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The Discovery of New Zealand

B. The Account of Cook's Visit By Te Horeta Taniwha

B. The Account of Cook's Visit By Te Horeta Taniwha

[White, Ancient History of the Maori, Vol. V, pp. 121-8. The version of these Maori reminiscences printed by White is the longest and the fullest, though the story was first taken down at Lieutenant-Governor Wynyard's direction at Coromandel during the gold-field negotiations with the natives in 1852. White gives the chief's name as Hore-ta-te-Taniwha; perhaps strictly it should be Te Horeta te Taniwha. Heaphy, the gold-field warden, who printed in Chapman's New Zealand Magazine (1862), pp. 4-7, a briefer version, calls him simply Taniwha. He was more familiarly known to the pakeha diggers as 'Old Hooknose'. Scholefield, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, has a short article on his career.

I have omitted White's parenthetical explanatory words where they do not seem called for, and one passage on later European ships in the neighbourhood. It should be noted that he uses the word 'mat' where we should say, more properly, 'cloak'.]

'In the days long past, when I was a very little boy, a vessel came page 89to Whitianga. Our tribe was living there at that time. We did not live there as our permanent home, but were there according to our custom of living for some time on each of our blocks of land, to keep our claim to each, and that our fire might be kept alight on each block, so that it might not be taken from us by some other tribe.1

'We lived at Whitianga, and a vessel came there, and when our old men saw the ship they said it was a tupua, a god,2 and the people on board were strange beings. The ship came to anchor, and the boats pulled on shore. As our old men looked at the manner in which they came on shore, the rowers pulling with their backs to the bows of the boat, the old people said, "Yes, it is so: these people are goblins; their eyes are at the back of their heads; they pull on shore with their backs to the land to which they are going." When these goblins came on shore we (the children and women) took notice of them, but we ran away from them into the forest, and the warriors alone stayed in the presence of those goblins; but, as the goblins stayed some time, and did not do any evil to our braves, we came back one by one, and gazed at them, and we stroked their garments with our hands, and we were pleased with the whiteness of their skins and the blue eyes of some of them.

'These goblins began to gather oysters, and we gave some kumara, fish, and fern-root to them. These they accepted, and we (the women and children) began to roast cockles for them; and as we saw that these goblins were eating kumara, fish, and cockles, we were startled, and said, "Perhaps they are not goblins like the Maori goblins." These goblins went into the forest, and also climbed up the hill to our pa at Whitianga. They collected grasses from the cliffs, and kept knocking at the stones on the beach, and we said, "Why are these acts done by these goblins?" We and the women gathered stones and grass of all sorts, and gave to these goblins. Some of the stones they liked, and put them into their bags, the rest they threw away; and when we gave them the grass and branches of trees they stood and talked to us, or they uttered the words of their language. Perhaps they were asking questions, and, as we did not know their language, we laughed, and these goblins also laughed, so we were pleased. The warriors and old men of our tribe sat in silence and gazed at these goblins. So these goblins ate the food we had presented to them, with some relish they had brought on shore with them, and then we went up the Whitianga River with them. Now, some of the

1 This accounts for the absence of permanent habitations near Cook's anchorage commented upon by him.

2 White supplies the parenthetical gloss, 'some unknown thing'. Tupua is defined in the latest edition of h w Williams's Maori dictionary as (inter alia) 'Goblin, demon, object of terror'; and, as an adjective, 'strange'.

page 90goblins had walking-sticks which they carried about with them, and when we arrived at the bare dead trees where the shags roost at night and have their nests, the goblins lifted the walking-sticks up and pointed them at the birds, and in a short time thunder was heard to crash and a flash of lightning was seen, and a shag fell from the trees; and we children were terrified, and fled, and rushed into the forest, and left the goblins all alone. They laughed, and waved their hands to us, and in a short time the bravest of us went back to where the goblins were, and handled the bird, and saw that it was dead. But what had killed it? Our old people waited in suspicion, and went back to the settlement, as also did the goblins. We were now at quiet and peace with them, and they gave us some of the food they had brought on shore with them. Some of this food was very hard, but it was sweet. Some of our old people said it was punga-punga 1 from the land from which these goblins came. They gave us some fat food, which the same old people of our tribe said was the flesh of whales; but the saltness of this food nipped our throats, and we did not care for such fat food.

