The Autobiography of a Maori
Chapter VIII — Stray Reminiscences
When at first I jotted down a few of my reminiscences, I had no idea that it would lead to my writing such a long chapter to record them. But, after all, an autobiography is, in reality, a story built up of reminiscences. In this chapter I give a few of my stray reminiscences, of which some may be good, some may be bad, and others may be indifferent.
An Unrehearsed Performance
After having been at Te Aute College for two years one of the things I had learned was to dress well.
One day I took some friends to see a swimming pool that I had used when I was a youth. My friends and I stood on the bank which, long before, I had used to leap or dive into the pool. As I verbally described the children leaping and diving into the pool I lost my balance and dived headlong into the deep water below. I, of course, completely disappeared, but my new hat floated on the surface while my friends stood holding their sides, laughing. I felt humiliated, but the unrehearsed performance had at least amused my guests.
I realised that the Maoris regarded anything connected with the dead—such as a burial-ground—as tapu, or sacred. But, fresh from college as I was, I thought I would show my superiority by doing something that would shock the children, their parents and even the whole community. The Orangai Cemetery was within the pa and was therefore within an area where my intended impudent deed would be well advertised. page 133With the other children, I stood outside the fence enclosing the cemetery. Just inside the fence was a grave on which dahlias were in full bloom. Without warning, I put my hand through the fence and plucked a bloom. That was enough to shock my young friends and they protested against my profanity. This encouraged me to go further and I put the flower into my mouth and chewed it. The children were disgusted at my bravado and scattered to spread the news that I had committed an unheard of thing for which, according to superstition, I must pay with my life. But today, though well on in years, I am still very much alive. I don't know whether or not my mother said anything about my reckless deed; at any rate, I must have been conceived a heretic.
"I am the Law"
The following anecdote was omitted from the biography1 of my grandfather, Mokena Kohere, because I thought that it was merely "Maori talk," but the story has been so persistent that I shall now record it.
Tuta Nihoniho, the well-known Ngati-Porou chief, had committed a breach of the law and, on a visit to Gisborne, he was arrested. In those early days, for a chief to be arrested was, from a Maori point of view, unthinkable. My grandfather happened to be in Gisborne at the time and, in dismay, the Maoris told him of what had happened. He summed up the situation and agreed that it was a disgrace that a relative of his and a fellow-tribesman should be arrested and imprisoned. He hastened to meet the policeman and his charge, then he grabbed Tuta's hand and pulled him from the officer. The officer remonstrated and told Mokena that Tuta had broken the law. The chief then clapped his forehead with his hand and said, "I am the page 134law." The officer wisely said nothing, thereby avoiding a delicate and dangerous situation.
A Lawyer's "Criminal Practice"
Having faultless English and also a strong sense of humour, Dr. Tutere Wirepa was the best after-dinner speaker I had ever heard. He and I happened to be at Port Awanui during a sitting of a Magistrate's Court. In the evening we were invited to a dinner to be given by a well-known storekeeper, in honour of one of the lawyers who was on the eve of his departure for service overseas during the first world war. When the Doctor was called upon to speak by the magistrate who presided, among other things, he said, "Mr. Chairman, I am sure the guest of the evening would be sadly missed by the riff-raff of the East Coast, for many of them have been pulled out of gaol by the guest of the evening. While far away on the fields of France and Flanders, wrapped in his greatcoat, I could see the spirit of a Nati1 hovering over our friend and guarding him. Mr. —, good luck to you, and I hope that when the war is over, the same faithful spirit will bring you safely home, once more to resume your "criminal practice."
Toffee and Prayers
Before a Mormon elder came to stay with us, he had gained quite a name among our neighbour's children for toffee-making. One evening, before he took prayers, he had put the frying-pan, with the mixture in it on the stove and by the time prayers were over, the toffee had been burnt and spoilt. The next evening the same process was repeated but while the elder was saying the prayers, he thought of the toffee, stopped, stood up, got hold of the handle of the frying-pan, shook it vigorously and asked, "Would God mind, page 135do you think?" And, while still shaking the handle, he answered his own question, "I don't think He would mind." Then he resumed his prayers while his audience giggled.
