The Old-Time Maori
When a marriage took place in the old days, one of the most important things in the minds of the couple was the children they would have. The Maori were anxious to have children, as many as they could have. Whether boys or girls, they were all welcomed, no matter to what class they belonged. If it happened that a wahine rangatira (woman of rank, who was married to a tangata rangatira (man of rank) became hapu (pregnant) with her first child, this important event was hailed with great rejoicing and ceremonial feasting. Gifts were brought and presented to the young mother, in the way of choice foods, so that she might feed her child that it might be born strong and healthy. If she longed for any kind of food, it was procured for her, no matter how difficult it was to get. Sometimes this meant expeditions to a distant part of the forest or country, and in the old days these expeditions were difficult, as there were no conveyances, and in many cases, no roads. These foods, although procured for the mother, were really for the child. If she lived by the sea, she might long for inland foods such as kereru (pigeon) or other birds, or inanga and other small fish from the lakes. This food not only helped page 113 to feed the child, but helped the mother to get plenty of milk in her breasts.
Generally whakawhanau or giving birth to a child was not a matter to worry over, and a Maori woman of the old days did not suffer or go through the same painful experience as the wahine pakeha (European woman). She lived a natural life and generally went about doing her ordinary duties up to a few days before her confinement, when she left the kainga to live in a small temporary place which was built for her. Here she would live with someone who saw to her wants in carrying food from the kainga. The food would be brought halfway from the kainga by someone who had cooked it, and the attendant would get the food from there. A woman was considered tapu (unclean) for a certain time before and after confinement, that is, until after the Tua or Tohi had taken place about seven or eight days after the birth of the child.
When the time came for the mother to whakamamae, have labour pains, her mother, grandmother, and other relatives were with her, especially if it were her first child. They would sit close to her as she knelt in front of the hunga whaka whanau iaia, the one who was attending to her. The attendant sat on the ground of the whare (a temporary structure) with her knees up to her chin. The young mother knelt in front of her with her legs apart, while the attendant pressed her knees lightly on the upper part page 114 of the poho (abdomen) of the patient, thus helping to force the child downward. As each pain comes, the attendant puts her arms round the body of the the patient, and pulls her forward gently against her knees. As the pains get stronger, she presses her knees in harder, encouraging her with the words “Kia kaha e whae”, Be brave, O mother. And the relatives looking on say the same. Not a murmur comes from the patient, no matter how great the pain, for what is pain but nothing, when she is giving her husband the son or daughter which he so desires? The presence of her mother and relatives close to her helps her greatly to bear the pain. She must be brave just as they were, and her forbears before her. And when the great moment comes and the child is born, she will say, “He aha ai?” What is it? But whether it is a boy or a girl, it is welcomed.
The infant is then shaken with its feet up and its head down to loosen the nanu (secretion) in its mouth and nose. The attendant or one of the relatives would then draw out any remaining nanu by placing her mouth over the nose or mouth of the infant, and taking a deep inward breath. This relieved the infant of all the thick fluid which might be in its nose and mouth, and prevented the child from having an ihu hupe or secretion in its nose, or from being whango (having a husky voice) when it grew up. If a child does not cry when it is born, it is shaken to make it cry. If anything was needed page 115 to soften the pito, which sometimes looks sore, a piece of soft cloth was soaked in the oil from the kernel of the titoki berry, and placed over the pito before wrapping the child in old pueru cloth. The soft old cloth would be an old woven korowa1 or korohunga.1.
A Maori infant did not use the clothes which are needed for pakeha children. Indeed there was only one garment used, and that was the one wrapped round his little body. The child was then placed on the whariki, floor mat, without mattress or pillow, and was quite happy and comfortable.
Her û (breasts) which had received special attention during the months of her pregnancy would have the waiu (milk) flowing easily, and so the child is fed from the breast soon after it is born. In the old days the û were mirimiri, massaged, and also the matamata, nipples, and a Maori mother never had the difficulty of the women who have come in contact with civilization. When a woman became hapu, her breasts were attended to from three months after right up to the birth of the child.
An infant was always brought up on its mother's breast in the old days unless the mother died, and then a foster mother who also had an infant was looked for, and she would bring up the two babies.
Sometimes of course a child is born dead. This would mean that the mother had broken some law of tapu, or it might be a case of makutu (witchcraft). When a woman loses all her children at birth, and none are born alive, it is called a whare ngaro, a house extinct or a lost house, and with the very rangatira people, this is considered a terrible tragedy. A Tohunga would be in attendance to perform karakia at each birth, and if it should happen that a child was born alive, it would be taken right away from the mother, and brought up by a foster mother. page 117 With my mother's family it was like this. Several of the children of Makereta my grandmother died at birth or soon after, and when Rakera, the ninth child, was born alive, she was taken away by Maihi Te Kakauparaoa and his wife, who brought her up, and the same thing happened later when my mother was born, and also Hoana who came after her. They were taken away from the mother by her father's brother and his wife, who in later years took me when I was born, and brought me up.
A Maori woman generally suckled her child till it was able to run about, and sometimes long after this. I have known children still at the breast when over two years old.
