Vikings of the Sunrise
19. The Southern Angle
19. The Southern Angle
I found a great land covered with high mists in
Tiritiri-o-te-moana, the open sea that lies to the south.
My mother was a full Maori of the Ngati-Mutunga tribe of North Taranaki in New Zealand. She had the arresting name of Ngarongo-ki-tua (Tidings-that-reach-afar). I hope for the sake of her memory that, by gathering tidings from afar, I may be worthy the honour of being her son. She was the first-born of the senior family of the Ngati-Aurutu sub-tribe, and I absorbed pride of race from her. Her only brother was named Te Rangi Hiroa after an ancestor who had lived two centuries before. I was told that Hiroa was a contraction of Ihi-roa and that the name meant the Heavens-streaked-with-the-long-rays-of-the-sun. My uncle became seriously ill during a visit to a distant village and commanded that he be moved in order that he might die at home. Unfortunately he died on the way, and I was given my first name of Te Mate-rori (Death-on-the-road), a wretched name because ‘rori’ is the modern Maori form of road. I was greatly relieved on reaching my teens to be given my adult name of Te Rangi Hiroa in more classical memory of my uncle.page 268
My father belonged to a north of Ireland family that lived in Armagh, so I am entitled to his family name. I am binomial, bilingual, and inherit a mixture of two bloods that I would not change for a total of either. I mention this brief family history to show that from my birth I was endowed with a background for the study of Polynesian manners and customs that no university could have given me. My mother's blood enables me to appreciate a culture to which I belong, and my father's speech helps me to interpret it, inadequate though the rendering be at times.
My maternal grandmother was a wonderful old lady. She had lived so long that she had acquired more wrinkles than anyone I have ever seen. She had seen many of our tribe die, and she had mourned over them all. It used to be the custom when wailing over near of kin to incise the skin with a flake of obsidian so that the flow of blood and tears might mingle to the fullest expression of grief. Sometimes charcoal was rubbed into the cuts and left indelible marks. My grandmother's breast was covered with such grief marks; and for her very dear ones, she had made the record on her cheeks. I was particularly proud of her tattooing. She had the orthodox pattern for women on both lips and her chin was covered with an artistic curved design. But in addition she had beautifully executed double spirals on either nostril and short curved lines on her forehead that arched upward from the inner angles of her eyes. When I was chastised at home for some error in conduct, I ran away to the Maori village and took refuge with my grandmother. She told me tales of happenings in her girlhood, and I learned tribal history from her as well as from my mother.
When I went to Te Aute College after my mother's death, I spent some of my vacations with my tribe. In spite of the page 269 protestations of my relatives with houses of sawn timber, I insisted on sleeping beside my grandmother on the earthen floor of her native hut with its walls of tree-fern slabs. She grew her own tobacco outside her hut, and, as she smoked her pipe beside her charcoal fire in the evenings, she told her college grandson stories that it was a privilege to hear. She had been an eyewitness of so much that had passed that she belonged to another age. With each parting, she wept the longer, and we both realized that the end of our companionship was approaching nearer and nearer. She has passed away to join her daughter in the Polynesian spirit land, and I would that our myths of that land were true. Her name was Kapua-kore which means Cloudless, an apt name for one who in her long life brought no cloud of sorrow to any living soul.
After graduating in medicine in 1904 and spending a year as a hospital interne, I obeyed the call of my blood and joined the government service as a Medical Officer of Health to the Maoris. I visited various villages and was received in all with the courtesy that still takes the form of old-time ceremony. The people gathered in the open space before the village assembly house, and tears were shed for those who had recently passed away. The Maori tangi (weeping) and the Irish wake are similar in fundamental principle, and on such occasions my two halves could unite as one. Speeches of welcome couched in archaic form were made by the local chiefs to which I replied as best I could. Five years' study at a medical school with a year in hospital had made a serious break in the continuity of my Maori education. My Maori words unconsciously flowed along an English channel of grammar, and I was horribly conscious that I was talking to my own people like a foreigner. The speeches were followed by the ceremony of pressing noses with all and sundry. This page 270 form of greeting, at one time universal throughout Polynesia, now survives as a regular custom only in New Zealand. It says much for our generation that we never tried to evade the custom because we did not wish to give pain to our elders. After these nasal contacts, the taboo of the stranger was lifted and one could mix freely and talk informally.
