The Autobiography of a Maori
Chapter II — Early Years at Te Araroa
Early Years at Te Araroa
When my grandfather went to Wellington, my father and mother moved to Te Araroa, which was then known as Kawakawa, where my father opened a small store. My family's sojourn at Te Araroa, for many years, was a very happy time, and I often look back to it with pleasure, for here I passed many years of my boyhood, and, as there was no school in the district, every day was a holiday.
There was an abortive attempt to open a school, about the year 1878. I remember how I listened with amazement to what I now learn to be a recital of the Lord's Prayer and the singing of the song, "Pull for the Shore, Sailor," from Sankey's collection.
At last, I was old enough to go to school. The master's name was McMahon, and he wore a long beard. Two long, double desks ran almost the whole length of the room, and, as the children sat on each side of the desk and facing one another, there was irresistable temptation to talk and make faces at one another, but the greatest commotion took place under the desks, where dangling legs, on one side, waged continuous warfare against the legs on the opposite side, for it was the easiest thing in the world to go over the frontier. Fortunately for the legs, the feet they carried were not encased in shoes and boots.
The children did very little work at school. The most we did was to look out for the approach of an old man called Boyle. He lived out in the country, where he had a hops garden and he often came to the school. His visits were too frequent, especially when they were timed to coincide with meal hours, page 24It was our duty to give warning to Mr. and Mrs. McMahon of Boyle's approach, and we never failed in the discharge of our duty. Often after we had sounded the alarm, we could hear the rattling of crockery as it was being hurriedly removed from the table. The children had no lunch, for bread was a rare item in those days. My family was the only one who ate bread with any regularity. Children often chewed the ripe fruit of the sweet-briar to assuage their hunger. When maize was ripe, we went after school into the fields and, lighting fires, we roasted the cobs whole and ate them greedily. Roasted maize is much nicer than maize boiled. It has a flavour of its own.
When watermelons were ripe, unless a strict watch was kept over them, the owner might wake up in the morning, to find his or her crop of watermelons depleted. It was easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than it was for a Maori boy not to steal watermelons. If a patch of watermelons happened to be near a road, melon thieves, armed with wooden lances, mounted their ponies at night and, after stabbing large melons with the lances, galloped away as fast as their horses could go, carrying the watermelons on their lances. To find your patch of watermelons, which you had tended for several months, robbed overnight was indeed exasperating, and yet Maoris as a rule regarded melon-stealing lightly and a melon-thief was never prosecuted. Only recently did I read in the press of a prosecution in the Police Court for melon-stealing and several elderly natives were surprised to hear of it.
After an old woman's crop of watermelons had been raided at night, all the boys in the village were called for an examination. An old man named Ihaia was page 25the examiner. He had in front of him a box filled with fine earth. Every boy was requested to place his foot on the fine earth and the measurements of his footmark were compared with one found in the melon garden. The thief was too cunning, or perhaps he came from another village for he was never found out.
An Inadequate Wage
A more kindly and a more upright man than Wi Tito, I had never met, and yet, now, since I am sophisticated, I am set wondering whether Wi paid us adequately for our services. He had a large bullock which was found necessary to keep on the rope. Every afternoon after school a number of children climbed the steep slopes of Te Whetu-mata-rau in order to get karaka and mahoe branches with which to feed the bullock and, for what each of us could carry, he was paid one small boiled lolly. On present-day values one small boiled lolly for a load of green branches obtained with no small effort, does seem extremely inadequate. And yet we were happy to receive that one lolly as the bullock was, I am sure, to get the green branches. The bullock's need for the green branches was far greater than ours for the lollies; as a matter of fact he would have perished without the green branches, but it would not have mattered in the least if we never saw a lolly. However, the owner of the bullock should have paid us a great deal more than a small boiled lolly. The world has, in a sense, progressed very slowly. Before the Labour Party took over the reins of Government in 1935, the old Government was paying, on Public Works, 12/-for a white man and 5/-for a Maori, and a leading member of the old party was a grandson of Wi Tito.1
1 Sir Apirana Ngata.
The Common Lolly and Pipe
I am complaining now of the inadequate wage of one boiled lolly, but in the good old days, it never entered our heads to grumble, for lollies were very rare. The one lolly was as good as a feast. It was not licked out of existence in one operation—it was made to last, if possible, until the next lolly was earned. A lick now and then was sufficient, and often the lolly was passed round to be licked by the younger members of the family, who were, unfortunately, not old enough to have joined the union of green-branch carriers.
