The Coming of the Maori
4 — The Life of the Community
The Life of the Community
Each family household required essential buildings for sleeping, cooking, and storing food. The sleeping house (whare puni) served as a dormitory for the entire family and was built to shut out the cold air. The cooking house (whare umu) sheltered the shallow oven pit (umu) with its pile of cooking stones, cover mats, and other utensils. Its end walls were more open than those of the sleeping house to allow the escape of smoke. It could be used by slaves and menials for sleeping but not by the family.
When the family expanded to include a number of households, an assembly house (whare hui) was needed to accommodate the increased number at family conclaves and to lodge visitors. This usually took the form of a larger sleeping house (whare puni) which served two purposes. In the daytime, the meetings were held in the open space before the house; in bad weather and at night, within it. Hence the saying,
Ko Tu ki te awotea, ko Tahu ki te po.
Tu in the daytime, Tahu in the evening.
Tu refers to the war god Tu, for virile speeches with active movements on the feet and war dances of welcome were exchanged outside, and Tahu (to light) personified the milder and quieter reception within the lighted house at night. The establishment of a guest house and a marae plaza before it marked the growth of family strength and prestige.
In the old-time fortified villages, the various families had their establishments arranged on the different terraces. The highest ranking chief had the privilege of occupying the topmost flat, and ample space had to be provided for the marae before his guest house. To maintain his prestige, his guest house was the largest and best carved in the village. The significance of the carved guest house (whare whakairo) is brought out in the story of Taharakau.page 374
Taharakau was a chief who lived in the Poverty Bay area and who excelled at repartee. He visited a chief of high rank who, for some error, was living in a poorly constructed house out in the wilderness. Jade has always been a chiefly possession, and the exile had a bunch of jade cloak pins (aurei) attached to the shoulder border of the cloak he was wearing. Shrugging his shoulder so that the jade ornaments jingled, he asked, "Taharakau, what are the signs of chieftainship?" Taharakau, ignoring the sound meant to prompt his reply, answered,
He whare whakairo i tu ki roto
i te pa tuwatawata!
Te whare i tu kt te koraha, he kai na te ahi.
A carved house standing in a fortified village!
The house standing in the open is food for the fire.
After the acceptance of Christianity and its gospel of peace, the villages moved down from the fortified hills to the more accessible flats but the arrangement of family units and the central carved guest house with its assembly marae followed the established pattern.
The guest house, carved or uncarved, served various social needs and various names were applied to the one structure. Structurally it was an enlarged sleeping house (whare puni). If carved, it was also a whare whakairo. It functioned variously as an assembly house (whare hui), a council chamber (whare runanga) and a guest house (whare manuhiri). As the prestige of the village as well as that of the chief was gauged somewhat by the meeting house, no effort or expense was spared in employing master craftsmen to expend their greatest skill in carving the various parts. The meeting houses formed the social focus of the tribe, hence they were generally named after tribal ancestors. When the people assembled within its walls for tribal discussions, the orators were justified when they said, "We have gathered together within the bosom of our ancestor." The carved meeting houses were a source of pride to the people and they gave an atmosphere to the village that nothing else could equal.
The term marae was applied to the plaza before the guest house. In the cultural development which took place in New Zealand, the meeting house and the marae became complementary to each other and one could not function adequately without the other. People were welcomed with speech, song, dance, and food on the marae in the daytime and were further welcomed, entertained, and lodged within the house at night. In many important villages, the marae received an individual personal name, Te Papaiouru before the carved meeting house of Tamatekapua at Ohinemutu, for example. The prestige of a marae was sometimes built up to such a height that people of inferior rank were not allowed to deliver speeches on them.page 375
Inasmuch as the welcome by speech on the marae had to be followed by a welcome with food, the marae could not maintain its prestige unless it was supported by storehouses plentifully stocked with food. Thus the storehouses formed a third element in the complex which administered to the social needs of the tribe, maintaining and increasing its reputation with outside people. In addition to household stores it was necessary to have a reserve supply to assist in the extra demands made by tribal gatherings and, above all, by the entertainment of visitors. The home people could live upon scanty rations in times of scarcity, but visitors had to receive the best or shame enveloped the community. Thus social gatherings which involved invitations to outside tribes were arranged to fit in with the time when the storehouses were full, and outside tribes arranged ceremonial visits to coincide with the local seasons of plenty. However, the storehouses had to be ever ready to deal with emergencies, such as deaths. In addition to the family storehouses, the chief had a special storehouse on piles (pataka) which was often more elaborately carved than the guest house. It was the symbol of hospitality and was often given a proper name. The storehouse of Te Heuheu of Tokaanu was named Hinana, and because it was always stocked with preserved pigeons (huahua) from the inland forests and with dried whitebait (inanga) from the inland sea of Lake Taupo, the following saying was applied to it:
Hinana ki uta, Hinana ki tat.