The visitor was the guest of the village, and the best food was provided for him during his stay in the tribal guest house. Different districts have local foods which are a great asset to the people not only for their own sustenance but for the entertainment of their visitors. Fish, crustaceans, and shellfish in the coastal districts, eels and whitebait in the river regions, pigeons and parrots in the forest areas; all had their particular season when they were at their best. My own district was famous for its lamprey eels in June or July. The sea eggs (echinoderms) were fat at Te Araroa when the golden flowers of the kowhai blossomed in spring. Sharks came into the fishing grounds off the Taranaki coast when the new growth of bracken fern began to straighten out its curled shoots. I learned to know the food seasons of the various parts of the island, and I tried to make my visits of inspection coincide with the native food calendar, not only because I liked native foods but because native hosts were so genuinely pleased to lay before their guests the foods for which their district was noted. Economic embarrassment was avoided, and host and guest shared a common satisfaction.
I early realized that to gain the interest and support of chiefs and leaders older than myself, I must overcome the handicap of youth by an exhibition of Maori scholarship that would not only earn their respect but indicate clearly where my sympathies lay. I commenced an intensive study of Maori mythology, legends, traditions, and the details of page 271 customs, manners, and etiquette. I learned the pattern of ceremonial speech and the forms of metaphor and simile that went with it. The more speech is illustrated with quotations from myths and ancient traditions, the better a Maori audience likes it. Old songs and incantations with an apt bearing on the subject matter are necessary because a speech is regarded as incomplete without them. I was never good at rendering songs, but I acquired a host of chants and incantations to illustrate speeches. I combed the printed literature, and I learned at first-hand from the experts of various tribes who were only too pleased to impart their knowledge to an appreciative student of their own blood. With others of the younger leaders, I became a homemade anthropologist—not to obtain a university degree, but to gain an inner understanding of our own people in order that we might the better help them through the problems and trials created by civilization.
In the Maori houses of learning, the creation of the world was recorded in evolutionary stages in genealogies which were recited and taught by experts. Such teaching was referred to as the Kauae-runga (Upper-jaw), in contrast to knowledge of things terrestrial termed Kauae-raro (Lower-jaw). Things celestial commenced appropriately enough with the Void (Kore) and went on to the unknown, personified as Night (Po). Elsdon Best, in describing this early period, says, ‘The unknown aeons of time before the heavens, earth, and heavenly bodies came into being was the Po—intangible, unknown, unseen, unknowable.’ The quotation sums up the position, but the Po period cannot be dismissed lightly by one general term. It was drawn out to a count of ten Nights or given various descriptive terms, such as Po-tangotango, Po-kerekere, and Po-tinitini, names that were used by the philosophers at Taputapu-atea in central Polynesia.page 272
The Unknown was followed by periods of growth that were expressed in terms of plant and human development. The botanical evolution was personified as the Tap-root, Side-roots, Rootlets, Stem, Branches, Twigs, and Leaves. Human evolution was personified as Conception, Swelling, Birth, Mind, Thought, and Desire, which preceded the two primary parents, the Sky-father and the Earth-mother. We have already met the primary father under the name of Space rendered as Atea, Vatea, and Wakea. In New Zealand, he appears as Rangi (Sky) which nevertheless is Space. The primary mother retains her original name of Papa (Earth-stratum) which is qualified as Papa-tu-a-nuku, the Stratum-which-assumed-the-form-of-land.
Rangi and Papa clave together and children were born to them. Some recitals list no less than seventy children who were confined between the bodies of their parents, and the closeness of Rangi to Papa precluded space and light. Some of the children, led by Tane, planned the separation of their parents in order that they might stand erect and that light might be admitted into their world. The plan was bitterly opposed by Whiro, who led the first conservative party in the South Seas. Tane's policy received the majority vote and was carried into effect. The Maoris seem to have lost Ru, the Propper-up-of-skies, so the task of pushing the Sky-father up into his present position devolved upon Tane. He tried pushing with his hands in vain, and then stood on his head and pushed with his feet. Trees, which are the children of Tane, represent the position of their parent, for Maori myth says that their heads are down in the ground and their feet push upward. By Tane's effort, the Sky-father was raised on high, the Earth-mother remained below, and light came flooding in the space between. The tears of Rangi fell as page 273 rain upon the bosom of the Earth-mother, and Papa's grief at their separation rises as mist.