This puts me in mind of a habit amongst the elders of passing round the pipe as we youngsters passed round the boiled lolly. Only clay pipes were in vogue then. After a Maori had been using a clay pipe for years, a semi circular groove was formed in his teeth, into which the mouthpiece of the pipe fitted. Old women stuck their clay pipes in the lobes of their ears as gay women put gold earrings in theirs. In The Story of a Maori Chief I relate the incident, how my grandfather and grandmother, after the capsize of their boat, swam for their lives, my grandmother landing with her precious clay pipe still between her teeth.
One incident in connection with the school I must place on record. All that the boys had to wear were shirts; trousers were a luxury in those days. Some of the shirts, having been inherited, were too long and impeded the movement of the legs, especially in running and jumping. During lunch hour a number of boys, some distance from the school, were having a keen competition in hop-step-and-jump. One boy, because his shirt interfered with his jumping, took it off. His example infected the others and, in a few minutes, half-a-dozen little boys were stark naked. For this lapse, each of them received cuts with the cane. page 27And now we hear of nudist clubs being formed in New Zealand! Perhaps it is more natural to be nude than to be clad.
Mr. J. H. Pope
Mr. J. H. Pope, inspector, paid one visit to the school before it closed. I do not know what I learned at school, but at least I knew what a lake was in English. Mr. Pope held up a large piece of paper and, pointing at it said, "Land is here, land is there, and land is all round, what do you call the piece of water in the middle?" Nobody knew or understood, but I had an idea of what he was driving at, so, after some hesitation, I cried out, "Lake." I was correct and I have never forgotten my triumph.
That was my first meeting with Mr. J. H. Pope, and, at Te Aute College, I met him several times. I have an undying admiration for the man although it is some years now since he went to his rest. He was of a lovable nature and so perfectly transparent that he won your respect and confidence on your first meeting. He was a big man and I never cease to wonder how he managed to travel all over New Zealand and much of it on horseback when the roads were so bad and many rivers unbridged.
Poisoned with Tutu
With the school closed, spring, summer, autumn and winter were one long holiday, for the children roamed everywhere, looking for peaches which were then growing wild, for kotukutuku or konini berries, and squeezing the sweet juice of the tutu.
I was a victim of tutu poisoning and I might have died from it. Our elders had not forgotten to warn us repeatedly against eating the kernel of the karaka and the fruit of the tutu, I was not ignorant, for my mother and I had often gone out to pick tutu berries page 28and I had watched her straining the fruit before giving me the juice to drink. I had gone out with other children and we found tutu berries in abundance and ripe. While the others carefully strained the berries, I, out of sheer bravado, began filling my mouth with the delicious fruit and challenging my companions to see me "drop down dead." On our way home I felt queer and then I felt dazed. My companions and I had parted and there I was, like a drunken man trying to find my way home. I could hardly see when I was near our house. My mother found me looking underneath the house. By the purple marks on my lips she gathered at once that I had been poisoned with tutu. Then I lost consciousness. My father took me down for a dip in the sea and the cold water brought me round a little. He then lit a fire on which he put piripiri (native burr) and as it smoked he hung my face over the fire so that I might inhale the smoke. The treatment seemed to have done me good for I revived. For days I lay in bed feeling weak after my strange experience.
A Strange Game
1 After the sinking of Huripureita, of all Uenuku's sons, Paikea was the sole survivor. A taniwha in the form of a whale took Paikea on its back and brought him to Aotearoa, landing at Ahuahu. By rolling in the hot sand he revived himself. Paikea married Huturangi, a descendant of Toikairakau and the issue of the union is the Ngati-Porou tribe. It is the boast of young Ngati-Porou that their great ancestor came to New Zealand on the back of a taniwha as befitting the descendants of gods, and not in a prosaic material canoe.
Whitiwhiti te ra, pokopoko te ra.
Shine, shine, sun; out, out, sun.
It never occurred to the reciter that the sun was severely impartial; that it shone alike both on the just as well as the unjust. Invariably the losers always murmured that the winner must have been sparing in his spitting.
When a mother appeared carrying a big stick in her hand, it was not then a case of imploring for mercy—there was only one thing to do, pick up your shirt, or even without it, and make a bee-line for home, there to await the tyrant and her big stick.
