The Maori - Volume II
XVIII Forest Lore and Woodcraft
XVIII Forest Lore and Woodcraft
Effect of forest life on barbaric man—Origin of trees in Maori myth—The Maori and the forest—Trees and man sprang from a common progenitor—Sex in trees—Origin of birds—Guardians of plant life—New Zealand originally one great forest—Vegetable growth personified—Mythical denizens of the forest—Tapu of forest—Punaweko represents forest birds and Hurumanu sea birds—Rehua connected with forest—Tapu birds—Birds exceedingly numerous—Mauri of forest protects its life principle, and retains birds—Birds attracted to a forest by magic—How birds were taken—The pigeon—Game laws—Polack lulls the pigeon to sleep!—The Maori could not catch birds, quoth Wilkes, U.S.N.!—The whare mata—Tapu pertains to important pursuits—Bird snaring—Expert tree climbers are food for roots!—The taumatua, tutu, and kaihua trees—Snares set at drinking places—Charms repeated by fowlers—Water troughs for snaring—Bird spearing—Human bones and gridirons in request—Loose feathers cause birds to leave forest—The tautawhi ceremony—The bush parrot—Women and parrots—Modes of taking parrots—Decoy birds—The mutu—The tui or parson bird—Birds taken by hand on frosty nights—The tui taught to speak Maori—Small birds, how taken—The parrakeet—The korapa trap—The ground parrot and its singular habits—Dogs trained to catch birds—The woodhen a kleptomaniac—The kiwi hunted with dogs—The hawk connected with fire—The mutton bird—How Rua-kapanga captured the giant moa—Use of call leaf by fowlers—Tree climbing—How birds were preserved—The ahi matiti—Ceremonial return of fowlers from forest—The tuneful clamour of the Māra o Tane—The native rat—Rat trapping—Pit traps—Trappers under tapu—Peculiar restrictions—The rat as a swimmer—The passing of Punaweko.
We have now to consider the Maori in connection with the forest and its products. As in the case of all peoples of inferior culture, a long sojourn in wooded lands has produced a considerable effect on the mentality of the Maori folk. This fact is, of course, most easily discernible in the folk lore and mythology of the people, which have already come within page 452 our purview. It would appear that the Polynesians have dwelt for a lengthy period in forest-clad regions, to judge from evidence met with in their superior myths; such evidence, for example, as the partially developed concept of the cosmogonic tree.
It will be well to commence our enquiry by seeking the origin of forests, and this quest leads us back to the origin of man and many other forms of life, inasmuch as all sprang from Tane the Fertiliser. Tane, the personified form of the sun, it was who fertilised the Earth Mother, and so produced the ira tangata, mortal man, in the form of the first woman, and also all vegetation. That vegetation represents the clothing of the Earth Mother, by means of which her nakedness was covered. In like manner Hine-kapua, the Cloud Maid, daughter of Tane, and the Cloud Children, covered the nakedness of Rangi, the Sky Parent.
The expression Te wao tapu nui a Tane is applied to the forest; it is the tapu realm of the Fertiliser. Hence the oldtime Maori looked upon it, and upon trees in general, with different eyes from ours. When the Maori entered a forest he felt that he was among his own kindred, for had not trees and man a common origin, both being the offspring of Tane. Hence he was among his own folk as it were, and that forest possessed a tapu life principle even as man does. Thus, when the Maori wished to fell a tree wherefrom to fashion a canoe or house timbers, for two reasons he was compelled to perform a placatory rite ere he could slay one of the offspring of Tane. He saw in the majestic trees living creatures of an elder branch of the great family; he felt the strange, old-world influences that spring from a belief in animatism; he heard the voices of unseen beings in the rustling of branches, in whispering winds, in the sound of rushing waters. These children of fancy had a marked effect on his mentality; their offspring are seen in the quaint creations of his mythopoetic mind.
As the parent of trees Tane is known as Tane-mahuta. As the origin of birds he is Tane-mataahi. Each of his twelve names has its special signification.
Tane is often spoken of as though he were the origin of all life, but in some accounts some forms of life, insects, etc., page 453 are said to have been evolved by other members of the primal offspring at the time when they were striving to beget woman.
When Tane first produced the forest he placed therein a male and female of all species of trees, shrubs and plants. He then waited for them to produce their kind, but waited in vain; they produced blossoms only, or seeds and berries were infertile. Then Tupai said to Tane: “The fertility of the forest is at fault; you must seek Te Rara-taunga-rere.” This name seems to represent the fertility of the vegetable kingdom, apparently a personified form of that quality. His care is the fertility of all forms of seeds. Tane acted on the advice of Tupai, and then all was well; the forest became fruitful.
In another of these old myths we see that Tane took to wife one Parauri, who produced the bell-bird, the crow, and the parson-bird. These birds were fed on various substances, but did not thrive thereon, hence they were fed on the products of the heads of their relatives, of Miro, and Maire, and Mako, and others. (These are names of trees the berries of which are eaten by birds). Now they throve, and Tane set about the recital of a formula by means of which the fertility and productiveness of trees should be rendered permanent. Then Tane breathed on the forest, and behold! its fertility and healthfulness were assured. Thus the offspring of Tane, and Parauri, and Punaweko (i.e., birds) acquired a permanent food supply. Then Tane appointed Parauri, and Punaweko, and Tiwhaia as guardians of the birds of the forest. The superior guardians appointed by command of Io the Supreme One to protect the fertility and welfare of forests, all plant life, as also birds, fish, insects, and other things, were Tane-te-hokahoka, Tangai-waho, and Rongo-marae-roa.
We have already seen how it was that Tane came to produce trees. In his search for the female element by means of which man was to be generated, he cohabited with many supernormal beings, who produced various species of trees. Thus it was that trees appeared and plant life took possession of the body of Papa, the Earth Mother.
The Maori is persistent in stating that trees are endowed with sex, and, in a few cases, he has applied different names to the two sexes.page 454
Native tradition asserts that, when the Maori first arrived on these shores, the whole country was covered with forest save some sterile places and mountain peaks. Certainly remains of forests have been noted in many areas where no such growth has been seen by Europeans, in some places buried beneath volcanic deposits. hine-rau-wharangi, daughter of Tane, who personifies growth in the vegetable world, has assuredly performed her duties well in these isles, hence the tropical aspect of our forests that teem with many species of ferns and epiphytes, and where the nikau palm grows almost within sight of great glaciers.
As is usual with a barbaric folk dwelling in a land of forests, the Maori peopled those forests with many mythical creatures—fairies, wood elves, and monsters. Also he tells us of another folk he calls Tini o Te Hākuturi (The multitude of the Hakuturi), and this name denotes the many species of forest birds, creatures that enter into many myths and folk tales of our native people. You will remember how the Hakuturi folk re-erected the tree felled by Rata because he had not placated the forest deities ere felling it. Also you are doubtless aware that the long fronds of the mamaku tree fern acquired a drooping habit on account of those Hakuturi folk resting on them, and that the rata tree grows in a leaning manner because the huge moa trampled on it in the days of long ago.
We can now see that it is meet that a modicum of tapu should ever pertain to the forest, for trees are kin to man; both sprang from a single source, Tane the Fertiliser. The forest was specially tapu during the fowling season, and great care was displayed in former times to prevent that tapu condition being polluted. Thus persons engaged in snaring birds might not carry any cooked food into or about the forest. When encamped in the forest they might cook birds or other food at that camp, but would have to eat such food in camp, and not carry it about. To cook food out in the forest, away from the camp, would be a taiki, a belittling of the gods. The forest would be tamaoatia or polluted, its tapu desecrated, and many evils would result. All luck would desert the fowlers, and indeed the birds would desert the forest and migrate to page 455 another district. The writer has been told by natives of various cases in which birds have so been driven out of tribal forests. To all such accounts he listened with the gravity that is so necessary in a collector of ethnographical data.
This explanation of the tapu of a forest will also assist the reader to understand the peculiar institution and ceremony termed uruuru whenua that has already been alluded to.
It has been noted that several other beings besides Tane are connected with birds, for Punaweko represents all forest birds and Hurumanu all sea birds, while one Tane-i-te hokahoka represents the harrier and sparrow hawk. These mythical beings seem to be personifications rather than originating beings. In the Whanganui district Tane-i-te-rere represents birds, Tane-i-te-wao represents forests, and Tane-i-te-whaka-piripiri represents houses, the materials for which are collected in various places and assembled and put together, hence whakapiri. Rehua is alluded to as the origin of the parson bird, but then rehua or lehua seems to have been an old Polynesian word for “forest,” and Rehua seems to have represented forests or trees. Birds are said to have eaten the parasites of the head of Rehua; such parasites, we are told, were the berries of trees.
