The Maori As He Was : A Brief Account of Maori Life as it was in Pre-European Days
Takitumu traditions the best preserved. Polynesians as seafarers. The homeland of the Polynesian race. The lands of Uru and Irihia. ari, a prized food product. Ancestors of Polynesians leave homeland and become seafarers. They reach the eastern Pacific region. Polynesian voyagers. Voyage of Kupe and Ngahue from eastern Polynesia to New Zealand. Mouriuri folk settle North Island. Polynesians settle in New Zealand. Subsequent voyages. South Island traditions. Local Maori history. Polynesian vessels.
The more ancient traditions and esoteric lore of the Maori have been better preserved by the Takitumu tribes of the east coast of the North Island than by those of any other district. For that reason they will form the principal basis of this narrative, albeit tribal versions in other parts differ somewhat from them.
Oral traditions collected from many regions of Polynesia point clearly to two outstanding features—viz., that the race has had a long and adventurous career in seafaring, exploring, and colonizing; also that the original homeland of the Polynesians must be sought for outside the region now occupied by the race. The Maori of New Zealand represents one of many colonies of this far-scattered people, though we are now treating of a period long prior to his settling in these isles.
Takitumu traditions tell us that the old homeland of the race lies far away to the westward. It was a mainland region known as Uru, and there the ancestors of the Polynesians seem to have dwelt far back in the night of time. At a certain period these folk were much harassed by warfare with some other peoples of those parts, hence a number of them under a chief named Puhi-rangirangi, migrated eastward to a hot-climate land called Irihia. A traveller or voyager named Tu-te-rangiatea had told them of a fine land far to the eastward, a land known as Irihia, inhabited by slim, spare, dark-skinned people, a land producing strange food products, including one called ari. This ari was a bloodless or sapless food, and hence was utilized page 15 page 16 as an offering to the gods. Thus, we are told, there were two causes for the migration, one being war, the other the attraction of a new food-supply.
So came the migrants to the hot land of Irihia—sometimes called Irirangi, on account of the heat of the sun in that land. They settled among the dark-skinned original inhabitants, some of whom had no settled places of abode, but moved about from place to place.
This tradition is a very old one, and there are two versions of it. One appears to show that the migrants from Uru expelled the ancestors of the Maori from the land of Irihia. The other seems to show that the migrants were the remote forbears of the Polynesians. An important chief of Irihia was one Kopura-tahi, who had, it is said, five hundred sub-chiefs under him. So numerous were his people that they were compared to the ocean sands in the saying, “Tena te ngaoko na me te onepu moana.”
The peculiar name Irihia is said to have also been applied to a certain mountain of that far land, a mountain the ascent of which occupied two days, and the summit of which was an extremely tapu place. There were performed and chanted the various ceremonies and invocations to Io the Parentless, the Supreme Being, and there were believed to lie the bodies of the supernatural offspring of the primal parents, the Sky Father and Earth Mother. page 17 There also was the wondrous house known as “Hawaikirangi,” or “Hawaiki-nui”—of which more anon.
In the land of Irihia the ancestors of the Polynesians are said to have been harassed by wars with the aborigines, and, finally, a number of them left that land and sailed forth on the ocean in search of a new home. As to the length of their sojourn in the land of Irihia there is no hint in tradition, but presumably it must have been for a lengthened period. The original homelands of Uru and Irihia have long been unknown to all save the few highly trained record-keepers; the great majority of the people state and believe that Hawaiki was the homeland of their forefathers. This name was that of the tapu place already alluded to, and which has, in the course of time, come to be employed as a name for the homeland of the Polynesians, including the Maori of these isles. As to the name of Irihia, it is of interest to remember that Vrihia was an ancient Sanscrit name for India, and that this name can be pronounced by the Maori only as Irihia or Wirihia. The word ari, the name of a very important food-supply of Irihia, is the Dravidian word for rice, and it may be compared to vari, wari, pari, &c., all of which denote rice. An old Sanscrit name for rice was vrihi, which may possibly have been the origin of the name Vrihia. Again, Mr. S. Percy Smith has shown in his work Hawaiki that Hawaiki-te-varinga is mentioned in Rarotongan tradition as the name for the homeland, and here again this vari = rice word appears. As for the land of Uru, conjecture again is our only resource. There is, or was, a land of Uru to the westward of India, and in Conder's work, The Rise of Man, we are told that the ancient kingdom of Uru was situated on the lower Euphrates. It is mentioned as Ur in the Bible.