The old Maori did not look on illegitimacy as the European did. It was not a common occurrence among the old Maori, but if a child should happen to be a poriro, he would not be thought less of than other members of a family. If a man knew that a girl was hapu, and he was unmarried, he took her as his wife, as cases like this only happened when the parents had not consented. Thus the child would be born in wedlock, as the pakeha say. A man never deserted a girl who had a child by him, even if he were married. Either he or his people would take the child, or she would bring it up herself. But in any case the father generally claimed it. Other members of the whanau (family group) might take the child and bring it up, and it would be well looked after, and page 118 would own shares in land and property like the other children.
In the old days women could attend to themselves if need be, and were able to stand a great deal more than they can now under the altered conditions. In many cases a woman was attended to only with her first child, when she learned what to do. It was not always possible to have someone to attend her during confinement. Women were quite capable of attending to themselves even up to quite recent times. My mother's sister Hoana married into another hapu (see hapu page 34 in chapter on Social Organization), and when she was hapu and getting near her time of whakawhanau, she came home to my kuia and koroua at Whakarewarewa. She was attended for her first child only. But after that she came home as usual, and no one ever attended to her, and no one knew anything about it until she appeared with her infant after a few hours' absence in a whare. It was the same with her daughter Karaihe who died only a few years ago. She, like her mother, had all the necessary things ready, the kakahi shell with which to cut the umbilical cord, and the string for typing it. Whereas in the old days a woman would have a branch of a tree to help her, Karaihe had an empty box which she placed by the side of the whare. She tipped the case so that the top edge would come on to the top of her poho (abdomen). As each pain came she pressed herself page 119 against the edge of the box until the child came. She then attended to cutting the cord and tying it, and after making the infant comfortable, attended to herself, the most important thing being the whenua (placenta) which should all come away with the parapara. She had all of her children in this way except the first one, and then the last. But the story of her last child is too long and sad to repeat here.
Child-birth and everything connected with it were under the care of the beings Hine-te-iwaiwa and Hine-Korako, who personified the moon. In the old days when a woman was matewahine or mate marama (monthly sickness), she was considered tapu or unclean, and this term was also used when a woman was going to give birth to a child, and up to seven or eight days after.
A Maori woman did not have children quickly as Europeans do, and was generally married two or three years or more before having her first child, and there would be about the same number of years between successive children.
If a first-born child died in infancy, the parents would ask a Tohunga to perform karakia over the next one when it was born, so as to save its life.
From the time of its birth and all through life till his death, the life of a Maori was surrounded with racial and family traditions. The Maori had very great love for their children. It was a great unselfish love which nothing could weaken. I doubt page 120 if any other race could surpass them in their love for their children.
I have never heard of a Maori having triplets or more children. They occasionally had mahanga (twins), and sometimes a huatahi (only child). Years ago it was not a common thing for a married couple to have no children. It has become more common since there has been contact with civilization.
The old Maori had no method to prevent children coming, such as those practised by civilized peoples. When a woman had a very large family, a Tohunga would be asked to speak a karakia over her to prevent any more children coming. This was known as the tuapa rite. I have heard that women who were childless (pukupa) carried and nursed a kind of wooden dummy made in the shape of a child, and sang lullabies over it as they would to living children. I have read what writers have written about their nursing the pig as a child and suckling it. I do not think this is possible, as pigs were killed and eaten.1
In the case of a difficult birth, a karakia was repeated by a Tohunga. The first karakia repeated over a difficult birth was repeated over Hine-te-iwaiwa, and was called “Ko te Tuku O Hine-te-iwaiwa”. It was often repeated over a wahine rangatira when having difficult birth. This karakia was repeated over Rangiuru, the wife of Whakaue, the chief who lived on Mokoia Island, when she was giving birth to Tutanekai who married Hinemoa. A case of premature birth seldom happened in the old days, and when it did, was supposed to be caused by the mother's breaking the laws of tapu. A Tohunga then had to perform a karakia Takutaku over the woman to send away the wairua (spirit) of the unformed child, which was supposed to fly about in space—or it might enter a mokomoko (lizard)—and do harm to living people. A wairua of this kind, having never been properly formed, would never know any feeling of affection or love, and so would only try to do harm. It was the belief that in far back ancient times a child who was born dead or through whakatake (miscarriage) was thrown in the water, and fish ate of it, and became harmful atua page 122 to men, women, and children. The woman was again pregnant, and the child was dead within her, and there was a miscarriage. This child was buried in the ground, and its flesh was eaten by the things who live in the ground and by the birds from the heavens. These beings remain as atua, the beings who do great harm to living men, women, and children, although they are not important gods.
Sometimes a child would be born feet first. He would be called a whanau waewae (born feet first), and was sure to grow up mischievous and full of tricks. In old times a woman was often able to tell the sex of her child before birth through its movements during pregnancy. The movements of a male child were vigorous and quite different from the movements of a female child. If the dark parts of the breasts extended only a short distance from the nipples, it would be a boy; if they extended much further, it would be a girl.
Sometimes a deformed child would be born, such as a tuara hake, hunch-back, or waewae hape, with deformed or turned in feet, but this did not often happen. I have only known two cases of deformed feet in the whole of my own hapu of Tuhourangi. (See the genealogy1 and the account of hapu in my chapter on Social Organization.)