Meat and Grace
Old Taipene, a big man, was known to have a healthy appetite. He and a number of boys had a scrub-cutting contract somewhere in the Waiapu Valley. Harmony reigned in the camp except on the question of sharing the tucker for the boys thought that the old man took more than his share out of the common dish, particularly in regard to the meat. At the end of the day the gang retired to their camp where awaiting them was a simple meal consisting of potatoes, kumaras, puha and meat, all served out in one large dish from which each was to help himself. The boys noticed that Taipene ate the meat at such a speed that, before they had received their fair share of it, it was all gone. This went on for a few days until the boys could not stand it any longer. They therefore thought that while the elder closed his eyes when saying grace, each of them would pick out how much he thought he should have. At meal-time the plan went off without a hitch, but the old man viewed the matter grimly and one night, when pork was the meat, Taipene made up his mind that he would not be cheated out of a good share of the tasty pork. As usual, the old man was asked to say grace. But, instead of bending his head, he stood up and, lifting the dish of food high over his head, out of the reach of the youngsters, said, "For what we are about to receive," and so on. Instead of responding with "amen" the boys, amused by the ludicrous sight, burst out laughing.
I once had a silly habit of writing down the number "36" and ultimately began to believe that I page 136would die at the age of thirty-six. For the whole of my thirty-sixth year I felt much apprehension and quietly awaited my death. However, I survived and entered my 37th year with a glad heart and gratitude. I did not divulge my secret fear to anyone, not even to my better half. I have not even told her yet, even though I have rid myself of the silly habit. I don't know why I took to writing down the number; perhaps it was its spirals and the neat look of the number that attracted me.
"To His Eternal Shame"
Often, on a fine day, Kate and I would go to one of the beautiful beaches that are to be found at East Cape. Kate had a craving for crayfish but neither of us had learned the art of catching the tasty crustacean. We later learned that the method was to catch it by the back, where the tail joins the body. (For many years I had thought that the tail was the head for I had seen a crayfish swimming backwards.) So intense did poor Kate's craving for a feed of crayfish grow that one day she dived into the water and when she came to the surface she said that she had touched a large one with her foot. Once more she disappeared under the water, and once more she came to the surface without a crayfish. She said the crayfish was a large one but that it gripped the sea-weeds so firmly that she could not move it. It was a man's job, but the only man present looked on—to his eternal shame. We returned home feeling disconsolate and I, ashamed. This college-bred man was useless; he could not even catch a crayfish.
Wiping out a Sad Past
My unmanliness preyed on my mind and I determined that I would make amends for my failure at the first opportunity. Another fine day induced us page 137to go out once more to the rocks. We caught only one fish with our hand-net, but we found a colony of pauas. Kate suggested that we should look for crayfish. I readily agreed, hoping to wipe out my past. Kate caught three small ones, but I was after big game—a pawharu, or full-sized crayfish. I was feeling along with my foot when I put it into a hole and felt a large crustacean. I dived, forgetful that a stingaree might be about, and with both hands I gripped the large crayfish and bore it ashore with glee. I had retrieved my reputation and had regained Kate's respect.
Sport and Religion
The Maoris take their sport very seriously, almost as though it were the most important thing in life. One season when the Hicks Bay Football Club won the cup in the Matakaoa Sub-Union Competitions, the whole sub-tribe celebrated the occasion. I happened to be present at the celebration. In the centre of the long table the coveted trophy was placed. After congratulatory speeches had been made, the cup was handed over to the blind chief who was sitting in a corner. Holding it between his hands, he recited:
"Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."
Football and Prayer-meeting
The contest among the five sub-unions of the East Coast Rugby Union, for the K. S. Williams's Cup, had been keen and exciting. There remained the Tolaga Bay and the Matakaoa sub-unions to play off the final. The star of the former team was Billy Lockwood, and his fame was the cause of anxiety to the Matakaoa elders. The match was played at Ruatoria and was witnessed by a very large crowd. Before the Matakaoa team left the hotel for the battle-field, the elders asked page 138the players to hold a short prayer-meeting and when Matakaoa proved victorious the elders, of course, put their success down to the potency of prayer.
