Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture
Fishing, Netting, and Rope-making were Aristocratic — Employments
Fishing, Netting, and Rope-making were Aristocratic
(8) When we turn to netting and ropes, we have a different set of conditions. It is the men that engage in this textile page 166art. In most of the islands it is the men that roll and braid from cocoa-nut fibre the sinnet that goes to the making of all nets; and in Samoa they take their work with them to the council meetings, as women in Europe take their crochet or knitting to the Dorcas Club. In the eastern groups all connected with fishing is too sacred to be touched by women. In New Zealand tapu lay on the making of nets and everything connected with the art. No cooking and no woman were to come near the net-makers, and there were only certain fish that women were allowed to eat. New nets were begun with karakias; and so punctilious were they in their attention to the tapu of nets that those who carried them had to be naked, lest their garments should have touched cooked food. So it was with hooks and lines; karakias had to be said over them; the aid of the god Maru or Tangaroa had to be invoked, and some of the fish were reserved for the gods, and some for the chiefs, and cooked in different ovens; a third oven was kept for the fish of the common people.
(9) This seems to show that fishing was an aristocratic employment. The Polynesian conquerors were evidently eaters of fish and expert fishermen when they migrated. And yet it is from the Patupaiarehe, or fair-skinned aborigines, that they learned the special mesh of their nets, this being the same as that found in the Swiss lake-dwellings. The pre-Polynesians were evidently as expert fishermen, and contributed somewhat to the knowledge and skill of the new comers. Maui, their culture-hero, is credited with inventing the barb for the hook and the centre-piece for the eel-basket. One of the strangest interlacing of ideas is that of fishing and cannibalism in all the islands, and especially in New Zealand and Easter Island. The first victim in a battle is called "the first fish of Maui," and human bones are especially valued for hooks, whilst the dried head of an enemy was often used to tie a line to.