Hinana inland, Hinana to the sea.
The marae, the guest house, and the storehouse formed a triple complex by which the social prestige of a tribe rose or fell.
In Maori communities, mutual help was a fundamental expression of blood kinship as well as human kindness. Only the skilled craftsmen, such as builders, carvers, and tattooers received recompense in food and material goods for their labour. The general tasks requiring a number of people were accomplished by community co-operation without thought of pay.
In the cultivation of the sweet potato, the ground was prepared and the soil loosened at intervals with digging sticks (ko) wielded by men who worked in unison to a kind of drill. Plots termed mara were prepared in this way for each family. Families attended to the heaping up of the mounds in their own plots and the planting of the seed tubers which came from their own supplies. The subsequent weeding and final digging up of the crop was attended to by the owners of the plots, but when one family had completed their work, they helped their neighbours. Later, the Irish potato superseded the sweet potato as the principal crop. I remember when we had but one plough in my own village. That one implement page 376ploughed the ground into plots of equal length and width, and the owners of the plots planted their own seed and attended to the weeding, hoeing, and digging, always receiving assistance from those who were free to help. The land was tribal land, and the plots were designated to the individual families by the older men in authority. The crop was gathered in baskets after being sorted, the smaller tubers being kept for next season's seed. The supply was carted to the village by those in charge of the available carts, but each family attended to the storing of their own crop in their own store pits. There was community co-operation in labour where required, but there was individual ownership of the plots and the resulting crops.
When gatherings took place, the feeding of the assembly was automatically a community undertaking by the whole village. Able-bodied men brought in loads of extra firewood which were stacked by the cooking places of each household. Others brought in bundles of flax which were also distributed to the cooking places for plaiting into the circular receptacles, termed kono, for holding the cooked food. Each household drew the vegetables from their own store pits but the question of the flesh food (kinaki) to go with the vegetables was a more serious problem. If the season was right, men went out fishing and the supply was distributed to the cooking fires. The women of each household collected shell fish and echinoderms, the kind depending on the natural resources of the neighbouring coast. In modern times, pigs were killed and distributed and cattle were bought and butchered to supply any local deficiency in the flesh-food supply. Any bought foods were paid for out of the community chest. With cheerful activity on the part of all, everything was ready by the time the people and the visitors had arrived. Without any fuss or confusion, the various households allocated the various duties. Men chopped the wood and prepared the fires. Women scraped baskets full of potatoes and plaited piles of kono platters. If there were such delicacies as dried fish and preserved pigeons in the storehouses, these were ready to be served for some of the meals.
The preparations for a meal are interesting. This is what I saw in my own village over fifty years ago. A man, who happened to be a Moriori named Mana, had somehow become accepted as the public announcer of the village. He was very capable and when the time approached to commence cooking, he toured the village and saw that all the fires were set for lighting and the vegetables and flesh food at hand. He then stood in the middle of the village and yelled at the top of his voice, "Ka tahu" ("Light up"). The cry was repeated by the nearer fireplaces and spread outwards to each end of the village. The wood was already stacked in the oven pits with the stones arranged above them. The commander of each fire, usually a woman, applied a match, and soon the smoke of the cooking page 377fires arose throughout the village. As the wood burned down, the heated stones fell to the bottom of the shallow pit where they rested on live charcoal. Mana, when he saw that the correct time had elapsed, took up his central position and yelled, "Ka tao" ("Cook"). The assistants at the fires levelled the heated stones into an even bed with a wooden stake, removing any unburnt wood. Water was sprinkled over the stones, and as the steam arose, women poured in the scraped potatoes to above the level of plaited flax bands (paepae) placed around the circumference of the pit, added the fish or meat, sprinkled more water, and quickly covered the mound of food with plaited oven covers (tapora). Then earth was heaped over the covers to seal the oven and prevent the escape of steam. The tao process was under way.