Some of the children of Rangi and Papa became the major gods of the Maori pantheon, as they were in other parts of Polynesia. Tane, the most powerful, presided over forests and bird life. Tangaroa was the god of the sea and fish. Tu had the portfolio of war. Rongo directed horticulture and peace. Raka gave way to the local Tawhirimatea as director of winds and rain. A department of uncultivated food to include the local fern root was created, and Haumea was placed in charge. Whiro, who led the opposition against the separation of Earth and Sky, went off in a huff to the Underworld to abide in the darkness that he preferred. The characters Te Tumu and Fa'ahotu, who were associated with other cosmogonies, are missing in New Zealand. Like their island kinsmen, the Maoris deified certain ancestors and created lesser spirits from family abortions and miscarriages as need arose.
The creation of man was associated with the god Tane and with Tiki. In some myths, Tiki was the first man, but in others he was regarded as a personification of the pro-creative powers of Tane. Tane, having hung the stars in their places and given the sun and the moon their appointed courses, sought for the human element to people the earth. With the advice of his colleagues, he moulded some red earth at Kurawaka into the form of a woman. The figure was vitalized into the first living woman and named Hine-ahu-one, the Earth-formed-maid. Ancient chants deal with the primary ignorance of the sexual act, but ignorance was eventually overcome and Tane took the Earth-formed-maid to wife. A daughter named the Dawn-maid was born, and the inevitable incest took place. The Dawn-maid, on learn- page 274 ing that Tane was her own father, retired to the Underworld where she exercised a beneficent care over the souls of mankind who ultimately sought that place of abode.
The evolutionary pattern described is simple and straight-forward. It appears to have been the version evolved by the priests at the religious seminary at Opoa in Ra‘iatea at the time that the Maori ancestors left the central area. But, just as the priests of Opoa later changed their theology to make Ta‘aroa the Creator, so some of the schools in New Zealand also elaborated their beliefs to include a creator of all things. This exalted personage was Io, who created all the processes of nature and caused the already existing gods to be. He was given various titles of which Io-matua-kore (Io-the-parent-less) indicates that he himself was the very beginning. The old theology had a sky of ten successive levels, but the new version added two more and placed Io in residence in the highest heaven. He was provided with a house named Rangi-atea, and the assembly place before it was named Te Rauroha. A staff of Celestial Maids (Mareikura) was provided, and Guardians (Pou-tiriao) were appointed to the different floors which were given individual names. Messengers were engaged to carry on communication between the upper sphere and the major gods.
As the name Io has some resemblance to the Hebrew form of Jehovah, some have thought that the cult of Io was evolved after contact with Christian teaching. However, references to Io occur in the native literature that was composed before the Old Testament was introduced into New Zealand. An example is the lament of an old chief, composed over two hundred years ago for a favourite grandchild, in which he directs the path her soul should take:page 275
Grasp with thy hand the guiding vine
By which the god Tane ascended to the highest heaven,
That thou mayest be welcomed by the Celestial Maids
Assembled on the courtyard of Te Rauroha
And so enter within the palace of Rangiatea.
Then and only then shall all desire for this world cease,
Ah, little maid of mine.
In Tahitian myth there is an account of a war between Tane and Hiro. The Maori theologians have introduced this contest into the myth of Io. Tane set out to obtain the three baskets of knowledge from Io in the twelfth heaven, but Whiro by an alliance with Tawhiri-matea arrayed against Tane the forces of rain, hail, winds, and intense cold. He also let loose the various forms of disease grouped together under the name of Maiki. Tane overcame them all and so the knowledge of good, of evil, and of ritual were brought down to this world of ours and transmitted to mankind through the ancient houses of teaching.
Passing on to the period of legendary heroes, we have the widespread story of the Maui family and the fishing-up of islands. The usual deep-sea fishing voyage was made by five Maui brothers. The youngest Maui by magic art caught his hook in the land beneath the sea. In spite of the protests of his brothers, Maui hauled up a huge land fish. The fish was the North Island of New Zealand, and the canoe was raised high on a protuberance that became Mount Hiku-rangi. Maui's hook is represented by the curve of the coast line of Hawkes Bay between Mahia Peninsula and Cape Kidnapper. The fish, termed the Fish-of-Maui (Te Ika-a-Maui), was likened in shape to a sting ray. The southern end represents the head, the western extension of Taranaki and the eastern extremity of East Cape are the two wings or flappers, page 276 and the thin part forming the North Auckland Peninsula is the tail. The seat of the British government is, oddly enough, situated at Wellington in the head of the fish. The parts of the fish are still used in Maori oratory. I belong to Taranaki, and the Ngati-Porou tribe of the East Coast used to welcome me as coming from the other flapper of the fish of Maui. I have heard members of parliament being flattered with the sentence, ‘You come from the head of the fish where all wisdom lies.’
