The Maori: Yesterday and To-day
Chapter I. — The Maori's Place in New Zealand Life
The Maori's Place in New Zealand Life.
Three-quarters of a century ago an officer of the Royal Engineers stationed in Auckland put this prophecy in writing: “In fifty years there will scarcely be one New Zealand native left alive. All that can be done is to let them die out as quietly as possible…” Many Englishmen after Captain Collinson's day made a similar prediction, and in the Sixties there were politicians and newspaper writers who did not content themselves with the mere hope that the race would die out; they counselled a war of extermination. Even such sympathetic men as Alfred Domett, poet and statesman, regarded the Maori as a fast vanishing race.
The Maori himself has given reply to these confident prophecies of his melancholy fate by declining to lie down and die. There was a time when in his fatalism he was ready to accept the extinction like the moa that the all-dominating pakeha march meant for him. The process of disappearance from the earth to which the South Sea Islander and the Red Indian alike were submitting before the unconquerable advance of the white man, seemed inevitable also in the land of the Maori. Forty years ago the condition of the race was considered by many New Zealanders void of hope for the future. Like the forest-tree page 2 encircled by the ever-tightening and strengthening coils of the rata, the fate of the Maori, though long deferred, it was impossible to avert. He would gradually perish from the land, leaving nothing but his ruined hill forts and some military traditions and poetic literature to remind the coming generations of the New Zealand nation of the men who traded and fought with the pioneers of British colonization.
But to-day the Maori is 65,000 strong. Every census shows an increase in population. The race is established as a factor of permanent importance in the growth of New Zealand nationalism. In social conditions, in hygiene, in industry and the production of wealth, the Maori has exactly reversed the common belief of two generations ago. To a considerable degree the race is amalgamating with the Anglo-Celtic colonists who outnumber it nearly twenty-five to one, but there is a distinct increase in the purely Maori population and a faith in the future of the people as an individual entity in the life of the Dominion for many generations to come. The Maori, in short, stands on his feet once more. He rejoices in his renewed virility and hold on life, and he is opening a way for himself to a new world of contentment and prosperity. The agencies and influences that have contributed to this happy reversal of the mournful decline are manifold; the cumulative effect is a result that is peculiarly creditable to enlightened British methods in dealing with a native race. For it is only in British Colonies and Dominions in the South Seas, or groups largely under British influence, that the native races have picked up new heart after the early tragedy of contact with the European, and are regaining something of their ancient pride of nationhood and the olden fecundity.page 3
In the old Maori belief everything animate and many things inanimate were endowed with a mauri and a hau, by which terms were meant a soul, an individuality, and in the case of man, a “vital spark” which by various means, natural and supernatural, could be extinguished. When the white man's influence transformed the face of Maoridom, and the native race began to decrease, the wise men of the tribes attributed the decadence of the people to the neglect of the ancient religion, and the decay of the sacred hau which had been conquered by the spirit of the new age.
But there must be in the Maori a strong racial quality of physical and spiritual resilience, a power to rise superior to hostile natural forces. At any rate the outlook for the people has completely changed during the present generation. Factors which have contributed to this happy condition are the Government's sanitation crusade, medical and nursing attention, improved diet, better attention to young children, a return to the agricultural industries, increased sobriety, regular habits of work—all these have helped to overcome stagnation, moral and physical, which was an inevitable condition of the violent transition from a primitive state of society to the modern.
You see the depth of the despairing spirit of racial decay in the Marquesas group to-day. There a once splendid Polynesian people is disappearing, smitten to death by the impalpable enemy, the breath of the intrusive white man. The hau of the race has been overrun, trampled in the dust; the Marquesan has lost his mauri ora, his living soul. Conversely, the Maori of New Zealand regained his, or at any rate, has plucked up courage, the will to live, that makes all the difference in the world to a Pacific Islands people.page 4
“The Light of Other Days.”
“…. The memory of joys that are past, pleasant and mournful to the soul….. Slant looks the sun on the field; gradual grows the shade of the hill.”—Ossian.