1 Besides the printed genealogies, I have a great number of written genealogies of the descendants of Wahiao. Tuhourangi is sixth from Tama te Kapua who was captain of the Arawa Canoe; Wahiao is tenth and Makereti is nineteenth.
Among children who are born there are the Urukehu who have very fair skin and reddish coloured hair. The Urukehu is a very old strain among the Maori, and was brought with them from Hawaiki (the distant home) by our ancestors. The origin of it is not known to the Maori of to-day. This strain still goes through certain families.
In my hapu of Ngati Wahiao we have one family, whose picture is shown in Plate XIII. Tonihi is an Urukehu, but his wife is not, and yet all their children are Urukehu like the one in the picture. Rihari Te Taru, father of Tonihi, was also an Urukehu. The child of Tonihi, by his first marriage was not Urukehu, but every one of the several children by his second wife was Urukehu.
Albinism also occurred among the Maori, but very seldom. I knew of one case when I was a child. She came from Ngapuhi. She always spoke of her father as an atua, a Turehu, one of the fair-haired people who live in the mist. Her mother was an ordinary Maori. The girl used to hold conversations with her Turehu father, an unseen being, during the night, a thing which terrified me. These Turehu (albino) children are supposed to be born of an ordinary Maori mother and a patupaiarehe father, and are termed Turehu. Patupaiarehe is sometimes termed Turehu, and Urukehu is sometimes termed Turehu, but patupaiarehe and Urukehu are generally the words used in each case, and Turehu is some page 124 times used. The patupaiarehe spoken of to me by my kuia are supernatural children of the mist. They are seen in indistinct form in the passing mist. Their principal dwelling places are on the high mountains where they live in great numbers. These dimly seen beings passing in the mist are seen to advantage after the rain has stopped. They are fair, and are clothed in flimsy white like the web of the pungaiwerewere (spider).
1 Ill-informed foreigner. The first word applies to the cooking of his head, and to an insulting expression. See Tregear.
The tohi was repeated over all infants, but if the infant was the first-born son of tangata rangatira,1 i.e. people of high rank, there was much ceremonial attached to it, even from the time that the mother became hapu. She was waited upon by her husband's people, if she lived with them, and was not allowed to do any hard work. There was general rejoicing in the hapu. When the time came for her to whaka whanau (bear her child), a special whare (temporary house) was made for her to move into, and there she would stay with one or two women relatives who attended to all her needs. When her child was seven or eight days old, the Tohunga (Plate XIV) would perform the tua or tohi over it.page 127
This ends the tua ceremony, and the Tohunga hands the child to its father, who hands it to the mother who stands on his left. The party then return to the kainga (village), and as they get near to the kainga, the assistant Tohunga repeats the whakaaraara which tells the people at the kainga that the tua ceremony is over. Cries of “Haeremai, haeremai”, Welcome, welcome, rend the air from the many people at the kainga who have all gathered to prepare a ceremonial feast. After the arrival, the Tohunga repeats another karakia asking that the child may have of the best in future, and in this the people join in a short response at the end. Then there is a ceremonial feast in which the parents, grandparents, and near relatives eat their foot apart from the other people.
The following karakia was one which a Tohunga would repeat during the tua or tohi, a cleansing and dedication ceremony, while standing in the water. All these karakia are very archaic, and it is beyond one's power to translate them into English, as so many page 129 of the words are obsolete, and the meaning not now known. It would be wrong to attempt a word for word translation, but I will give some idea of what this karakia meant. It was said so that the child might be endowed with health, courage, and strength, so that he would catch the enemy, be able to climb mountains, to fight and to hold the enemy, to kill the enemy, to storm a fortified pa, to rise and kill the enemy, to fight in a field of battle where many men are killed, to be brave and to be able to hold and use a stone patu (short weapon), to be able to use and wield the taiaha (long-handled weapon), to be able to go up great mountains, to climb proud trees, the great proud trees of the forest, to brave the great high waves of the ocean, and overcome the dangers of the sea.
Then, as though addressing the infant, To work and get yourself food, to make a large house for yourself, to make a war canoe, to be hospitable and call visitors to your marae (plaza), to make fishing nets for yourself, to trawl for fish, to surround yourself with plenty of work.1
Such is the general meaning of the following karakia, KO TE TUA, MO TE TANE, tua or tohi repeated over a male child.
Tohi ki te wai no Tu;
Ki te piki maunga,
Me homai, tangaengae,
Mo te tama nei.
Kia riri, ai,
Kia niwha ai,
Ki te patu tangata,
Ki te tomo pa,
Ki te patu whakaara,
Ki te tu parekura.
Kia riri ai
Kia toa ai,
Ki te mau patu Kowhatu,
Ki te mau taiaha
Me ho mai, Tangaengae.
Hei whakatupu Tangaengae,
Mo te tama nei.
Ki nga maunga nunui,
Ki nga rakau whakahihi,
page 131 Tangaengae.
Ki nga rakau whakahihi o te wao.
Me ho mai Tangaengae.
Hei whakatupu tangaengae,
Mo te tama nei.