One too Many
The Tai-Tokerau (North Auckland) came to Gisborne to meet the Tai Rawhiti (East Coast), holders of the Prince of Wales Cup. The match caused intense excitement among the tribes, for added to the Maoris' love of rugby, the match provided the first meeting of the northern and the East Coast tribes since Hongi's invasion of the Ngati-Porou territory in 1818. Tai-Tokerau had no trouble in lifting the Royal Trophy. The next day the two teams were entertained by Lady Carroll and her people at the Awapuni marae. In reply to the complimentary speeches of the local leaders, one of the visiting elders attributed their success to the help of the Almighty. No sooner had the speaker resumed his seat than Tom Parata, who had come all the way from Waikanae to referee the match, was on his feet and, facing the northern visitors, said, "The law of rugby football is that each side should not field more than fifteen players; if I had known that Tai Tokerau had placed sixteen players on the field, I would have blown my whistle and ordered the game to stop." All present enjoyed the joke, with the exception of the northern speaker who appeared conscious of having said something out of place.
A Referee Ordered Off
A junior game of football was being played at Tikitiki, and, somehow or other, the referee's ruling did not please one side and therefore one might naturally conclude that it must please the other side. However, during a stop in the progress of the game, the two skippers met for a brief talk while the referee stood with his whistle in his hand ready to re-start the game.page 139As he stood, the two skippers approached him and told him that both teams had decided to order him off the field; and off the field he went.
Should the Stingy be Killed?
My great-grandfather, Pakura, and his brother, Hihi, were once the terror of their whole district. It, was their habit to sit on a bank overlooking the beach where people passed by on their way home after catching fish and gathering shell-fish. No food carriers would pass without leaving something behind for the two chiefs. It was customary to do so. One day, however, while the two chiefs happened to be absent from their perch, a party of food-carriers passed by without observing the usual practice of leaving a tribute of food. On the return of the chiefs, they were told of the party, which had been carrying crayfish and had passed by without leaving anything. Pakura and Hihi got their spears and at once gave chase to the offenders. The pursuers came upon the carriers of crayfish just as they were nearing their pa. The crayfish were gathered and Tiritahua, the leader, was killed and eaten with the crayfish.
More than a century afterwards a similar incident happened at East Cape, only it was without bloodshed. There is a small lake on our estate, and it has a reputation for yielding nice eels. Our neighbours, who lived on the other side of the hill came over to spend a night catching eels in the little lake. The next morning it rained and the poachers were obliged to pass near our home. They had a pack-horse loaded with eels. My children saw the party pass by and, like true Maoris, quite expected to be given a few eels, especially since the eels had been caught on our property. No eels were given them and my little boy ran inside, a little excited, and said, "Papa, I know now why Pakura killed stingy people."page 140
The next day the same people came over the hill again, but my children, without a word from me or their mother, went in a body and one of the little girls told the poachers to leave the place.
No Sermon Without Notes
When I was tutor at Te Rau Theological College, one of my duties was to give an outline of a sermon for the students to preach at various settlements on the following Sunday. I made the students work out the subject themselves and at the end I gave the outline with notes. Some of the students who had not acquired confidence studied the notes closely. One Sunday, a student went to a small settlement about five miles out of Gisborne. When it was time to preach the sermon, the man felt in his pockets for his notes but could not find them. Then, without closing the service, he went all the way back to the college to get his notes. By the time he returned to the settlement, the people had had lunch and it was time for the afternoon service at which the student preached his lost sermon.
Pudding as Stake
Boys at Te Aute College often indulged in harmless betting, the stake being the Sunday pudding which was served only once a week. The Sunday pudding was also the stake at small games. So at dinner on Sunday the winners went round the tables collecting their pudding stakes from the unfortunate losers who, honour-bound, submitted meekly. I can't say whether the practice has since been banned—at any rate, it was not banned in my time.
Maoris Poor Debt-payers
Maoris are notoriously poor debt-payers. In my own case it was not a matter of choice at all. When I visited the Chatham Islands in 1905, I was much amused to find that the islanders' term for booking or debt was page 141"rongo taima," i.e. "long time." When an islander had put in his kit that which had been served to him over the counter, he would look at the server and, smiling urbanely, would whisper, "Rongo taima," and the storekeeper would nod his approval and look for his pen.
A Child's Awkward Questions
Lately my five-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter has asked some difficult and awkward questions. While we were in bed, the wind blew so hard that she turned to me and said, "Grandpa, what makes the wind blow?" At school I had been told why the wind blew, but why it blew so terrifically that it carried a gig right across a paddock, I could not explain.
About this same time there was a terrific thunderstorm. The girl's boy cousin had told her that forked lightning often killed people, so she often asked me about it. When the heavens thundered she would ask, "Who made the thunder?" When she was told that God made thunders, she remarked, "God should not have made thunders."