The Sacred Moki
The opening of the moki2 season always roused great interest and was attended with some ritual. Its harbinger is the appearance in the middle of June of Matariki (The Little Faces) or the Pleiades, commonly called the Seven Sisters. And also when the kapua (bush mushrooms) are plentiful it is a sure sign moki will be plentiful also. Very early in the morning, long before sunrise, the removers of the tapu put out in their canoe, without tasting food and even without using the beloved pipe. People on shore, too, are forbidden to light a fire even for the cooking of food. The landing place is also regarded as tapu. On the return of the fishers, a woman prepares the hangi in which the moki caught that day are cooked and eaten by the fishers only. Moki has become very scarce on page 30the coast, probably owing to the effect of erosion interfering with the beds frequented by moki. Cape Runaway is the only place now where moki are still caught in large numbers. The white settlers there have their own moki ground where they can fish, and eat their lunch and drink their beer without fear of breaking the immutable laws of the moki. I have been told that as many as twenty boats have gone out at Cape Runaway on one day.
The cooked fish was tapu and could be eaten only by the fishermen, even the mere woman who had been good enough to get things ready for them must be content to look on, although she had been fasting also. In their hunger and greed the men gorged themselves and entirely forgot the mere woman, even though she might be the wife of one of the eaters. Other fish which were not moki were not eaten, but were suspended on a tree as offerings to Pou, the god of fish. No other persons besides the fishermen should tread on the landing-ground and I have been compelled when riding along the beach to turn aside and pass the holy ground by some other way. I have always suspected that these rules were formulated by some greedy ancestor or hapu.
Fishing grounds belong to particular hapus and some of these fishing-ground-owning hapus are notorious for their stinginess. The Treaty of Waitangi recognises the claims of the Maoris to their fishing-grounds, even though these grounds may be outside territorial waters.
When rights under the Treaty of Waitangi were being discussed at the Maori Labour Conference held in Wellington in 1936, I pointed out that claims to fishing-grounds could not be enforced, for the sea belonged to everybody, and outside the territorial waters it belonged to all nations. While some laughed, others looked quite serious. In the assertion of exclusive rights to fishing-and landing-grounds, there page 31is, I am afraid, behind it a spirit of selfishness. I have openly stated on more than one occasion that, but for the white fishermen and hawkers, the majority of people, even of Maoris, would not be able to obtain fish. Private people supply only their friends and important people while the vulgar herd is left out in the cold.
I have treated with levity the customs relating to moki, and some ethnologists would probably take exception to my remarks. If they do it is because they are superstitious themselves and lack a sense of humour.
2 Latris ciliaris.
I wish to insert here an account which I wrote some time ago of a Maori case over a dispute regarding the ownership of a fishing-ground a few miles south of East Cape. The case illustrates what I term "Maori Justice" and it may illustrate pakeha justice as well. A decision by a Maori committee can be ignored, but a decision by a Native Land Court, often confirmed by a perfunctory Native Appellate Court, glaringly untenable, clothed with legality, is almost impossible to set aside when political influence is exercised to sustain it. Might is still right, even in democratic New Zealand.
For years a serious dispute as to the tribal ownership of the Maunga-whio hapuku ground, seven miles off Port Awanui, was carried on between the Ngati-Horowai hapu of Te Horo and the Ngati-Puwai hapu of Tikapa, sub-tribes of the Ngati-Porou. It was at last agreed that the matter must be referred to a Maori committee for settlement. Among the members of the committee was the well-known Ngati-Porou chief, Whakatihi, who had some impediment in his speech. Notwithstanding, the chief, as Maori chiefs usually are, was outspoken and fearless.page 32
The committee arrived on the scene on the day fixed, Whakatihi, with keen perception, took in, as it were at a glance, the whole situation, and practically arrived at a conclusion as to the ownership of the disputed hapuku ground. He observed that in the Ngati-Horowai camp all was astir: fish and fat carcases of pork were suspended from trees, and hangis were already ablaze, while, on the other hand, there was little movement in the opposite camp, as though fear of coming defeat had already possessed it. In reply to the greetings of the local people, Whakatihi lost no time in expressing his own feelings on the question in dispute and there and then uttered his own decision. He cried out, "E, e, e nui e te whakahere e tau e Tamaiwaho," in other words, "The greater the offerings, the more pleased would be the gods." The gods, pleased with good things, gave their decision in favour of Ngati-Horowai.