Huru-te-arangi and Raka-maomao, who represent wind, are connected with all tapu birds. We have noted the fact that certain birds employed in rites were viewed as being tapu. The huia and kotuku (heron) are sometimes alluded to as tapu birds, as also the amokura, or tropic-bird, presumably because their plumes were highly prized. The Maori has also preserved the names of several birds of his former home in the Pacific that were prized for their plumes, such as the kura-a-rangi, koreke-rangi, and taputu-rangi. The manu teko of Whanganui folk lore is a tapu bird, apparently mythical, that, if killed, could not be eaten without great danger, unless a certain placatory rite was performed ere it was cooked. Otherwise the offender would be carried off by strange forest denizens to the wild region of Mt. Ruapehu, there to perish miserably.
Certain superstitions were connected with some real birds also. To see an albino parson bird (tui) was deemed a most page 456 unlucky occurence in some districts. Certain cries of the owl were also ominous. Auguries were derived from the cries and actions of birds. We have already scanned evidence as to the employment of birds in divers rites.
Many statements have been recorded as to the great numbers of birds formerly existing in our forests. Cook and other early writers speak of the melody of countless bell birds and tui (parson birds) as heard by them. Early settlers have spoken of the clamour of sound caused by innumerable birds in the early morning in former years. That clamorous morning concert is termed the māra o Tane, a very peculiar expression. Of this concert Banks wrote: “They seemed to strain their throats with emulation, and made, perhaps, the most melodious wild music I have ever heard, almost imitating small bells, but with the most tunable silver sound imaginable.”
The melodious clamour of the māra o Tane is no longer heard in our forests when Tane himself appears in the reddened east, and the forest of Tane itself has largely disappeared, torn from the breast of Papa the Earth Mother by an intrusive and utilitarian people.
Inasmuch as the forest was under strict tapu during the fowling season, and also on account of animistic beliefs already explained, it follows that all forests were provided with a material mauri, a talisman that retained the powers of the gods holding sway over the forest. This object was often a stone. I remember the forest mauri of Maunga-pohatu as a waterworn stone resembling an elongated dumbbell in form. In the Waiapu district is a small hill named Taupanui, on which stood a mapau tree. This was the mauri of the district, and we are told that the hill resembles a bird in form. This place is said to have been frequently visited by flocks of birds. The native belief evidently is that birds recognise such a mauri, and so frequent the vicinity. Ceremonies were performed on that hill, and offerings of branchlets were deposited on it.
If it was seen that birds were becoming scarce in a forest, then it was known that something was wrong with the talismanic mauri; it had gone to sleep. Then an expert would proceed to awaken it by reciting certain charms over it, and so page 457 cause it to attend to its work. For all ceremonies performed for the purpose of rendering the forest fruitful take place at the mauri of the forest; it serves as a shrine for the protective gods, as a medium between the ceremonial and the gods, and as a token of mana. It protects the fertility and productiveness of the forest. It retains and attracts the birds of the forest.
Any forest or part of a forest famed for its abundance of fruit-bearing trees resorted to by birds is termed a whenua pua, a fruitful land. Such places were famous and far known in olden times; hence such sayings as: “Te Weraiti umu tahu noa.” This saying pertains to a place at Rua-tahuna famed for the abundance of birds that frequented it in former times. At that place the ovens might be found full at any time, so abundant were food supplies. On the east coast was no more famous a place than Te Pua a Te Roku, in the Waiapu district. There stood the well-known rakau taeke or snaring tree known as Te Ikikaha, a toromiro tree that kept ten men busy in setting and attending to snares on its many far-flung branches.
Experts would attract birds to a forest by means of a ceremony called tiepa, which included the recitation of a potent charm. The term tiepa, means “to conciliate,” as also does whakaepa. If birds were heard leaving the forest, the sound of the flocks of birds heard at night or dawn, then it was known that some person of another district had been performing the tiepa. Then an expert would go forth and call upon Tane to stay the exodus of the birds, in the words: “Tane-e! Puritia! Tawhia!” (O Tane! Hold them! Restrain them!)
We will now see how the Maori fowler practised his arts in the forest of Tane, how he snared, speared and trapped Punaweko in lofty trees and along the forest brooks, and we will commence our task by scanning the methods of taking the large wood pigeon (Hemiphaga Novœ Zealandiœ).
The season for taking pigeons began in late autumn. Prior to that time adepts would scan the food producing trees to note the food supply upon which depended the numbers of birds that would frequent the forest. Not but what birds were also taken at other times; for example, the pigeon, when feed- page 458 ing on the berries of the tawa tree about December, also the kaka parrot and the tui when feeding on the nectar (wai kaihua) of rata blossoms about Christmas. In not a few cases the fruiting of a special tree was accepted as a sign of the fruitfulness of a forest. A famed pine tree in the Makauri bush, near Gisborne, was always closely examined. If the greater part of its fruit appeared on its seaward side the fact betokened a good season for fishermen, but a poor one for the fowler. If fruiting conditions were reversed, then fowlers would be fortunate and fishermen the reverse.
If the parents of our fowler were members of different communities he would be allowed to take game on lands in which each parent was interested, so long as he had resided with both communities and had been recognised by both as a fellow clansman. Any trespass by an unauthorised person for the purpose of taking game was strongly resented. Many such trespassers have been slain. Special permission was necessary in such cases.
We will commence our account of taking the pigeon by a statement as to how it was not done. Polack, an industrious but somewhat erratic writer of the early part of last century, tells us with great gravity that the pigeon was attracted by means of a call leaf until it was quite close to the fowler. The fowler then lulled it to sleep by means of similar sounds, which caused the docile bird to nestle its head under its wing, when it was “easily killed by a pointed stick of hardwood being thrown at it!” Truly one yearns to ask a few questions anent this marvellous procedure. Another highly intelligent visitor, Commander Wilkes, U.S.N., came to the conclusion that the Maori had no way of taking birds prior to the introduction of firearms!
The widely-used and ordinary methods of taking the pigeon were snaring and spearing. Now all the various arts of the fowler are said to pertain to the whare mata, or whare takaha, as it is termed on the east coast. This is said to be a house or hut in which were made and stored all forms of implements employed in taking birds, but it had come to be used in an emblematical manner as denoting the arts and implements of the fowler. We have seen that the term whare tapere was page 459 used in the same figurative manner in connection with games and pastimes.
There was a certain amount of tapu pertaining to the making of snares and other implements, more especially among inland, forest dwelling natives, who relied so much on the forest for their food supplies. Men prepared these implements in the whare mata or at some place to which women were not admitted. Snares for pigeons and most other birds were fashioned from strips of leaves of Cordyline australis, the fibre of which is stronger and also more durable than that of Phormium tenax. These strips of leaf are called rau huka. In a peculiar ceremony performed to placate the gods and ensure good luck, some of these leaf strips were cast into a fire called the ahi taitai, or ahi rau huka, as a charm was being recited. The act of forming the strips into snares is described by the terms rapiko, tapiko, kopiko and whapiko. The strips were suspended in the smoke of a wood fire to give them an old appearance and render them more durable. The snare is a mahanga as a whole, the slip noose is tari, and a series of snares set on a tree is tahei. The owl, parrakeet and woodhen were taken by means of a slip noose on the end of a rod. Occasionally the kaka was taken in this way. Snares are also termed taeke, tahere, kaha, and pihere, which words are also used as verbs. Tahere also denotes a bird spear. On the east coast it seems to equal tari (the verb) that is the placing of a noose over the head of a bird by means of a stick.
These snares were fastened to a cord so that they were set close together. These cords were taken to the snaring places and secured to branches in the tree tops and at the outer ends of the branches. They were stretched taut and secured to two branches, or to rods lashed to branches, so that the row of snares was horizontal. The cord to which the snares are secured by one end, leaving the slip noose free, is the taiki or tahuhu. The snares may be so arranged as to be parallel and close to a fairly straight branch, or a perch (rongohua) may be lashed to branches and the snares so arranged near and just above it as to catch birds on the perch. The first bird taken was utilised as an offering to the gods. As such it page 460 might be either cast away, suspended on a tree, or be ceremonially eaten by a female of the elder branch of a leading family. This latter act would take some of the tapu off the forest, and so enable women to enter it and take part in the various operations. Snares were examined at least once a day, more often when the birds were numerous, the snared birds removed, and snares reset. Women sometimes engaged in this task, being assigned such trees as were easily ascended. Hence the many trees rejoicing in such names as Piki-wahine and Kake-wahine, which names denote that they were climbed by women.