It is the little girl's duty to collect the eggs and one day she asked her aunt, "Why doesn't a rooster lay eggs?" She later wanted to know if an egg came out of a hen's stomach.
The Young Maori Party Started
On our way back to college, after Maui Pomare (Sir Maui Pomare), Timutimu Tawhai and I had visited the Maori settlements in Hawke's Bay during a winter vacation, we passed through Napier with swags on our backs, and a little boy, unaccustomed to seeing Maori boys carrying swags along the road, halted and, turning towards us called out, "Eh, where did you scoot from?" Farther on down Shakespeare Road we met Mr. Henry Hill, for many years inspector of schools to the Hawke's Bay Education Board and he greeted us and asked where page 142we had been. I told him that we had been on a tour with the object of telling our people the necessity of altering their mode of living if they wished to survive as a people. Mr. Hill was so interested that he invited us to go with him to his home on Bluff Hill so that we could tell him more about our mission. At dinner, three dust-covered Maori boys sat at Mrs. Hill's table with her family. The next day after being photographed, we continued our walk as far as Hastings where we boarded the train for Pukehou and the college. I wish to express our gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Hill for their hospitality to those three weary and hungry Maori boys. Of this trio, Maui died in California and his ashes were brought home, but Timutimu and I are still living, though we are both well on in years.
A student at Te Rau College once told me that the Maoris in the north Auckland district used to dive into deep water where large eels might be found, and, having located one, would hook it in the body and then come to the surface and haul it up. I believe this method of catching eels is not uncommon among other tribes. I have also read that an Islander, armed with a sharp knife or dagger, dived into a part of the sea that was frequented by sharks. Before a shark could attack him, however, the diver had plunged his knife deep into its body.
Diving for Octopuses
The above stories are credible and generally accepted but the following story seems rather incredible, but what I am about to relate is not a rare thing and is perfectly true. My late friend, Dr. Tutere Wirepa, narrated the story to me and a great-grandson of Katene Ngatoko, Wiremu Hoerara Henderson, recently confirmed it.page 143
Whenever Katene Ngatoko, progenitor of the Henderson family of Te Araroa, wanted a change of diet, he would go to Iron Head to catch an octopus or two. The haunt of the cuttle-fish was near the Aumiti rock where, as I have stated in a previous chapter, a taniwha had its lair. Taniwha or no taniwha, old Katene could not be deterred whenever he wanted octopus steak. He would dive into the sea and, having located an octopus, would turn his back to it and naturally the octopus would entwine its tentacles about the body of the intruder. Feeling that the octopus had clung securely to his body, he would come to the surface with his prey still clinging to his body and would then carry it ashore. All he had to do to shake it off was to squeeze its body and the octopus would then fall limply to the ground. I am sure the octopus must have been only of a small size, and not as big as those we sometimes read of in novels.
A Maori Woman's Struggle with an Octopus
After writing the above story, of which I had some doubts as to its credibility, I learned that catching octopuses was a fairly common practice among the Maoris at Te Araroa.
Rua Hoerara once told me that his sister, Mrs. Paea Henderson, a grand-daughter-in-law of Katene Ngatoko, referred to above, used to catch octopuses at Paripaopao. On an incoming tide the presence of an octopus would be indicated by the scattering of crayfish and crabs. Paea would then slip into the water and feel under the rocks with her feet until she touched one.
One day, when searching in this fashion, a fair-sized octopus sent some of its long tentacles right up round her neck. Her head was just above the water but when she tried to move out of the water with the octopus clinging to her body she found she was unable to do so because its other tentacles were still clinging page 144to the bottom of the rocks. As the tide was rising she soon found herself in difficulties. She knew that unless she could lift the clinging octopus out of the water she would soon be drowned. The only person within call was a white man who was working on the shore, but, as she was naked, she was afraid to call him to her rescue. She was in a desperate situation. She felt for the creature's body and then with flax which she took from the kit which was tied round her waist she managed to strangle the octopus. It then became limp and so loosened its grip on the rocks and she was able to carry it ashore. The octopus was then taken home and many people came to see it.
Rua once pointed out to me the particular channel in which his sister used to catch octopuses. He also mentioned that a family in Te Araroa regarded the body of an octopus as a delicacy.