The myth states that Maui left his brothers with the fish while he returned to the homeland to get a priest to perform the requisite ritual over the new land. His brothers cut up the fish and, in its writhing under the pain of the surgical operation, the hills and valleys were created. Many hold that the earliest inhabitants of New Zealand were descended from the Maui family but, apart from the fact that the tale is a myth, it is difficult to understand how an early population could have arisen from a fishing expedition that was not accompanied by women.
As in other island groups, Maui obtained fire from the Underworld and snared the sun. New Zealand legend has a quest for immortality which differs from the Tuamotuan myth of the sea-slug already related. Maui sought to slay Hine-nui-te-po (Great-goddess-of-night) while she was asleep in her cave. He took with him a number of birds as companions. He enjoined upon them the necessity for absolute quiet while he entered into the body of the goddess to remove her heart and so end the cause of death. Unfortunately he committed an error of judgment in including the flycatcher, or fantail, in his retinue. This bird cannot remain still, and when it saw Maui entering the body of the goddess it twittered with laughter. The goddess awoke and Maui was strangled. An old lament says:page 277
Death overtook the leaders of men
When Maui was strangled by the Goddess of Death,
And so death remained in this world, alas!
I could throw a stone at the descendants of that flycatcher, but perhaps I had better not, for problems of overpopulation might have arisen had the flycatcher not laughed.
The real discovery of New Zealand is generally attributed to Kupe in about the middle of the tenth century. The legend states that he was so angered at squids that took his bait while fishing that he swore to kill their leader known as the Wheke-a-Muturangi. He chased the chief squid over the sea, and it led him to the far south where he encountered a land with high hills covered with mist. He finally overtook the squid in the strait between the two main islands of New Zealand and slew it. He returned to central Polynesia and reported his discovery of land inhabited only by birds. The sailing direction in the lunar month of November-December was a little to the left of the setting sun. From various traditions, there is little doubt that subsequent voyages were made on these sailing directions that were handed down orally in central Polynesia.
Some time after Kupe's discovery, people making a voyage between islands in the Pacific were driven out of their course by a storm and reached New Zealand. They became the first settlers and were subsequently referred to as the people of the land (tangata whenua). They had their women-folk with them, but any cultivated food plants or domesticated animals that they may have had with them were disposed of on the unexpectedly protracted voyage.
In the twelfth century, an ancestor named Toi sailed south from central Polynesia in search of his grandson, Whatonga, who had been blown away by an offshore wind during a page 278 canoe race in central Polynesia. Toi made New Zealand and settled down at Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty. Whatonga, who had landed safely at another Pacific island, returned home and in turn set out in search of his grandfather. He also made New Zealand and found his grandfather. Both Toi and Whatonga had set out on search expeditions with ample sea provisions but had taken no cultivable food plants to grow in a new home, no domesticated animals, and no women. They took wives from the previous settlers and became the ancestors of mixed tribes.
In the fourteenth century, owing to conflicts in the homeland of Hawaiki, the Maori form of Havai‘i, a number of voyaging canoes set out on Kupe's sailing directions with the definite object of colonizing the land that lay to the south. Most of the voyagers made their landfall in the Bay of Plenty near Cape Runaway in November or December when the Christmas trees (pohutukawa) were in bloom. One of the chiefs, on seeing the scarlet colour of these trees, took off his red feather headdress and hurled it into the sea, saying, ‘The chiefly colour of Hawaiki is cast aside for the chiefly red of the new land that welcomes us.’
The leaders of the canoes and their followers settled on sections of the coast apart from each other so as to avoid the conflict that they had left behind them. These landing places formed centres of development and, as the groups increased and spread to meet adjoining groups, boundaries became established. The newcomers came into conflict with the first settlers and with the descendants of Toi. After many wars, the earlier settlers were absorbed into the more dominant groups of the later comers. The Maori people are grouped into tribes, which trace their descent and take their names from ancestors who came in the various canoes page 279 of the fourteenth-century migration. Some claim that their chieftainship came from the later canoes but that their right to land was derived from the earlier settlers. The traditions and history of the earliest settlers have been overlaid by tales of the later arrivals, and honour and prestige is traced to the voyaging canoes. Pride in canoes finds expression in many songs of which the following is an excellent example:
Behold Tainui, Te Arawa, Mataatua, Kurahaupo, and Tokomaru,
All afloat on the ocean vast.
The tree trunk was hollowed in Hawaiki
And so Takitumu took form.
A night was spent at Rangipo
And Aotea took the sea at dawn.
