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The Old-Time Maori


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Makareti, sometime chieftainess of the Arawa Tribe of the Maori of New Zealand, is better known to the world as Maggie Papakura, the famous hostess and guide to the hot springs and geysers of the Rotorua district. It was under this name that she was presented to the late King George and to Queen Mary when they visited Whakarewarewa as Duke and Duchess of York in 1901, and again during the Coronation year in 1911. She came by the name in a curious fashion. Europeans who saw her as a child naturally shortened her name to Maggie, and an unusually inquisitive visitor tried to find out whether she had another Maori name. She had not, of course, but was willing to oblige them, and as she happened to be standing near a well-known geyser called Papakura, she promptly said “Papakura”, and the name stuck to her family. Among others who have borne the name with distinction are Bella, famous for her knowledge of the genealogy and lore of her people, and Tiki, one of the greatest of Rugby full-backs, known in England and New Zealand as Dick Papakura.

This brief introduction is in no sense a biography, for her biography is her book, the life-story of her old people, to whom it is dedicated. The tale of the village in which she was born is the story of her own early page 20 life, for a Maori considers himself one with his people, and the life of one is the life of all. To Makareti, the kainga, or village, was home, and she uses the word as home throughout her book. The genealogy of the village is her own genealogy, the record of marriages and births and the chanting of the Tohi rite over the children, the collection and cultivation of food, all represent the life of her own relatives as observed in her childhood and later years. The house was her own house, built for her by her people, the objects which she described were her own. So intimately bound up with her people was she, that she could not write their history without unconsciously writing her own.

She was born on October the 20th, 1872, at Whakarewarewa, and died on April the 16th, 1930, in Oxford. Two factors at her birth had a powerful influence on her life. The first was that she was te aho ariki, the first-born of the eldest line of noble and sacred ancestors. In her came together the lines of all the chiefs and learned and sacred tohunga (priestly experts) who first arrived in New Zealand in the Arawa Canoe round about 1350, and through them, she was descended from the gods, and from Te Po, the chaos out of which the gods came. Moreover, she was related to seven of the eight canoes from which all of the Maori tribes in New Zealand are descended, and seven ribbons were used in the unveiling of her memorial at Whakarewarewa, one for each of the page 21 canoes. Her family was whare ngaro, a house of the lost, for children had died at birth in it, and as her life was very important to the Arawa Tribe, she was taken from her mother soon after she was born, and brought up by her great uncle and great aunt (her mother's father's brother and sister), Maihi te Kakau Paraoa and Marara Marotaua, and it was from them for the first nine years of her life that she learned the genealogy and history of her people, and all the duties that she would be called upon to perform in life. The reader can best learn from her own chapter on children how continuous and thorough, and yet how gentle and kindly, was the instruction, both in the round of daily work, and on the long walks from Parekarangi to Whaka, and during the long winter evenings by the embers in the whare when she listened to the genealogy and lore of her old people, and repeated them from memory, a memory taken for granted by the Maori, who had no writing or printed books, but a memory at which those who have had only a European training never cease to marvel.

During the most impressionable years of her life, then, her education was entirely that of a Maori. The second most powerful factor in shaping her life was her English father, Mr. W. A. Thom, who was responsible for the English part of her education from the age of nine onward, and thus indirectly responsible for the part she played in European society. She married twice, her first marriage in 1891 being to Mr. page 22 W. F. Dennan, by whom she had one son, sometime living in England, but regarded by the Arawa as Te Aonui, te aho ariki of the tribe. In 1911, she brought the village of Whakarewarewa with its carved houses to the White City for the Festival of Empire in the Coronation year, and it was during this festival that she became engaged to Mr. R. C. Staples-Browne, whom she had known since 1907. Up to 1911, she had lived nearly the whole of her life at Whaka, but after her marriage to Mr. Staples-Browne at Bampton, she lived in or near Oxford, except for a six months' visit to New Zealand in 1925 and 1926.