'After the ship had been lying at anchor some time, some of our warriors went on board, and saw many things there. When they came on shore, they gave our people an account of what they had seen. This made many of us desirous to go and see the home of the goblins. I went with the others; but I was a very little fellow in those days, so some of us boys went in the company of the warriors. Some of my playmates were afraid, and stayed on shore. When we got on board the ship we were welcomed by the goblins, whom our warriors answered in our language. We sat on the deck of the ship, where we were looked at by the goblins, who with their hands stroked our mats and the hair of the heads of us children; at the same time they made much gabbling noise in talking, which we thought was questions regarding our mats and the sharks' teeth we wore in our ears, and the hei-tiki we wore suspended on our chests; but as we could not understand them we laughed, and they laughed also. They held some garments up and showed them to us, touching ours at the same time; so we gave our mats for their mats, to which some of our warriors said "Ka pai", which words were repeated by some of the goblins, at which we laughed, and were joined in the laugh by the goblins.

'There was one supreme man in that ship. We knew that he was the lord of the whole by his perfect gentlemanly and noble demeanour. He seldom spoke, but some of the goblins spoke much. But this man did not utter many words: all that he did was to handle

1 Pumice-stone. It was ship's biscuit, or 'bread'.

page 91our mats and hold our mere, spears, and wahaika, 1 and touch the hair of our heads. He was a very good man, and came to us—the children—and patted our cheeks, and gently touched our heads. His language was a hissing sound, and the words he spoke were not understood by us in the least. We had not been long on board the ship before this lord of these goblins made a speech, and took some charcoal and made marks on the deck of the ship, and pointed to the shore and looked at our warriors. One of our aged men said to our people, "He is asking for an outline of this land"; and that old man stood up, took the charcoal, and marked the outline of Te Ika-a-Maui. And the old chief spoke to that chief goblin, and explained the chart he had drawn. The other goblins and our people sat still and looked at the two who were engaged with the chart marked with charcoal on the deck. After some time the chief goblin took some white stuff, on which he made a copy of what the old chief had made on the deck, and then spoke to the old chief. The old chief explained the situation of the Reinga2 at the North Cape; but, as the goblin chief did not appear to understand, the old chief lay down on the deck as if dead, and then pointed to the Reinga as drawn by him in the plan. But the goblin chief turned and spoke to his companions, and, after they had talked for some time, they all looked at the map which the old chief had drawn on the deck; but the goblins did not appear to understand anything about the world of spirits spoken of by the old chief, so they scattered about the deck of the ship.3
'I and my two boy-companions did not walk about on board of the ship—we were afraid lest we should be bewitched by the goblins; and we sat still and looked at everything we saw at the home of these goblins. When the chief goblin had been away in that part of their ship which he occupied, he came up on deck again and came to where I and my two boy-companions were, and patted our heads with his hand, and he put his hand out towards me and spoke to us at the same time, holding a nail out towards us. My companions were afraid, and sat in silence; but I laughed, and he gave the nail to me. I took it into my hand and said "Ka pai" ["very good"], and he repeated my words, and again patted our heads with his hand, and went away. My companions said, "This is the leader of the ship,

1 The wahaika, like the mere, was a short striking weapon of the patu class.

2 Te Reinga, a rocky promontory near the North Cape whence departed spirits leapt into the ocean on their path to the underworld; sometimes the abode of the spirits itself.

