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The Coming of the Maori

3 — Villages and Forts

page 137

Villages and Forts

An individual residence is termed akainga, derived according to Williams (106, p. 95) from ka, to burn, and so properly the place where a fire has burned. Any number of huts is also termed kainga collectively, but if they were protected by defensive works, they received the specific name of pa, derived from pa, to keep out by means of walls or fortifications. Thus kainga denoted an unfortified village and pa, a fortified village. The terms kainga and pa were distinctive, but in modern times, the term pa has been loosely applied to any village.

In central Polynesia, the houses were usually scattered because people built their dwelling houses near their plantations of coconut, breadfruit, and banana plants, not only to be near the source of food supply, but also to protect them from thieves. Though there may have been more huts in the vicinity of the dwellings of chiefs for the housing of retainers and poor relations, the accumulation of houses to constitute villages was really a post-European development due to the acceptance of Christianity. The church and the missionary's house formed the centre of newly created villages, where the people built houses to be near the place of missionary teaching and of worship. Though the term pa was applied to places of refuge in the hills, they were not distinguished by any form of organized defences, but rather depended on their natural features and difficulty of access for protection.

When Captain Cook visited New Zealand in 1769, the Maori were living in fortified villages which they termed pa. The few villages built on flat ground were defended by high stockades, but the great majority were built on hills, spurs, cliff-girt promontories, and islands in lakes or swamps, where the natural features assisted the defensive works. Hillsides and sloping ground were terraced to provide level sites for the dwelling houses. The defensive works consisted of fosses, ramparts, scarps, and page 138stockades in varying combinations. The most elaborate and most numerous forts were situated on the hills and ranges bounding fertile valleys where richer food supplies supported a greater population and also attracted more frequent raids from outside tribes. The terraced hills of the Auckland Isthmus and other areas (Fig. 17) bear silent witness to the high achievements of the warriors of old.

The fortified pa could not have been introduced by any of the three waves of settlers because it did not exist in the lands from which they came. It may be assumed, therefore, that the Maori system of fortifications was evolved and developed in New Zealand owing to some local cause that arose during the long period of occupation. The obvious cause was defence against attack, but as fighting had taken place down the ages in Polynesia, there must have been an increase in the frequency and the
Fig. 17. Pukearuhe fort (after Hamilton 46, p. 124).

Fig. 17. Pukearuhe fort (after Hamilton 46, p. 124).

intensity of the attacks which forced the people to devise a system of permanent protection. This supplementary cause must have taken some time to develop.

The first settlers had the whole of the North Island to roam over in search of food. They selected districts in which to live and, as they had no individual ownership of cultivated fruit trees to divide them, they probably grouped their dwellings together in villages for social intercouse and cooperative activities. They may have had their quarrels, but it was easier to flee temporarily to the hills and forests than to erect permanent fortifications for last ditch stands. The second settlers formed of the male crews commanded by Toi and Whatonga were received peaceably and I given wives. Though clashes occurred in the course of time, the defeated groups preferred to retreat into unoccupied areas rather than face a siege behind defensive works. When the third wave of settlers arrived, the voyaging canoes explored the coast line to seek places of settlement where they would not clash with each other. They had left Hawaiki because of war and they had journeyed across the sea to seek peace in a new home They intermarried with the earlier settlers and the traditions of early conquests of annihilation have probably been greatly exaggerated. How-page 139ever, with the increase of population and the division of the country into canoe areas and tribal districts, frequent wars broke out between neighbouring tribes. The definite boundaries were established and maintained as the result of bitter conflicts. War became the king of sports and ambitious warriors did not always wait for a lawful excuse to attack their neighbours. The earlier settlers who had not been absorbed or amalgamated with tribes claiming descent from Fleet ancestors, were attacked, dispossessed, and hunted. Inter-tribal wars became frequent and each tribe kept a record of its victories and defeats. Tribal honour demanded that a defeat be squared by a victory and so the see-saw wars were perpetuated. The tribes became wedded to their tribal lands endeared by the growth of local history. The everlasting hills had looked down on their succession of ancestors and the sea that lapped their shore crooned its ceaseless lament for their dead whose bones rested in their sacred burial places. Love of the tribal lands grew into an absorbing passion which demanded that every effort of military efficiency and preparedness be enlisted in its defence. It was under such conditions that the genius for military fortifications was born.