The time allowed for cooking was an hour or more but it was better to be on the sure side, for an uncooked oven of food brought shame to the housewife. Mana was associated with our family, and I have heard him ask the women who presided over our oven, "Kua maoa?" ("Is it cooked?") On receiving an affirmative reply, he took up his position and yelled, "Ka hura" ("Uncover"). The assistants at each oven immediately scraped off the earth and carefully removed the mat covers, taking care not to allow any earth to fall on the food. The women quickly placed the cooked potatoes in the kono containers and put portions of fish or meat on the top of the vegetables. When a sufficient number of kono had been filled, the rest of the food was left in the oven for the workers.
In our village, the meeting-house, with its marae, was set on a rise with an open space extending to the public road in front. The houses stretched away from either side of the middle space. Women and girls, carrying a kono in each hand, assembled at the nearest house on either side of the central space. Mana, on receiving from either side a signal that all were present, yelled his final command, "Ka hari" ("Carry"). The women in two lines then marched slowly in single file towards the marae, the leading women singing songs, joined by the chorus behind them. Every now and then, a short posture dance was performed to enliven the march, there being a number of songs and dances specially composed for processions carrying food. The procession having reached the marae, the food was laid down before the guests who sat in small groups to permit their hosts to serve everyone. The only available liquid in those days was water, and young men acting as waiters stood by with buckets of water and tin pannikins ready to serve those who called, "He wai" ("Water").
Gatherings usually lasted some days, and the feeding of the people went on during the whole time without any trouble. The organization was perfect and there were always people ready to do the work cheerfully. To break the monotony, shell fish, preserved pigeons, or whatever delicacy was available were served on some days. The guests derived pleasure page 378while the hosts acquired prestige. When the guests returned home, the stay-at-homes asked, "He aha nga kai o te hui?" ("What were the foods at the gathering?"). Reputations rose or fell upon the reply. When particular local foods were abundant, guests were given a special distribution to take home. I remember receiving a string of dried clams (pipi) from relatives who had been away to a distant gathering.
We have often been accused of wastefulness in holding such gatherings in modern times, but our critics belong to a culture based on a money economy and they cannot realize that there are emotional values which the individualist cannot feel.
The ohu Custom
Co-operation in labour took the form of working bees, termed ohu, which were frequently organized for clearing bush land for cultivations. Sometimes they were arranged to promote social intercourse between two tribes. The tribe owning the land sent out an invitation to another tribe to clear the land for them. The home tribe provided the food and entertainment and the visiting ohu put forth their best efforts to gain the approval of their hosts. Such exchanges gave pleasure to both sides and served to maintain friendship between the two tribes.
A curious story is connected with the visit of a Ngati Tama ohu to clear some land for a Taranaki tribe south of the present New Plymouth. The ohu speedily completed its task with a large stone adze named Poutamawhiria, to which a certain amount of magic power was ascribed. The working party had been fed with choice mussels from a local reef. They were so good that the Ngati Tama priest with the ohu decided to steal a portion of the reef. He waded out secretly to the reef, cut off its northern end with the adze, Poutamawhiria, and by means of magic incantations, floated it back to his own territory, where it is now fixed in the sea as the mussel-bearing reef named Paroa. However, Poutamawhiria marked its disapproval of the theft by allowing a chip to break off from one corner of its cutting edge. Generations later the adze disappeared, but a description of it was handed down orally. It was of very black polished stone about 16 inches in length, and it had a chip off one corner of its cutting edge. One night a young girl of the Ngati Tama dreamt that Poutamawhiria had been found at the neighbouring village of Pukearuhe by a European farmer named Black. The girl was so insistent that her father, Te Kapinga, visited Mr Black's home, where, to his intense surprise, Mrs Black produced a large stone adze which her husband had found recently. It was of polished black basalt, the right length, and it had a chip off one corner of the cutting edge. Mr Black arrived and, after hearing the story, very generously gave it to Te Kapinga as the representative of the rightful heirs. The Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga tribes held a meeting at whichpage 379
Poutamawhiria was laid in state on a flaxen robe on the marae, and the people greeted its return with a welcome of tears. The finder was publicly thanked and given a suitable present. Later, on a visit, I was shown Poutamawhiria. I looked doubtingly, perhaps, at Te Kapinga, as I felt the chipped corner. "Well," he replied, "If you examine the Taranaki reef, you will see that its northern end is cut off clean and if you examine the Paroa reef you will find that its southern end is cut off clean. Now if you were to bring the two reefs together, you would find that the two cut ends would fit perfectly." Who am I to gainsay such proof?