When I was editing Te Pipiwharauroa, for a change from the serious subjects I would often refer to some ridiculous Maori superstitions which invariably brought protests. But I scored well over my opponents. I suppose fishing, being one of the principal means of food supply for the people, is hedged in with superstition. When fishing for moki the Maoris are so superstitious that not even a particle of food is carried out to the fishing grounds in a canoe. I ridiculed the notion that a fish at the bottom of the sea could see any food in a canoe when it couldn't see the barbed hook hidden in the bait. The article was much read and discussed and when Dr. Wi Repa introduced me to the old and lame Popata, from Te Kaha, a stickler for Maori traditions and superstitions, who had come with a football team to Te Araroa, he said that I was the man who had laughed at the notion that a fish could see food in a canoe but could not see the fatal hook wrapped in a page 145bait. The old man was wise enough not to be drawn into an argument and simply said, "Doctor, I came to play football and, not to meet Reweti Kohere with his 'hook hidden in a bait.' "
Fish and Stone
I must put this on record, if only for the reason that it is an East Cape reminiscence.
Old Tete Korimete, two or three other young men and myself had pulled out for a day's fishing off East Island. Before we dropped anchor, Tete warned us against letting any fish we might catch come in contact with the stone sinkers or the spare stones we had with us, and, to be doubly sure, he asked us to put all stones into bags. He said that if a fish touched a stone we would catch no more fish that day and we then might just as well go home. After an hour's fishing we caught so many fish that they became mixed up and Tete's next fish was accidentally placed in the bag in which he had put his stones. The boys noticed Tete's oversight but they kept quiet. Suddenly, Tete realised his mistake and called out, "No more fish today, boys. I have put a fish in the same bag as the toone (stones); better pull up the anchor and go home." The boys giggled, but would not pull in their lines. Still they caught more fish. But old Tete, stubborn, conservative, and true to his up-bringing, would not admit that the old Maori notion was nonsensical. No more fishing for him that day. The boys made fun of old Tete when they got ashore and for many weeks and months they called him, "Toone" (stone).
An Ominous Fish
One more fish story. It is a Maori notion that a fish hooked by the belly instead of by the mouth is a sure sign that the fisher's wife is misconducting herself on shore and it inevitably spoils a man's fishing for the day.page 146
Two fishing boats had put out of Hicks Bay for a day's fishing in the vicinity of Matakaoa Point. The two boats dropped anchor close to each other. Tauranga felt a bite on his line and he pulled it in. It revealed a snapper and also Popata's line, tangled with his own. Popata, who was in the other boat, was not paying much attention to his line. A mischievous idea struck Tauranga and he quickly unhooked the fish from his own line and hooked it by the belly to Popata's line. Popata felt the fish wriggling on his line and gladly pulled it up. As he looked over the gunnel of the boat to see the bright pink snapper coming up, he saw, to his amazement, that it was hooked by the belly. He took great care not to let his companions notice his misfortune, but the mischievous Tauranga, in the other boat, was laughing up his sleeve. Popata quietly unhooked the ominous fish and put it in his kit. When the boats reached the shore, the women, of course, were there ready to clean the day's catch. Popata stepped ashore and, seeing his wife, threw the fatal snapper at her feet, saying at the same time, "There's your fish, yours and his." When Mrs. Popata,' puzzled by her husband's conduct, asked, "What's the matter with you?" he replied, "I know what's the matter with me, for I know all about it. I have been told by the gods." For weeks the couple lived apart, but Tauranga's conscience began to prick him and he humbly owned up that he had played a mean trick on poor Popata.
It is my opinion that Maoris, on the whole, do not realise that jealousy is a very serious fault. I have heard Maoris openly say they were jealous men as though it was nothing to be ashamed of.
A grandson of a well-known Ngati-Porou chief told me that his grandfather was so suspicious and jealous page 147that when he went out fishing off-shore in a canoe, he took care that his two wives sat on the rocks where he could keep an eye on them until his return to shore. I knew another great chief who, when he saw a man looking at his wife, would remark, "That's mine."
A Cruel Slander
I have been the victim of a cruel slander, set afoot by people who should have known better. Evidently they judged other people by their own standards. My wife was a delicate girl when I married her and after the births of our first children she became thinner and was often unwell and at times I thought I might lose her. Gossips made out that her ill-health was caused by my frequent thrashing of her. The slanderers should have known that Kate was the last person in the world to tolerate cruelty and insults. When she went on a seven-month holiday to her people at Manutuke, some of her friends asked her whether there was anything in the rumour which they had heard. When she denied unequivocally the slanderous accusation, they thought she was only endeavouring to shield me. Some Maoris have a peculiar idea of married life: they are quite sure that a man who has a pretty wife must naturally be a jealous husband. Kate is prepossessing in her looks, and I am not. Therefore, so they infer, I must be jealous and must occasionally give her a hiding to keep her subdued.