The venerable Patara te Tuhi, Chief of Ngati-Mahuta clan of Waikato.
A picture at Mangere, Manukau Harbour, by James McDonald.
An admirable summary of the Maori health situation and its interrelated problems was contained in Dr. Pomare's official report in 1906. He wrote:
“We have lived in hopes, and at last I see a glimmering of realisation in the reconstruction of the Native Department. Not that we did nothing in the past years, far from it, but we laboured under great disadvantages and difficulties. The field was too great for one man, the task too herculean for one body, the distances that had to be travelled were too great, the roads in parts were often impassable, but yet never a call came that we did not respond, a cry that we did not heed.… Recent changes in the Native Department give promise of having this done, and, further, we can expect more systematic work being carried out in the sanitary inspecting of kaingas, medical attendance to the Maoris, and the proper care of the old men and indigent natives.”
“We have looked into the question of the decline of the Maori, and have found that the causes of this were legion. Bad housing, feeding, clothing, nursing, unventilated rooms, unwholesome pas, were all opposed to the perpetuation of the race; but a deeper knowledge of the Maori reveals to us the fact that these are not the only potent factors in the causation of his decay. Like an imprisoned bird of the forest, he pines for the liberty and freedom of his alpine woods. This was a warrior race used to fighting for liberty or to death. All this is gone, fighting is no more. There is no alternative but to become a pakeha. Was not this saying uttered by the mouth of a dying chief many generations ago: ‘Kei muri i te awé kapara he tangata ke, mana te ao, he ma’ (‘Shadowed behind the tattooed face a stranger stands, he who owns the earth, and he is white’)? There is no hope for the Maori but in ultimate absorption by the pakeha. This is his only hope, if hope it be, to find his descendants merged in the future sons of the Briton of the Southern Hemisphere. Sons who will not forget that in them runs the warrior blood of unconquered chieftains of centuries, and who, on the other hand, will be imbued with loyalty and imperialism, proud of being members of the Empire to which belong their fathers. While, however, this is taking place we must recognise the fact that these people must live under hygienic conditions, not only because it would be to their own advantage, but also that the public at large demands it; and that is why the crusade must be carried on, the war waged with increased vigour and untiring effort.”
That was the situation as it appeared over a score of years ago. Pomare's prophecies have been fulfilled in some respects. The war against disease and ignorance has been carried through with the result that many of the old habits that were dragging the race down have been given up. But it is happily apparent also that the Maori of the new generation is not likely to merge his individuality completely in that of the pakeha. The Maori community in many a district will continue thoroughly Maori in many of the features that distinguish a proud race of immemorial poets and warriors from that of the commercial-minded pakeha.
The second great factor in the regeneration of the race is the return to the agricultural life, and the growing interest in pastoral pursuits. The Maori is now a successful farmer in many districts; he has even taken to the dairying industry, which at one time was distasteful to a people impatient of the steady attention to one job which the milkingshed demands.
What the Census Shows.
In 1926, the year of the last census, there were 63,670 Maoris, of whom 11,306 were half-castes and 6,632 three-quarter Maoris. The total native population showed an increase of about 18,000 on the figures of the census twenty-five years previously. In the last census the males numbered 23,783 and the females 21,646. Over 61 per cent. of the males and 63 per cent. of the females were under 25 years of age. The Government Statistician, in commenting on the census figures, said that already probably almost one half of the Maori community was no longer of pure Maori descent and could never again contribute to the quota of pure page 8 Maori. The pure Maori remnant must inevitably suffer attrition as members from time to time marry outside its ranks. “The analogy of other races in other countries does not lend colour to the theory of indefinite survival, but the somewhat gloomy prophecies of rapid extinction held in past years by such men as Featherston, Hochstetter, Newman, Buller and Walsh have happily been refuted.” One statistician considered it very doubtful whether the race could survive the gradual infiltration of European strains. Its continuance as a separate entity for many generations was assured, but its indefinite continuance was quite another matter. In other words, there would most probably be in the future a complete blending of the two races.