Ki nga ngaru teitei, o te moana,
Kia turakina i tai,
Me ho mai tangaengae,
Hei whakatupu tangaengae,
Mo te Tama nei.
Ki te mahi kai, mau.
Ki te hanga whare nui, mou
Ki te hanga waka taua,
Ki te Karanga pahi,
Ki te whakatupu kupenga, mau,
Ki te hi ika mau,
Ki te hao mahi, mau,
Me homai tangaengae
Hei whakatupu tangaengae
Mo te tama nei.
E ahua mai ra
Te toro, i a kiharoa,
page 132 Hei kawe rawa, i a au,
Ki te one, i Rangaunu,
Kei te rerenga, ki te Po;
Ko wai au ka kite,
Karakia kia ora ai, kia toa ai, kia kaha ai.
If the infant was a girl, this was the tua repeated over her.
ko te tua mo te wahine
Tohi ki te wai no Tu.
Ki te mahi kai mau
Ki te whatu pueru mou
Ki te karanga pahi
Ki te waha watui mau
Ki te keri mataitai mau
Me homai tangaengae
Hei whakatupu tangaengae
Mo te tapairu nei.
E ahua mai ra
Te toro ia kiharoa
Hei kawe rawa ia hau
Ke te one Rangaunu
Kei te rerenga ki te Po
Kowai au ka kite.
This karakia was repeated over a female infant so that she might be endowed with health so as to be able to work and gather in food, to be able to weave page 133 the clothing, to be hospitable so that her voice was heard in welcoming visitors to the marae (plaza), to be able to carry loads of firewood on her back, to dig in the sand and gather shell-fish, etc.1
As I said before, one of the greatest things in the life of a couple was children, and plenty of them. It was a terrible thing for a man of high rank to let his kawai (line of descent) die out. For this reason, a chief of high standing sometimes had two, three, or more wives, and not, as is often stated, to show his importance and status. The number of wives he had made no difference to this, nor would the number of wives make him a rangatira. A tangata rangatira, i.e. a chief of high birth, was always an important person, and he was important in his very self. It was his own mana that made him important in the eyes of the people and made his reo (voice) heard. His importance had nothing whatever to do with the number of wives he had. If all her children die, a woman will ask her husband to take another wife so that she may bear him children. Should this happen, and the children come, the first wife will love the children as her own and help to bring them up. It was because the Maori had a great dread of his line of descent dying out that polygyny occurred among the very high chieftain class.
The head, arms, legs, and body of the infant were massaged so that they would have a good shape, and the joints were massaged to make them supple. The fingers were bent backwards and forwards, and a female infant had the first joint of both thumbs pressed backwards, to make it easier for her to whatu, .e. weave clothing when she grew up. All Maori fingers have an upward turn from the palm, and are tapered and well shaped. The nose was pressed gently between the thumb and first finger from time to time to prevent the child from being parehe (flat-nosed). The legs were bandaged together fairly tightly to prevent them from being crooked, and the body was bound in the pueru (cloak) to keep the back straight. It was an unknown thing to see a round-shouldered or bow-legged Maori.
An infant was taught to be clean from its birth, when it would be held out by an attendant or by its mother. The child soon learnt what was expected of it.
A mother could not bear to hear her child cry, especially at night. She would take it up in her arms and croon over it, singing oriori, or lullaby songs, to soothe it. The Maori had many of these songs, and some mothers made up their own, some being very beautiful and poetic. Their oriori over their dead children are most heart-rending, expressing the intensity of the grief they feel for the loss of their little ones. Many such songs have been made up by fathers.
The first teaching is given when the child begins to crawl and walk. It will first try to get up by holding on to its mother's or grandmother's knee while she is sitting on the ground. The Maori always sat on the ground, the men tailor fashion, and the women with their knees up to their chins, or with the knees bent and almost touching the ground and their feet to the left underneath them, or with one knee up to the chin, and the other leg bent underneath. Sometimes a small enclosure with a rounded top was page 136 made in which the child might learn to use his limbs and to stand and walk, but this was seldom used.
A child would still be at its mother's breast when it began to walk, and sometimes for a long time afterwards. A woman first gives the child food when it is nine months or more old, unless she has not much milk, then earlier. But a mother nearly always had plenty of milk for her child. When she gives ordinary food to her baby she is careful of what she gives it, and masticates it well before giving it to the child, either straight from her own mouth to the child's, or taken from her mouth with the two first fingers and thumb, and so given to the child. This method might be used until the child was weaned, and sometimes afterwards. The mortality among children was not high in pre-pakeha days. Only the weak ones perished, as the life the Maori led was a hard one.
The first word a baby would learn would be its mother's name, and then its father's. Each parent had his or her name, and the child had its own name. There were no surnames. Sometimes a child would be called by the same name as his father, but this was seldom done, unless the father died. A son might take the name on the death of his father, but this was not usual. For example, a son's name might be Wahiao and his father's Umukaria, and all his descendants would have their own names, but never the same as his or his father's until, probably many generations later, the name might reappear. Children never said page 137 “mother”, “father”, “uncle”, etc., like European children, but always addressed their relatives by their own names.