The pae, paerangi, or rongohua (perching rods) had to be put far out on the branches of a tree at or near where the berries of the tree were. They were sometimes tied to short rods called turuturu lashed to the branches. The distance between the perch rod and the lower end of the suspended snares was regulated by the first two joints of the middle finger. Leaves of the narrow leaf variety of Cordyline australis, called kouka tarariki, are the best for snares; those of the kouka wharanui, or broad leaf variety, are said to be less strong. In some cases the perch had short upright pieces lashed to it, to which the tahu sustaining the snares were secured. This complete and portable paerangi was thrust out endwise, so that its end extended out beyond the fruit-bearing branchlets. It would be drawn in by the fowler when visiting his snares, the captured birds taken, the snares rearranged, and the apparatus launched out again and lashed to branches.
This clambering out on the branches of a tree, maybe eighty feet from the ground in the case of white pine trees, was passing dangerous, hence the old fowler's aphorism: “He toa piki rakau he kai na te pakiaka” (A tree-climbing expert is food for roots). In some cases a man would take up a rope or hooked pole and use it to render safe a dubious branch by connecting it with a stronger one above it. These men were intrepid tree climbers.
A tree on which birds were taken by means of snares was called taumatua. One on which they were taken by the mutu, or snaring perch, was styled a tutu; while a tree on which birds were speared was termed a kaihua. The old saying: page 461 “He toka hapuku ki te moana, he kaihua ki uta” (a cod rock (bank) at sea, a kaihua on land) implies that both are prolific sources of food supplies.
The miro and white pine were the most important of taumatua or snaring trees, but snares were set to a minor extent on matai, rimu, white maire, and some others, including the small species rohutu, fuchsia, Coprosma and poporo (Solanum). Snares were also sometimes set on trees that produced no bird food, because birds settled on them if they grew above other and food producing trees. Snares were not set for pigeons on the rata (Metrosideros) because that bird is not a honey eater, but the parson bird and brown parrot are taken on that tree. Snares were fixed on Cordyline trees for taking the pigeon. When pigeons take to eating leaves of the kowhai they become thin and distasteful; on the berries of the miro (Podocarpus ferrugineus) they wax fat.
On the east coast the term karoro-uri is applied to a pigeon with dark-coloured plumage, while one with light-coloured plumage is karoro-tea. Occasionally one is seen of a peculiar speckled appearance; these are karoro-tangi-arau.
Another method of taking the pigeon is one often styled waituhi, and this denotes the setting of snares at water. The berries of the miro are the favourite food of the pigeon, but the eating of them causes the bird to seek the nearest water to drink thereat. Hence the Maori fowler set many snares at brooks near such trees. His plan was to cover the surface of the rivulet with fronds of tree ferns, etc., but to leave certain clear spaces whereat the thirsty birds might drink. Around those spaces he set his snares so closely that a bird could not put its head down to the water without putting it into a noose. A rod laid down in a horizontal position as an alighting place for the birds enabled the fowler to set his snares evenly.
Trespass on such snaring places by outsiders during the season was looked upon as bad form, to put it mildly. Should a man, in wandering through the forest, chance upon such a place set with snares, he would just break off a branch and leave it in a conspicuous place, and pass on. In olden days great numbers of birds were taken at such snaring places, waituhi and wai taeke. The first of these terms is applied by page 462 Tuhoe only to water found in pools on a rock surface, or on logs, at which snares were also set, such pools being termed wai poka taringa by east coast natives, who also style a snaring tree a rakau taeke. A rakau tipapa is a tree on which birds frequently settle in numbers. Tipapa kereru denotes a flock of pigeons. The Whanganui natives apply the term wai tumu to a stream or pool at which snares are set, but at Waikato tumu denotes a snare perch for taking the kaka parrot, and waituhi a water trough set with snares for taking pigeons.
A charm called tauhinu was repeated by fowlers in the Waiapu district when about to take the birds from a set of snares. They would leave camp at dawn to make the first visit to the snares. Old fowlers have told me that, when attending to snares at a creek, they have occasionally had pigeons settle on their shoulders. This bird was one of the least shy in the days when the shot gun was little used, or not at all.
Now the Maori not only set snares at creeks and pools as described; he also took the water to the birds, to their feeding places on the hills. He hewed out wooden troughs about four to six feet in length and eight or nine inches wide. These were put in suitable places, filled with water, and then snares were arranged on both sides, so that a bird alighting on the edge of the trough in order to drink could not do so without putting its head in a snare. The troughs were placed up on trees, or on a couple of posts set up by the fowler. Occasionally a trough or hole was hewn in a big root or a log and filled with water. These snare-set troughs are called waka kereru, and are for taking pigeons, though occasionally other birds would be caught on them. In pre-European times bark troughs were much used.
Two waka kereru—troughs filled with water and set with snares for taking wood pigeons.
H. Hamilton photo
The pigeon was often taken by means of a spear called tao manu, taoroa, tao kaihua, here, tahere, tari and rawhi; a short form was called maiere by the Tuhoe folk. Some of these spears were thirty feet in length. Its butt end is called the hoehoe; the matahere is the end to which the barbed point (tara, makoi) is fixed. The longer spears were used when taking birds on the larger trees, usually the pigeon. These implements often rejoiced in the possession of special names. The barbed points were fashioned from hardwood such as mapara, whale's bone, human bone, and, very rarely, of greenstone (nephrite). Temporary ones were sometimes fashioned from katote, the hard part of the trunk of a tree fern. The natives of the Wellington district are said by the late Colonel Heaphy to have fitted these spears with points easily detachable, but secured to the shaft by means of a short lanyard. When a bird was impaled its struggles caused the point to come off, but it fell merely the length of the lanyard. This was an uncommon usage. The points were generally lashed on to the shaft with a two strand form of lashing called taimanga. A vegetable gum was smeared over the lashing to preserve it.
When a point of human bone was used, and a bird, when speared, made a great commotion, it was known that the man who provided the spear point had been but a poor fellow possessing no courage. When traders were located on the coast of the Bay of Plenty many years ago natives eagerly bought gridirons from them, and fashioned from their bars fine points for their bird spears. Bones of the albatross were occasionally used as points.
Bone points of bird spears.
H. Hamilton photo
Fowlers concealed their catches, putting the birds into a hole and covering them with brush, lest the living birds see their dead kin and so become shy, or perchance desert the forest. Again, feathers were never left lying about the forest, but always buried; even stray feathers seen about snaring trees, streams, etc., were carefully collected and concealed. Young folk were trained not to scatter feathers about. All this on account of a belief that birds would leave the district if they saw such feathers. This also is the reason why no person might carry cooked food in the forest; it would defile the talismanic mauri and tapu, and banish the birds. If visitors to a village during the snaring season are given uncooked birds to take home, they must, ere leaving, return one of those birds to the village people as a tautāwhi, that is as a something to retain the birds of the adjacent forest. The person who receives the one bird repeats over it the words: “Puritia a uta, puritia a tai, puritia a Tane.” This act and charm will have the desired effect.
Men engaged in spearing and trapping birds up among the branches of trees were wont to construct platforms wherefrom to manipulate the spear and the mutu perches, of which more anon. Occasionally the timbers of such platforms showed some carved designs.
East coast natives state that pigeons and the kaka parrot were sometimes seen by fishermen out at sea flying landward. The parrots flew high, but the pigeons sometimes settled on fishing canoes, being apparently exhausted. If these reports be correct the birds must have been taking a jaunt seaward. Quien sabe?page 467
To a small extent the pigeon was taken by means of the mutu or single snare perch. Among the Ngati-Kuia folk bird snarers never ate any pigeons during the day so long as the snaring season lasted, but only after the shades of night had fallen.