As I pen these perhaps too personal lines, my wife is on holiday. My old detractors, were they still alive would hardly know her for she is not the skinny girl they once knew; she is now a robust-looking woman, and, as a matron, she has grown quite fat.
Some Greedy Men I Have Met
The following instances of greed and selfishness may seem trifling, but, though they happened many years page 148ago, they are vividly stamped on my memory.
It was a rainy day and, without any pre-arrangement, quite a number of people came together to Hinerupe, the runanga house, and the usual rendezvous for talk, gossip and cards. We all began to feel hungry, but being hungry was preferable to getting drenched. Out of the rain emerged a good Samaritan, old Riria, carrying between her hands a large dish of green corn on the cob. The oldest in the company, a man of some standing, flopped on the mats, crossed his legs and picked out not one but two large cobs of corn, one of which he placed safely between his legs while he began to eat the other, quite unconcerned that there was not sufficient corn to go round.
There being a Native Land Court sitting at Te Araroa, the small township was full of people and in accordance with Maori custom, the local people were to some extent obliged to find food for the visitors although they had come on business. Waiheke Puha and others had left early to fish near Matakaoa Point. When the boat was seen returning a large number of people were at the landing, in hope of getting some fish. I was among them. As the boat touched the land, Waiheke threw a hapuku at my feet, but before I had touched it a Rangitukia man, who might be regarded as a rangatira, dashed in and carried off my fish. I went home with nothing for my family, even though I was in charge of the pastorate.
My wife and I had gone to Te Araroa to help with the tukutuku1 work for both the meeting-house and the hall. Only young people were engaged on the work and we were not paid, though other workers were all paid. The least the tukutuku workers could expect was decent meals. Even this we did not receive, for as a rule the meals were rushed by some who did very page 149little work. A woman took pity on me and brought me a small crayfish. An oldish man who sat at the farthest end of the table noticed the woman bringing me the crayfish and followed her. Before I had touched the crayfish the man came along and grabbed it and took it away without even offering me a piece of it. He devoured it all. I may perhaps add that the man came from Poverty Bay.
The chief Hori Mahue and I were invited to a birthday party at Whakaea. The table was laid out on the green grass. Hori, with his grandson, and I were asked to sit at one end of the table where I noticed the only wild pigeon, a fat one, was placed. We were the honoured guests. I said grace. Before the "amen" was said, a man, on the opposite side of the table stretched across and lifted the pigeon from under our very eyes. After securing the bird, the man turned his back to us and ate it all himself.
I have mentioned elsewhere that the Maoris regard stinginess as a cardinal fault, yet these four instances of greed and selfishness were not instantly condemned. I also know that some Maoris regard grabbing food with respect, for they term it kamakama, or smart. I have taken the trouble to record these four instances of brazen greed and selfishness and I have also termed them trifling. They are extremely trifling compared with the gigantic and organised greed that occurs all over the world. The principle involved, however, is the same. I may also add that a person's character is often betrayed by his conduct at the table. The Maoris have a saying, "To te ware tona-patu he kai" — "Eating is the downfall of the low-born."
1 Ornamental lattice work between the slabs of a carved house.
Eels and Snakes
It is customary among white people to speak disparagingly of eels as food, and often, with a wry face, they ask, "How can you eat the thing?" A young page 150school-teacher who apparently thought much of his own superior qualities, said to a Maori, "Eels! I don't like them, they look too much like snakes." The Maori coolly and sarcastically remarked, "Oh, now I know why I am so fond of snakes, because they look like eels." The pakeha didn't know whether to laugh or not.