These are the canoes of Uenuku
Whose names resound unto the heavens.
How can their fame be e'er forgot
When they float for aye on memory's tide!
Oh, poet's faith! How indeed, unless our blood becomes so diluted that it fails to stir at the sound of our own speech? The names of the seven canoes enumerated are famous, but others, such as Horouta, deserve their meed of praise. The fame of particular canoes depends upon whether or not they have been recorded in song and story by bards and historians. A continuity of dominant chiefs and supporters is further required to bring the record down to modern times.
The Tainui canoe under the leadership of Hoturoa prepared to sail from Hawaiki on the Orongo night (27th) of the lunar month corresponding to October-November. But the old men advised Hoturoa to delay sailing until the stormy Tamateas (6th to 9th nights) of the following month had passed. Hoturoa replied, ‘I will sail out now and meet the Tamateas on the open sea.’ He surmounted all storms and page 280 trials to make safe landfall at Cape Runaway. The Tainui worked north to what is now known as Auckland Harbour and paddled up the Tamaki branch. Scouts reported a branch of the sea stretching away to the west. The Tainui canoe was hauled over the intervening ridge into Manakau Harbour, sailed into the western sea, and worked south to Kawhia. Her descendants peopled the area from Manakau to the Mokau River in the south, and other branches spread east to the Thames.
In Hawaiki, a chief named Tama-te-kapua and his younger brother stole fruit at night from a tree that grew back of the house of the high chief, Uenuku. As a result of the theft, Tama-te-kapua and his people left on the Arawa canoe for the land of the high mists in the south. In the popular account, the fruit tree was said to be a poporo, which is a species of Solanum in New Zealand that has no economic value. Fortunately an ancient dirge records the original name of the tree:
Sacred tree of Hawaiki
That grew on the farther side of Great Tahiti,
It was the kuru that shaded the house of Uenuku.
It is evident that the Maoris in their popular version had substituted the local poporo for the fruit tree termed kuru. No Maori could explain what the kuru was like, but in central Polynesia kuru and its dialectical forms is the name for the breadfruit. The breadfruit will not grow in New Zealand but in central Polynesia it is a most important food.
Tama-te-kapua kidnapped a learned priest named Ngato-roi-rangi, and under his guidance the Arawa canoe made New Zealand at Cape Runaway. The canoe turned up the coast, its passengers landing at Maketu and spreading inland. The tribes that occupy the coast and the thermal district of Rotorua page 281 are descended from Tama-te-kapua, and those that spread farther inland to Lake Taupo claim descent from Ngatoroi-rangi. The tribes descended from the crew of the Arawa say that the carved bow of their canoe rests at Maketu, and the stern piece is formed by the mountain of Tongariro.
The Mataatua commanded by Toroa paddled into a river in the Bay of Plenty and beached on the shore. The sea-cramped crew scattered inland to view the new land. Toroa's daughter, who was ill, lay down on the beach near the grounded canoe. The rising tide began to float the canoe away, and the sick chieftainess said, ‘I must act like a man’. Exerting all her strength, she managed to prevent the canoe from floating away, and to record her action the river was named Whakatane (Act-as-a-man). The people in time spread along the coast to the historic landing-place near Cape Runaway and inland over the Urewera country.
The Kurahaupo under various chiefs went north and its people settled not only in the north Auckland district, but made their way to Taranaki and to the district between Wanganui and Lake Horowhenua.
The Tokomaru is my own canoe which left Hawaiki because of wars. One version of the tradition states that Manaia was the captain. An old song states that Tokomaru was owned by Whata, captained by Tama-ariki, and navigated by the priest, Rakeiora. The canoe made Cape Runaway, sailed around the North Cape, and beached at the Mohakatino River in north Taranaki. An assembly house named Marae-rotuhia was built on the bank of the river. The people spread from the Mokau River in the north to a boundary named Onuku-taipare, some miles south of the present town of New Plymouth. The southern boundary lay between the Tokomaru people and descendants of the Kurahaupo page 282 canoe, who took their tribal name of Taranaki from the native name given to Mount Egmont. The Tokomaru tribes united in the confederation termed Ati-awa, to which belonged my two tribes of Ngati-Mutunga and Ngati-Tama.
The Takitumu canoe under Tamatea peopled the east coast of the North Island from Gisborne to Wellington. Parties crossed the Cook Straits and settled in the South Island.
The Horouta canoe peopled the east coast from Cape Runaway to Gisborne. The dominant tribe of Ngati-Porou take their name from their ancestor Porou-rangi, and the Ngai-Tahu tribe of the South Island is said to be descended from Tahu, a younger brother of Porou-rangi.