The system of the ohu co-operative labour prevailed throughout Polynesia. The spirit of the ohu exists among the Maori to-day but the shift to a money economy and the changes in food and occupation render it difficult to recapture the full atmosphere of the past.
As the primary motive for the long sea voyages of the Polynesians was to find land for new homes, the original ownership of land was based on prior discovery and occupation. The first arrivals in New Zealand found no one to oppose their settlement, and they spread out without trouble. The second set of settlers, under Toi and Whatonga, were allowed to settle peaceably in the Bay of Plenty area, and intermarriage with the women of the first settlers gave their progeny the right to inherit from the female side. Even in this period, however, armed conflicts were frequent and groups which were strong enough did not hesitate to extinguish the rights of prior discovery and occupation by conquest. An invading army may resemble a tidal wave, which, after sweeping over the land, subsides without increasing the ocean's permanent domain. The war party which returns to its own land after slaying and looting, does not increase its tribal territory. Conquest is interesting historically, but it cannot establish ownership over the conquered territory, unless the conquerors remain in occupation. During the second settlement period, though there were some changes in ownership owing to conquest, there was more than enough land to allow the developing tribes to find new areas for peaceful prior occupation.
The third wave of people came definitely to colonize, and if the story of Kupe's discovery is true, they must have expected to find the land uninhabited. The manner in which the historic canoes selected different parts of the coast for landing indicates that they wished to avoid clashing with each other. They had a certain respect for prior discovery of material things as well as land, as evidenced by the story of the stranded whale at Whangaparaoa. The first arrivals tied a rope to the whale to indicate ownership and then went inland to view the country. The second arrivals scorched a rope over a fire to make it appear old and then passed it under page 380the previous tie. On this trickery they based a claim to prior discovery. Ihenga of the Arawa canoe used a similar subterfuge by placing scorched-leaf offerings on a shrine and so depriving Tuarotorua of the rightful ownership to the land on the shores of Lake Rotorua. Neither story may have occurred as related, but the very fact that they are recorded in traditional history indicates that the rights of prior discovery or occupation were recognized and a guilty conscience led to the use of subterfuge to overcome those rights.
The third settlers established themselves on different parts of the coast, built their houses and villages, and cleared the land for their cultivations. They came into conflict with the earlier inhabitants and extended their territory by the right of conquest and occupation. With increasing population, they spread along the coast line until they met the expanding families of other canoes. Argument and conflict ended in the establishment of boundaries in which rivers, streams, and ranges formed convenient landmarks. Some groups spread inland and occupied the large river valleys and the areas around the inland lakes. Coastal land had its appeal in food supplies of sea fish and marine shell fish, and the inland areas had assets of fresh-water fish and shell fish with rich supplies of forest birds. The historical record is crowded with countless wars over land and the main causes of mortality were summed up in the saying,
He wahine, he whenua i mate ai te tangata.
Women and land are the reasons why men die.
In newly discovered or newly acquired territory, chiefs sometimes utilized their privilege of personal tapu by invoking the custom termed taunaha (to bespeak). They publicly named desirable portions of land after some part of their bodies and so prevented others from claiming them. On the landing of the Arawa canoe, Tamatekapua named a promontory after his nose and two other chiefs named portions of land after their abdomens.
