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Plume of the Arawas


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The Brown Man of the Southern Pacific—navigator, warrior, mystic, bard—the intellectual and spiritually-minded Brown Man of Caucasian descent and ancient lineage known to the world as the Maori of New Zealand—he it is who is told of in this novel.

The scene is laid principally in the picturesque region around Taupo Lake and Tongariro Mountain, in the heart of the North Island of New Zealand, a region still owned and inhabited by the Ngati-Tuwharetoa tribe, whose ancestor, the “Plume of the Arawas,” is the hero of the story.

Prominence is given in the tale to the remarkable “urukéhu” or fair-haired strain in the Maori race, an ancient and almost pure Caucasian strain which is known to have come over with the “fleet” of canoes about A.D. 1350 and with earlier Polynesian migrations as well, but the exact origin of which is shrouded in mystery still. The fact that among the living descendants of the ariki Tuwharetoa the writer has seen so many fair-haired but full-blooded Maoris, including many children with fair skin and light blue eyes, has tempted him to offer in this novel his own opinion as to the far-back origin of the “urukéhus.”

Mystery also surrounds the exercise by Maori chiefs of high tohunga rank of strange powers of mind such as the dreaded “makutu.” Indeed, in this matter there has for generations past been a standing challenge to the White Man, a challenge not yet met by adequate inquiry and research, but a challenge which is not scoffed at by those who know the Maori best.

page viii

The pages that follow are wholly in the form of fiction, but wherever possible the writer has striven for accuracy of detail and of historical record. In this connection he freely acknowledges help received from many interesting and instructive works of reference such as those of Mr. Elsdon Best, Mr. James Cowan, the late John White, and others. Also, he thanks his friends and interpreters the young chiefs Puataata A. Kerehi, Pei te Hurinui, and Wharekaihua Ngahana for their help with tribal records and with translations, and gratefully remembers his indebtedness to his friends the late lamented chiefs Tuturu Hone Teri and Hoko Patena, and especially to the departed ariki the Honourable Te Heuheu Tukino, M.L.C.

But many a time, as the writer has penned his lines, he has conjured up choice memories of his own—that night journey in a Maori canoe up the flooded Whanganui with the paddlers chanting sonorous appeals to ancient gods, then the harmony of the dawn-chorus of the bell-birds and tuis of the Ohura Falls, later the first view of the Spirit Track to Te Rerenga-Wairua in the Far North—but more vividly still the memories of the never-to-be-forgotten years spent in the Tuwharetoa country—the day-long wanderings in the foothills of the Kaimanawas, or along the banks of the Waikato, or around the shores of the Inland Sea, or again, memories of magnificent war-dancing by virile men and dainty poi-dancing by graceful maidens, or of the charm of Motutaiko Island, or of the journey through the trackless forest on Pihanga Mountain to that gem of beauty the seldom-seen greenstone lake Rotopounamu, or of the journeys by the Pononga Track to Rotoaira and up to the top of Tongariro, sacred Tongariro, towering in the sky; and finally, at a hallowed spot close to the waterfall at the south-western page ix corner of Taupo Lake, the sight of the King's representative, Earl Jellicoe, Admiral of the Grand Fleet of Britain, standing in full uniform and at the salute before the tomb of the ariki Te Heuheu V, direct descendant of Ngatoro-i-rangi, Admiral of the “Grand Fleet” of Maori canoes in the Great Migration from Tahiti to Aotea-roa (New Zealand) six hundred years ago. A moving sight!

So much for the past! But what of the future? What does the future hold for the sixty thousand and more Maoris in New Zealand and for their children to come? In the opinion of the writer, the future holds for them a noble destiny. Indeed, it is the conviction of the writer that the Maori will add an element of greatness to the national life of New Zealand, and that from men and women of Maori blood will spring up artists and poets and orators and writers and spiritual leaders of great renown. Even it has been said that already the life of New Zealand is deeply tinged with that which comes from the Maori—and tinged in the higher and nobler phases of mind and soul.

Greetings, therefore, to the Maoris, to the Maoris of all the tribes of Aotearoa! Now hearken! The deeds recorded in these pages are your deeds, and belong not solely to Te Arawa and Ngati-Tuwharetoa. Nevertheless, in especial does the writer send greetings to the tribe of his adoption, to the People of the Inland Sea, to his friend the young Ariki Te Heuheu VI, and to his sisters the chieftainesses Kerara and Rihi and Te Uira Te Heuheu, and to all their house! Yet hear the cry from the Far North: Aué! The longing to see again the sparkling waters of Taupo! Aué! The call from Tongariro!