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The Maori Race

Tribal Mottoes

Tribal Mottoes.

Many of the important tribes had “Mottoes” or proverbial adages, often quoted, and supposed to convey in a terse and emphatic manner some characteristic of the people to which the name or expression was applied. Sometimes these were scornful epithets used by others almost as nicknames and applied contemptuously. I refrain from giving examples of these, as they would only confer more publicity on annoying phrases, and wound some of my native friends without cause.

Another kind, that of the true “Motto” was a proud descriptive sentence or word, well remembered by the members of the tribe alluded to and by those who wished to flatter or approve. Of these the following may be taken as examples:
  • Ngaiterangi tribe “Truthful” (Ki-tahi; literally “single-speech”).
  • Ngati-paoa tribe “Easily offended” (Taringa-rahirahi; literally “thin-ears”).
  • Waikato tribe “The hundred chiefs” (Taniwha rau).
  • Ngapuhi tribe “Eaters of men” (Kaitangata).
  • Ngati-awa tribe “Of a hundred holes” (Kowhao rau; meaning “Of a hundred hiding places,” fertile of resource).
  • Rangitihi tribe “The arrogant head” (Upoko whakahirahira).