The title (take) to the ownership of land was based on two main claims: right of inheritance through ancestors (take tupuna) and right of inheritance through conquest (take raupatu). The right of prior discovery became historically merged in ancestral right. Conquest (raupatu) alone did not confer right of ownership unless it was followed by occupation. If the invading party retired, the survivors of the defeated tribe could return and still own their land. Occupation to establish a title had to be continuous, as idiomatically expressed by the term ahi ka, or lit fire. So long as a people occupied the land, they kept their fires going to cook their food. Conversely, the absence of fires showed that the land had been vacated. Even if a conquering tribe did not leave a holding party, they might claim the land subsequently if it remained unoccupied. However, if some of the page 381conquered people evaded the invaders and remained on the land to keep their fires alight, the right of ownership of the defeated people was not extinguished. When the Waikato confederation invaded Taranaki, they drove the Atiawa out of their territory and the Atiawa migrated south to establish homes in exile. Later, the Waikato tribes claimed ownership of the Taranaki territory by right of conquest. However it was proved conclusively that some families of the Atiawa had remained on the land and, by keeping their fires alight, had prevented the tribal rights of ownership from being extinguished. When conquered territory was occupied for some generations, the title by conquest became a historical event and the functioning title became that of ancestral inheritance (take tupuna).
A third and rarer title, termed tuku (to cede), included lands which were ceded in compliance with some custom, such as that of paying a raiding party (taua wahine) as recompense for the infidelity of a tribal woman to her husband. However, no matter what the title, the length of tenure of the land depended on the military strength of the people to hold it I once heard a Ngapuhi chief criticise the British for not observing the Treaty of Waitangi to the speaker's satisfaction. He held that as the Maori were the original owners of the land, the land should be returned to them. It so happened that the nearby land had been conquered by Rahiri, a noted ancestor of the Ngapuhi, and he had driven out the Ngati Pou who were the original owners. To create a diversion, I asked the orator what sort of treaty the Ngapuhi had given the Ngati Pou. An amusing discussion followed mainly directed towards proving the dissimilarity of the two events.
In the course of time, the principal tribes with their subtribes came to occupy definite areas with fixed boundaries. The love of their own territory developed to an absorbing degree, for tribal history was written over its hills and vales, its rivers, streams, and lakes, and upon its cliffs and shores. The earth and caves held the bones of their illustrious dead, and dirges and laments teemed with references to the love lavished upon the natural features of their home lands. The prestige of the tribe was associated with their marae sites and terraced hill forts, and their religious concepts were bound to their tuahu shrines. Captives in distant lands have begged for a pebble, a bunch of leaves, or a handful of earth from the home land that they might weep over a symbol of home. It is the everlasting hills of one's own deserted territory that welcome the wanderer home and it is the ceaseless crooning of the waves against a lone shore that perpetuates the sound of voices that are still.
With the love of home territory so strong, the desire to occupy other lands by conquest faded. The tribes continued to have their quarrels and feuds but war parties returned home with plunder and captives, after satisfying their desire for military glory. However, this period of land page 382stabilization was rudely shattered by the advent of Europeans and their introduction of firearms. The Ngapuhi in the North, armed with guns swept over the whole of the North Island but they returned without disturbing the existing distribution of tribal lands. The Waikato and King Country tribes drove Te Rauparaha and his valiant Ngati Toa out of their tribal lands at Kawhia and occupied them. One of the most touching laments in Maori poetry is Te Rauparaha's farewell to Kawhia. The Ngati Toa, still strong and unbeaten in spirit, marched south and dispossessed the tribes occupying the Otaki area near Wellington. Sections of the Ngati Raukawa and the Atiawa joined them and conquest with occupation spread north to Horowhenua, south to Wellington, and crossed Cook Strait to the Marlborough and Nelson districts. The Waikato confederation had followed up the conquest of Kawhia by invading Taranaki, but they rolled back without extinguishing the lighted fires (ahi ka) which preserved the right of ownership for those who were to return later. The Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga, who formed part of the Atiawa forces, occupied the shores of Wellington Harbour but, influenced by stories of the rich supplies of fish, shell fish, and sea birds at Chatham Islands, they crossed over and dispossessed the peaceful Moriori owners. Later, the Ngati Tama, Ngati Mutunga, and Atiawa returned to the Taranaki lands of the unextinguished fires, but sections remained in occupation of the conquered lands to the south. These post-European changes in the distribution of tribal lands may be directly attributed to the acquisition of firearms.