Her English schooling lasted from the age of nine to the age of fourteen, one year at a college for English girls at Tauranga, one with a governess, and three at Hukarere College, Bishop Williams's school, at Napier. For this last school she always felt considerable affection. The authorities recognized the strength and beauty of her character, and wisely allowed her to develop in her own way. Thus in the space of a few years she made the transition from a Neolithic Age to all the complexities of modern European society, and took her place in both environments with conspicuous success. To a European who marvelled at the serene unselfconsciousness and authority of her bearing in both societies, the Maori reply would be, “And why should she not, seeing who she was?” Great and lovable characters are great and lovable regardless of time or place. Such virtues and manner as Maihi and page 23 Marara taught her were not peculiar to Maori or to European, or to any race, but are the stuff that is best in human nature. “Seeing who she was”, they taught her with a love and care for which she was grateful to the end of her life, and it was this knowledge of her position and responsibility which for ever dominated her character. Though she enjoyed an international repute, and counted many famous people as her friends, her chief pride and joy were always in her mother's people, and it is no exaggeration to say that her whole life was directed to the end of preserving and keeping vigorous all that was best in the old Maori life.

When she removed to England, she brought with her all her possessions, including the carved house with all its furnishings and the ancient carved pataka, both described in this book, greenstone and other weapons and ornaments, feather and flaxen cloaks, and everything that could possibly explain the life of the old Maori in all its aspects. These it was her delight to show to her friends and to explain, and those of us who knew her can never forget the slight turn of her body which set the piupiu skirt curling and uncurling, or the graceful and intricate movement of the poi balls in the Canoe Song composed by her sister Bella, or the thrill of the motion of a weapon which she took from our awkward hands and held as it should be held. When she wore Maori dress, she became not only her former self, but all her people, and it was not only page 24 the chieftainess who stood before us, but the tangata whenua, the lords of the land. No people ever had a better ambassador and interpreter than the Maori had in her.

It was in 1926 that she became a member of the University of Oxford, at the suggestion of Professor Henry Balfour, Dr. R. R. Marett, and Miss Grace Hadow, Principal of the Oxford Society of Home-Students, and began to arrange a life-time's accumulation of notes for what she planned as a series of books on every feature of the life of the Maori as he was, and in 1928 she was advised to present a part of the material for the B.Sc. degree. While she was a member of the School of Anthropology, she gave several informal lectures, and one public lecture before the Anthropological Society, in which she brought the greater part of her collection to the Museum, and showed a film of Maori life which had been made under her constant supervision, a unique and valuable film, because, like her book, it shows Maori life as it appears to a Maori, rather than to an outsider.

My own part in this book has been a modest one. For the last two years of Makareti's life I spent a morning or an afternoon three or four times a week at the house in North Oxford which she had taken in order to be free from all social engagements while she was writing. We began by going over the genealogies, the framework of her history, and every name had memories. These memories were sorted out into the page 25 various chapter-headings of this book. I asked her what order the notes should take, took them home, and typed them out. She then took the manuscript and re-wrote it entirely, often several times, until she was satisfied that the chapter was a true presentation of the facts and of the spirit. She wrote regularly to her people at home to make certain that they were willing to allow the publication of various facts, or that the facts were exactly right. The night before she died, she sent for me and asked me to remove two of the karakia (incantations) from the chapter on food, and I have done so. In fact, the reason why the publication of her work has been so long delayed is for reasons of this sort. I promised her that I would do my best to make certain that nothing would be published against the sanction of her old people, and I have sent the manuscript to New Zealand so as to avoid the possibility of publishing any name, fact, or karakia which is forbidden, and to be sure that everything is rightly put down. If there is any error, I beg the Arawa people to believe that it is entirely my fault in working with unfinished manuscript, and not in the least the fault of Makareti. She observed the laws of tapu carefully, and never allowed the genealogies to be consulted in a room where food was kept, and I have faithfully observed the rules since her death.

The book is dedicated to Maihi te Kakau Paraoa and Marara, and to all other her old people, in the hope that the younger generations of the Arawa page 26 people may read and learn how fine a heritage they have, and try to keep what is best in it, for it was her belief that a people is a great and living people only so long as it is mindful of its heritage. The secret of her own greatness of soul lay in knowing who she was.

She was always grateful to Dr. Marett, Professor Balfour, and Commander Walker for regular help and encouragement, and to Mr. Elsdon Best and Mr. W. B. Te Kuiti for their inspired and faithful accounts of Maori life. She died so suddenly that there was no time to learn all that should be done and of many whom she would have mentioned, for no one was ever more careful than she in the acknowledgement of help, or more grateful for kindness.

