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The Coming of the Maori



Each island group in Polynesia, with the exception of some atolls, developed a form of head-dress in which feathers formed the main decoration. The Maori tradition of the casting away of the kura head-dress of Tauninihi indicates that some form was brought from central Polynesia on one of the canoes of the Fleet. In spite of the disappointment page 284on finding that the red in the pohutukawa trees was formed by flowers which soon crumbled, it is curious that the manufacture of feather head-dresses was not continued after the voyagers came into contact with the native parrot, the red feathers of which were used for other decorative purposes. But though the kura head-dress denoting chieftainship was apparently abandoned, the mourning wreaths of green leaves developed into a more lasting form in the black wreath of dyed rushes which was worn by widows during their prolonged period of mourning. A widow's cap termed potae taua was also developed and I have a faint recollection of a widow wearing one decorated with thin-leaved seaweed, dried and dyed black. An elaborate specimen figured by Hamilton (46, p. 297) was made of dressed flax and decorated with the black feathers and the beaks of the huia. Cook (25, vol. 2, p. 388) saw a form of head-dress in Queen Charlotte Sound which he described as follows:

"The women in these canoes, and some of the men, had a head-dress which we had not before seen. It consisted of a bunch of black feathers, made up in a round form, and tied upon the top of the head, which it entirely covered, and made it twice as high, to appearance, as it was in reality."

Cook subsequently found that these people had been engaged in a recent battle in which many had been killed. It is thus probable that the black feather head-dresses were a form of mourning cap, worn by all the women and some of the men because of the multiple casualties.