In the history of occupation which ultimately led to the fixing of tribal boundaries, the enlarging families, which became subtribes, spread to occupy plains and valleys for cultivation and hill tops for villages. They had adjusted their movements to the topographical nature of the country. In doing so, they established their rights to the localities which they occupied. Their system of community co-operation in cultivation and sharing the natural resources of their territory inhibited any trend towards individualism and the individual ownership of land. The land belonged to the subtribe and the tribe. It was owned by a number of people, for only numbers could hold it against outside conquest and occupation. The individual had his share in the common ownership, but he could not be said to own any particular portion in perpetuity. He had the use of particular portions and his neighbours respected his allotment as he respected theirs. He had the use of the land during his lifetime and his heirs had the use of it during their lifetime. Cultivations were made in a certain locality in one year and changed to another locality in another year. Even the sites of villages were changed at times. Maori lands occupied the same position as entailed estates and could not be alienated by individuals. Thus they formed a fluid asset which could be adjusted to meet the varying needs of succeeding generations.page 383
The advent of Europeans introduced a totally different system of land tenure, in which individualization of land with fixed boundaries for even small plots was the essential feature. In order to acquire land for themselves, they had to introduce the additional foreign innovation of alienation by sale. The early chiefs, bemused by the rattle of hoop iron and tin pannikins, sold large areas of tribal land for the cheap products of English factories. It has been said that the chiefs and the people thought that they were merely giving the newcomer the right to use the land, not realizing that they were parting with their tribal heritage forever. Probably this was true of the early sales.
The alienation of land became so alarming that the more thoughtful chiefs met, and their deliberations resulted in the Kotahitanga movement (Unity) to oppose the further sale of Maori lands. To add prestige to the movement, a chief from the Waikato tribes was finally selected as the head of the organization and given the borrowed title of king. When Wiremu Kingi of the Atiawa confederation was forced to resort to arms to oppose the alienation of tribal lands at Waitara by a forced sale, the Waikato tribes assisted in the war which ensued. However, in spite of opposition, native lands had to be acquired somehow for the many European settlers.
The Government, to salve its conscience by some form of legal procedure, set up the Native Land Court to administer land laws which attempted to give expression to Maori custom and usage. The claims of various tribes to their lands were investigated, and inheritance supported by genealogical evidence and tribal history was fully recognized. Lands no longer occupied, owing to the decrease in population caused by post-European wars and introduced diseases, were awarded on proof being adduced of previous occupation. Previous occupation was evidenced by the sites of old forts, named cultivations, burial places, and tribal history which recorded the names of the ancestral occupants. The tales of the conquests which led to occupation were told in detail, and the records of the Maori Land Court should contain rich material concerning tribal history. The fact that the land was held in common was recognized and the claimants submitted lists of owners in the block under investigation. The allocation of shares in a block to individuals or heads of families was influenced by social position in the tribe, the chiefs receiving more than those of lower rank. The boundaries of the blocks, defined according to native landmarks, and the total number of shares with their allocation to shareholders were fixed by the Court. The value per share in acreage was usually not known at the time, for the actual survey of the block, owing to an insufficient number of surveyors and the expense involved, lagged far behind the time of the Court's award.page 384
The Government then proceeded to purchase blocks of native land for European settlement, but the right of common ownership having been recognized by law, a majority of the shares had to be signed by their holders before the purchase could be made. The total purchase money was divided among the shareholders according to their shares. Subsequent surveys, in some instances, showed that the actual acreage was more than the estimated number of acres purchased. I do not know whether the Government reaped the benefit of the surplus or whether the shareholders received a post mortem dividend. In old land transactions, much depended on the amount of agitation raised by the erstwhile owners and the consideration received by their petitions to Parliament. Suffice it to say that large areas of native land were sold for a mess of pottage which was speedily gulped down. Looking back over the vista of wasteful years, one cannot help wishing that successive Governments had invested the proceeds of the sales of tribal lands in some trust from which annual payments of interest could have been paid. Had such been done, the descendants of our improvident ancestors would have continued to harvest the annual crops from their converted ancestral lands.