The kākā, a large bush parrot (Nestor meridionalis) was another bird prized by the Maori, for it also was taken in great numbers. This bird is alluded to as the offspring of Tumātāika. The kaka frequented their feeding grounds (whakarua) in flocks, and each flock is said by natives to have been under the control of a leader, called the tarariki. They are not seen in such numbers nowadays. Occasionally one is seen of unusually bright plumage. These are termed kaka kura. Albinos, rarely seen, are known as tuauru and kaka korako. The male bird is called tataapopo by Tuhoe. The Waiapu natives seem to apply the name of tarariki to the female bird, while the male bird is styled tamaire. This one has the longer beak of the two. A flock of pigeons is a tipapa kereru, a flock of parson birds (koko) is a wiri koko, a flock of ducks (parera) a kawai parera, and a flock of whiteheads (tataeto) a tatataeto. These are names employed by the Tuhoe folk.
The Maori claims to have sometimes found reddish stones in the crops of the kaka, and these stones are called o manapou and o kaka. Other dark-coloured stones, called manatawa, are sometimes found with them, and natives have evolved the belief that these are stones of berries eaten by the bird in some far land from which they have flown to these shores. Some queer beliefs are connected with birds. This parrot nests in hollow trees. Such nesting holes are termed puta kaka and hapoki kaka. Young birds found in these nests were taken for food. If the hole was a deep one an implement called a whakawiri was employed, consisting of a number of loops of Phormium or Cordyline leaf secured to the end of a long stick. This was thrust down the hollow trunk to the nest and twisted round, thus entangling the young birds, which were then pulled up by the fowler. These parrots nest in the same tree year after year, and, when the young are taken for food purposes, it is highly necessary that the ashes of the fire at which they are cooked be taken to the tree and cast into the nest. page 468 If this be not done then the parent birds will desert the nest and never return to it.
Bird names often appear in the innumerable proverbial sayings, aphorisms, etc., of the people, as shown in the following examples:—
“He wahine ki te kainga, he kākā ki te ngahere.” (A woman in the home, a parrot in the forest.) These are the two noisest creatures, says the Maori; both are ever chattering.
“He pakura ki te po, he kākā ki te ngahere.” (A swamp hen at night, a parrot in the forest.) Both mark the passing hours by occasional cries.
“He kākā kai uta, he mangā kai te moana.” (A parrot on land, a barracouta at sea.) They are equally voracious.
“He tutu kākā kai uta, he toka koura ki te moana.” (A parrot snaring tree on land, a crayfish rock at sea.) Both provide much food.
The following seems to show that birds feasting on their favourite food are easily taken:—
“He manu kai kakano e mau, tena he manu kai rakau e kore e mau.” (A berry-eating bird may be caught, but not so a wood (or leaf) eating bird.)
The tamed parrots (kaka) were occasionally taught to speak a few words, but the koko was the species generally utilised for such training.
Now snares were never set for the kaka. Should one be caught in a snare set for other birds then it was assuredly a bad thing for the snare, for the bird soon freed itself with its powerful wood-rending beak. This bird was taken by four methods—the mutu, pae, wero and, occasionally, hopu, or catching by hand. The first of these is a snaring perch, the bird being caught by the legs, and killed as soon as caught. The second method was one of luring, the third was spearing. The catching by hand was done at drinking places at creeks, and also when the birds were moulting and very fat, when they were found seeking food on the ground. When approached, they could not take flight from the ground, but would walk to a tree and clamber up it; at such a time they were easily taken. In this condition they are called kēkētoi. At creeks frequented by the bird a pole was arranged as a page 469 perch for the birds to alight on, and another (called the taki) placed against it in a slanting position, with its lower end in the water. The birds alighted on the pae, or perch, and walked down the slanting pole to the water. Near its base was the fowler concealed in a booth formed of brush or fronds of tree ferns, who caught the birds as they walked past him. All birds were killed by means of biting the head. At this contrivance the birds were also taken by means of the hauhau, or striking method, struck down with a sharp blow from a short rod in the hands of the fowler. No decoy was needed at this watering place, but the same method of striking was adopted away from the water, in which case a decoy bird was needed to attract the birds. The apparatus is often termed pou kaka.
The parrots used as decoys were called mokai and maimoa, as meaning captives, but as decoys were styled tiori, timori and mouti. When a fowler had no decoy bird he would so utilise the first parrot he caught, and such a temporary decoy was styled a tionga, tirore or pakipaki. The fowler would probably secure the bird to a branch or rod over his head, if working in a tree top. To prevent the parrot severing the cord with its beak he would brutally break the beak. The treatment of decoy birds by natives has sometimes led the writer to make incisive remarks that were certainly resented. These temporary decoys that had been placed over the fowler's head as he squatted on his ærial platform, were not taken home with the day's catch; they had been over his tapu head. Neither was the sadly crippled bird killed, but left in the woods to perish miserably. Be it known that the above names were applied to decoy parrots only; decoy birds of smaller species were styled puarere and maimoa. Decoy parrots were often given a bone to gnaw at. While doing so they made sounds that attracted other birds. When used on the earth the decoy would scratch in the leaves and rubbish for food and make the same sounds.
These decoy birds that were kept permanently were secured to perches in the village. A wooden trough was erected, supported on two posts, and rods called hoka were stuck in holes in the side of the trough. The bird had a small ring called a moria, poria, takaore or komore put on one of its legs, and a page 470 short cord attached to this was secured to the hoka. Thus the bird could walk along the horizontal rod, its food being placed in the trough, which, in some cases, had a small roof over it. Occasionally a bird's food was put in a small netted bag called a rohe or torehe, and the captive plucked it out through the meshes. The leg ring was fashioned from human bone (that of a slain enemy), or other bone, sometimes from the midrib of the leaf of Cordyline indivisa, and occasionally from greenstone.
Mutu kaka. Snaring perches for taking the bush parrot.
H. Hamilton photo
The implement termed a mutu by the Tuhoe folk, peke at Waiapu, tuke at Whanganui, and tumu at Waikato, illustrates a peculiar and interesting mode of taking the parrot we are dealing with. Smaller implements of the kind were occasionally employed in taking the pigeon and parson bird (tui, koko). Some of these mutu had grotesque heads carved on them, and a prized one was sometimes given a special name. The mutu may be called a portable snaring perch; the illustration shows its form. This small implement is lashed to a light page 471 rod called a ti-haere and tia-haere; the latter is hooked on to a short pole called a hiwi, pouaka, or turu that is lashed to the branches of a tree top. This pole projects outside the ends of the branches, so that the actual perch (mutu) serves as a convenient alighting place for the parrots that come to feed on the berries of the tree.
The hiwi, or permanently lashed poles to support the snaring apparatus, are secured at many different angles. Thus those at the top of the tree head are vertical; those at the side, level with the ærial platform (papanui) of the operator are horizontal; the intermediate ones are secured at various angles. The vertical ones are called pou tauru. Occasionally a sound, dry branch was used as a support, and this was styled a hiwi ariki.
Now the mutu were so made that the perch projections were at different angles to the shank, so that, at whatever angle the hiwi was secured, a suitable perch was at hand to use on it for the perch itself must be in a horizontal position. Each form of snaring perch (mutu) has its distinctive name, as kira, porae, huanui, a, kapu and hao. The first-named is a peculiar form used on the horizontal poles (hiwi). Those having the perch at right angles to the shank were used on the vertical supporting poles.
A short piece of wood, the pekapeka, is lashed to the shank of the perch for purposes of suspension. Having set the snare the fowler grasps the rod and thrusts it outward, or upward, and hooks the pekapeka crotch over a notch or fork in the end of the hiwi, or supporting pole, and the apparatus is ready for business. The long cord was led to the platform. When all his snares were set, the fowler would proceed to irritate his decoy parrot to make it noisy, or give it a bone to gnaw at, which would have a similar effect. When a bird settled on one of the perches, the fowler grasped the cord of the snare and gave it a quick, sharp tug. This pulled the snare from under the ngingita, caught the bird by the legs and jammed them against the upper part of the shank of the mutu. The offspring of Tu-mataika was now in parlous plight, and its shrieks would serve to attract more parrots to the tree. The fowler kept the strain on the cord, unshipped the rod to which the snaring perch was attached, and took it down. He grasped the bird, killed it with a crunch of his strong teeth, crushing its head, and deposited it on the platform or threw it to the ground. When parrots were numerous, and hungry, a fowler was often kept extremely busy. If several birds settled on perches simultaneously, he would pull each snare, catch the birds, and stand on the cords to keep the strain on the snare, so preventing escape as he dealt with them one by one.