3 This episode of the chart is not mentioned by Cook or Banks, and it seems extremely unlikely that it happened. It was not the sort of thing that Cook could have passed by without remark.

page 92which is proved by his kindness to us; and also he is so very fond of children. A noble man—one of noble birth—cannot be lost in a crowd." I took my nail, and kept it with great care, and carried it with me wherever I went, and made it fit to the point of my spear, and also used it to make holes in the side-boards of canoes, to bind them on to the canoe. I kept this nail till one day I was in a canoe and she capsized in the sea, and my god1 was lost to me.

'The goblin chief took some of his own things and went with them to our old chief, and gave him two handfuls of what we now know were seed-potatoes. At that time we thought they were parareka,2 and we called them by this name, as the things he gave to the old man were not unlike the bulb of the parareka, or like the lower end of that fern, at the part where it holds to the stem of the fern-tree. The old chief took the gift and planted it, and we have partaken of potatoes every year since that time. These things were first planted at a place in the Wairoa called the Hunua, half-way between Drury and the Taupo settlement, east of the entrance of the river Wairoa, opposite the island of Waiheke; and the old chief to whom the potatoes were given was of the Nga-ti-pou tribe, who occupied the Drury district at that time.

'After these parareka had been planted for three years, and there was a good quantity of them, a feast was given, at which some of the potatoes were eaten, and then a general distribution of seed parareka was made amongst the tribes of Waikato and Hauraki.

'The Nga-puhi tribes say they had the potato before any other tribes of New Zealand. This assertion is a fiction: we, the tribes of the Thames, first had potatoes, as we can show that even at this day the potato grows of its own accord in the Hunua district, from the fact that in the days of old the pa at the Hunua was attacked by a war-party, the pa was taken, all the people killed and eaten, their bones were broken and knocked like nails into the posts of the storehouses at their own home, and the place was sacred for a long time, not any one daring to go there, and was quite forsaken for years, but potatoes continued to grow there of their own accord on the banks of the streams, where the soil is carried by the freshes in the creeks, and potatoes are to be obtained there at this day. . . .

'One of our tribe was killed by the goblins who first came to Whitianga. We—that is, our people—went again and again to that ship to sell fish, or mats, or anything that we Maori had to sell; and one day one of our canoes, in which were nine persons, paddled off

1 i.e. the nail.

2 The large horse-shoe fern, Marattia salicina, cultivated for its starchy rhizome, which was eaten.

page 93to the ship; but one of that nine was a noted thief,1 and this man took a dogskin mat to sell to the goblins. There were five of them at the stern of the canoe and four in the bow, and this thief was with those in the stern. When they got alongside of the ship, the goblin who collected shells, flowers, tree-blossoms, and stones was looking over the side.2 He held up the end of a garment which he would give in exchange for the dogskin mat belonging to this noted thief; so the thief waved with his hand to the goblin to let some of it down into the canoe, which the goblin did; and, as the goblin let some of it down into the canoe the thief kept pulling it towards him. When the thief had got a long length of the goblin's garment before him, the goblin cut his garment, and beckoned with his hand to the man to give the dogskin mat up to him; but the thief did not utter a word, and began to fold up the dogskin mat with the goblin's garment into one bundle, and told his companions to paddle to the shore. They paddled away. The goblin went down into the hold of the ship, but soon came up with a walking-stick in his hand, and pointed with it at the canoe which was paddling away. Thunder pealed and lightning flashed, but those in the canoe paddled on. When they landed eight rose to leave the canoe, but the thief sat still with his dogskin mat and the garment of the goblin under his feet. His companions called to him, but he did not answer. One of them went and shook him, and the thief fell back into the hold of the canoe, and blood was seen on his clothing and a hole in his back. He was carried to the settlement and a meeting of the people called to consult on the matter, at which his companions told the tale of the theft of the goblin's garment; and the people said, "He was the cause of his own death, and it will not be right to avenge him. All the payment he will obtain for his death will be the goblin's garment which he has stolen, which shall be left to bind around his body where it is laid." His body was taken and put into one of the ancient cave burial-places. Not any evil came from this death, and we again went to barter with the goblins of that ship, and the goblins came again and again on shore, nor was there one evil word spoken, or any act of transgression on our part for that death.'