Whetu-tawere, one of the elders of Ngati-Puwai, sprang to his feet and, poising his spear over his head, threatened to strike Whakatihi, who, unperturbed, cooly remarked, "E, e mate e au, e tangihia, e nehua," "If I should be slain, my death would be mourned and I would be given a decent burial," but "E mate e koe, e taona, e kainga," "But you, you would be killed and eaten."
The dispute was finally settled by both sides accepting the committee's judgment.
A Taniwha's Lair
An early photograph of Te Araroa. Waha-o-Rerekohu the giant pohutukawa, is on the extreme right. The hill at the back is the historic Whetumatarau.
Mrs. Peni Hakiwai, sister of Mrs. Kohere, and an old East Cape resident, with her son, Ara.
1 A fabulous monster that lives in deep water.
Pawa and Rongokako
The two elders and I planned another fishing expedition, and this time we went farther afield. When we rounded the Matakaoa Point, which the Maoris call Te Whai-a-Pawa or Pawa's Stingaree, I was shown the gray stingaree which could be seen at the bottom of the sea. It is a gray rock.
Pawa was the navigator of the canoe Horouta which the Ngati-Porou tribe claims to be their tribal canoe. He was also the man who was involved in a Herculean struggle with the long-legged giant, Rongokako, and who, to catch the foe, planted a trap on Tawhiti hill which today bears its name, and the other end of the bow he fastened to Puketiti, the sugar-loaf near Mr. A. B. Williams's home. Rongokako was too wary and with his mighty strides evaded Pawa's machinations. page 34He took one stride from Tapuwae (footprint), near Whangara, to Tapuwae, near Orutua. I was often shown Rongokako's footprint, which certainly was large and which has now, unfortunately disappeared. We are told in the Bible that "there were giants on the earth in those days," so Rongokako was not altogether a myth.
In his pursuit of Rongokako, Pawa left behind him, near his "stingaree" his little daughter, Maroheia, and, on his return, found her petrified and clinging to a rock called Ihu-toto, and even today you may find remnants of the forsaken little maid still clinging to Ihu-toto.
Naku i moumou, na Pawa i whakarere,
Koia Maroheia e awhi mai ra Ihu-toto.
I never tended thee as Pawa cast away
Maroheia, now hugging Ihu-toto.
It was probably the casting of Hamaiwaho on the rocks that suggested to the Maori lyric, Pawa's neglect of his daughter, Maroheia, which led to her death as she hugged Ihu-toto rock. The poetess, in a sense, blames herself also for the neglect of her relative whose body was found on the Rurima rocks, as Maroheia's was found clinging to Ihu-toto rock. The weaving of the idea of neglect into the two incidents, her neglect and Pawa's, is clever and displays high imaginative powers and a decided poetic turn of mind.
Maoris are fond of naming children with names page 35which perpetuate the memory of an incident. I knew an old woman called Arihia Rurima, so named because of the incident of Hamaiwaho's drowning near Rurima Islands.
My Mother's Fairy Story
Maori mothers and grandmothers, in entertaining little children, delighted in telling stories of giants and giantesses, particularly of the latter. I don't know why they preferred giantesses, unless they considered them uglier and more wicked than giants. Giantesses are certainly, from all accounts, diabolical.
Let me give a brief, typical story of a giantess, told me by my own mother:
A little boy wanders into the forest and loses his way. After wandering about for a few days and subsisting on wild berries, he hears a peculiar noise, like the snorting of a wild horse. He looks for the cause of the noise and suddenly he espies a nanakia (ogre)—a terrible-looking giantess, whose gray dishevelled hair covers her rugged body, and who, with her long tapering fingernails, could pierce wild pigeons as they perched in the trees. The next day, curious to find out the home of the nanakia the boy climbs to the top of a high hill, from which he can survey the country around and find out his bearings. In the valley below he notices puffs of smoke rising above the trees. To investigate the mystery of the fire, he hurries down into the valley and, warily approaching a dark mass in the wood, he notices it to be a rocky cave from which the smoke is issuing, and by the fire with her back towards him and the gray hair covering her recumbent body and her long fingers pointing in a heap towards the back of the cave, the nanakia is fast asleep. Judging by the heap of fresh pigeon bones lying near the fire, the boy gathers that the giantess has devoured several pigeons page 36at one meal and she is likely to sleep for many hours. He loses no time in turning his face towards where his home lies and runs, afraid lest the nanakia should wake up too soon. As he nears the edge of the forest he hears the cracking of broken trees and the same unmistakable snorting he had heard the day before. He knows that the nanakia is after his blood. Instead of walking through the bush, the monster is stepping from tree-top to tree-top and gaining on him rapidly. He is now in the open and crossing a plain. He again hears the snorting. As the giantess snorts she throws her terrible fingers in front of her as though her little victim is within striking distance. The boy can almost feel the hot breath of the gigantic hag as she snorts and lurches forward. The boy now cries, "Te kohatu nei e matiti, matata!" ("O rock, split and crack"). It opens sufficiently to let him in and then closes. After travelling along the channel revealed by the opening, he comes to the surface, but the nanakia, bewildered by the boy's disappearance, is some distance behind. The race once more continues. When the nanakia is again within striking distance of her victim, the boy once more cries, "Te wiwi nei e, matiti, matata" (O rushes, split and crack.") As the rushes open out the earth opens also and the boy leaps into the opening and is safe once more. The nanakia, fearful lest she should be too near the abode of mortal man, stands and hesitates and then turns back to disappear into the dark and lonely forest.