No decoys were employed in taking the pigeon and parson bird, for they would be useless. Certain slight differences are noted in these bird-taking implements, as in different districts, also names of implements often differ.
The parson bird (koko, tui. Prosthemadera novœ zealandiœ) was taken by means of the snare, spear, pewa, striking, and whakamoe methods. Occasionally a small-sized mutu perch was used, which the pewa much resembles. The snaring method (tahei) and spearing methods have already been described. The striking method resembles that by which page 474 the parrot was taken, the birds being attracted by means of a call leaf (pepe) and struck off the perch (pae) with a rod (hauhau). When taking birds in this way the partially concealed fowler holds his striking rod against the end of the perch near his leafy shelter booth. When a bird settles on the perch he strikes it off the perch by means of running his rod quickly along it with a downward motion, the perch acting as a guide. Whichever way the bird is facing the rod will strike it off the perch. These perches were erected near trees frequented by the birds and also at streams where they went to drink. The apparatus is called a pae koko.
The apparatus called a pewa resembles a mutu, as seen in the illustration, but was made of rough pieces of wood with the bark on, and no hiwi was used with it; it was simply hooked on to a branch. It was manipulated as a mutu was, and blossoms of tawhiwhi, a Metrosideros, were tied to the outer end of the perch to attract the bird, which is a honey eater.
The whakamoe method of taking this bird was a peculiar one, for it was practised during the night. The roosting places of the birds were located, and the way to them marked by laying down a series of light-coloured leaves, as those of the rangiora, and the fronds of the silver tree fern, thus making a trail that could easily be followed. Another method was the ara pawhati, marking the way by breaking branches. Two men would set forth on a frosty night, one bearing a torch. On arriving at the roosting place one man held the torch while the other ascended the trees and simply took the birds by hand. At such a time they are said to be so cold that they are helpless; if any fall to the ground they are caught, being unable to fly.
The above method is termed rutu in some parts of the east coast, where we are told that it was often sufficient to strike with a sharp blow the branch that a bird was sitting on, whereupon the bird fell off and was taken by the torch bearer below.
A simple device for snaring birds.
H. Hamilton photo
A fowler would have several of these contrivances set on the poporo shrub, and the cord of each led to his leafy booth. To the end of each cord was secured a short rod pointed at one end, and termed a makamaka. When a bird was caught on one of the perches the fowler kept the cord taut and stuck the makamaka firmly in the earth. The cord (kaha) being taut, the bird could not escape. By such means did the fowler avoid the necessity of going to take each bird as he caught it. When he had caught several he would proceed to take them and reset the snares.
Cook and his companions called the tui the poe bird, because its white “choker,” a bunch of white feathers on the throat, was thought to resemble pearls (poe) worn by Tahitians as pendants. Our early settlers called it the parson bird.
The Tuhoe people call the male tui bird kopurehe, and the female bird kouwha, from the time of the flowering of the fuchsia tree until the time that the hinau tree is in fruit. During the balance of the year the male is called kokouri and the female bird kokotea. In the Waiapu district the male bird seems to be called tataki. The local saying: “Nga koko tataki o Te Akatea” seems to imply noisiness, and is quoted in reference to talkative persons, who are compared with the noisy birds of Te Akatea (a place name). Some of these birds make themselves very busy in driving away other birds that intrude on their feeding grounds (hapua koko), and such quarrelsome birds are styled manu tute.
The Maori states that this bird becomes excessively fat when certain food supplies are plentiful, and that, at such times, it pecks its own body as a relief, to let some of the spare fat exude. The writer must decline to vouch for the truth of this statement.
Inasmuch as the tui is a small bird, fowlers were wont to reckon two birds as one. As birds were counted in braces, a brace of this species consisted of four birds. On suitable trees of large species snares were set in hundreds for this bird. When feeding on berries of the kohe (Dysoxylum spectabile), they get very fat, hence a saying applied to a fat person: page 478 “He koko kai kohe” (A kohe eating koko). Another saying is: “Me he korokoro tui” (Like the throat of a tui—syn. koko); it is quoted when an eloquent person with a melodious voice is speaking or singing. The notes of this bird are very fine.
This bird was taught to talk by the Maori in former times, and the writer has, long years agone, heard captive parson birds discoursing in Maori, and inviting passers-by to stay and be entertained. We are told by the natives that the male bird only makes a good talker. In order that the bird should be enabled to speak distinctly it was necessary to trim the hairlike appendages of the tongue, an act described by the term tohi. Some preferred to take a young bird from a nest situated near running water. Others state that the young captive was kept near a noisy run of water while being taught to speak, so that no other sounds might interfere with its acquisition of human speech. This teaching was a slow process. The owner would every day repeat over and over again the set of words he was teaching the bird.
Cages for these captive birds were usually fashioned from slight, straight rods of manuka, and the birds were generally named. They sometimes became so tame that they would be given their liberty, and the man who could stand forth on the plaza during a reception of visitors with his talking bird perched on his shoulder crying a welcome to those visitors, was envied by all. W. B., that well-known writer on the Maori. tells us that natives artificially enlarged the glottis of the captive in order to improve its delivery of the orations taught it. The Tuhoe folk kept the cage covered with a mat while the bird was being trained. The following is a part of one of the speeches taught to these captive birds: “Haere mai! Haere mai! E te manuhiri tuarangi. Kaore he kai o te kainga. Kai tawhiti te kai. Moi! Moi! Moi! E! Haere mai! Ehe! Ehe!” This discourse cries a welcome to visitors, but also informs them that there is no food in the village.
When a person makes false statements a bystander may remark: “Tapahia to arero penei me to te koko” (Cut your tongue as that of a koko is cut).page 479
The kakariki or parrakeet is personified in one Hineporete. This bird was formerly numerous, appearing in flocks about the outskirts of a forest principally. They were taken in numbers by three methods—the koputa, tānga, or striking, and the puaka trap.
The koputa was a noosing method. The fowler constructed a rude booth of branches or tree fern fronds, leaving one side thereof open. Several perches for the birds were erected within the shed, but near the wall, and a few rods stuck in the earth near them in a vertical position. To these pegs were secured the first few birds taken to act as decoys. The fowler first attracts a flock of the birds by waving in the air a rod to the end of which are secured a few fern fronds, and by imitating their cry, which he does without the aid of a call leaf. The parrakeets are of a curious turn of mind, and enter the booth to see what is doing, where they alight upon the perches. The fowler is squatting behind the frail booth with a number of short rods by his side, each of which has a slip noose attached to one end. He takes up one of these, passes it through the frail wall, slips the noose over the head of the porete (another name for the parrakeet), gives it a tug, and secures the bird. This process is repeated with the other prepared nooses. When all have been used he resets them, i.e., arranges the nooses.
The striking method resembles that used for the tui. Two rods are inserted in the earth in a vertical position, and another lashed to them in a horizontal position, to serve as a perch. Below the perch is sometimes stretched a cord between the two uprights. To this cord the decoy birds (maimoa porete) are fastened, a substitute for the rods above mentioned. They struggle constantly to free themselves, their movements attracting other birds. When birds settle on the perch they always look downward at the struggling decoys, when they are struck down with a rod as in the case of the tui.
The diminutive pihipihi, or blight bird, is still taken by the striking method first described. Though each bird is but a mouthful, yet they are taken in great numbers, or were a few years ago, in the Tuhoe district, and preserved for future use.
Another mode of taking the robin was by means of a korapa, a flat, net-like apparatus. A piece of supplejack was bent into a semicircular form, when a rod was lashed to the two ends, forming a U with the top closed. Strips of flax were interlaced across this frame to form a trap. This apparatus was placed on the ground in a vertical position, the straight side downward, and it was fastened down with pegs. A long cord was secured by one end to its upper part, and the cord passed through a small hoop of supplejack inserted in the ground a little way in front of the trap. The cord was led to the place of concealment of the fowler. Some bait is placed on the ground near the trap. In his booth the fowler keeps striking a block of wood with a club. This attracts the robins, who soon discern the bait and commence to eat it, when the fowler pulls the cord and the korapa falls on the birds. As he advances to secure his catch the fowler has merely to keep the cord taut. Birds of several small species were taken by means of this device. Turning up the earth was a sure way to attract the robin. Omens were derived from the cry of the robin in former days.
The huia is said to have been taken by means of a slip noose on the end of a stick, the fowler calling them by imitating the cry of the bird. The woodhen was taken by means of the same simple contrivance, and also by means of the tupaki, or spring snare.
