Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Maori - Volume I


page xiii


The science of anthropology is one that has made great strides within the past thirty years, and increasing numbers of people continue to take up the study of man. This has naturally led to a demand for works describing the customs, arts and institutions of savage and barbaric man. Data on these subjects, if collected by responsible persons, are always welcomed by ethnographers. This quickening interest in the subject has led to the collection of much additional matter pertaining to races and tribes concerning whom many works had already been published. A marked feature in many of the later anthropological works is the attention given to detail, combined with a more methodical and scientific manner of compilation.

The Polynesian race, though not important so far as numbers are concerned, is one that deeply interests anthropologists. Although it was found occupying a very large area of the Pacific Ocean, yet its many island communities have been isolated for centuries. Such isolation was with regard to other races; there has been much intercourse at various periods between different islands and groups. The Melanesian folk of the western Pacific area is the only foreign race that the Polynesian has come into contact with for many centuries. The fair-skinned Polynesian would acquire few arts from such a people, and he despised them on account of their colour. Maori tradition shows that their ancestors have encountered the dark-skinned western islanders, and such traditions always refer to the inferior culture or appearance of the black race. Some Melanesian tribes, as those of parts of the New Hebrides, might well have given rise to such a pronouncement, while others had, in certain ways, advanced further than the Polynesian. As an example one may mention the pottery making of Fiji.

Perhaps the most interesting subject connected with the Polynesian is his mentality, and it is one that will be illustrated by the matter contained in the following chapters. For the mythopoetic mentality of the people of the Many Isled Sea page xiv has led them to evolve a very remarkable mythology, and a singularly pure concept of the Supreme Being.

The Maori of New Zealand is a member of the far-spread Polynesian race, speaking a dialect of the common tongue that is spoken from the Chatham Isles to the Sandwich or Hawaiian Group, and from Easter Island to the eastern bounds of Melanesia, and beyond. For Polynesian colonies are found far within Melanesia, at Futuna, at Tikopia, at Taumako, at Rennel Island, at Ontong-java, and elsewhere. At Nukuoro, or Monteverde Island, in the far-off Caroline Group, we find a Polynesian community speaking a dialect closely akin to that of New Zealand.

The student of barbaric culture who makes a study of such a people as the Maori finds much to interest him in their lore and institutions. For here, among a people who have been isolated for long centuries, we encounter what may be termed fossilised arts, concepts, and customs that throw much light on that engrossing subject—the development of human culture.

The Polynesian ancestors of the Maori led the way in neolithic deep sea voyaging; no other race we wot of in that culture stage has equalled them as navigators, explorers and colonisers. The Maori genius for personification, and love of allegorical recitals, endow his myths and spiritual concepts with a very marked element of interest. For many years it was the aim of the writer of these rough notes to collect all possible data concerning Maori life in pre-European days, and more especially to endeavour to become acquainted with native mentality. This led to a desire to seek and explain the hidden meaning of their myths and religious beliefs, their personifications, ritual, and cryptic sayings. This matter of close enquiry into such subjects is a much-needed activity; we have, in the past, been far too prone to neglect detail and thoroughness, and the exercise of the critical faculty.

Certain arts, institutions, and artifacts of the Maori are not traceable to Polynesia, and it is possible that these were borrowed from the original settlers of these isles of New Zealand. It is hoped this review of old-time Maori life will be of some service to those who study the development of human institutions, and also not lacking in interest to the general reader.

page xv

The first Polynesian settlement of New Zealand probably occurred about thirty generations ago. A considerable number of voyages to and fro between Polynesia and these isles were made during the next ten generations, many immigrants from Eastern Polynesia settling here. Twenty generations ago a number of vessels arrived here from the Society Group, bringing a fresh influx of settlers. From that time, however, voyages to and from Polynesia appear to have rapidly decreased. The only such expeditions referred to in local tradition, as having taken place during the last sixteen generations, are a few isolated voyages made from these shores to seek the old island home of the race. The last of such took place ten generations ago, since which time the Maori of New Zealand has apparently been isolated in these isles, having no communication with his kinsmen of Polynesia. Such is the position of the Maori, and it will be recognised that, during such a lapse of time, changes in dialect, customs, and institutions may well have taken place.