The Aotea canoe came from Hawaiki, known as Ra‘iatea to its present inhabitants but as Rangitea to the Maoris, who do not drop the ng consonant. The Aotea tribes carry the memory of the homeland in the saying, ‘We can never be lost, for we come of the seed that was sown from Rangitea.’ The Aotea left in an off-season and was driven west to the Kermadec Islands, which were named Rangitahua. The Kermadecs are uninhabited, but a broken adze and some sling-stones found there bear witness to a Polynesian visit. The Aotea must have landed in the Kermadecs in March when the karaka (Carynocarpus laevigata) was covered with its golden berries, for the Aotea is generally credited with having introduced the karaka into New Zealand. The storm-tossed crew of Aotea, after enjoying the ripe berries, probably took the kernels on to New Zealand only to find that the tree was a native of the country. The canoe landed at an inlet on the west coast of the North Island named Aotea after the canoe. The crew marched south to the Patea River, whence their descendants spread north to form the Ngati-Ruanui tribe and south toward Wanganui to form the Nga-Rauru page 283 tribe. The sea voyage was made the theme of a deep-sea chanty, in which the names of the canoe, captain, and steering paddle are recorded. The following translation was made by James Cowan:
The Paddle Song of the Aotea Canoe
Aotea is the canoe,
Turi is the chief,
Te Roku-o-whiti is the paddle.
Behold my paddle!
It is laid by the canoe side,
Held close to the canoe side.
Now it is raised on high—the paddle!
Poised for the plunge—the paddle,
Now we leap forward.
Behold my paddle, Te Roku-o-whiti!
See how it flies and flashes,
It quivers like a bird's wing,
This paddle of mine.
Ah, the outward lift and the dashing,
The quick thrust in and the backward sweep,
The swishing, the swirling eddies,
The foaming white wake, and the spray
That flies from my paddle.
The voyagers of the fourteenth century came to settle, and they probably brought all the available food plants of central Polynesia with them. However, they sailed to a cold land where the coconut, breadfruit, and banana would not grow. The voyagers to the south evidently feared the effect of the cold on their plants, for an Aotea legend states that Rongo-rongo, the wife of Turi, kept some sweet-potato tubers in a double belt around her waist to keep them warm against her page 284 body. This incident gave rise to an honorific name for the sweet potato, the ‘Belt of Rongorongo.’
Although the sweet potato, taro, yam, and gourd grew in the new land, they produced but one crop a year as against a succession in the tropics. Larger cultivations had to be made for the annual crop, and local need led to storage in underground pits or sunken houses with roofs covered over with earth. Such storage houses are absent in central Polynesia where the need did not exist. The sweet potato was the most prolific of the introduced plants, and its economic importance created a new ritual during planting. A god to promote the fertility of the sweet potato was added to the Maori pantheon and represented by images in stone. Even the ordinary digging stick was improved by lashing a carved step to it and carving the top of the handle.
The paper mulberry plant was introduced to provide bark cloth, but the plant did not thrive and bark cloth was not suited to a cold climate. The need for warmer clothing led to trying out the twined technique of fishtraps on a new fibre discovered in the leaves of the native flax. Capes and cloaks were made with an outer thatch of flaxen tags that shed the rain like a shingled roof. Women with alert minds and skilful fingers invented a succession of improvements that resulted in a variety of garments. The early thatched cloaks remained in ordinary use, but dress cloaks with ornamental dyed cords, feathers, and coloured borders were produced for the upper classes. Women, in developing a form of finger weaving, blazed a trail that was to lead them far from the arts and crafts of their tropical homeland.
One must be saturated with the atmosphere of tropical Polynesia to fully appreciate what the first Maori settlers lost and what they gained in their new country. They lost certain page 285 prolific food plants, and somehow the pig and fowl were left behind or died on the voyage. The dog alone of three Polynesian domesticated animals landed in New Zealand. The Polynesian name of the fowl, moa, was evidently applied to a large wingless bird which became extinct. The forests teemed with bird life and new processes were invented for catching, preserving, and storing. The decoy water trough, the carved snare, the bone-pointed bird spear, and receptacles for preserved pigeons are all local developments not known elsewhere in Polynesia. The rivers, lakes, sea beaches, rock reefs, and the sea all provided a supply of food that more than made up for the cultivable foods that would not grow in the colder climate.