The chief, Houkamau, my father and myself, spent a very enjoyable time in my father's life-boat at Whanga-a-rumia, near Lottin Point. It was the maomao1 season and it was our purpose to take home smoked what we could not eat. We used a circular page 37net, called matarau, about five feet in diameter and seven feet in depth, and stretched out on a supple-jack frame. About half-a-mile off shore we let down the net and, as it was being lowered we threw into it pieces of crayfish shell. It was most exciting to watch scores of the dainty fish swarm into the net after the bits of crayfish. As the net was pulled up I craned over the gunwale to see the small sparkling fish struggling and tumbling helplessly in the large meshed bag. After letting down the matarau two or three times we had caught enough fish for the day.
An elderly couple had ridden overland specially to cure the fish for us. They also acted as our cooks. The evening meal was eagerly looked forward to, for it consisted chiefly of broiled maomao. A green pointed stick was thrust through the fish and with the other end stuck in the ground it was bent over the embers. After being out at sea for hours, to watch a maomao sizzling over the fire and the juice running down the stick and falling into the fire, is most appetizing, and only those who have tasted broiled maomao could appreciate the deliciousness of the fish. In addition to the fish we had potatoes and kumaras roasted in the hot ashes, and, to wash down the fish and vegetables we drank pure, icy-cold water from a nearby mountain torrent.
The bush grew to the water's edge while pohutukawas grew on rocks and rocky banks. A little bay ran for chains past our camp into the bush. Wild honey was plentiful.
A period of sixty years has intervened since I visited that lovely spot although, I am afraid, all the virgin bush has been destroyed. Even so, the coves and caves must still be there, and the sea, and the maomao in the sea must still await one's pleasure. What a pity it is, we are too busy to claim nature's goodly gifts strewn at our feet.
1 Ditremus aureus.
Chasing the Monsters of the Deep
A few years after, as a member of a whaling crew, I spent several months on this same coast. The whole coast was then still in its virgin loveliness. Besides the whalers' camp there was not a sign of human habitation. While the men were on the look-out for whales, it was my duty to look after the boat which was then moored to the rocks in a sheltered cove. The water was so clear that I could see a fish swallow my baited hook. In this way I provided fish for the evening meal. My father was the skipper of the boat, and although I was really too young, he had taken me as one of his crew. I had the stroke oar which was regarded as an unimportant position. Although for a boat to be fast to a whale was very dangerous, it was never my fortune to undergo the experience. Several times we got fairly close to as many as three or four whales, but never near enough to fasten on to one with the harpoon. That was all the whaling I ever did in my life, but I enjoyed the simple life immensely—sleeping at night in caves, catching fish, and even vainly chasing the monsters of the deep in the day-time.
There was dense bush everywhere during the years of which I write. I don't think there was one cleared acre of bush except where the people had their cultivations. Wants were very few. Sheep-farming and dairy-farming had not been thought of. After the crops of potatoes and kumaras had been gathered in, the only employment during the winter was fishing and hunting.
Shooting the wild pigeons was a popular business. Pigeons were found in large numbers everywhere and the natives did not spare them, for, like fish, they were one of their chief articles of food. The birds fed on the ti (cabbage tree), miro, kahikatea and hinau. Pigeons are most delicious when they are page 39feeding on the miro. It is my opinion that there is nothing more delicious than a fat wild pigeon. Maoris as a rule never open or clean a wild pigeon before cooking it and there is a very good reason for this practice, though strange it may sound. When a pigeon is opened it is found that the berries inside it are still fresh and their flavour has permeated every bit of the bird. A Maori would be quite indignant if he saw a fat pigeon cleaned before it was put into the pot.