To take the duck cords were stretched across rivers and also in lagoons and shoal lakes, so that they were a little distance above the water. These were tied to stakes inserted in the bed of the river or lagoon, and from them depended a page 482 great number of snares set so that the head of a swimming duck would enter them.
A korapa trap for taking small birds.
H. Hamilton photo
The native quail (koreke), formerly numerous in some parts, was taken by means of arranging a number of snares across its runs. A cord was stretched across the run and fastened to a peg on either side, and from this depended a number of nooses placed close together, or overlapping each other. A rod was sometimes secured in a horizontal position to the pegs instead of a cord.
The kakapo, or ground parrot (Stringops habroptilus) is a bird that was formerly numerous in certain parts of the North Island, from which it disappeared shortly before the settlement of the country by Europeans. Thus natives tell us that it was formerly numerous on the Aorangi range and its outlying ridges east of Lake Wairarapa, where, indeed, its remains are now found in caves, also on the Tararua range, on the upper Whanganui, and in the Tuhoe and Taranaki districts. It is thought by some that a few still exist in the forests of the Kaimanawa range, apparently their last resort in the North Island. They have held their own better in the South Island. These birds, being flightless, were sometimes taken by means of the native dog, as also were ducks in the moulting season. The kakapo is a night feeder. Dr. Haast tells us that, in the South Island, the bird was taken in the daytime in the holes and burrows in which it lived by means of the whakawiri, already described in connection with the kaka parrot.
Natives in several districts have told us that this bird moved abroad in flocks or “families,” and, when feeding at night, always posted a sentry. If this sentinel was caught first the rest of the flock would be easily taken. Dogs employed in hunting the bird had a wooden rattle secured to their necks so that the hunter might be able to follow them. These rattles were known as rore, kakara, and tatara.
The Tuhoe natives have told me that each flock of these nocturnal ground parrots had its own feeding range and camping ground (whawharua). At this common camp each bird is said to have had its own burrow (pokorua), in which it page 484 remained during the day. Each flock had its leader, called the tiaka, said to be always a small bird. After dark, sayeth the Maori, the birds came forth from their burrows, assembled at a certain part of the whawharua, and went through a singular performance, beating their undeveloped or atrophied wings on the ground, making holes in the earth with their beaks, and emitting strange, hoarse sounds. During this performance the tiaka kept walking round the flock as though guarding it. These birds sought their food during the night, and, ere morn arrived, the leader led the flock back to the common camping ground.
The Tuhoe folk state that these birds collected berries of the hinau and tawa trees, also fern roots, and placed them in pools of water to preserve them for use in the lean season of the year. The natives used to skin these birds and fashion the skins into capes or cloaks. They were usually caught while performing their “dance,” and in some cases the fowler lured them by imitating the cry of the bird. Of the truth of these statements the writer can offer no proof, having never even seen the bird in its native forests, but he does draw the line at a statement made by Taranaki natives to the effect that the sentinel bird hung by its beak to a tree branch, and, when danger threatened, uttered a warning cry. Surely that bird must have possessed a few extra beaks!
The curiosity and pugnacity of the weka, or woodhen, another flightless bird, rendered it an easy prey. A lure call was sometimes resorted to by the fowler. A small bird of any species is also a good lure, for the woodhen will rush forward to assail it, and can be noosed or struck down with a rod. Many different devices attract this species. When the birds are feeding on fallen berries, such as those of the hinau, an enclosure of sticks was made at the place, several openings being left in it. In each opening a tawhiti, or spring trap, was set, and some berries scattered about the enclosure to serve as a lure. Reckless as this bird is, it has, presumably, some sense, hence the old saying: “Ka motu te mahanga i te weka e kore a muri e hokia” (A weka escaped from a snare will never return).page 485
The weka is a confirmed kleptomaniac, his moral character is the frailest kind of reed. Like the modern anarchist, he has an utter contempt for law, order, and the ordinary decencies of life. Some claim for him a Milesian ancestry. His pugnacity must have a vent. With regard to his genius for attracting other folks'property I mind me of one of my oldtime camps whereat the loss of many small articles led to exasperation, until one fair day, when, approaching the camp, I observed a pernicious weka making off from the mess tent with my last dish cloth. I did not argue the matter at the moment, but followed the thief to his lair in a hollow log, wherein were deposited the many spoons, dishcloths, empty tins and other jewellery annexed by that depraved bird during its career of crime.
The kiwi is yet another flightless bird of nocturnal habits, and one that furnished a good meal. They were hunted with dogs'at night, the method being known as whakangau kiwi. The expression whakangangahu seems to denote the luring of the bird by means of imitating its cry. The Tuhoe folk render the cry of the male bird as “Hoire!” and that of the female as “Poai!”
The dogs used were fitted with the rattles mentioned above, which were fashioned from hardwood such as mapara. A fowler who had no dog is said to have used his torch to dazzle the bird's sight, or confuse it, when it came to his call. Charms were used by these fowlers when seeking the kiwi in its haunts. Northern natives say that a dog was held in leash until fairly close to the bird, and then released; that the torch (rama and rohe) was always carried by kiwi hunters; also that an expert would select the night on which the hunters were to go forth, and that they would have to fast during the day, or no birds would be taken. When the first kiwi was caught a fire would be kindled, the heart of the bird was then taken out, a charm was repeated over it, and it was roasted, after which the performer held it out in his hand toward the east, and recited a certain charm that is beyond the power of mortal man to translate.
The kiwi lays its large eggs in holes and burrows, often under the roots of beech trees. Natives have a quaint belief page 486 that the eggs take so long to hatch out that roots often grow over the entrance of the hole during the process. Some say that the birds do not sit on them at all, but leave them for nature to attend to!
The bell bird and whitehead were taken when feeding on berries of the Coprosma and other trees. When food supplies are scarce the bell bird can be lured by means of a call leaf. It was taken by snare, spear and the puaka trap. The crow (kokako) was not appreciated as a food supply, though some were snared occasionally when other birds were being taken. Its blue wattles are termed werewere. The kotuku, or white heron, was captured for the sake of its plumes, as also was the huia and sometimes the cuckoo. In Maori belief there is a singular connection between the cuckoo and the lizard, and this migratory bird is said to bury itself in the earth during the winter, that is during its absence in warmer climes. Natives ate the excrement of the cuckoo.
Natives call the shining cuckoo wharauroa, the fartravelled one, so that they must have recognised its migratory habits. Probably it was recognised as an old acquaintance when the Maori first arrived on these shores.
The hawk was trapped by the Maori for the sake of its feathers, which were utilised for a number of purposes. They were taken in snare traps called titara kahu, tahiti kahu, tarahanga and tarahaha. In Maori myth the hawk is connected with Mahuika, the mother of the Fire Children, hence the colour of its plumage. Albino specimens of this bird (kahu korako) were rare, hence the term was used to denote an important chief. An old saying is: “Always travel with a white hawk,” for then you will assuredly be regaled on good fare.
The stitch bird (tihe), the saddle-back (tieke) and other small species of birds were taken as opportunity occured. The titi, or mutton bird, was taken in great numbers, not only on the coast and offshore islets, but also inland. They were preserved for future use in various forms of vessels, in seaweed (kelp) vessels, called poha, in the South Island. Inland they were often taken at night on the summits of cliffs and ridges whereon a long net was arranged in a vertical position. Fires page 487 were kept burning in front of the net, and the birds appear to have been attracted by the glare thereof, for they flew against the net in numbers, and were then disabled by a blow from rods in the hands of the fire tenders. Such a place was styled an ahi titi. The introduction of the European rat put a stop to the inland breeding of the bird.
With regard to that great extinct bird, the moa, it is evident that it has long disappeared from the world of life, for the Maori has preserved but few traditions concerning it. Its remains have been found in connection with ovens in many places, and it appears probable that the first settlers of this land, the Mouriuri folk, were largely responsible for its extermination. It was, however, still found in the North Island when the first Polynesian settlers arrived here, for east coast natives have preserved a clear account of their ancestors' first meeting with the huge bird. This occurred inland of Maketu, where one Rua-kapanga, a relative of the Polynesian voyager Toi, encountered a flock of five moa. After several failures he succeeded in trapping one of them, and the moa is still alluded to by natives as “the great bird of Rua-kapanga.” The Bay of Plenty natives state that their ancestors exterminated the moa, and that the last one in the district frequented the base of Mt. Edgecumbe, where a man named Apa had a startling adventure with it, for it kicked him down a hill and broke his leg. Its name is preserved in place names and a few sayings, such as: “He mihiau te kohatu i taona ai te moa” (The moa was cooked by means of the mihiau stone); also, “Lost even as the moa is lost.”