An estimate of the Maori population in February, 1929, was 65,441.
In 1919, of 814 men of the Maori Pioneer Battalion returning from service in France, 48 per cent. had European blood; and of 4,500 native school children investigated in 1922, the percentage with white blood was 50.1 per cent.
Ninety-six per cent of the Maori population is in the North Island and seventy per cent. in the Auckland province. In 1926 the Maoris recorded in the South Island numbered only 2,804. The North Auckland peninsula holds almost one-fourth of the whole Maori population. In particular the counties of Hokianga and Bay of Islands, with an aggregate native population of 7,280, represent the densest Maori communities of the present day.
of the principal
in New Zealand
The Test of War.
A Maori fort of the musket era: Ohaeawai Pa, near Kaikohe, North Auckland, unsuccessfully attacked by British troops, 1845. The strong timber palisade, double, was thickly padded on the outside with green flax, which deadened the impact of artillery balls as well as musket bullets. The defenders in the trench in rear of the stockade fired through the loopholes at ground level.
[From a drawing by Major Bridge, 58th Regt.
The Genius of the Race.
Coincidently with this material renaissance of the race, its ascent in health and comfort and industrial habits, there has come a new interest in the cultural side of the Maori, the artistic and poetic tradition and the varied forms it assumes; features that will strongly colour the New Zealand national life and character of the future. The native talent in artcraft, the poetry that so deeply permeates the Maori being, are discussed in chapters in this book; a vast amount more could be written about them. A great body of Maori lore and ancient wisdom and poetry has been placed on printed record. But these records should not be regarded as so much museum lore, an interesting relic of the past and no more. Much of it is at least as worthy of use among the Maori of to-day as pakeha traditional practice is among the pakeha. I should like to see the young generation of Maori take more pride in his nationality, in other things than sport. He is too ready to accept his pakeha environment and to believe that what the pakeha believes is also the right and proper thing for him. There are many of his grand traditions he can practice to-day without sacrificing his opportunities of advancement in the arts and industries of his English fellow-New Zealanders.
The soul of the race, the individuality and peculiar genius of the descendants of the old Pacific sea-rovers, bards and mystics, are expressed in the national tradition, poetry, song and artcraft. Long page 13 discouraged by neglect and by those who desired to see the Maori individuality merged in the white and Anglicised out of all likeness to the original type, these rich fields of knowledge and inspiration are now engaging the attention of students of both races. The beauty of much of the old Maori religion has come to be recognised. The best type of missionary among primitive races is now an ethnologist, with a mind broad enough to appreciate the nobility of primitive religion even when it runs counter to the dogma and prejudices of his own church. All present-day church people, however, do not seem to realise the merits of the immemorial Maori system of faith and ceremonial ritual, and there is an unfortunate tendency to supplant even what little remains of the original karakia with the customs of the pakeha. As an example, there is the Maori service for the opening of a newly-built carved house. Nothing in a pakeha service for the blessing of new buildings is so finely poetical and so appropriate as the Maori house-opening chant given in Chapter 10 of this book, an Arawa karakia that is a true house-warming prayer. Custom and wholesome veneration for the unseen and the divine are bound up in such ceremonials. I should like to see the Maori people generally insist on preserving such observances as these unspoiled by the foreign element.
The Maori Farmer.
Maori Skill in Military Engineering.
These detail drawings of the Ngapuhi fortifications of Ruapekapeka Pa, in Hone Heke's war in North New Zealand, 1845–46, illustrate the ingenuity with which the Maori adapted his defences to the needs of the firearms era. The Maori was particularly skilful in “digging in” against artillery fire.
The Maori, wherever he is given a fair chance to win a living from the soil of his ancestors, is manfully doing his best to keep up with his more experienced pakeha neighbours. As for his standard of living, it is relatively high. The native is a “good spender” as the tradespeople say, he is no miser, no coin-hoarding Chinaman or Hindu. No doubt he would sometimes be better, like his pakeha friends, for a little of the frugal spirit, but page 17 generosity and hospitality are the soul of the race, and the communal spirit of giving reaches its pinnacle, perhaps, in the kainga Maori.