Maori children did not wear any clothes except the maro, an apron, which a boy wore from about the age of five or six or more, and a girl from about the age of five. They wore nothing on their feet or on their heads. An infant's hair was not cut. Its nails were not cut, but bitten off by its mother, and buried or hidden where no one could get at them.
The Maori never beat their children, but were always kind to them, and this seemed to strengthen the bond of affection which remains among Maori throughout life. Between the ages of three and nine, children enjoy a great deal of freedom. A child is free to play when and where he likes, and always has companions on the marae in front of the whare (house). It is extraordinary how a Maori child knows the danger of fire or boiling water. Although he is free to wander where he likes, and even plays with fire and goes among the boiling pools, you will scarcely ever hear of a child being burnt or scalded. The children were fond of takaro (play). They had few toys, yet they amused themselves making mud pies, playing hunahuna (hide and seek), punga, and many other games. It was a wonderful sight to see a little Maori child eating various kinds of foods with his fingers, and never making a mess or making fingers dirty.page 138
Their ears were pierced when they were quite small. A sharp thin pointed manuka needle was used, bent into V-shape, with several thicknesses of muka fibre in it. The ear was first mirimiri, i.e. rubbed between the thumb and first finger. The sharp ends of the manuka are placed together, and pushed through the ear with the muka fibre. The pierced ear lobes are bathed every day, and the fibre moved from side to side, and as the ear heals, pulled backwards and forwards. In a few weeks the ear is ready for a whakakai or ear ornament. Children usually had only the muka fibre until they were grown up, and were always taught to keep something in the ear so that the hole would not close. The ears were never torn intentionally. A girl had both ear lobes pierced, and a boy had one ear pierced, but sometimes both.
When girls are old enough to understand what is said to them, their mother begins to tell them how they should behave in the kainga. She teaches them to take care of their good name, and speaks freely of the time when they will be mate wahine, or mate marama, so that they will know what to do when it happens. When a girl reached that age, she knew all about it, as it had been explained to her by her mother, grandmother, or other close relative. She knew just what to do for herself, although her mother might show her at first what to do. It was important for a girl to know, because when she was mate wahine there were many things which she must not do page 139 because she was tapu (unclean) in the eyes of the old Maori. During this period she used a whaka aupuru (diaper) of woven fibre, with soft moss on the inner side, and this was replaced from time to time, while the used moss was buried by the girl in a secret place where no one would ever find it. On no account could the moss or whaka aupuru be thrown anywhere. When a girl is in this condition she is careful not to step over a man who is lying down or over a man's sleeping place, nor to sit where a man sleeps, especially where his head rests, and she must not get into a bathing pool where men bathe, and she must not dare to rinse anything she may have used in that water. Any of these things would desecrate the laws of tapu, and in the old days, she would not dream of desecrating such laws. No eyes but her own must look upon her whaka aupuru or anything else that she used. She could not prepare a hangi (oven) or cook tawa berries. If she did, they would not be cooked. She would not gather shell-fish, as this would make them all go to another part of the coast. Nor would she go on cultivated ground, as the crops would be a failure. And she had to be careful in many ways too numerous to mention in this chapter. When she reached the age of mate wahine, she was supposed to be grown up and to have sense. A Maori girl matured earlier than a European, and was generally mata wahine at fourteen or fifteen, or even much earlier. It was seldom that she became ill at such a page 140 time. Her natural life prevented this. She went about as usual in the rain and did various work, other than that which she was prohibited from doing. A man would have nothing to do with his wife during this period. When the change of life came, a woman in the old days did not suffer at all. It all took its course in the natural way, without any laying up. She worked as usual on the things which she could do, such as getting flax and firewood, and preparing flax for, and making baskets, mats, etc.
There is much teaching to inculcate unselfishness. When there is not much kinaki (relish) at a meal, the little girl is asked to share hers, no matter how small it is, with other members of the family. Much of this was arranged by the mother to teach the little girl to be thoughtful for others. She was taught not to let the old people go to the spring to fetch water, but to bring it to them in calabashes. No child was ever ordered, but was always asked in a kindly way to help. I am sure that this is the reason why children looked on work as a pleasure in the old days.
She was quick to learn all the duties which her mother performed. By the age of eight or ten or more, she liked to show her parents what she could do, and would get up early to light the fire, getting the hot embers together with a stick and putting a few dry sticks on and scraping away the ashes, then blowing the embers with her breath until the fire burnt up and she could put on thicker pieces of wood. She would not page 141 be waked, or made to get up. A Maori child of eight looked as old as a European child of eleven or twelve.
House work was not hard. There was no furniture. For the sleeping place in the whare, there was a quantity of rarauhe fern or raupo (bulrush), over which whariki, or sleeping-mats, were spread. If the day was wet, the mats were rolled up towards the head of the bed against the wall. On other days, these floor-mats were taken out and put in the sun, and the bed was often remade of fresh fern.
