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The Maoris in the Great War

The Home-Coming

The Home-Coming.

The “Westmoreland” made the passage direct to Auckland, via Panama Canal. The reception of the soldiers on their native shore was a soul-stirring welcome-home after their long heroic adventures at world's-end. Pakeha and Maori alike, the people delighted to do honour to the returning Hokowhitu a Tu. The Battalion, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Ennis, marched through the flag-decorated city, cheered by thousands, and up to the Auckland Domain, where a grand Maori reception and feast had been prepared. Many hundreds of people, from a score of tribes, were encamped on the Cricket Ground oval, awaiting with intense excitement and overflowing hearts the coming of their young men. It was a scene of old Maoridom revived, the return of the war-party from the fighting trail. The waiting Maoris were assembled by tribes, and after the first tremendous roaring chorus of welcome from all, they sprang up, iwi after iwi, from Ngapuhi southward, chanted and danced their powhiri of greeting, and sang their waiata of praise and affection to the warriors. Sir James Allen (Minister for Defence) and Sir James Carroll addressed the soldiers; “Ta page 161 Hemi Kara's” speech was poetically eloquent in the true Maori manner.

All the old war-songs were sung, the ancient war-cries were heard again. Chants that inspired the defenders of Orakau and the Gate Pa and many another battlefield came from the grey-beards of the tribes; from the women and girls came songs, composed for this day, and the rhythmic and melodious poi enchanted all eyes and ears. And the grand old “Toia Mai” chorus of greeting to the honoured ones was heard again and again: it likened the soldiers to a canoe crew returning to the loved home shores:

A-a tōia mai
Te waka!
Kūmea mai
Te waka!
Ki te urunga,
Te waka!
Ki te moenga,
Te waka;
Ki te takotoranga
I takoto ai
Te waka.
Toia mai te waka
Ki te urunga!


Oh haul away
The war-canoe!
Oh hither draw
Our grand canoe!
To the resting-place,
To the sleeping-place,
To the abiding place—
Our great canoe.
Oh haul away!
For home comes our canoe!