In those districts such as the East Coast where sheep-raising and other branches of farming have been carried on for some years with success, the people have received practical help from their pakeha fellow-settlers, and now that they are able to stand on their own feet, and even to exhibit a fine example to the European stock-owner and agriculturist, they are a distinct source of economic strength to the nation. What Ngati-Porou have done in the East Cape country can be emulated in other districts, given the financial and technical help that the Government is now making available. But an assured sufficiency of workable land is the first essential to the building of a prosperous and contented Maori people.
The Progress of Ngati-Porou.
The Maoris of the East Cape district held on to a large portion of the land when other tribes were selling as fast as they could sign the deeds and dissipate the proceeds. In the Waiapu county, of nearly three-quarters of a million acres and a population of about 2,700 Maoris, there is something over a quarter of a million acres in native hands. A pity, perhaps, there is not more, seeing that the Maori population is on the increase; but what there is has put the people on the road to great comfort and prosperity.
A Taranaki Family.
Te Whare-aitu and his wife and children (Ngati-Tupaea hapu of Ngati-Ruanui tribe).
Here, led by Sir Apirana Ngata and other educated Ngati-Porou of the younger generation, and wisely counselled and generously assisted by page 20 the Williams family of pioneers, the natives embarked a little over twenty years ago on a system of co-operative sheep-farming which has developed into a very large enterprise. New Zealand, indeed, does not realize what a splendid thing this Maori-pakeha combination has been to the East Coast and to the native race.
In the joint application of brains, capital and labour to the sheep-farming business, the communal or group system has worked out exceedingly well. The co-operative principle exactly suits the tradition and genius of the Maori. It helps to preserve the village life instead of isolating families on large farms. Every comfort of civilized life is to be found in these Ngati-Porou homes, and indeed many of the luxuries of the town are here. Ngati-Porou certainly seem to have solved the problem of how to keep the young people on the farm.
Large, well-furnished homes, all the latest farm implements, large modern-type woolsheds with shearing machinery, are to be seen throughout this Maori coast country over a stretch of about a hundred miles. The country is for the most part better suited for the raising of mutton and wool than for a cow-farmer's industry, but wisely the Ngati-Porou are not going to be dependent altogether on the sheep. There are large areas of the lower lands excellently suited for dairying, and so the best herds are being obtained, dairy factories have gone up, and butterfat cheques are coming in. There are pretty villages, each with its decorative meeting-house and its church and school; its flag-staff where the Union Jack and the New Zealand flag and the tribal colours are flown. No homes in the Dominion are more snugly or more picturesquely placed than those happy looking kaingas of Ngati-Porou, lying in their fruit-groves and page 21 kumara gardens among the hills, or on some half-moon bay-front, facing the Rawhiti, the place of the sunrise—the territorial name by which all this East Coast is known.
Climate and situation, and soil-kindliness combine to make this Sunshine Coast a perfect home for the development of a great race. Ngati-Porou and their European neighbours surely have their lot fixed in a fortunate place. Their semi-isolation in what may be called their pioneer years of farming has after all worked to their advantage.
During the 1927 season the principal native dairy factory—that at Ruatorea, East Cape district—doubled its output of butter, from 60 to 120 tons, and in the following season this total was again more than doubled. As for sheep, a fact noted by the Native Department in its annual report for 1927 was that while the gross total of sheep owned by station-holders in the Gisborne and Hawke's Bay page 22 districts—where the principal Maori sheep-farmers were situated—decreased by 118,669, the native flocks in the same districts showed an apparent increase of 2,700 sheep. The number of sheep owned by Maoris was estimated at about half-a-million, out of a total of, roughly, 24,900,000 held by flock-owners throughout the Dominion. Since then the flocks have increased very considerably.
Maize is very largely grown by Maori farmers in the North and on the East Coast. Tobacco is another crop favoured by native growers, who now have the benefit of expert advice from the Department of Agriculture and a market in the Dominion's tobacco factories.