She learned to waruwaru, i.e. scrape kumara and taro to prepare it for cooking in a hangi. Little girls learn to prepare a hangi when quite young, but do not actually prepare it themselves until they are grown up. They go to the forest with their mother and gather sticks for firewood, making them into kawenga, that is, bundles on their backs with ropes of fibre or flax fixed round them like braces at the back and front. The girl puts each arm through the brace in front of the kawenga, which rests on a mound, or even on the ground, and carries it home on her back. This is a very easy way of carrying large bundles of wood or baskets of kumara, which often had to be carried several miles, for the plantations were often a long way from the kainga, and the Maori often had to go a long way for aruhe (fern root), or berries from the forest.
Girls soon learned how to clear away the weeds among the plants and between the rows, for weeding page 142 was generally done by women, and how to loosen the ground with a timo, an implement for grubbing. They helped their mothers to cut and carry bundles of flax to the kainga, and how to prepare flax for making rourou, the baskets from which food was eaten, taka, the mats on which kumara and taro might be served when it was ready for eating, rough kete (baskets) for holding kumara, taro, and other foods, whariki, the floor-mats on which they slept, and tuwhara, the rough or more coarsely made mats which were put under the whariki, and were also used for the kauta or wharau (cooking shed).
A little girl will carry the baby on her back to relieve her mother, and it is her ambition to grow up and be able to do all the things that her mother does. Girls join in all the games, swimming, running, poi dances, tititorea, and matemate. The children, like all Maori, are very modest. They bathe together, yet never see anything, and many will sleep side by side along the sleeping side of a whare, and nothing wrong enters their minds. They went to bed at sunset and rose at sunrise, and when they lay down on the whariki, the children heard from their elders the history of their people, their folk-lore, and other stories, which delighted them until they fell asleep.
At about fourteen to eighteen, girls were taught to pukana (roll the eyes), and walk with a parepare movement of the hips. This moving gait of the hips, which was so wonderful in the old Maori, is the page 143 same as that practised by the modern civilized girl, only more marked. They were taught to do the ordinary haka and to sing pao and waiata, though they learned the waiata later. Singing came naturally to the Maori. They nearly always sang when walking or working or paddling a canoe, or going through a bush or lonely road. Many of them have beautiful voices.
Boys were massaged on the head, face and limbs with the romiromi massage to get them into form so that they would be strong when they grew up to fight, to do the war dances, peruperu, and whaka tu waewae, i.e. dance with long pointed sticks before a battle. They were taught to use weapons of stone, greenstone, and wood, and especially the whakahoro or use of arms, and the art of karo, the parrying of weapons. Upoko-titi was a favourite game of children, played with both hands. Each one crooked his koiti (little finger) over the next finger, and the same with the next, till all are bunched together.
From the age of six to that of fifteen or sixteen, the father undertook the boy's training, and the grandfather took a great part as well. They taught him to be hospitable and generous, and to share any delicacy he might be eating. A parent would ask for a portion so as to teach the boy unselfishness, though if there were only a little kinaki, or relish, parents liked to give it to their children, who ate with them. Parents did many things and devised many methods to teach children good habits and a generous nature. page 144 The boy was taught to see that everyone had kinaki before eating his.
As he grew up, he was taught all the things that his father did. He accompanied him to the cultivations, and learned to use the ko (see page 187) in planting the kumara, and the songs which accompanied the movements of the workers. He learned the planting of kumara and taro, and how to build the whata,1 the open store-house on posts, and the making of the pataka1 (closed store-house), and how to dig the rua, the pit in the ground for storing kumara. He learned how to hunt and snare birds, of which there were more than two hundred species, and how to make hinaki, traps for eels, nets for sea fishing, and nets for catching inanga and pahore, the small fish in the lakes, and how to dive for koura and kakahi, the crayfish and fresh-water mussels. By the time he was eight or nine, he had learned a good deal about these and other methods of procuring food.
He accompanied his father and relatives to the forest, and watched them cutting down trees and preparing logs for the houses, or hewing them out for canoes, all laborious work which took a long time with their primitive implements, and learned how to choose trees for a canoe or house, and to cut them down and take them long distances to the kainga, or to the river or lake. He learned how to cut timber for the whare (houses) and for building the pa, fortified villages.
Makereti. About 1908
Makereti. About 1922
Makereti with Members of Her Kainga
He was taught the customs and arts of his people, whaka tu waewae, a war dance, with the taiha or tewhatewha or pouwhenua (Plate XXII), and koikoi.1 He learned how to hold himself up as a rangatira ought, and the use of the long two-handed weapon, each with his own way of tripping and killing the enemy. He was taught to use a patu pounamu or short-handled stone weapon for close combat, which was most important for a warrior, as all their fighting was hand to hand. Beside this, he learned the haka, or war dances which occurred when they approached the enemy, with distorted faces, eyes pukana (rolling), and arero whetero, tongue out to show defiance (Plate VI, man at back. Plate XXIII). He was trained in the use of all war weapons when quite young by the old men, and his training went on all through his life, at first with harmless sticks, and then with weapons.
Many games and haka kept them fit. They were taught very young to swim, and were great swimmers and divers and quite at home in the water. They practised canoe racing, jumping, wrestling, kite flying, racing, potaka spinning, morere, and swinging, and watched with interest all that went on about them, for nothing was hidden from Maori children, and all conversation was open before them. Yet they were most modest, and there was nothing vulgar about them. They were fearless, for they met with love everywhere, and in their homes they were petted and loved by their parents and relatives. In many families, the old people bring up the children when one or two more babies come, and children were taught to respect the old people.