During the agitation for acquiring Maori lands for close farming, no thought seems to have occurred to our early legislators that the Maori owners might be educated to farm their own lands as efficiently as Europeans. Sir James Carroll, while Minister of Maori Affairs, tried to hold back some of the desired Maori land against the day when the owners would be sufficiently advanced to utilise it along European lines. This delaying action, disparagingly referred to as the taihoa policy, was anathematized by European buyers and adversely criticized by short-sighted owners willing to sell. However, delay without action could not survive indefinitely. The first action took place on the east coast in the territory of the Ngati Porou. Under the inspired leadership of Sir Apirana Ngata, M.P. for the Eastern Maori Electorate, remaining blocks of Maori land held in common were incorporated and administered as sheep stations by committees elected by the owners. The scheme proved a success and demonstrated the hitherto unbelieved fact that the Maori sheep farmers could be as good and better than some of their pakeha competitors. However, the Maori lands had been pared down in most districts to holdings not large enough for sheep farming and some of the sheep runs could be cut down profitably for closer settlement. Dairy farming had become the backbone of the Dominion and many Maori with small holdings in the Taranaki district and the South Island were making a living out of dairy farming. The agile mind of Apirana Ngata turned to dairy farming as a solution to the problem of the Maori making the most out of the little they had remaining. While Minister of Maori Affairs, he was able to inaugurate a policy of State aid in financing the breaking-in page 385of smaller areas of native land and stocking them as dairy farms to be managed by the Maori owners themselves. This was the first instance in which the State advanced funds to enable the Maori to make practical progress with their own lands, and it should be recognized that this over-long delayed act of justice was due to the courage and faith of a Maori in his own people.
In enacting laws to give expression to the customs of the past, complications were bound to occur. The Maori, as a member of a tribe, inherited shares in the different blocks that formerly comprised the tribal territory. In former days, his ancestors moved about and cultivated here to-day and there to-morrow without any inconvenience. In the present age, scattered holdings of a few acres here and a few acres there cannot be efficiently farmed by the same owner. If it were possible, however, to combine the scattered shares into one holding, the result would be a decent sized farm which could be worked with profit. To help on the dairy farming project, Ngata worked out a scheme of consolidation whereby owners could exchange their shares in different blocks and even buy some out so that the scattered holdings could be consolidated in one locality. The task was difficult, complicated, and tedious and could be accomplished only through Government aid. However, a number of dairy farms are now operating successfully through the consolidation scheme.
Another complication followed the conversion of the fluid use of land by the community to the fixed ownership by individual families. In former times, large and small families were merged together and individuals in each generation enjoyed equal rights to the usage of tribal territory. Now, the family is confined to a fixed portion with surveyed boundaries beyond which it cannot exude. Though the family may increase in number in each generation, the plot of family land remains the same in size, and, as each generation inherits from the preceding generation, the size and value of individual shares will progressively decrease to the infinitesimal.
Small areas of land with multiple owners were a problem. An individual shareholder with energy and ambition was deterred from putting his labour and money into farming the land because those who toiled not could claim an unearned share of his results. Under such circumstances, the easiest way to avoid conflict, was to lease the land to a European and divide the annual rent, no matter how small the individual shares might become. Another of the innovations introduced by the change in land tenure is the imposition of land tax, but more advanced cultures than that of the Maori have shared a similar reluctance to accept the inevitable.
The Maori can no longer be accused of holding large areas of unutilized land and so retarding settlement. Tribal territory, as such, has ceased to exist with the exception of small reserves enclosing the sites of villages page 386where tribal feeling can still find expression. The lands remaining to the Maori are far from being sufficient to enable them all to become farmers. Those who have lands have gone through a process of evolution and, against almost overwhelming odds, have reached the stage where they are endeavouring to make the best use of what they have. Those who have not must seek other avenues of livelihood.