Slaughter of Wild Pigeons
Pigeon-snaring and piercing was an art in the old days, but in these days of guns, shots and powder, pigeon-shooting is downright business. I always went with my father on his shooting expeditions. At Takapuwahia we found hundreds of pigeons feeding on the berries of the ti (kouka). As'the berries cluster amongst the long leaves, the birds, with wings spread out, just flopped on the leaves. The noise they made with their wings was great, but it was nothing compared to the thunderous noise made by hundreds of birds on the wing after a shot had been fired, and the sky became darkened with them. Often a shot was fired into the flock of birds on the wing. The birds would only lift for a few minutes, then once more they would flop down to feed, and again a few of their number would be brought down. The destruction would be greater when half-a-dozen guns were at work. A shrewd native could fill a bag with pigeons without firing a shot by simply picking up dead or wounded birds at the edge of the bush. The sight of hundreds of pigeons feeding on the ti and then lifting in the sky was, to me, most exciting and, the little savage that I was, I never had the least compunction in regard to the shameless destruction of the beautiful wild pigeons, but that came in later years.page 40
Friday afternoon was the time for leaving home so as to be near the bush. The camping ground was a small cave about eight miles up the Awatere river. The sportsmen, if they could be so designated, always allowed themselves sufficient time to secure a bird or two for the evening meal. The camp rule was one bird to every person, and even I had a whole bird allotted to me. Anyone who was unfortunate enough not to have secured a bird was given one. Only a hurried breakfast was had early on the Saturday morning, after which the party broke up into sections, each section going in a different direction. I always followed my father, my duty being to pick up and carry the birds. Late in the afternoon, all met again at the cave and together rode home satisfied with the day's shooting.
A Community Breakfast
It was the custom at Te Araroa for all in the settlement to have one common breakfast at the meeting-house on Sunday morning, each housewife bringing her contribution. Every adult person was provided with a whole pigeon while one bird was shared amongst three children. I often look back on those glorious days when the whole community was like one family, the leading members of which were the chief, Houkamau and my father. My father and mother were loved by the people.
The meeting-house, called Hinerupe, was not carved, but it holds for me very sweet memories. There, daily morning and evening prayers were read and on Sunday evenings a Bible Class was held. It was there that I first learned to like my Bible and my earliest religious impressions were then planted in my heart.
In the year 1938 the second Hinerupe was pulled down and a fully carved one took its place.
On Anzac Day of that year the third Hinerupe was page 41opened. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful carved houses in the country and I am pleased, for old time's sake, to have had a hand in its decoration.
When, owing to ignorance and petty jealousy, a clique at Te Araroa treated me as a black sheep during the construction of the house, the old people, who remembered my father and mother and the happy associations of the first Hinerupe, were much grieved and Sir Apirana Ngata, who had much to do with the renovation of the house, reminded my antagonists of the history of the old house and of my connection with it. The narrow-minded people evidently thought they would please Sir Apirana because we were politically opposed to each other.
Fat Kakas Shaken from Trees
Though I am now an old man and my father died fifty-two years ago, one memory will ever be green in my mind, and that was the night we spent in the forest. When the hinau berries were ripe and falling to the ground the kaka (native parrot) was fattest. The bird descended to the ground to eat the fallen berries and became so fat and heavy that it could not fly from the ground. When disturbed it could only climb up a small tree or a supple-jack, and, to bring it to the ground, one had only to shake the tree or the supple-jack. All kakas, of course, were not as helpless as this. It was to shoot or catch the kaka that my father and I penetrated far into the forest at Tauri. Our expedition was so successful that nightfall found us still in the forest. After our evening meal, my father heaped up some dry, dead leaves on which we could lie. I crept close to my father and, turning my back to his so that I could face ghosts and wild animals if they should happen to come along, I gazed into the impentrable darkness. But for the cry of the morepork, perfect stillness page 42reigned. As a matter of fact, the doleful cry of the morepork added to the weirdness and uncanniness of the night. The songs of the tui and of the bell-bird heralded the dawn and dissipated all my childish fears and imaginations.