Apparently the moa survived in the South Island long after it was extinct in the North, and it seems to have been called poua in the former place.
In using the call leaf, leaves of certain species were utilised, of which one was the pāpā (Geniostoma ligustrifolium), and another the pepepe (Dianella intermedia); yet another the mahoe (Melicytus ramiflorus). The leaf was placed between the lips either flat or doubled. An old fowler companion of the writer produced the desired chirping sound by means of a sharp intake of the breath. When calling the parson bird, or bell bird, other birds, such as the parrakeet and stitch bird, page 488 would often be attracted by the call and settle on the perch, when they would be struck down by the fowler. The word pepe, a call leaf, is also employed as a verb. Williams gives iretoro as meaning “to call birds by means of a call leaf,” and pakoire as meaning “to imitate the cry of a bird.”
Birds were counted in braces, and the peculiar term whakamoe denotes such counting, as in: “Tena, whakamoetia iho te manu nei” (Now then, count the birds).
The Maori was an expert tree climber, but appears to have never employed portable ladders in tree climbing. Fowlers often ascended lofty trees by means of a single pole lashed to the trunk in a vertical position. These poles were secured by means of passing ties of supplejack or other vines round the trunk of the tree. A series of poles was so secured until the branches of the tree were reached. In some cases a rude form of ladder was made from a nearby tree that enabled fowlers to ascend the one they proposed to operate on. A long pole with a crotch or hook at the end, and called a rou, was employed for this purpose. It was hooked on to a branch and then supplemented by one or two other similar poles. In ascending the single pole ladder the climber obtained a foothold on the lashings of aka or vines. In some cases two poles were used.
The tapeke mode of tree climbing was by means of a foot loop (toeke, tāmāeke, and tāpārenga), and also a cord passing round the trunk, the climber holding an end thereof in either hand. As he ascended, he kept jerking this hand cord up the trunk. A short form of rou, or hooked pole, was sometimes used by a fowler when engaged in setting snares on the outer ends of branches. He would hook it on to a branch higher up and use it as a life line. Sometimes a tree climber wrapped a form of pad round the upper part of the body to protect his breast; it was called a papauma.
The Maori seems to have sometimes employed a ladder with rungs or steps (pae, kaupae), but apparently it consisted of crosspieces secured to a single pole. Cook mentions seeing such a ladder. The Whanganui natives, however, used what they term a mekameka in ascending the cliffs so common on that river. It was composed of two stout aka (stems of climbing plants), having crosspieces secured to both. The one pole page 489 ladder with crosspieces lashed to it is an ara tauteka, the steps being known as teka. Crosspieces lashed to a tree to serve as steps in ascending it is yet another device employed in former times, and called tutira. Arawhata and arahanga denote a ladder or bridge.
We have one more task to perform in connection with the birds gained with our snares, spear, traps and “striker,” and that is to preserve them for future use. Great numbers were so preserved each year.
A certain number of birds was set aside for the purpose of a ceremonial feast, and the balance was preserved. This task commenced about the beginning of the Maori year, which was the principal fowling season, hence the old saying: “Ka puta a Matariki, kua maoka te hinu,” meaning that when the Pleiades appear then bird preserving commences.
The first process was the plucking of the birds, an act often performed by women and children. When the cooking of the birds commenced for the purpose of preserving them, then the living birds began to leave the forest; the odour of their cooking brethren reached the feeding grounds and alarmed them, hence they migrated in search of safer quarters. Such was the Maori belief.
The cooking and potting of birds was performed at the fowler's camp in the forest on the east coast, and the fire at which the birds were cooked was termed the ahi matiti by the Matatua tribes. The next process to plucking was that known as makiri, which consisted of taking the bones out of the birds ere they were cooked. This was done by women, who were extremely deft at the task. Small species of birds were not so boned. The boned birds were packed in baskets, called poutaka when used for this purpose, and the baskets were placed under water until the cooking commenced.
Meanwhile men were erecting the matiti or racks on which the birds were suspended for cooking. Stout rods having a number of crotches on one side at regular distances were thrust into the earth in a vertical position. A number of slight rods were provided on which the birds were spitted side by side. The first rod so fitted was slipped into the lower crotches of the upright poles. The next rod was slipped into the second page 490 crotches, the birds overlapping the lower row. This was repeated until the matiti was full. Meanwhile a fire, the ahi matiti, had been kindled before the rack, and so the birds were cooked. Under the lowermost row of birds was placed a wooden trough into which the melted fat of the birds dripped. This trough was not quite level, and under its lower end, sunk in the earth, was placed a bowl into which the fat ran. This fat was then boiled or brought to a heated condition by means of hot stones, the kohua, or huahua, process. The cooked birds were packed in gourd, wooden or kelp vessels and the hot fat was poured into the vessel until the birds were covered. Food so preserved is called huahua; if birds, huahua manu; if rats, huahua kiore. Game so preserved is a very favourite delicacy of the Maori.
Experts would repeat charms while this cooking was being carried out, so as to ensure success and a good flow of fat, the act of doing so was termed whaunu.
When the potting was completed the calabash vessels were provided with their fittings. Two hoops were placed round each vessel, and these often confined a wide strip of plaited fabric like matting, that closely enwrapped the vessel. To these hoops were attached three, or four, legs, often carved, and bunches of feathers were secured to the upper parts of these legs, feathers of the same species of birds as those contained by the vessel. A carved wooden mouthpiece (tuki) was added when these vessels were used to grace a feast.
“Tau ake nei au i taku tau
He tau nau, e Tane-te-waiora, ki au
He tau nau, e Punaweko, ki au
Ki tenei pia, ki tenei tama nau, e Punaweko, etc.”
(I now chaunt my song, a song of thine, O Tane-te-waiora, to me. A song of thine, O Punaweko, to me, to this disciple, to this man of thine, O Punaweko).
There are three of these ceremonial chaunts that were sung by the fowlers as they approached the village. When they did reach it they chaunted another called the Chaunt of Uenuku. The experts rendered the body of the effusion, while the rest joined in the refrain. Then another formula was chaunted, and, at its conclusion, all the bearers deposited their burdens on the ground, as they stood facing the assembled villagers.
When the party of fowlers arrived at the village no sound of welcoming was heard from the assembled people. They waved a welcome to the returned party, but uttered no word. After the final chaunt had been delivered then they were free to cry a welcome to the fowlers, who were still under the tapu of Tane.
Such were the methods of the Maori when taking birds, the methods he practised here for many generations, in spite of Wilkes'statement as to his not being able to catch a bird. The Frenchman L'Horne also wrote of the Maori in 1769: “There are land birds in quantities, probably because the natives do not possess the cleverness to kill them.”
The clamour of the Mara o Tane is no longer heard as of yore in our woods, for the settler has largely destroyed the forests. But memories of the “sixties” still abide with us in these grey days of life, of the song of many hundreds of birds in the early morn, such tuneful clamour as was heard by Cook in Queen Charlotte Sound, and of which Edgar wrote in 1777: “We were quite delighted in the Morning with the sweet Harmony of the Birds which surpass'd anything of the kind I had ever met with for a pleasing Variety of Notes.”
The kiore maori, or native rat, much smaller than the socalled Norway rat, was an important food supply in some districts, that is in places where these frugivorous animals found a plentiful food supply for themselves. Such places were found on forest ranges where the beech tree was plentiful, for the beech mast provided an important proportion of the creature's food. All this, however, is in the past tense, for the native rat has gone the way of the great moa, and is no longer seen of man.
The native rat is said to have been by no means a scavenger; it was a clean feeder, even fastidious, and was page 492 reckoned remarkably good eating. In native tradition three vessels are credited with having introduced the rat from Polynesia in past times—Matahorua, Horouta, and Aotea. One of the distinguishing marks of the native rat is said to have been a pendulous scrotum. Its place has been taken by the Norway rat and a dark-coloured species often termed the black rat, both of which species were introduced by early voyagers.