The greatest wonder of all must have been the forest trees that grew larger than any others in Polynesia. The canoe builders must have gazed awestruck at the great trunks of the totara and the kauri pine. I can see them offering up a ritual formula to Tane and spanning the tree trunk with admiring arms. As practical geologists, they must have enjoyed cracking and testing rock until the best basalt indicated where adze quarries should be located. With larger and heavier adzes, the forest giants were felled and dubbed into canoe hulls. The dugouts could be made so wide that they floated like boats without need of a side prop, and so the outrigger attachment was abandoned.
The Maoris had to adapt their houses to the climate of New Zealand. The simple structures of tropical Polynesia were of no use where cold winds had to be kept out, so they sank the floor below the ground surface and made thickly thatched walls to keep the houses warm. For large community houses the usual round poles were replaced by dressed timber. In central Polynesia, the artistic sense of the builders page 286 was expressed in lashing designs made with sennit braid. In New Zealand, the Maori craftsmen carved the main posts and the wall posts with conventional forms of the human figure. With an instinct for balance in art, they painted the upper woodwork of rafters and ridgepole with scroll designs in colour and thus prevented carving from running riot. The decoration of the Maori community house followed a line of local development that was stimulated originally by cold.
In addition to a rich supply of basaltic stone, New Zealand gave her settlers the gift of jade. It was found as boulders in the rivers of the west coast of the South Island, and that island consequently received the name of Te Wai-pounamu (Water-containing-jade). Jade was used to make ornaments and short war-clubs that became priceless heirlooms, but more wonderful were the chisels and adzes that took an edge almost as keen as steel. The totara timber was durable but soft, and with good wood and excellent tools, the Maori carvers developed a craft into an art that was unique not only for Polynesia but for the Pacific.
Our appraisal of Maori art motifs has been unduly influenced by the theory that they must have originated some-where along the trail traversed by our ancestors in centuries gone by. We have given insufficient attention to the possibility of breaks occurring, due to lack of wood and stone and the necessity of developing other crafts. The time spent in the atolls of Micronesia would be long enough to erase the memory of former arts. The art of wood carving apparently made little progress in central Polynesia at the time of the dispersal of voyagers and settlers, else art motifs would have been shared by various islands in the same manner as myths, legends, religion, and the social pattern. The only motif that the Maoris appear to have brought from Hawaiki page 287 was the human figure with flexed legs and hands clasped on the abdomen.
The manaia figure that has the appearance of a bird-headed man in profile has given rise to speculation as to its origin. The bird-headed man of Easter Island was derived there from the sooty petrel. The bird motif of the Solomon Islands with a scroll pattern of interlocking beaks was taken from the man-of-war hawk. In New Zealand, there is no myth extant as to what bird the manaia represented. Studies by Sir Gilbert Archey, Director of the Auckland Museum, have shown conclusively, I think, that the birdlike appearance was produced by carving one half of a human head with the middle part of the upper lip unduly prolonged. The manaia was thus derived from a human figure and not from a bird. Evidence has been brought forward by Sir Archey to show a local origin for the double spiral that plays such a prominent part in Maori art. The development of carving patterns influenced tattooing patterns, so that curved lines were used instead of the straight lines of central Polynesia. High chiefs did not deem it beneath their dignity to wield the mallet and the chisel. Picture the master craftsman before a large slab of wood on which the human figure has been roughed out with stone adzes—in his left hand a chisel of jade and in his right a mallet of whalebone. With such a field and with such tools, is it any wonder that he was able to execute work undreamed of in his former home?
But the cold climate affected not only the raw material and its treatment, but also the man himself. He was imbued with a vigour and a stamina that developed during the process of adjustment to more trying conditions. He became more aggressive. The tribes built up a war record and kept an honour ledger. Victories were balanced against defeats, page 288 and each tribe strove to acquire a credit balance. There were no coconut or breadfruit trees to protect against theft, and the people congregated in villages for protection. The open village invited attack, and so the engineers selected hills and promontories in which nature aided the defence. Most Polynesians living on volcanic islands selected some natural spot difficult of access to which they retired for protection. The Tongans, owing to the lack of hills, dug trenches and built fences around defensive villages. The people of Rapa terraced commanding hilltops to form forts. It remained for the Maori to combine terrace, ditch, and palisade in his system of defence and to occupy such forts permanently. In times of doubt, sentries were posted in lookout towers. During the night, they recited watch alarms in a loud voice, not so much to keep their own warriors awake as to inform night attackers that the fort was on the alert. Though brief and cryptic in text, the alarms were nevertheless rich in imagery derived from natural surroundings. The following example translated by James Cowan belonged to a fort built on a cliff-girt promontory on the coast of Kawhia:
O Soldiers of the fort, arise,
Lest ye go down to death.
