and tied thereto, while a cord secured by one end to the upper or small end of the cone served to suspend it. In some cases a bowl containing certain food was placed in such a safe.
This apparatus was hoisted up to an arm projecting horizontally from the top of a high post, about 20 ft. in height, it is said. This upright post had a notch on the top, and just below its summit was secured the korewa, or arm, which was butted on to the post and secured thereto by means of two horizontal battens, about 2 ft. in length, placed one on either side of the post and arm, and lashed securely to both. A brace or strut extending from the post upward to the arm also served to hold the latter in position. At the outer end of the arm was a notch similar to that on the top of the post. The cord, one end of which was secured to the upper part of the "safe," passed up through the notch on the end of the arm, then page 68along above the arm and through the notch on top of the post, thence down to the ground, whence it was manipulated, and by which the cage-like structure could be drawn up to a desired height and left suspended from the end of the arm. The running of this cord through two rounded-off notches, and the passing of a rope over a round piece of timber in order to gain a purchase, were about the nearest approach to a block and pulley evolved by the Maori.
When the above apparatus was used in wet weather, and it was desired to protect the food contained in it, then a rude cover, termed a poreku, was made for it. This cover was in the form of a hollow cone, and was made of pieces of rangiura, the inner bark of the totara. These pieces of bark were cut into the desired shape while still green, and also pierced with holes for sewing them together, then tied to pieces of stick laid across them, and allowed to dry. When dry and rigid they were sewn together, their edges overlapping, by means of reeving a light cord through the pierced holes. Thus a conical cover to place over the kaiwhata, or safe, was formed.
Both platforms (food-stages) and pataka were occasionally built in water, such as lakes and ponds, not only to avoid rats but also human thieves. In the Wai-rarapa district pataka were sometimes built in ponds, and in such places valuables were often kept.
Platforms were often erected among the branches of living trees adjacent to a hamlet, and used to store food-supplies, &c., on. Occasionally such trees stood within the defences of a pa. In some cases notched poles were used whereby to gain access to these stages, and in others the arowhata was employed.
In the Wai-rarapa district the tokorangi or kautawa was a simple apparatus for hoisting meat up out of the way of dogs, &c. The tokorangi was composed of two poles set up in the form of an inverted V (so, ); the butts sunk in the earth, the tops crossed and lashed together. Across these two sticks, near the apex, was lashed a short cross-piece, the middle part of which was round and smooth, and over this the rope working the apparatus was passed. The item to be hoisted, such as a piece of meat, was secured to a short bar of wood; if a side of pork or man, simply laid over it. Short cords were fastened to either end of this bar, and to these another short cord that suspended the bar to the end of a long pole. To the upper end of this pole was secured one end of a long cord that passed over the cross-piece of the tokorangi and thence to the ground. Pulling this cord over the page 69smooth round cross-piece hauled the upper end of the free pole upward, when it was left at an angle of perhaps 60°. Thus the food was suspended from the free pole, which was itself suspended from the tokorangi.
Fern-roots were sometimes placed on open platforms, exposed to all weathers, until dry, then packed in baskets and put away in the cooking-huts.
The posts supporting platforms, &c., on which food was stored were worked smooth of surface in order to prevent the passage of rats, or a hole the size of the post was made in the centre of a sheet of totara bark, which was slipped down over the post before the superstructure was erected, and fixed at a point some distance above the ground. This preventive was termed a matapara whata.* These items were also fixed on posts supporting pataka. In some cases these matapara were formed of a hewn slab of wood, with a hole in the centre to admit the post. In other cases wooden troughs, termed waka, were placed, hollow downwards, on the top of the posts, where they served as foundation-plates for the superstructure. Such troughs were not canoe-shaped, but open at both ends. Again, such plates sometimes consisted of a broad flat hewn slab fixed on the tops of the supporting-posts. All these items prevented the passage of the native rat, but it is probable that it was not such a persistent and destructive creature as the Norway rat.
The following brief remarks on the subject of platforms are from Tuta Nihoniho, of the Ngati-Porou Tribe:—
Whata—i.e., common food-platforms—never received special names, nor was there any carving on them.
In modern times a whata or platform, with two or three floors, one above the other, but with no walls, has sometimes been used whereon to store seed-potatoes (but never kumara), the same being usually placed in round creels made of split supplejack, and termed toi (toiki by some tribes), a thatched roof generally placed over the uppermost platform. Such a construction is termed a whata purapura.
Fern-roots (aruhe) were piled for drying purposes on a rough raised platform some 6 ft. high, having no roof. This would be termed a whata aruhe simply because it was used for such purpose.
Rahoraho: This term would be applied to the platform or decking in a canoe, also to a floor of slabs or other materials laid on the surface of the ground. If so laid on the ground as dunnage to protect something placed on it in the way of keeping it off the ground, it would probably be referred to as a whakapuru.page 70
Eel-fishers sometimes erected a raised platform at the edge of a lagoon, or pool in a swamp, from which to fish, a basket being attached to the structure into which to put their catch. Such a platform would be termed a puhara hi tuna, or eel-fishing platform (or stage), the term puhara being applied to an elevated platform only.