The generic term for the rat is kiore, but a number of other names have been collected, and these have caused confusion. It is difficult to ascertain which names pertain to the native rat only. Mohi Turei, a learned east coast native, stated that the names matapo, moke, pouhawaiki, muritai, hamua and riroi all pertain to the introduced species, and that maungarua was a term denoting a large-sized rat. Williams and Taylor give maungarua as an introduced rat. Mice are often called kiore teoteo, or small rats. These, also, were introduced by early European vessels.
A number of old natives have stated that there were two varieties of the native rat, and that one variety was called hinamoki. Further evidence is confusing. Some east coast natives have stated that one variety was of a greyish colour, another brown, while Whanganui natives speak of the native rat as the kiore mohunu, which is probably a descriptive name. We do at least know that the native rat was Mus exulans, the same species as the native rat of Polynesia.
Not infrequently rat run privileges were passed on to the female members of a family, while males acquired those of bird snaring trees, such as the toromiro (Podocarpus ferrugineus). In taking rats the rat traps were set every few feet on a run, the entrance being at the narrow little path, so that when a rat attempted to pass through the apparently harmless entrance of the trap, it was caught, and the passage left clear for others to pass through; these would encounter other traps as they proceeded. Trappers made no tracks for the rats, and the rat runs were never straight, but followed the sinuosities of spur or ridge.
- 1. Tawhiti
- 2. Pokipoki
- 3. Tawhiti makamaka
- 4. Torea, kopiha, or paepae.
The first three of these are spring traps of different forms; the fourth is a pit trap.
Form No. 1. is usually termed simply a tawhiti kiore (rat trap). It is formed by erecting a small hoop across the run, under which the snare is placed. The first act is to erect the rupe or pawa (hoop). This is formed by sticking two pieces of supplejack in the earth, the two pieces being intertwined. A number of short pieces of straight stick, the turuturu, are thrust downward between the two pieces of the hoop and into the earth, leaving a space in the middle of the fencelike structure. The central space is at the rat run and is the only one wide enough for a rat to pass through. The whana or spring stick is then fixed. A piece of pliant supplejack vine has one of its ends thrust into the earth, while the other is bent over and downward until its end is immediately over the trap. A cord loop is attached to the end of the spring stick; this is page 495 the tohe; it is not a slip noose. A short piece of stick, the taratara, is then attached to the spring stick by means of a short piece of cord. In setting the trap the spring stick is bent down, the looped string is passed down between the two parts of the hoop until the bottom of it is just above the ground. The operator holds down the spring stick with one hand. With the other he takes the taratara and places it in a vertical position at one side of the central passage so that the upper end of this stick is on one side of the hoop, while the cord attached to it is on the other side. Allowing the spring stick to lift a little, the pull comes on the taratara. A short piece of stick slipped in between the uprights (turuturu) and the lower end of the taratara prevents the latter being pulled upward, and the trap is set. That short piece of wood so inserted in a horizontal position is the kurupae; it is held in position by the strain on the taratara, and, being near the ground, a rat cannot pass under it.
No form of bait was used at these traps set on the rat runs; it was unnecessary. The waharua, or tararua, was a double trap. Two traps similar to the above were constructed a little distance apart, and the sides of the intervening spaces blocked with sticks. Some bait of berries placed within the little enclosure made this a desirable form of trap to set away from the runs, as on feeding grounds.
The form of trap called a tawhiti makamaka was a portable form. It was not fixed in any way, but could be placed anywhere; hence its peculiar name. To construct this curious device a piece of supplejack vine was split at one end. This cleft was kept open by means of several small hoops made by coiling and tying pieces of vine. They were of different sizes, that at the outer end of the cleft being the largest; it was also in two pieces, like a rupe. They were tied to the two halves of the cleft stick, arranged crosswise, at right angles to it. On the outer side of this framework light strips of fibrous bark were arranged longitudinally and tied on to the frame, thus producing a narrow funnel-shaped receptacle.
The bait was placed inside the funnel, well up toward the small end. The unsplit end of the supplejack was then bent over until its end was near, and parallel to, the split end, and this served as the spring force of the trap. A short cord was secured to the end of the unsplit part, passed through the middle of the funnel just within the outer hoop, and tied to the cleft piece on the other side. This kept the bent supplejack in position, with the strain on the cord. A looped cord was then secured to the unsplit end and passed through the double outer hoop that acted as a rupe, and arranged as in the other traps.
A rat endeavouring to get at the bait within the funnel had to stop at the entrance, the passage way being blocked by the taut cord in the middle of the funnel. There was not sufficient room on either side of that cord for the rat to pass through to the bait, and it would proceed to gnaw through the cord to get at the bait beyond. When the cord was sufficiently weakened the page 500 world of death closed in on the hapless rat. It was plucked up by the loop and gripped against the upper part of the hoop. The bent vine, not having regained its normal condition of straightness, attended to the matter.
The tawhiti papa used by natives occasionally in modern times need not detain us. It is our figure of 4 device, introduced by Europeans.
The pit trap was an excavated hole about four feet in depth, situated in a place much frequented by rats. At the opening of the season certain berries eaten by rats were strewed on the bottom of the pit, and a pole placed slantwise in the hole so that rats could descend and also escape after eating the berries. In a few nights they would become accustomed to visiting the pit. The pole was now removed, and a number of short rods were stuck in the sides of the top of the pit in a horizontal position, projecting out over the pit. To the outer ends of these sticks the poa or bait of berries was tied. When rats came along and proceeded to eat the bait everything went well at first, but the rods were too slight to afford turning room for them, and when they endeavoured to turn they fell into the pit.
These pits were so excavated that their circumference at the top was much less than at the bottom, and so the rats could not escape. In one district I was informed that the rats, having become accustomed to finding foot in the pit, would, after the pole was removed, jump down into it in order to gain the bait, but that they were quite unable to ascend the overhanging sides of the pit, and so fell an easy prey to the trapper. Captain Cook tells us that rats were caught in pits by the natives of the New Hebrides.
When the first rat of the season was taken in a pit, the trapper would hold it forth in his left hand, face the east, and wave it up and down, and to and fro, as he recited a charm.
On the first day of the rat-trapping season all the trappers were under tapu. Each man recited a charm over the first trap set by him. Having set the traps the men returned to the camp or village, but had to be very circumspect in their behaviour. They might not speak for the balance of the day; in fact, not until the first catch was taken from the traps the page 501 next morning. They ate their food in silence, remained silent throughout the evening, and slept without removing the garments they were wearing. Having secured the first catch, then the tapu was lifted from them. There was much ceremony, many restrictions, and repeated recital of ritual formulæ at the opening of the season for taking game.
In some districts, we are informed, rat trappers were not allowed to use certain words or names when engaged at their task, but had to use substitutes not employed at other times. Thus a young man was referred to as a himu; a child (tamaiti) as a moiti; a woman (wahine) as a puanga; and an old man (koroheke) as a purakau.page 502
When the beech mast failed them, rats sometimes took to the open country, and then the fern was burned off, after which the rats were dug out of holes they had sought refuge in.
We will now discuss for a space the serious matters of rat life. The Maori had a firm belief that rats performed some marvellous swimming feats. For instance, that they swam across rivers in single file, each rat gripping in his teeth the tail of the rodent in front of him. Also that they sometimes swam out to sea. Natives have repeatedly told me that, in olden times, rats have been known to swim out into Lake Waikare-moana on misty nights until they were drowned. A similar statement has been made concerning the lemming of northern Europe. Some natives state that the nehu, or pollen of the beech, on the surface of the water, attracted the rats. My worthy old friend, Hori Ropiha, maintained that hordes of rats occasionally swam hither from Hawaiki; that is to say, from the isles of Polynesia. This would be a trifling swim of about 500 leagues.
Rats were sometimes singed and plucked, then cooked in a peculiar vessel formed of the base of a frond of the nikau palm, into which the rats were thrust, also some hot stones to cook them. They were also cooked in the ordinary steam oven. If they were to be potted a secondary process was employed. They were placed in a wooden vessel with hot stones, which caused the fat to run from them. These creatures could be plucked as a bird is, according to native evidence. When so plucked the skin was white—like the skin of a white man, said my informant.
The woodcraft of the Maori is passing swiftly into the unknown, for the fowling piece has taken the place of snare and spear. The Maori no longer has to know the habits of the offspring of Tane; the tapu of the ancient forest is no more; its mauri is virtueless; the forest itself is disappearing. The old lore of Tane, and Rehua, and Punaweko, is but a memory.