The villages on the flats near the cultivations were moved up onto the neighbouring hills or out onto the jutting promontories of a cliff-girt coast. The unfortified kainga were abandoned for the fortified pa, and each had its name. I believe, however, that during the transition period, the names of the original villages were transferred to the forts which replaced them. It is natural that the later Maori historians, knowing that their immediate ancestors had lived in fortified villages, should refer to the villages of the early settlers as pa. Thus the first settlers were credited with having occupied the pa named Okoki and Pohokura, Toi of the second wave the pa of Kaputerangi, and Turi of the third wave the pa of Rangitawhi. I believe, as already stated, that fortified hill villages were not established until some time after the coming of the Fleet and that, therefore, the place names of Okoki, Pohokura, Kaputerangi, and Rangitawhi originally represented unfortified villages or kainga and not pa. The present fortified hills that bear these names were terraced long after the period of the ancestors associated with the original villages, but their historic names were transferred to the forts which were built adjacent to them. Thus the general use of the term pa in traditional history and the acceptance of transfers for originals have beclouded the solution of the origin of Maori fortifications.

The study made by Elsdon Best (20) on a large number of forts throughout the North Island reveals that they vary considerably in form from very simple types to very elaborate forms. Making all allowance for differences in natural features and the strength of the tribes, the varying types indicate that local evolution has taken place in military engineering.

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That these forts originated through the more frequent wars of an increasing population is supported by the facts that they were unknown to the Moriori who retained an earlier phase of New Zealand culture and that they were absent in the South Island which never became so thickly populated as the North Island. The terraced hill villages of Rapa and the occasional fosses and palisades of Tonga have no traditional connection with New Zealand and they may be regarded as having been evolved independently. As a result of generations of development in a cold climate, the Maori blend of three waves of settlers became the most virile and warlike branch of the Polynesian people and their system of fortifications formed one of the developments of their military genius.

A remarkable feature of the fortified villages was the development of a simple system of sanitation. Cook (25, Vol. 2, p. 314) made the following observation:

"Every house, or every little cluster of three or four houses, was furnished with a privy, so that the ground was everywhere clean. The offals of their food, and other litter, were also piled up in regular dung-hills, which probably they made use of at a proper time for manure."

However, Cook's deduction that the dunghills were used for manure was incorrect for the Maoris were horrified at the European method of using such material as a fertilizer for food crops.

The privy as a Maori institution appears in myth and tradition under the various names of paepae, turuma, and heketua. Its mythical origin was given by Grey in the Maori version (45, p. 27) but in the English version, the translator ignored over 160 words in the native text and so avoided what he evidently considered to be a subject to be avoided. The myth runs as follows:

Mauimua, the eldest of the five Maui brothers, in his search for their sister Hinauri, sought information from the God Rehua who dwelt in the Tenth Sky. Hinauri had tried to drown herself because her husband Irawaru had been turned into the first dog by Maui, the youngest, who was angry because his brother-in-law had caught more than he had on a fishing expedition. Hinauri did not drown but after various adventures had been taken to wife by Tinirau who dwelt on the mystic isle of Motutapu. Mauimua was told her whereabouts by Rehua. He thereupon converted himself into a pigeon and took the name of Rupe. He flew down to Motutapu, made himself known to his sister, and carried her up to the home of Rehua.

Rehua's village was in a filthy condition for the people were too lazy to remove the excreta. After remonstrating with Rehua in vain, Rupe set to work and cleaned up the village. The native text which was avoided in the translation, is here recorded with my literal translation:

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  • Ka hanga hoki e ia te heketua kei whakareinga mo nga tahae.

  • Also made by him was the latrine for disposing of the filth (excreta).

  • Ka whakaturia hoki te pou purutanga ringaringa, ko te ingoa o taua pou ko te Pou-o-Whaitiri.

  • Also erected was the post for the hand hold, the name of that post being the Post-of-Whaitiri.

  • A ka oti katoa.

  • And all was finished.

The native text goes on to describe the return of Kaitangata, the son of Rehua, who on seeing the latrine (heketua) determined to try it.

  • A ka tae ki te taha o te paepae ra, na ka hiki atu tetahi o nga waewae ki runga ki te paepae ra, kua noho.