The term kahupapa is applied to many things, as an elevated floor or platform, a raft, a corduroyed road, &c.; also to the toetoe lining of a house-roof and the ornamental work between the posts of a house, because both are put together on the ground in wide sections ere being placed in position.
Timanga, as a name for an elevated storage-place, is apparently a northern word, and is not so employed by the east-coast peoples.
Occasionally a platform elevated a little above ground was seen at the side of the marae, or plaza, of a village, and on which the elderly men would sit at such times as in the evening when the young folk were amusing themselves on the plaza.
Racks: Fish-drying racks were termed whata ika or tarawa ika.
Arowhata and arawhata: A form of ladder, says Te Whatahoro, termed an arowhata was used in former times whereby to gain access to platforms used by fowlers in trees, to lofty platforms or pataka, or to tree dwellings, such as the whare punanga. These ladders, being constructed of flexible materials, were hauled up when necessary by means of a cord fastened to the lower end, thus cutting off access to the tree or platform. The arowhata was constructed in the following manner: Two long pieces of aka, the pliant stems of certain climbing-plants, were used as sides of the ladder, and across these were fastened the steps, kaupae or kaupeka, pieces of aka toro-raro, tied on with thin stems of aka-kuku or of mange-mange (Lygodium articulatum). The tie was first tied round the upright, then the two ends of it passed round the step-piece in opposite directions and crossed on the step, then reversed and brought back round the upright or side piece of the ladder and secured. Long ladders of this description were used for ascending trees, and smaller ones for pataka.
The form of arowhata that was pendant was called arowhata taepa, but in some cases they were lashed to the trunk of the tree, in which case they were termed arowhata tamau. These latter could not, of course, be hoisted up.
Arawhata: The ladder more commonly used for pataka and platforms was the arawhata or turuki, which was usually a beam or length of the trunk of a tree, about 8 in. in thickness, in which a page 71series of steps had been cut. In some cases a ruder form of ladder was used—a stout pole, the branches of which were cut off perhaps 6 in. out from the trunk, and utilized as steps. Such ladders as these were never secured to the platform or pataka, but were always removed after use and laid aside, thus rendering the store inaccessible to such noxious creatures as rats, dogs, and children. The notched-pole ladder is termed turuki on account of its notched steps.
Hakari stages: The term hakari implies a feast or entertainment. These feasts were fairly common occurrences in Maoriland in former times, and often were of a ceremonial character. In many cases the immense quantities of food presented to visitors at these meetings, or at such of them as were remarkable for the inclusion of extra-tribal guests, or were of a political nature, were stacked up on high erections composed of a number of platforms one above the other.
These many-floored stages were of two very different forms. One was pyramidal, and was built by setting up a stout tree-trunk in a vertical position and then placing strong rickers in position, their butts being planted far out from the central post, and their tops resting against it, where they were secured by strong lashings. The platforms were now constructed by lashing rickers in a horizontal position on the framework, and on these horizontal beams the pole flooring was laid. In Yate's "Account of New Zealand" (1835) is an illustration of one of these conical erections which has fifteen platforms, on each of which there is room and to spare for men to walk upright without being in danger of knocking their heads against the floor above. This would mean a height of about 100 ft., which seems very great, and must be an exaggeration. The author says, "A large number of strong poles are erected, and stages are made at a distance from each other of from 8 ft. to 10 ft., till they reach the top. Sometimes these piles are from 80 ft. to 90 ft. high, and from 20 ft. to 30 ft. at the base, gradually rising to a point; when filled, they present one solid mass of food. The whole is decorated with flags, and, when in an elevated situation, presents a very imposing appearance. The portion belonging to each tribe is particularly pointed out; and when the ceremony of presenting it is over, the people carry away their portions, and the building, upon which it was all piled, is left to go to ruin or cut down for firewood, as the natives never use, the same wood, nor choose the same spot, for a second hakari."
The illustration of this curious pyramidal staging, or series of platforms, given in the above work is of much interest. Men are page 72stationed in numbers on each platform, engaged in the task of hoisting up baskets of food from one floor to another throughout the series of fifteen floors. Each basket was pulled up separately by means of a cord attached to it, passed on from floor to floor until it reached its destination, where they were all stacked up neatly, until each stage or floor was a solid mass of baskets of food. The illustration also shows a tall tree-trunk or isolated ricker near the stage, which was probably used in place of shear-legs in the erection of the staging or central pole.
Mr. Colenso gives some description of these stages in Volume xiii of the "Transactions of the New Zealand Institute." "The food was generally piled up in the form of a pyramid, from 80 ft. to 90 ft. high, and 20 ft. to 30 ft. square at the base, gradually rising to its apex. To build up this, the straight trunk of a large tree was first obtained page 73from the forest, and dragged out with no small difficulty to the spot fixed on for the feast; there it was disbarked, or dubbed down, and set up; other strong poles were then set up around it; a series of horizontal stages were then made all round the scaffolding at from 7 ft. to 9 ft. apart, and the whole was filled in and built up with food packed into baskets, presenting when finished one solid mass of food. The getting-up of one of those feasts always took a long time, often more than a year."