They were taught never to put their hands over the head of a tapu person, nor to pass food over the head of a chief, Tohunga, an older member of the family, or anyone else who is tapu. A younger member page 147 of a family must not pass food over the head of an elder brother or sister. If a child inadvertently did so, the food had to be thrown right away or buried. They were taught never to put hair in the fire. Should this be done, the fire must be put out at once, as the person whose hair it was would die.
Parents never made their children work, but they naturally accompanied them to their work in cultivating the soil or anything else, and could join in or not as they liked. They were not paid for any work that they did, but soon came to enjoy it like the older people, joining in the songs as they worked. One would start a song, and the rest would join in. There was generally one who started the songs, which would be appropriate for whatever they were doing, and they were much enjoyed
There were of course naughty children as well, and there were quarrels, as among children everywhere. A quarrelsome child was termed a tamaiti whekiki, and one who was the opposite was called a tamaiti ngawari or humaria. One who was well formed and able to do much for his age was termed a tamaiti pakari. An industrious child was called a tamaiti pukumahi, and a lazy one, tamaiti mangere. Many of the terms were of course applied to grown-ups as well, but in the old days so much time was taken up by work that there was little room for idleness.
A mother speaking to a child in endearing terms would say Taku mokai, taku mokaikai, moi, E moia, page 148 taku potiki, taku potikitiki, or if it were a boy, she might also say Taku tama, taku tahae, or E ta. A girl might also be addressed Taku kohine, E hine aku, or E hine.
In the old days it was a case of the survival of the fittest. Children went about in all weathers without clothes until they were six or eight years old. There were few ailments before Europeans visited Aotearoa (New Zealand), but soon after Captain Cook came, the first epidemic swept over our land, and according to our traditions many thousands of men, women and children perished. It was called by the Maori Te Upoko o te rewharewha. Each vessel that visited us left an epidemic of some kind, which wiped out many children as well as grown up people. Though I could mention various epidemics, here I merely want to say that before Europeans came, there was comparatively little illness.
Much has been written about the callous and indifferent way in which the Maori treated their children when ill. This is a libel. The writer forgets that the Maori of pre-pakeha days was free from illness as a rule, and if any did assail him, he believed that it was became some law of tapu had been infringed. If a child was ill, it was through something done by the mother or father in the way of desecrating tapu. The child was taken to a Tohunga, who took it to a stream and repeated appropriate karakia over him. The child often got well, and sometimes died, but this was not a common occurrence, nor was it page 149 looked on as neglect. When the pakeha brought his epidemics and laid the Maori low with fevers, influenza, and colds and measles, it was natural that the Maori should go to the Tohunga to find comfort and relief for his child. He knew nothing of these strange diseases, and still less how to deal with them. Even in England with all the doctors falling over each other, it is not always possible to cope with these diseases which were altogether new to the Maori. He tried to cope with them as he and his ancestors had done, by karakia at an isolated and tapu place, and if the child was in a high fever, he was put into a cold bath. Sometimes a patient lived, and sometimes he died, but he was never treated with neglect. The European must not judge the Maori to be callous because he does not understand his methods of treating illness. He was never indifferent to anyone who was ill or dying. I have yet to deal with the subject of sickness and death,1 and so will not speak further here.
1 This section was not written.
I spoke Carlicr of the performance of the tohi rite when the pito or iho dropped off. This was sometimes taken to the place where the tua or tohi was performed, and in some Cases was tied on to the karamu branch used by the Tohunga, and afterwards put into a wooden or stone box and buried. In many cases it was buried in a secret place, or placed in the hollow of a tree or hole in the fork of a tree, or it might be buried on the boundary line of the tribal lands. There were many ways of disposing of the iho, but it was never left at a publich place where it could be seen. The great reason for hiding it was to prevent anyone from placing makutu (witchcraft) on it, and so doing harm to the child, or even causing its death.
Children slept all together in the same whare as their parents and sometimes their grandparents from the age of three until they were grown up. Going to rest was always a great joy to the children, especially to those who were with their grandparents. When they lay down on the whariki (floor-mats, they had no pillows), their grandfather or granduncle, or Whomever they might be with, would tell them stories page 151 of the brave deeds of some of their ancestors, the various battles they fought and won, the battles they lost, and the reasons for these wars. Probably a famous ancestor was killed and a party went and avenged his death. The old man would teach them their line of descent from that ancestor, and from other noted ancestors back to the time of the arrival of the great fleet of canoes in New Zealand about six hundred years ago, repeating the genealogical tree from the different members of the canoe down to himself night after night until the child could say them from memory, and repeat them all by the time that he was ten years old. If an ancestor was mentioned, he would know how many generations back he had lived, and how he was related to his other descendants. From these old people, the children learn much in the way of folk-lore, legend, genealogy, and tradition.