Snaring the Kaka
In early spring it was the habit of the kaka to fly about in large numbers. Because some have been found exhausted near the coast, the natives say the kaka, like the shining-cuckoo, is a migratory bird, and it is on its return to New Zealand that it is seen in large numbers. This view is, of course, incorrect. It is probable that a bird was blown out to sea by a strong gale and, in flying back to the land became exhausted. I have never troubled to find out why the kaka did fly about in large numbers and very often over grassy and bare hills where no berries could be found.
Snaring the kaka was a very fascinating practice. Strangely enough, my father did not take any interest in snaring the kaka, one reason, I suppose, was because at this season the bird was not in good condition. I generally accompanied Pepene on a kaka-snaring expedition. A prominent hill where a large tree grew was chosen as our base, and here a little hut of green branches was erected Just outside the hut, and between it and the tree, a perch was provided and tied to the perch was the decoy. As soon as a flock of kaka was seen, the hunter would imitate the cry of the bird and the flock, hearing this, would make for the tree. He at once concealed himself within the hut and urged the decoy to entice its unwary fellows to come nearer. A large flock filled the tree and in response to the invitation of the decoy, the more curious ones left the tree and alighted on the perch. The hunter adroitly snared one of the curious birds and pulled page 43it inside the hut. As the bird was being dragged inside, the man caught its head and instantly crushed it between his teeth. It was necessary to kill the bird quickly before it could give a warning cry to its fellows. A first-class and well-trained decoy was incessant in its enticing cry and often scratched the ground with its talons as though he were digging up some dainty morsel. It was an instance of most disgusting treachery.
Usually a flock of kaka had a leader, or manu-whakataka-pokai as it is called in Maori, and when its plumage was redish it was called kaka-kura. An experienced snarer always tried to catch the leading bird, for if he succeeded in doing that he could catch the whole flock for there would be no one to give the command to move on. A kaka-snaring spot was always regarded as private—it belonged to the family and for anybody else to use it without permission was to trespass.
Catching Fish with Hinaki
A method by which I was fond of catching fish was by the use of the hinaki. The term is also used for the eel-pot. It was usually about eight-feet long by three-feet wide at its mouth and was conical in shape. The frame was covered with net made of flax. The entrance, which was suspended about half-way inside the pot, was also made of flax. The pot is placed in a long channel that runs out into deep water and it is then fastened with ropes to a bar laid across the channel and driven into the rocks. As the tide recedes, fish naturally get into the channel on their way out to sea and are thus caught in the hinaki. It was my pleasure to empty the pots and I have counted as many as half-a-dozen in one pot. It was a simple and cheap method of catching fish and of replenishing the family larder. Usually, of course, whenever there page 44was a good catch we shared the fish with our neighbours. The hinaki has fallen into disuse because people nowadays are much too busy and chiefly because poachers empty the pots at night time. I do not remember my fish-pots ever being interfered with when I was young.
I have said just now, we shared the fish with our neighbours, and, of course, our neighbours always returned the compliment whenever they were in a position to do so. An ancient law of the Maori—the law of aroha—is generosity. It is an astounding custom. Generosity is always regarded by the Maoris as one of the highest virtues—it is a characteristic of a rangatira, and the absence of it is a sign of the low-born. When carrying food like fish, birds or mussels, a Maori would rather wait for darkness before passing through a settlement. It is the correct thing to part with your best. For instance, you must give away the larger and fatter of two fishes. To give a neighbour a hog's head instead of a portion of the body is to insult him. A stranger is never refused hospitality. A chief would give up his bed to a visitor and lie on the hard floor. To place a poor meal before visitors is considered a disgrace.
Heremaia the Generous
I want to write a little about old Heremaia. He and his wife lived at Horoera, near East Cape, and they kept an open door to one and sundry. Heremaia was a very humble man; unlike his race, he was not fond of talking but he was of working.
Before the time for sowing and planting arrived, when the little riroriro's1 song would be heard, old Heremaia would have fenced in and cleared an area for cultivation. Then, as a matter of course, a woman would appear on the scene and coolly peg out a portion page 45of the area for herself, then another woman would come along and do the same. Good-natured Heremaia, without saying a word, nodded his assent to the confiscators. A third woman would probably have come along if it were not for the fact that Heremaia would have had no garden for himself.
It was generally known how often Heremaia went out at night to dive for crayfish so his guests would have a nice breakfast. There was heartfelt mourning when Heremaia passed away.