The first of the four photographs of Makareti shows her at the age of twenty-one or two, wearing the royal huia feather in her hair, and the kiwi cloak which is the privilege of chiefs. Round her neck is the tiki of greenstone whose name is Te Uoro. It is over five hundred years old, and has been buried five times with ancestors, and dug up after thirty years have elapsed. The second, taken about 1908, shows the chiffon head-dress which she made popular throughout the world, and a cloak of white pigeon and red and green parrot feathers, sometime the property of her mother, Pia te Ngarotu. She is standing beside the centre post of her house at Whakarewarewa, pou-toko-manawa, the post which supports the heart. The third page 27 shows her at about the age of fifty, in the wool and kiwi cloak she wore in the Coronation year, holding a greenstone patu pounamu, and wearing Te Uoro and greenstone ear-pendants. In the fourth, she is dressed in a korowai cloak, woven of flax with kiekie streamers, and round her head is a fillet of taniko work, an ornament worn on chiefs' cloaks only. She is weaving a korowai cloak which she brought unfinished from New Zealand. Her unfinished cloaks are now in the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Oxford, a remarkable and unusual possession, because the old Maori believed it extremely unlucky to take away an unfinished cloak from the maker or place of origin.

Her mother's cloak and many other ancestral cloaks and greenstones covered her bier during the funeral at Oddington Church, where she had recently placed a memorial for the Maori contingents who fell in the Great War. A year after her death, her people in New Zealand erected a memorial to her at Whakarewarewa.

“Turn once again your face to the shadowy land from which we came, to the homes of our ancestors far away, to great Hawaiki, to long Hawaiki, to Hawaiki-of-great-distance, to the Hono-i-wairua, the place of spirits, the land where man was formed from the earth by great Tane-of-the-sky and had life first breathed into him.”

Ranginui married Tahatiti, Rangiroa, Hinerangi; Rangipouri, Mokonui; Rangipotango, Akanui; page 28 Rangiwhetuma, Rahui; Rangihekere, Aotakare; Aonui, Pikirama; Aoroa, Te Korupe; Aowheneke, Te Tipiotawhiti; Aowheta, Hikitia; Te Unuhanga, Tuia; Te Hoehoenga, Ariari; Taaneitekapua, Puhiawe; Rangi, Hineari; Ao, Tupawhaitiri Puhaorangi, Te Kuraimonoa; Ohomairangi, Muri te Kakara; Muturangi, Te Rakautororire; Taaunga, Hape; Tuamatua, Karika; Houmaitawhiti, Hine-i-kukutirangi; Tamatekapua, chief and captain of the Arawa Canoe, married Whakaotirangi; Kahumatamomoe, Hine-i-tapaturangi; Tawake Moetahanga, Puparewhaitaita; Uenuku Mai Rarotonga, Te Aokapuarangi; Rangitihi, Papawharanui; Tuhourangi, Rakeitahaenui; Uenukukopako, Te Aotaramarae; Hinemaru, Umukaria; Wahiao, Hinekete; Tukiterangi, Pareheru; Tuohonoa, Kaireka; Ngaepa, Te Anatapu; Parerauawa, Te Awa-i-Manukau; Te Aonui, Te Naho; Maata, Marotaua; Ihaia, Makereta; their daughter was Piaterihi or Pia te Ngarotu; and her daughter was Makareti, nineteen generations from the Canoe.

She was also of the line of Hei, a chief in the Arawa Canoe, of Waitaka, Papawhero, Tu Ahuriri, Tu Araitaua, Manaia, Hou, Papawharanui, Tuhourangi, Maruahangaroa, Murimanu, Rangimaikuku, Ahiahiotahu, Rangimamao, Tawari, Te Amo, Te Rangikotua, Te Awa-i-Manukau, Te Aonui, Maata, Ihaia, and Pia te Ngarotu, Makareti being twenty-three generations from the Canoe.

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She was also of the line of Ika, a chief in the Arawa Canoe, of Marupunganui, Tua Rotorua, Tangaroa Mihi, Tukonohi, Whaki, Te Huinga, Te Rua, Te Ipu, Waiata, Te Pahau, Makereta, and Pia te Ngarotu, Makereti being fourteen generations from the Canoe.

She was also of the very sacred line of Ngatoroirangi, the learned and very tapu Tohunga whose wisdom and incantations brought the Arawa Canoe across the Ocean of Kiwa, of Tangihia, Tangimoana, Kahukura, Tuhoto Ariki, Rangitauira, Tuhahua, Tumaihi, Tumakoha, Tarawhai, Te Rangitakaroro, Kahurangi, Tu Tangata, Takirirangi, Awhituri, Waiata, Te Pahau, Makereta, and Pia te Ngarotu, Makereti being twenty gernations from the Canoe.

Thus she could know her old people as many could not, and seeing who she was, they were willing that she should write.

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