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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

The Evidence of the Genealogies takes the Genesis — of Man in the Region back to the beginning of our — Era

The Evidence of the Genealogies takes the Genesis
of Man in the Region back to the beginning of our

(4) Then came a fuller knowledge of Polynesian traditions and genealogies, concentrated and interpreted by Mr. Percy Smith in his "Hawaiki." By the aid of some ancient genealogies from New Zealand, and from the Cook Islands, he takes the history of Polynesia back to the beginning of our era, holding that in the second or third century of it the ancestors of the Polynesians moved on from Indonesia into the Pacific. But even this date leaves scant time for the peopling of the various groups away to the east; for the Easter Islanders have a genealogy of their kings right from Hotu Matua, the leader of the Polynesian colony into their island, page 232down to Maorata, who was carried away by the Peruvians in 1864. In this there are 57 names or generations; and if we assume, as Mr. Smith reasonably does, twenty-five years as the average length of the generation, it works out 1425 years, a period that lands us in the middle of the fifth century of our era. And two centuries is too little to allow for the spread of the immigrants to the eastern groups, and such over-population of them as would lead to new expeditions into unknown regions.

(5) An even more striking discrepancy arises from the use of this genealogical method of chronology; when we take the generations of their ancestry given by the Marquesans, as reported by the Surveyor-General of Hawaii, there are 145, and this, calculated on the usual basis, takes us back 3,625 years. And an old Moriori priest and chief in the Chatham Islands capped this: he traced his own ancestry to Rangi and Papa, through 182 generations, and at the 157th this note interrupts the genealogy. "At this time came the three canoes from Hawaiki." That takes us back 4,550 years, the Polynesian immigration being placed a little over six centuries ago. Surely this is a heraldry long enough to satisfy the aristocratic birth-hunger of any family on earth. It is to be placed beside that Welsh genealogy, which Douglas Jerrold reports as having at its midpoint the note: "Here occurred the flood." It is on the whole safer to trust for our chronology to the less definite indications of the records of the earth than to this heraldic embroidery of the past, which is so apt to be guided by the vanity of family or race.