1 The grey warbler.
Before the Hauhau war broke out on the East Coast in 1865, the Maoris sowed wheat extensively. With the surplus wheat, the Ngati-Porou tribe were able to purchase their own schooners in which they took their produce to the Auckland market. With hand-mills, pieces of which can still be seen today, the Maoris ground some of the wheat into flour for their own use. The war put an end to the industry.
When my family first went to Te Araroa from Orutua, the people were without any means by which they might provide themselves with food and clothing. Bread and tea were then unknown in this district, and occasionally my own people went without these luxuries. We always kept cows which supplied us regularly with plenty of milk. It was not at all uncommon to see a whole family drink milk with potatoes and kumaras. Another regular meal was marrow taken with fat. The marrow was cut up into pieces into which was poured hot fat. My father often killed a bullock which he distributed amongst every family. Today, to have no bread and butter would be considered a hardship; and today the Maoris can provide as sumptuous a meal as can be obtained in a good hotel.
My father and another Maori, Reihana Moari, took a trip to Auckland by a vessel which called to take a quantity of maize. At Auckland they met Captain J. H. Skinner, who agreed to bring them home. This led to Captain Skinner's entering the East Coast trade in which he was engaged for very many years. With transport assured the natives started to cultivate maize to a large extent, and this developed into quite an industry. Handicapped though they were by the lack of necessary implements, the natives went about their work with a will. They had no working horses; the only implement of any size they possessed was a small wooden plough. When the Corn was ripe they began to pick it. The coats of the cobs were not pulled off but pulled down. From half-a-dozen to ten cobs were tied together with flax and paired with another bundle so that the two bundles could be hung up on a willow tree whose branches had been lopped off. To sling a couple of bundles to a man perched on the tree was hard work when it was kept up all day. I have seen as many as ten trees in a row loaded with maize. Shelling the corn was a tedious job. When a schooner called to lift the corn, the whole settlement was astir. Sledges loaded with bags of maize and pulled by small horses made their way to the mouth of the river where a couple of whale-boats were waiting to take the corn out to the waiting schooner. It took two men to lift a bag of maize on to the boat. Only in recent years did it ever occur to the shipping companies that it would expedite matters to provide surf-boats. In Waiapu, Maoris carried bags of maize on the necks of their ponies for a distance of over five miles to Port Awanui.
Captain Skinner sold the maize at Auckland and brought back goods for the Maoris. The people did so well that they began building weatherboard houses for themselves, and everybody was anxious to become a page 47storekeeper. The relics of some of the houses are still to be seen at Te Araroa.
Captain Skinner's Fleet
I always admired Captain Skinner's schooners. With their white hulls and leaning masts they looked like yachts. They were named Waiapu, Gisborne, Awanui, Aotea and Kaeo. I remember once seeing the whole fleet moored to the Gisborne wharf and in their proper order. It was the advent of the steamships that pushed Captain Skinner's fleet out of business. The Kaeo, the finest ship in the fleet, was wrecked in the islands, and the Aotea, with the loss of the crew, including Captain Nicolas, Mrs. Nicolas and their child, was wrecked at Waipiro Bay, East Coast. Old Captain Skinner kept a store at Little Awanui, Bay of Plenty, where his vessels often sought shelter during storms, and where he spent his last years.
Ngati-Porou Tribe Engaged in Rye-grass Industry
In summer, hundreds of the Ngati-Porou tribe, both men and women, went to Poverty Bay to engage in the rye-grass industry. The East Coast Maoris were so poor and ignorant that they were a by-word amongst the other tribes. Many of them rode without saddles and, to avoid being seen and ridiculed for their uncouth appearance, they waited till it was dark before they passed through the town of Gisborne. As they rode along the roads the night was loud with their boisterous talking and the clattering of the hoofs of their horses.
For years, a feud was kept up between the Ngati-Porou and Poverty Bay tribes. Each side brought with it its own fighters and the usual place of meeting was a paddock at Matawhero, near the Royal Oak Hotel and the usual day was Sunday. No rounds were page 48stipulated and only bare fists were permitted. It was a fight to a finish.
The contest was kept up for some years, until an old man stepped into the ring and stopped the inter-tribal fights.
Today, the Ngati-Porou tribe are considered the most progressive and advanced of all the tribes. (Note: The history of the tribe has yet to be written, although, in The Story of a Maori Chief, much may be learned of the Ngati Porou.)page break page break
Te Aute College in the author's time.