A number of men had put out to do some fishing at East Cape. Their luck was in and they filled a bag with snapper. On their return, when nearing the channel, somebody suggested that as the boat had been leaking, the water should be bailed out. He was over-ruled, another contending that there would be time enough to let the water out when they got ashore. However, a small sea came up and one wave lifted the stern of the boat and sent the water rushing to the bow. The boat dived and was swamped. Fortunately, the rocks were quite close and some of the men swam to them. Raihania, who was lame, could not swim very well and cried out for help. Two of the men standing on the rocks took no notice of his appeal, but philosophically discussed the serious question as to who should marry his fine-looking wife after he was gone. They even tossed up to settle the matter. It was another man who pulled Raihania out of the water. The boat was later dragged ashore but the bag of snapper was lost. Raihania soon recovered and forgot his trouble. He thought he would steal a march on his mates by dragging for the lost bag of snapper. His method was to throw out a fishing-line with hooks and sinker over the submerged bag of fish and then to pull in the line. On his second throw, one of the hooks caught in his hand and he could not get it out. He cut the line and rode to Te Araroa where the doctor extricated the hook. Raihania's troubles came in battalions. Both he and his wife, however, have now gone to their long rest.
Tangi over a Wounded Pigeon
In an earlier chapter I stated that when we first came to East Cape in 1908, wild pigeons were plentiful, but as the bush disappeared, so did the birds. Occasionally, however, a few visited the little native bush near our house. They came to feed on the berries of the tawa-a-pou, or the New Zealand olive. There was always a difference of opinion among the members of my family as to whether or not the pretty birds should be left alone. The vandals argued that if the birds were not shot, other people would do so somewhere else. One day, a pigeon alighted on a pohutukawa tree near the house and one of the young boys quietly got his pearifle and brought the bird down. The noise made by the rifle caused the children to rush out of the house and two little girls, Oha and Rewa, came across the wounded pigeon with its wings spread out on the ground as though imploring for mercy. They could not bear the pathetic sight, and they stood over the bird and wept. The culprit sneaked away and swore that he would never shoot another pigeon should any pay us another visit.
On the other hand, we read that the Guthrie-Smith family, of Tutira, tamed and made pets of wild pigeons. The birds became so tame that often they flew from the tall trees right inside the house at meal-time and perched either on the heads or on the shoulders of some members of the family, there waiting to be given the feed which they invariably received. The four pets were often seen feeding with the domestic birds and they were given names, such as Budget, Uncle Harry, and other names which have since slipped my old memory.
The First Horse They Ever Saw
I remember listening to the Rev. Mohi Turei, when I was young, as he told the story of how frantically page 152excited he and another boy had been over the first horse they had ever seen. It was ridden by a white man who came from the south and who stayed the night at Rangitukia. They stood and gazed at the animal in amazement, but, more amazing than the horse itself, was the docility of the animal when it quietly permitted a little man to sit on its back and make it go wherever he wished it to go. The man and his horse left early next morning for Kawakawa (Te Araroa), and Mohi and his mate, without telling their people, decided, not having seen enough of the creature, to follow it all the way to Kawakawa, a distance of fully thirty miles. The man and his animal had an early start and by the time the two boys got on the Waiapu beach they had disappeared. The boys soon found the hoofmarks on the beach, however, and with their eyes rivetted to the track, like bloodhounds on the scent, they kept up a brisk pace. The hoofmarks on the Kautuku hill were indistinct and occasionally they lost them altogether, but they soon picked them up again on the beach below. Unfortunately the tide was coming in and was gradually obliterating the tracks. On the turn-in at East Cape they picked up the trail again. When they got on the long Hautai beach the tide was well in and they lost all traces of the horse's track, but their faith did not waver for they believed that sooner or later they would strike the scent once more. At Horoera they again found the track but only for a short period. When they arrived at Kawakawa, after this thirty-mile walk, they found the mystic animal in the missionary's paddock. Their joy was lessened, however, by their feeling of hunger. They were taken in by friends who arranged for their return home the next morning.
A Massacre and its Result
Four loyalist Maoris of Wairoa went to Whataroa in 1868 on a mission of inspection. Every member of page 153the mission had been massacred. On the receipt of the news a force was despatched to Whataroa. It found the settlement entirely deserted, but it was able to recover the bodies of the murdered Maoris. For years no trace of Te Waru and his people could be found. They had just disappeared. Years later, it was ascertained that they had entered the fastness of the Tuhoe Country and had made their homes there.
History gives only one side to the story of the Whataroa massacre: That it was a cold-blooded murder. I was pleased, therefore, when Manakore and a Wairoa man informed me that there was another side to the story: A woman, a relative of Te Waru's, had been murdered by loyalist Maoris, and, in revenge, the members of the loyalist mission had been massacred.