The old people told them stories of the patupaiarehe, the fairies who moved past in the mist of early morning, or in the mist after the rain, the fairies who some-times came down from their homes on the tops of historic mountains. They told the children how dear their home and lands were to them, and to their fathers before them, and tried to make the children feel the same. They taught them the names of the birds of the forest, and of the different trees and shrubs and plants, all the names of which the old people knew, and wonderful stories of the mountains, rivers, and page 152 streams, as though they were living human beings. They tried to impress on the childish mind the ways of the unknown which the Maori observed, for the old Maori was familiar with the stars and knew their names, Kopu the morning star, and Matariki the Pleiades. They spoke of the comets and other signs which appeared as omens in the sky, those which were good and those which were not. Everything was personified to the Maori, as he was very near to Nature.
Then the old people would tell them how their bold adventurous seafaring ancestors came from Hawaiki, the distant home, in their historic canoes across the great ocean of Kiwa about the fourteenth century, and sailed across that vast ocean without a compass, believing only in the power of their atua (gods) to help them. They relied on the regular trade-winds to guide them by day, and on the stars and the rolling waves to help them at night. And they sailed on and on for many days to find Aotearoa, the beautiful land which their ancestors first visited two hundred years before their great migration to it.
At night then, they talked of these and many other things until the little people fell asleep. And so they grew up with the stories and deeds of their ancestors until the boys reached the age when they entered the whare kura, the sacred school of learning where they learned from the Tohunga all the karakia and everything that was tapu and not taught outside the page 153 whare kura. Games taught them sharpness of eye and quickness of movement. In the winter of an evening they gathered in the wharetapere, a house where games were played, or in the wharepuni (meeting house), and played games and practised the haka posture dances, and peruperu and other war dances, which they all enjoyed. They learned whai, i.e. cat's cradle, and many other games too numerous to mention.
After a young boy chief had gone through his time with the Tohunga, if he were successful, he became a leader in all the social functions just as his father and his grandfather before him had been. He was taught how to whaikorero, make speeches, as this was most essential at all the different meetings or gatherings. He had to elaborate a high degree of imagination as an orator, and to become expert in rousing the feelings of his people. With great dignity he paced the marae (plaza) backwards and forwards, slowly at first, then gradually rousing himself and his people to the heights of enthusiasm, ending with an appropriate waiata (chant) in which all the people joined. Through his wonderful gifts of oratory, a chief added to his mana.
A boy was taught to uphold the mana of his chief, whose word was law. Any deed of valour performed by him was a credit to all his people. Indeed the individual was absorbed in the whanau (family group), and the whanau in the hapu. He must page 154 avenge an insult offered to one of his whanau, hapu, or tribe, and always be ready when warriors were called to fight. He was taught his different lines of descent from the ancestors who came over in the canoes of the great migration, and from the generations before that.
He grew up knowing these things before he entered the whare kura or whare wananga, the sacred school of learning, at the age of sixteen or seventeen. Here he was in the hands of the great Tohunga and his one or more assistant Tohunga, and learned all the traditions, mythology, and religion. The Maori had no writing, and everything was handed down by word of mouth. Through the tapu school of learning, traditions were kept intact and handed down for many generations without any alterations. The whare wananga was held in high regard by the Maori people. Here the youths passed through a severe test of learning, and had to memorize word for word all their traditions and sacred lore, and the very high tapu karakia of Io the supreme being. Before a youth was allowed to enter the whare kura, he was tested as to his powers of memory. He was generally of very high rank, and was chosen as akonga (pupil) for the very high tapu matters.
The term ariki was used for a first born male or female child of rangatira (high born) parents, and there were several in a hapu or tribe. But Te aho ariki, the first born line of descent, was thought page 155 greatly of by the old Maori, and if the child belonged to rangatira parents, he was considered a most important personage. Generally the matamua, the eldest son of such a family of each whaka tupuranga (generation) naturally became the head of his people. An ariki of this kind, if he was descended from many of the important whakapapa through various lines from noted ancestors, was a tino ariki mana nui, a great ariki who had very great mana, and this was the sign of a tangata tino rangatira, a man of the very highest rank. The tohi ceremony over him would be carried out with very great ceremonial indeed, and presents of value would be given to the Tohunga who performed the tohi. There would be many presents brought from the relatives who came to attend the ceremonial feast. This child would have special care taken of him in the way of special foods as he grew up, and he would be taught from childhood the many things which would be expected of him when he grew up. His grandfathers would take special pride and care in training him in the use of arms and everything pertaining to warfare, and to agriculture, fishing, housebuilding, making canoes, and the many things which a man was supposed to do. But an ariki was expected to excel in all work, games, and war dances, and in oratory he was expected to have great powers to move his people and hold them through his mana, making his reo (voice) heard, and he would have page 156 mana to protect the land. Thus it was important that a boy who was an ariki should be taught well all the things necessary to a leader, and when he was old enough, he attended the whare kura, the tapu school of learning, where special care was taken by the Tohunga over his education in all tapu matters. An ariki was a very tapu person. An important personage like this would always travel with a retinue of chiefs and other relatives who guarded him, and if necessary, died to save him. An ariki was born, not made. Should an ariki be born a tatauhea, with not much initiative, it was possible that a younger son would be chosen by his father to follow in his footsteps as a chief, but that eldest son would always be termed an ariki, and if he died without issue, then the mana of the chosen brother would be even greater. But this did not happen often.