  • When he reached the side of that cross beam, he lifted one of his feet onto that cross beam, and squatted.

  • Na katahi ka totoro atu te ringa ki te pou purutanga i huaina ra ko te Pou-o-W haitiri.

  • Then he stretched out his hand to the holding post named the Post-of-Whaitiri.

  • Katahi ka hopu te ringa, ka u.

  • Then he grasped with his hand, firmly.

  • Katahi ka whakamaro mai.

  • Then he strained back.

  • 1 te whakamarotanga mai ano i te pou ra, hua noa kei te u ehara, e maranga mai ana te pou ra, ka taka te tangata ra, mate tonu atu, kaore koki i ora mai.

  • When he strained back from that post, thinking vainly that it was firm, but no, that post pulled up, that man fell, was killed immediately, and did not recover.

In Grey's English translation (44, p. 88), the description of the latrine was dismissed in the following words:

"He [Rupe] then added a building to Rehua's dwelling, but fixing one of the beams of it badly, Rehua's son, Kaitangata, was one day killed from hanging on to this beam, which giving way and springing back, he was thrown down and died."

The latrine was built on the edge of a cliff which accounts for Kaitangata's death through his fall and the myth ends with the statement that his blood stained the sky. A red streak in the sky was referred to as "Ka tuhi Kaitangata."

The latrine was also mentioned in traditional history associated with the Fleet. The Takitimu, according to Te Matorohanga (81, p. 219), was placed on the turuma (latrine) in Hawaiki to make it tapu before she was launched for the voyage to New Zealand. Grey's version of the Aotea page 142tradition (44, p. 219) states that after Turi established his village of Rangitawhi near the Patea River, he erected a paepae (latrine) which was named Paepaehakehake, but paepae is misinterpreted as "a door-sill, or threshold".

The bar latrine was a regular feature of all fortified villages. It was built near the edge of a cliff or steep declivity bounding some part of the fort so that the excreta would fall clear of the occupied parts. Two short uprights supported a horizontal slab (paepae) upon which people squatted but did not sit. A stake (purutanga ringaringa) was firmly imbedded before the slab for holding to preserve balance. It was held that Rupe purposely put in the post loosely to punish Rehua or his people for their lack of co-operation in cleaning the village. As a result Rehua lost his son.

However, in spite of the mythical and traditional references which I once accepted as proof that the privy had an ancient origin, I now believe that it was not developed until fortified villages were constructed some time after the advent of the Fleet. Throughout Polynesia, there is no evidence of the bar latrine in myth, legend, or contemporary stories. There is, however, an interesting bearing in one of the Maori names of the latrines. Of the three recorded names, two are locally descriptive; paepae refers specifically to the cross beam of the structure and heketua apparently to the descent (heke) at the back (tua) of the fort where the privy was built. The Takitumu term of turuma reaches back to central Polynesia for it was applied in Tahiti to a place at the back of the houses where filth and refuse were disposed in a kind of dunghill. This corresponds to the regular piles of offal and other litter described by Cook in connection with the Maori forts. It is evident that the usage and the name turuma were introduced from central Polynesia and when the special Maori structure was developed, the older name of a simpler usage was applied to it by the people of Takitumu descent.

The Maori privy had to be protected to prevent evilly disposed persons from taking a sample of the faeces of someone they disliked for the purposes of sorcery. The privy was therefore rendered tapu and it was protected by supernatural guardians who would punish with death anyone interfering with the legitimate purposes of the institution. A protective tapu against sorcery was thus established in connection with the privy and this led up to the rite termed whakangau paepae in which warriors before setting out on a military campaign were inoculated by the priest with protective chants at the privy and each in turn bit (ngau) the cross beam (paepae) of the latrine. Thus it served also as a village shrine and had both secular and religious functions.

The Tahitian refuse heaps or turuma were also stated to be tapu but this was probably a tapu of avoidance for there is no evidence that the Tahitian turuma was ever used in connection with any religious ritual.

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Hence the statement that the Takitumu canoe was taken on to a turuma in Hawaiki to render it tapu before she was launched for the voyage to New Zealand is another example of where a later association of ideas has been projected back in time by the compilers of history to add more detail to their literary efforts.