I had always been puzzled why Te Waru should have murdered people who must have been related to him. Only very late in life did I read the full story of the Whataroa incident and found that there was this other side to the story.
The descendants of Te Waru now live at Waiotahu, near Kutarere, on land given them by a past Government. My party spent a night at Waiotahu where we were treated most hospitably, the old chieftainess, a daughter of Te Waru, waited on us.
"Ko te Hera te Pakeha"
The late Poverty Bay chief, Wi Pere, who represented the Eastern Maori electorate for several years, and who after his defeat in 1905 by Sir Apirana Ngata, was appointed to the Legislative Council, was outspoken, but he had sense enough to put his unparliamentarily remarks in Maori form when addressing the House.
On one occasion he was well-worked up and, to conclude his fiery speech, he said, "Ko te hera te pakeha!" When the House adjourned, Sir James Carroll page 154reproved the old chief for his immoderate language and asked him why he did not use Maori swear terms. Wi Pere replied, "Do you think I would use my ancestors' swear words on pakeha? No whia, Jimmy!" Of course, the House interpreter rendered in his own words what Wi Pere had said.
I remember listening to Wi Pere when he was speaking at a conference of the Young Maori Party held at Awapuni, near Gisborne, some years after the incident in the House. The subject under discussion was the diminishing area of land left in the hands of the Maori people, Wi complained that the Maori was becoming landless while the pakeha was gradually taking all the lands. He concluded by saying, "Well, never mind. Let the pakeha have all the lands. When my own last acre in the world is gone, I'll go to heaven where there is a little section reserved for me." Then Wi hesitated and went on, "But who knows, perhaps even in heaven, the ubiquitous pakeha will follow me and rob me of the little bit I may have there."
The elderly pakeha members of the Young Maori Party didn't appreciate Wi Pere's oratory but the young Maoris roared with laughter.
I suppose there never was a more humble and less intrusive man in the whole of the Ngati-Porou tribe than old Tawiri; for this reason I want to give him a paragraph in this book, in order to immortalise him.
Over sixty years ago I knew Tawiri as a mysterious character. His face was freckled and reddish in colour and there was in it a most peculiar expression. I had never heard him speak and even if he had spoken, I believe he would have been at a loss to know what to say; he looked so very strange and peculiar.
There was, however, one thing in his favour: he was a fast walker; in fact, he could be called a trotter. It page 155was said that he could trot all day. He once went to Opotiki to bring home the bones of a relative who had died there. These he put in a sack which he carried on his back all the way to Waiapu, a distance of over a hundred miles. I suppose, as it was his habit to do, he trotted all the way except when he was resting. It is almost incredible and unthinkable that a Maori could carry human bones on his back during the night, Tawiri did it and simply because of this he always seemed to me to live in a spooky atmosphere. It was also known that Tawiri carried on his back a fifty-pound bag of flour all the way from Gisborne to Waiapu, a distance of about a hundred miles, and it is said that he trotted all the way.
Two Short Maori Yarns
I think I have written down all the stray reminiscences I can recall and what I am adding here are two amusing short yarns which I have always enjoyed, though I cannot vouch for their authenticity. The first is current among the Maoris and for the second my authority is no less a person than the late Mr. Justice Alpers. The versatile judge must have liked the Maoris for we read that he spent several months among them in the Waikato.
Big Building at Auckland
A Maori was seen gazing in wonder at a sky-scraper in New York. A white man came up to him and said, "Big building, eh? If you got lost in that building, it would take you two weeks to find your way out."
The Maori did not seem at all astonished and replied quietly, "Oh, that's nothing. We have a big building called Mount Eden (the gaol) in Auckland. You know, my old man has been there for two years and he is not out yet."
An Automatic Cheque
Hoani coveted Farmer Smith's fine hack and wanted to own it. When one day he met the farmer and offered £20 for the horse the farmer agreed and Hoani wrote out a cheque for the amount and the farmer gave him a receipt. Some time afterwards, Hoani happened to visit the post office and the postmaster handed him a telegram. As the Maori could not read English, he asked the postmaster to read the telegram out to him. It read, "Cheque lost. Please stop payment." Hoani understood it well enough. He hesitated but said nothing. His friend, the posmaster, asked him for his reply for the telegram was prepaid. He looked at the ceiling and quite seriously said, "Tell him, don't worry, cheque stop himself."—Cheerful Yesterdays.page break page break page break page break