Of these hakari stages, Taylor remarks in "Te Ika a Maui," "Sometimes a number of poles were planted in the ground, 50 ft. or 60 ft. high, which were made to support eight or ten stories, heaped up with baskets of food to the very top."
In Volume i, page 189, Thomson makes the following remarks concerning these feasts and stages: "Twelve months before the festival food was planted, and preparations made for it. Previously to the arrival of the guests the food was piled either on the ground or on wooden scaffolds. Such erections were square pyramidal towers, having an elevation of 50 ft., or ranges of 6 ft. high, extending from half a mile to two miles (!). There were several compartments in these receptacles for food, each being filled up with sweet-potatoes, taro, maize, fern-root, potted birds, dried fish, karaka berries, and other things…. Six thousand guests have been counted at such banquets…. The wood of the banquet building was used by the guests to cook their food…. In 1836 there was a celebrated hakaria at Matamata, on the Thames. Here a European counted eight thousand baskets of potatoes, five hundred thousand eels, eight hundred pigs, and fifteen casks of tobacco." The statement that these stages were made from half a mile to two miles long is, of course, absurd, and cannot possibly be accepted.
The following description of a hakari staging erected at Hokianga, was written by the late Colonel McDonnell: "The scaffold which was to support the piles of food was six kumi long (a kumi is 60 ft., so the total length was 360 ft.). Each scaffolding was one kumi in length, and tapered up from its base, which was twice the stretch of a man's arms (about 12 ft.), to 40 ft., 50 ft., 60 ft., and 75 ft. in height, according to the strength or amount of food the hapu (division) of the tribe it belonged to had, and tapered off at the top to about 18 in. broad. On the bottom tier would be about 600 baskets of kumara (sweet-potatoes); a strong platform was lashed over this to support the next tier of, say, 500 baskets; then another platform, and so on, until a single row of baskets graced the top of the pile. In all, to each piece of scaffolding there would be between 3,000 and 3,500 baskets of kumara; here and there would be calabashes of preserved birds—pigeons, tui, kaka, weka, kiwi, curlew, ducks, and widgeon; fish of all kinds, tons of them taken in immense tidal bag nets, 70 ft. long by 25 ft. square at the mouth, narrowing off to 18 in., an immense basket capable of holding two hogsheads fastened on the other end, &c."
Of the presentation of these masses of food-supplies to the guests, this writer says, "The next day the feast was 'called'—that is, each page 75piece of scaffolding was formally handed over to a hapu of Ngati-Whatua by a corresponding hapu (clan or subtribe) of the Popoto folk, and this was subdivided again and again until all the food and delicacies were distributed."
A peculiar mode of piling up food-supplies was practised by the Tongans. Mariner describes such as having been seen by him at a ritual feast: "Tuitonga's marly (? malae or marae) is near his own residence, and on this were erected four columns of yams in the following manner: four poles, about 18 ft. long, were fixed upright in the ground to the depth of a few feet, at about 4 ft. distance from each other in a quadrangular form; the spaces between them, all the way to the top, being crossed by smaller poles about 6 in. distant from each other, and lashed on; the interior of this section being filled up with yams as they went; and afterwards other up-right poles were lashed on to the top with cross-pieces in like manner, still piling up the yams; then a third set of poles, &c., till the column of yams was about 50 ft. or 60 ft. high, when, on the top of all, was placed a cold baked pig. Four such columns were erected, one at each corner of the marly."
In many cases, however, no staging was used, the food being piled in long heaps on the ground. So far as we can ascertain, these stages were seldom used on the east coast and in the southern parts of the Island, nor have we heard of them in the Whanga-nui and Taranaki districts.
Mr. Skinner informs us that the hakari stages, as depicted by Yate and Thomson, were not erected by the Taranaki natives, who followed the tahua system practised on the east coast, wherein the food was piled on the ground in long heaps.
Te Whatahoro informs us that among his people a hakari stage would be termed a whata kopiha kai, the platform of which was constructed of poles laid side by side. It might have side walls of plank or rangiura bark. On this stage the baskets of food were stacked, and in bad weather would probably be covered with mats called topaki, made of leaves of Cordyline, which overlapped each other so as to prove an excellent water-shedder. The butts of the leaves were placed outwards, and the mat somewhat resembled a rough pora or whakatipu cape in its aspect. So far we have not noted any proof that the large hakari stages with many or several platforms or floors were used in the southern part of the Island.
The expression kopiha kai was often applied to a quantity of food heaped or stacked on the ground, while a rua kopiha is a pit store for food products, such as crops.page 76
It must be remarked that the hakari stage was not a common usage, but confined apparently to the more northern tribes. Among others, as we have seen at Whanga-nui, Poverty Bay, and elsewhere, the food-supplies for presentation to guests at these functions were stacked in a long heap or row on the ground-line, such a heap being known as a tahua.
* Dieffenbach mentions a cone-shaped island in Queen Charlotte Sound named Matapara.