High up, high up, the thundering surf
On Harihari's cliffs resounds,
And low the wailing sea
Croons on the Mokau coast.
But here am I, on guard,
Watching, seeking, peering,
As on those rugged rocks
The sea hawk sits
And watches for its prey.
Soon will the sun
Rise flaming o'er the world.
The cliffs of Harihari, to the north of the fort, jutted out into the sea and took the full force of the ocean breakers. The crash and roar symbolized war with the shouts of contending captains and the anguished cries of the wounded and the dying. To the south, the coast line curved in to form a sheltered sandy bay into which the Mokau River flowed. Though there was apparent peace, the unending moan of the waves against the sand represented the wailing of women, weeping for their dead. The last two lines are a prayer and a wish. Most attacks were made at dawn when there was enough light to see the battlements. The rising of the sun ended the watchman's vigil and ushered in a day of peace and life.
The fortified village necessitated a departure from the religious pattern of Hawaiki. The sacred raised platform or ahu was detached from the open court or marae proper and relegated to the outside of the fort. In a secluded grove, the priest erected a stone pillar or a wooden post, and there, alone or with a few assistants, he took council with his gods. No multitude watched the proceedings, and therefore the ahu platform dwindled to a shrine, often represented by a natural outcrop of rock yet retaining the ancient name of ahu in the Maori form of tu-ahu.
The marae court was retained in the village as the open space where tribal gatherings were held. In place of the ahu platform, a large carved house was built that served as meeting house and guest house. The meeting house was usually named after an ancestor, and when the tribe met within its walls, they gathered within the bosom of their ancestor. The marae space in front received a name in important villages and was the centre of social life. There visitors were welcomed, all important functions took place, the dead were laid in state, and the funeral ceremonies were held. Ceremonies page 290 were held on the marae by day, and in the evening they were continued within the tribal meeting house. In the Tuamotu, the spaced upright limestone pillars on the religious marae were named after ancestors, and in the Maori meeting house the spaced wall-posts, carved in human form, were also named after ancestors. In central and eastern Polynesia, the marae, because it carried a religious as well as a secular function, was dismantled and abandoned on conversion to Christianity; but in New Zealand, the marae still functions as the social centre of the people. Today, in spite of the breaking up of village life because the Maori population is engaged in farming and dairying, the meeting house and the marae remain the nucleus to which the scattered tribe returns to welcome visitors, weep for its dead, and discuss tribal welfare. May the marae long continue to function, for so soon as it is abandoned, so soon will the Maori lose his individuality.
The people descended from different canoes probably carried on culture differences that were brought from various islands in central Polynesia. When the seafaring men of the Pacific settled in New Zealand, they became landsmen. As they developed local traditions, they cut off for ever the sea roads to Hawaiki. Yet the memory of a maritime past rings out in the welcome to visitors, whether they came by foot in the past or come by motor car in the present.
Draw hither—the canoe!
Haul hither—the canoe!
To its pillow—the canoe!
To its bed—the canoe!
To the place where shall rest—the canoe!
Welcome, thrice welcome!
Having followed the Maori branch of the Polynesians to page 291 the land of high mists and indicated some of the problems that they overcame, let us leave their descendants to work out their own salvation in the firm conviction that the stamina and mentality inherited from their stone-age ancestors will enable them to make good in a changing world. Fate and the courtesy of American institutions have so ordered it that I take part in the task of gathering together and recording the fragments of Polynesian culture. I bid farewell to the land of my birth in the words of an old lament:
Dirge for a Chief
Alas, the bitter pain that gnaws within
For the wrecked canoe, for a friend who is lost.
My precious heron plume is cast on Ocean's strand,
And the lightning, flashing in the heavens,
Salutes the dead.
Where is authority in this world, since thou hast passed
By the slippery path, the sliding path to death?
Lone stands Whakeahu mountain in the distance,
For thou art gone, the shelter of thy people.
Flown has my singing bird that sang of ancient learning,
The keel of Tainui, the plug of Aotea,
Now bewailed by women's flowing tears.
Beautiful lies thy body in thy dogskin tasseled cloak,
But thy spirit has passed like a drifting cloud in the heavens.
All is well with thee who liest in state on chieftain's bier.
Ah, my precious green jade jewel, emblem of departed warriors!
The dragon emerged from his rocky fastness
And sleeps in the house of death.