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The Coming of the Maori



The ancestral canoes came from Hawaiki, which was referred to in Maori tradition as Hawaiki nui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pamamao (Great Hawaiki, Long Hawaiki, Far-distant Hawaiki). In attempts to locate Hawaiki, the similarity of names drew attention to Hawaii in the Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaiian dialect has a glottal stop which represents the dropped k so that Hawaii should be written as Hawai'i, and when the k is restored for comparison with the Maori dialect, Hawai'i becomes Hawaiki. This identity in names has led many to assert that the Maoris came from the Hawaiian Islands. However, the Samoan dialect also has a glottal stop, which represents a dropped k; and s page 37represents the h of other Polynesian dialects. If Savaii in Western Samoa is subjected to a similar course of conversion to the Maori dialect, it becomes progressively Savai'i, Savaiki, Havaiki, and finally Hawaiki. Thus Savaii has as much linguistic claim as Hawaii to the honour of being the Hawaiki of the Maori.

Continuing the linguistic search, however, we find that the Cook Islanders have traditions that their ancestors came from 'Avaiki. In the Cook Islands dialect, a glottal stop represents the dropped h, and v takes the place of the Maori w. Thus the Cook Islands ancestors also came from a Hawaiki, which the local genealogies and traditional history definitely locate as the Society Islands. As to the Society Islands, the local traditions show that most of the names given originally to the islands in the group were changed in the course of time to the names now recorded on the maps. The present Raiatea was originally named Havai'i, in which the glottal stop represents the dropped k; and, as v also corresponds to the Maori w, the ancient name in Maori would be Hawaiki. Raiatea has the second glottal stop in the Tahitian dialect which represents the dropped ng sound, hence Ra'iatea would be Rangiatea in Maori. The change from Hawaiki to Rangiatea was evidently taking place when the Aotea canoe left that area, for the Ngati Ruanui tribe of Taranaki, whose ancestors came in the Aotea, have the following tribal saying:

E kore au e ngaro; te kakano i ruia mat i Rangiatea.
I shall never be lost; the seed which was sown from Raiatea.

The name of Tahiti underwent no local change, though it was known as Tahiti manahune (Plebeian Tahiti) when occupied by its first Manahune settlers, and later, when it reached greater fame under the invaders from Raiatea, it was termed Tahiti marearea (Tahiti, the Golden). The Maori form of Tawhiti, though meaning "distant", probably refers also to Tahiti in the phrases "Tawhitinui, Tawhitiroa, Tawhiti pamamao, Te Honoiwairua", in which Tawhiti is substituted for Hawaiki. The additional phrase of Te Honoiwairua is a poetic concept of the joining (hono) of spirits (wairua) in the far away land of the past. In the Matorohanga narratives, Rangiatea is maintained throughout for Raiatea and the name Hawaiki has been transferred to Tahiti. Though Hawaiki and Tawhiti originally indicated specific islands, the names were used sometimes in a more general way by the Maoris to indicate some place in the central Pacific from which their ancestral canoe came. It is due to post-European study, that these names have been located in the Society Islands. Though Percy Smith has shown that the Rarotongan traditions have references to some of the canoes of the Fleet as having called in at Rarotonga, none of the Maori traditions, except those of Te Matorohanga, make any definite mention of Rarotonga. Hence, it is possible that page 38Rarotonga was also included under the name of Hawaiki in some canoe traditions. Te Matorohanga's accounts, in his distinctions between Rangiatea, Hawaiki, Rarotonga, and Samoa, indicate a too detailed knowledge of geography to be accepted as having been derived from pre-European sources.