Fig. 10.—Rude craft employed by the Moriori folk of Chatham Islands
Tradition states that the migrants steered eastward from Irihia in their quest of a new home. They must have been residents of a sea-coast prior to that time in order to acquire a knowledge of navigation. This voyage continued, we are told in Maori tradition, for eleven nights, when the migrants reached a land named Tawhiti-roa, where they settled. This account gives some particulars of the vessels of the voyagers, and the management thereof at sea. They were evidently a form of prau fitted with outriggers; sails were used, and the vessel covered with a kind of awning during bad weather; the double outrigger seems to be referred to. The method of employing sea-anchors in a strong head wind is explained, also that of steering by the sea-breeze from the east on nights when the heavens were obscured.
After a sojourn at Tawhiti-roa, the length of which is unknown, the migrants, or their descendants, again sailed down into the east until they came to the land of Tawhitinui, where they again settled. These isles or lands have not been identified, and the names given were probably assigned to them by the voyagers, and so would not be preserved by the original and permanent inhabitants. From this land the wanderers, or their descendants, once more sailed out into the unknown, and so began their long career as voyagers, explorers, and colonizers of the Pacific area. In the Maori version we are told that they steered ever toward the rising sun, and so entered the region we now know as Polynesia. (Mr. S. Percy Smith was of the opinion that Tawhiti-roa and Tawhiti-nui are names for Sumatra and Borneo. One tradition tells us that the migrants who left Tawhiti-nui reached the isles of Ahu, Maui, and Hawaiki, and there settled. Mr. Smith identifies these islands as Ahu, Maui, and Hawaii of the Hawaiian Group.) We cannot clearly define the route by which these daring voyagers crossed the Pacific, but we do know that within the Melanesian area are many Polynesian colonies, small communities speaking the Polynesian language. Such communities are found at Futuna, Tikopia, Rennel, Ontong-java, and other isles, and also at Nukuoro, south of the Caroline Group. Some of these small colonies are probably due to drift voyages from Polynesia; we have records of such to Tikopia, and to Uvea in the Loyalty Group. It is possible that some represent descendants of the original migrants who settled by the wayside.
Having entered the eastern Pacific area, possibly by two or three routes and in several different migrations, the ancestors of the Polynesian folk settled the principal page 19 page 20 page 21 archipelagos from Samoa and Fiji eastward, and then continued to make innumerable voyages in many directions. For centuries these practised and courageous navigators were ever voyaging among the far-scattered isles and archipelagos of the Pacific, settling and resettling, exploring and colonizing. Though many involuntary drift voyages and consequent settlings occurred, though many movements from isle to isle were caused by defeat in warfare, and so were compulsory, yet evidence clearly shows that many voyages, some of great length, were prompted merely by a spirit of adventure. This adventurous sea-life appealed deeply to the Polynesian, and his very peculiar faith in his gods enabled him to perform some marvellous voyages. Ignorant of compass and of metals, he yet made long deep-sea voyages and cross-hatched a vast oceanic area with the wake of his carvel-built craft. Nor were those craft commodious and decked longboats; they were narrow open vessels of the prau type, offering scant accommodation, and, at the best, a mat awning in rough weather.
Regarding the voyages made by Polynesian navigators, some very interesting information is recorded in Mr. S. Percy Smith's work Hawaiki, and a map published in the Geographical Review of New York (March, 1918) shows many of the routes followed by the neolithic seafarers. No other race of that culture stage has ever approached the Polynesian as deep-sea voyagers; truly have they written the wonder-story of the western world on the rolling sea roads of the great Pacific!
The isles of New Zealand were probably about the last to be discovered by the Polynesians, so remote are they from the archipelagos and isles of the northern area. Yet these far-southern lands were not only settled by colonists from eastern Polynesia, but tradition also tells us that drift voyages have reached these shores. The voyage of Kupe, who is said in Takitumu tradition to have discovered New Zealand, may have been one of exploration, but it has become, to some extent, encrusted with myth.